Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Guest Blogger, Kris Kennedy: Romance is a Do-Over

Regret is one of those emotions that can eat a person up. I believe it’s more powerful than anger, I think it’s the fuel of bitterness, I see it as the fire of fury. It’s incredibly powerful and in fiction, done right, it’s absolutely transformative.

I don't think regret comes from making a mistake, from committing an error in action or judgment. I don’t think regret comes when we do what we think is right, and later find out was wrong. Or didn’t turn out like we’d hoped.

That’s hard, for sure, but I don't think that's the sort of regret that can eat a person up.

I think true, soul-crunching regret gets born in that moment when you knew you had a choice, when you knew there was a thing you should and could do, and you didn’t do it. It comes from those moments when you do something you knew very well you oughtn’t have done. Sometimes regrets comes from not making the gut-level choice, however inconvenient it was. Sometimes regret flows from knowing we didn’t give it our all, that we didn’t do our best.

But it’s that gut-level thing that gives true regret it’s power. Because, whatever excuses we make to the world, in our deep-floating hearts, we know the truth.

It’s the human condition, an existential experience—we’ve all been there. For better or worse, big or small, most of us are going to go back there, over and over again.

And that’s why it has such strong resonance in fiction. And I think romances often do it the best.

In many romances, the heroes, men and women, struggle with deep regrets. For an lot of
tortured heroes, regret forms a kind of hardened kernel inside their heart, around which they’ve constructed the shell of a life.

But in romance, there are do-overs. And it usually comes in the form doing the right thing in the service of another person.

In my current release Defiant (Pocket Books) the hero has a twisted band of
regret and fury that runs through his core. It’s shaped every action he’s taken for twenty years. All but one, and that one choice has lead him down a tortured path of twisted loyalties. As a trusted and top lieutenant to King John—yes, that King John—his life is constructed around doing questionable things for very good reasons.

Until he meets the heroine.

Now all the questions are getting answered, and he has to decide if living a life to fix the unfixable is more important than living a life to be the best he can be. And to, coincidentally, save the heroine’s rather attractive ass. :-)

Romance is about the do-over. And that, I think, is part of why we love it so.

So, what are some fabulous regret-fueled protagonists, and what is torturing them? (If it’d be a spoiler, please don’t be terribly specific.) And how do they get though it, to be transformed?

About the blogger: Kris Kennedy writes sexy, adventure-filled medieval romances for Pocket Books. Visit her website ( and sign-up for the newsletter, read exclusive excerpts, or just drop Kris a line saying Hi!

[Author photo by Isabel Gates, Images by Isabel]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's Time....

Hi, there darling readers!

It's finally time for me to reveal what I've been working on so stealthily the past several months at Penguin...Book Country!

Book Country is a free online reading community and writing workshop, designed specifically for genre fiction. (Genre fiction encapsulates five main genres: romance, mystery, science fiction, and fantasy.) It's a place for readers, writers, industry professionals, bloggers, anyone really, to discover and share new genre fiction, as well as discuss challenges, trends, etc. in the book world today. Aspiring authors can also seek advice both from experts and their peers!

I could talk about it forever, but I won't. I will, however, ask you to pop on by Book Country and check it out for yourself!

With our fun and unique Genre Map (What's that, you ask? A new way to find books! GO LOOK!), peer review system, well-curated forum, and exclusive industry articles, there's something for everyone at Book Country.

For more information, check out the About Us on the site, as well as all the great media pieces that hit the web today about this fab project:

New York Times

Publishers Marketplace

Publisher's Lunch ---> Well, you have to subscribe to this one, but I'm actually mentioned here so it's pretty exciting haha

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Are Gimmick Books Taking the Place of Good Fiction?

As the book publishing industry evolves as whole, so do the books that comprise it. Fiction, history, memoir, travel, children's books--they're all still being written and being read. But there's a new kid on the block that takes these classic genres and twists them into something showier--the Gimmick Book.

We all know what gimmicks are--some unique scheme to catch people's attention in one way or another. Writers have taken to relying on more than just the merit of their stories these days, using gimmicks to make them stand out in the congested market. For example, the blank book that was buzzing around the book biz recently--What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex--is not only a funny idea, but a clear gimmick as well.

Caryn James at The Daily Beast explores the Gimmick book in more detail:

Those live-action newspapers from the Harry Potter books and films—with moving and talking images on the page instead of old-fangled still photographs—don’t seem like a stretch today. They’re more like a prototype for the near future. Soon we’re likely to see a first-rate literary novel written expressly for the iPad or whatever higher-tech device comes next. We already have video books, cross-bred from e-books, and extra features. How can plain ink-on-paper compete with reading as an action sport?

We have entered the Age of the Stunt Novel, literary fiction that relies on gimmicks: photos splashed throughout the text, codes for your smartphone, stand-on-your-head structures, anything that screams “Look, this isn’t a boring old book.”

From Joyce and Beckett through Georges Perec, playing with form is nothing new, of course. The experimental novels of the 1970s turned stunts into a new genre. In Walter Abish’s Alphabetical Africa, for one, all the words in the first chapter begin with the letter A, expanding in chapter two to include words beginning with B, and so on. What we’re seeing now doesn’t come with the same rigorous artistic principles.

The impulse behind today’s shift is partly commercial. You can’t blame frantic authors, stranded in the land of tumbling sales, closing bookstores, and miniscule e-book royalties. But the dynamic also flows, perhaps unconsciously, from the powerful influence of the Web and the way we juggle several things at once, watching online video or TV while texting or checking email and talking on the phone. That multiplicity is creeping into novels. [...]

Read the rest of the article HERE

James goes on to give an in-depth analysis of several gimmick books, asking the questions "but is it good fiction?" Some of the titles he explores are The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan, 13, Rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro, and The Object of Beauty by Steve Martin.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sneaky (and False) Hilarity in Washington, D.C.

This Congressional satire from our very own guest blogger, Dan Cabrera, will give you a chuckle on this tiring Monday night--or at least it did for me!

WASHINGTON, D.C. - According to some political watchdogs and alert members of the press, Representative Bill Flores (R-Texas) slipped in some of his novel-in-progress while reading a bill in the House of Representatives.

Flores was reading the bill, House Resolution 1409.21, or the Wildlife Preservation and Census Act, when he started reciting from a book he is writing. From what those in the chamber gathered, the congressman from Texas is working on a particularly steamy romance set on the high seas.

“Funds for the relocation of the Alaskan timberwolf will be appropriated from the closing of the yellow-tipped raptor-watching stations. Such funds shall be administered by an oversight committee set up by Lord Admiral Woolsey. The Admiral was in hot pursuit of the dreaded pirate Red Beard, the most notorious villain this side of Grenada,” Flores read. According to a C-SPAN transcript, Flores continued with his excerpt. “Lady Woolsey, the Admiral’s daughter, objected to her father’s business. Secretly, she longed for the pirate’s embrace, wishing to kiss his gold-toothed mouth and feel his fiery beard caress her cheeks.”

Read the rest of Dan's post HERE

(Don't worry. It's not true. Though I kind of wish it were.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Litter Your City With YA

Little did I know, today is Support Teen Literature Day, a day specifically designated by The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) as a time when librarians around the country run events to raise awareness of YA literature.

Who knew?

Galleycat also notified me that there is one particular event going on that seems pretty freakin' cool, "Rock the Drop" co-spondered by Figment and readergirlz:

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) celebrates Support Teen Literature Day 2011 today. To join the festivities, literary sites readergirlz and Figment encourage people everywhere to “Rock the Drop” by placing YA books in public areas.

The video embedded above explains the event. Here’s more from the blog post: “Imagine people around the globe finding copies of amazing books in unexpected places, gifted out of love for YA lit.”

If you videotape or photograph yourself dropping a book today, you can enter to win a full set of the Ruby Oliver YA series.

The organization encourages people to drop some of the teen titles on the most frequently challenged book list. Those books include Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, The Absolutely True Diary of a Half-Indian by Sherman Alexie, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

See the original post HERE

So, grab a title off your shelf and do a little good today:

Litter your city with YA.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Blogger, Dan Cabrera: Romance In the Romance Section: Do Couples Find Love in Bookstores?

Reading is often a solitary experience. You cozy up by the fire in your big comfy chair, wrapped in your favorite Snuggie, a mug of hot cocoa at your side. You creak open that hardbound copy of Anna Karenina and find yourself enraptured by the philosophical musings on subsistence farming. Oh, the joys of reading!

That might not sound like the most exciting Saturday night, but for many readers it can beat going to a club or hitting up a local bar. There’s no getting around it: bookworms have a reputation. Sure, there’s the sexy librarian thing, but that seems to be the exception to the rule.

Avid readers are often depicted as anti-social nerds wearing Coke-bottle glasses. There’s even the word “bookish,” which doesn’t exactly have the best of connotations. The OED lists one definition of the word as “Acquainted with books only.” Book lovers clearly do not get much love.

Or do they? A recent Slate article suggests that bookstores are a hotbed of romantic activity. The article focuses on Brooklyn independent bookstores and how they are a great pickup spot:

Bookstores are magnets for people with an hour to kill, and isn't that when one's eyes are most likely to wander, to scan other people's faces for signs of friendliness? The wide tables of alluring, face-up hardcovers and paperbacks invite lingering fingers and quiet conversation. Surely, Brooklyn's single population was using the bookstore (and others like it) as a backdrop for finding true love.

There is something romantic about bookstores, maybe now more than ever. Like the record store, a bookstore is where you will find aficionados and true fans—people who share your interests and passions. And like record stores, bookstores are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

But is a bookstore just a quieter bar (one without the social lubricant of alcohol, of course)? Like I mentioned above, book nerds tend to prefer getting lost in a novel, not in someone’s eyes. Would fiction fans or graphic novel groupies have the nerve to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger?

I can barely talk to people I know, and the thought of approaching a stranger in a public place makes me break out in hives. Add to that the possibility of flirting and you’ve got yourself a Code Blue. In a bookstore you are completely out in the open. There is no loud music, no throng of people (unfortunately) to slink into. There’s you, the books, and the cashier who desperately hopes you will buy multiple copies of the The Modernist Cuisine at full price.

Then again, maybe a bookstore isn’t such a bad place to find love after all. If you strike out with your pick-up line, just go behind the stacks and hide your face behind an over-sized atlas. If you like a particular genre, find its section and chat up a fellow fan (If you’re in the horror section here’s a line, free of charge: “Talking to you is scarier than this whole wall of books. Please go out with me.”) If finding love in a bookstore is a possibility, it might be the best reason to forsake Amazon entirely.

Have you picked anyone up in a bookstore? Have you ever found the Barnes to your Noble? If you have, please let me know. I’ll be parked in front of the Self-Help section, waiting.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Best Cereal Box Reading EVER

Kids in the UK are very lucky this year. Soon they'll be able to read excerpts from Roald Dahl's award-winning children's books while they munch away on their breakfast. I would've killed for that kind of entertainment as a child!

The author of classic KidLit like Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and James and the Giant Peach will be appearing on the back of cereal boxes throughout the UK. The excerpts serve as promotional materials for, well, reading.

GalleyCat fills us in:
Penguin UK’s Puffin imprint has cut a deal with Asda to print excerpts from several Roald Dahl titles on cereal boxes. Oddly enough, Dahl once wrote: “Do you know what breakfast cereal is made of? It’s made of all those little curly wooden shavings you find in pencil sharpeners!”

According to The Telegraph, the excerpts will appear in at least ten million Asda brand cereal boxes sold in Asda supermarket chains. The excerpts will be drawn from The Witches, The Twits, The BFG, Danny, the Champion of the World, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Penguin Children’s Books managing director Francesca Dow explained in the article: “There is a real awareness in the publishing world that there is an increasingly tight competition for children’s time, especially from digital activities such as games consoles, as they grow up.”

Read the original post HERE

Monday, April 11, 2011

He Didn't Start the Fire

Sometimes a story just isn't meant to be told. Too often it's the readers to figure that fact out, but in this case, would-be memoirist Billy Joel was the first to say STOP, let's not start that fire.

Earlier this month, the Grammy-award-winning musician cancelled the publication of his memoir, which was only mere months away from release.

Deciding he didn't want to rehash his life story after writing the full manuscript, Joel is getting my utmost respect on this one. Sure, there will be disappointed fans, but not everything we write should see the light of day. Sometimes, it's just for us--the writers. And if Joel wants to give back his advance and keep his story his own, more power to him. tells us more:
While everyone who has ever raised a toast to 'Captain Jack' or asked the 'Piano Man' to sing them a song was looking forward to reading Billy Joel's memoirs -- originally slated for release this summer -- they're going to have to wait a whole lot longer. Like, forever.

Joel has canceled the publication of his autobiography, 'The Book of Joel,' even after handing in a complete manuscript.
"It took working on writing a book to make me realize that I'm not all that interested in talking about the past," Joel told theAssociated Press. "The best expression of my life and its ups and downs has been and remains my music."

The publisher, HarperCollins, confirmed to the AP on Thursday that they have the finished manuscript in hand but that they have been forced to cancel their planned first run of 250,000 copies due to Joel's decision.

The book was said to contain not only the story of his rise to fame and fortune but also his failed marriages and substance abuse problems.

See the original post HERE