Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day Greetings!

            Julia sniffed. “I am impressed you can recite poetry, Washburn. Rather like a counting pig at the fair. One watches in amazement, wondering how an animal can do that.”
            “Now that hurts! I can say pretty things, too.”
            He crossed to where she stood beside the bed, and took her hand in his. His touch was warm, and she gave an involuntary shiver having nothing to do with the night air.
            He stroked the ball of her hand with his thumb, soothing over the nicks and calluses raised by the chores of daily farm work. He took his other hand and lifted her chin, looking deep into her eyes.
            “Y’know how when you whack the woodpile, and all them big ol’ palmetto bugs come scamperin’ out? Your eyes are just as brown and shiny as a palmetto bug runnin’ in the sunlight, darlin’.”
            Julia made a strangled noise and pulled back on her hand, but Washburn was holding it tight, a smile dancing in his eyes despite the soulful tone of his words.
            “It is clear that pretty words are not your forte, Washburn. Best you stick to smuggling salt. And you can fetch your pallet after you let go of my hand.”
            “Aw, now I’m gettin’ warmed up. Let me think on it.”
            Washburn moved in closer, and still holding on to her hand, moved the other down her back until it rested on her backside. He began stroking her, a slow circular caress that seemed to facilitate his thinking if his furrowed brow was any indication.
            However, it was putting paid to her thought processes.
            “Your eyes are like pecans, Julia. Brandy brown, and like the nuts, you’re hard on the outside, but buttery on the inside. It’s a chore getting to that good stuff, but that’s part of the fun, workin’ your way past the shell to the rich meat. And when you crack a pecan and the nut comes out whole, have you ever noticed how it’s like two lips, plump and tasty and just waitin’ for the right someone’s mouth to enjoy all the pleasure trapped within?”
            A faint smile at that one. “Better, but not quite Byron.”
            “How ’bout this then?” He moved in even closer, and released her hand, running his finger along her eyebrow down to the outer corner of her eye, where he feathered it over the soft skin at her temple, a touch as light as a moth’s wing passing in the night. The hand behind her back pulled her in until she was standing between his legs, and could feel how seriously he was taking this wordplay.
            “Your eyes are the smoky bronze of coffee, rich and deep. It settles in your belly and warms you from the inside out. Hot, and able to get a man up in the mornin’, and keep him up all day. Without coffee, the day is dull, flat, lifeless. But with that first taste of the stimulatin’ brew, you know you can face anythin’. It makes your heart beat a little faster, and the colors all seem sharper, the air brighter.”
            Her mouth was dry as she swallowed. “Much better.”
            He angled his head toward her, his own lips a fraction from hers. “Jamaican rum,” he breathed against her mouth.
            She pulled back and looked at him, one eyebrow raised.
            “Your eyes are like Jamaican rum, darlin’, golden dark and potent. It goes down smooth but it has fire to it. A man has to be careful, too much can make him lose his head, drownin’ in honeyed dreams.”
            “Don’t lose your head,” she whispered.
            “Too late.”

--Smuggler's Bride

Happy Valentine's Day! Whether you're celebrating with your sweetie or taking a day to pamper and love yourself (and that's very important), remember that love and the words of love come in all forms. You don't have to be a poet to say "I Love You", and sometimes the simplest sentiments are the most heartfelt.

And don't forget, an entertaining romance is a delightful gift any day of the year. Treat yourself or treat someone you love. Hint--they go well with chocolate.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Review: The Wanted

The Wanted The Wanted by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Robert Crais' Elvis Cole novels don't come out that often, but they're well worth the wait. Ever since The Monkey's Raincoat I've been a fan of Elvis and his partner/bestie Joe Pike.

The Wanted is another winner. Snappy dialogue, interesting characters, a solid mystery and a climax full of surprises you won't see coming, this one has it all. It's not to be missed by Crais' fans, but it also works well as a stand-alone for those new to the series. However, for true reading pleasure, I recommend starting with the first book and enjoying the ride.

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Thursday, February 08, 2018

Review: Saga, Vol. 8

Saga, Vol. 8 Saga, Vol. 8 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Saga is simply the best. It's the number one current graphic novel I recommend to people for the quality of writing and art combined into one brilliant package. It's about family, love, war, diversity and features Lying Cat, someone we could use in Washington right now.

If you've never read a graphic novel or you think they're simply comic books, check out Saga.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Review: The English Wife

The English Wife The English Wife by Lauren Willig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Engrossing tale of Gilded Age New York, the "400" who were the upper tier of society with secrets upon secrets leading to what appears to be a murder suicide. There's also an intriguing romance and good sense of place. Ms. Willig's talents for research and craft are on full display and it would be interesting to see if she follows the main protagonists into another crime-solving tale.

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Review: Two Kinds of Truth

Two Kinds of Truth Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It takes a special kind of writing talent to keep you invested in characters 20 books into a series. Michael Connelly has that talent. This latest Harry Bosch police procedural is a page-turner from start to finish with two mysteries going on: solving a double homicide at a small pharmacy and figuring out why Harry's being accused of falsely sending a man to death row.

The plot is as current as today's news, involving the opiate epidemic and DNA evidence to free the innocent. That's part of what I love about these books. Harry's aging in real time, dealing with different cases and feeling differently about himself, life and all that goes with it compared to 30 years ago.

We also get a guest appearance by his half-brother Michael Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) and the interaction between the two of them highlights their different worlds and the different truths in their lives. A must read for Bosch fans.

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Thursday, February 01, 2018

Review: Dragonflight

Dragonflight Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a re-read of a SF classic, a novel that inspired much of the fantasy and paranormal romance written in the last 50 years. Yes, it's been 50 years since Dragonflight was published. Re-reading it as an adult gave me a new perspective and a new appreciation for McCaffrey's skill as a writer.

Part of what made Dragonflight and the Pern series new and fresh was relationships. The lead character was a woman, Lessa, and her complicated relationship with F'lar was like a breath of fresh air in a genre filled with guys doing stuff and it being all about the guys and their stuff or their quest or their Campbellian journey to adulthood. Women were there to be adjuncts or stuffed in a refrigerator before the end of the tale. In Dragonflight, F'lar is a warrior but it's Lessa who gets things done and makes necessary changes in Pern society to carry the day.

The Pern books can be enjoyed by people of all ages, with some specifically written for a younger audience. I highly recommend them.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Boskone 55, or "In what universe does traveling from Florida to Boston in February make sense???"

Yes, it's that time again. Time to dig out the snowboots, retrieve the down coat and keep a weather eye open for blizzards. Boskone 55 (February 16-18, 2018) in Boston, MA is New England's longest running science fiction and fantasy convention. I've been attending since 2003 when I sent a son up north to school and thought it would be nice to pop in on him and have a fun weekend filled with discussions of books, film, art, music, games, and more. 

Naturally, there was a blizzard that weekend and we were snowed in at our hotel. That particular Boskone is remembered as "Snokone", but we still gather each President's Day weekend and I have to admit, it's a lot of fun.

Kudos to the Program Committee for putting together a great range of activities and panels.  Here's my schedule, and I'm humbled to be surrounded by such talented panelists.

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

Format: Panel
16 Feb 2018, Friday 17:00 - 18:00, Marina 4 (Westin)
Fifty years ago, Anne McCaffrey released Dragonflight, the first novel in her Dragon Riders of Pern series. This epic fantasy series captured the hearts and minds of generations of readers. What is it about this book and this series that is so compelling?
Rob Greene, Jen Gunnels, Mary Kay Kare, Darlene Marshall, Bob Kuhn (M)

It's Not Always About Sex

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 12:00 - 13:00, Harbor III (Westin)
Speculative fiction is filled with friendships that turn into romantic entanglements. Is that all there is? Can’t our characters just have friends, of whatever gender, without hookups and/or heartbreaks? How about we rescue the world from the odd apocalypse or alien invasion, and forget about the sex for a change?
Juliana Spink Mills, Darlene Marshall (M), E.J. Stevens, Tamora Pierce, Steven Popkes

Reading by Darlene Marshall

Format: Reading
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 13:30 - 14:00, Independence (Westin)
Darlene Marshall

The Magic of Historical Fantasies

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 15:00 - 16:00, Harbor III (Westin)
Fantasies set in the past are growing ever more popular. Why do we love stepping back in time and sprinkling a little magic into the past? Could these same stories be told in modern times, or would some of that magic be lost? And when changing the workings of the known world by adding magic, is it still important to keep historical details correct?
Darlene Marshall (M), Mary Robinette Kowal, Scott Lynch, Beth Meacham, Walter Jon Williams

Religious Characters in Fiction

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 16:00 - 17:00, Harbor III (Westin)
What challenges are involved in authentically depicting characters — perhaps like Russell's Emilio Sandoz, Pratchett's Brutha, Addison's Maia, or Wilson’s Alif — for whom religious belief is important? Are SF/F/H audiences accepting of these figures, or resistant? Is it easier to write characters who share your own beliefs, or more difficult (at least to do it well)?

Stephen P. Kelner Jr. (M), Max Gladstone, Darlene Marshall, James D. Macdonald
For more information about Boskone, visit The Boskone Blog, Twitter, and Facebook as well as by going to the Boskone website to register at

See you in Boston!

Review: Michael's Wings

Michael's Wings Michael's Wings by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another winner from erotica author Reisz, but as the author points out in the beginning, this collection of short stories is best appreciated by readers who're familiar with her The Original Sinners series, especially ones who've read The Siren.

Michael and Griffin are lovers but as with the best love stories, it's complicated. This collection follows them on part of their journey and Reisz brings her usual heat, sensitivity and humor to the writing. One laugh-out-loud moment was a discussion regarding the card game Cards Against Humanity:

"Remember he won the game on the 'How did I lose my virginity?' card."
"Answer: The Make-A-Wish Foundation."

If you like heated BDSM scenes, snark and romance then the Original Sinners may be for you. On the other hand, if you're turned off by relationships with multiple partners and sexual hookups that get so complicated you practically need a flow-chart, it may not be your cup of tea. I happen to love the series and look forward to Reisz's next work.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why I Love Research

I'm re-reading one of my favorite Florida histories, James Branch Cabell's The St. Johns; A Parade of Diversities and enjoying it all over again. This is one of my favorite quotes, and it seems timely: "Andrew Jackson, that idolized heckler for the unshaved frontier, who was now beginning to dominate the United States as an epitome of their national failings...."

It really is an entertaining history, well worth tracking down in a used bookstore.