Thursday, May 31, 2007

BEA/HNS conference trip, day one

I'm writing from the official BEA librarians' hotel in NYC (Holiday Inn Midtown) and there are a lot of librarians here. The publishers are even marketing to us, here in the hotel - after check-in, the desk clerk gave me a bag of goodies with a hardcover kids' book about libraries, a galley of a Jewish women's fiction novel, and promo material from Holtzbrinck, who are hosting an author breakfast here (in this hotel) tomorrow morning.

I guess this is technically day two, rather than day one, of the trip because we flew from Indy last night at 8:30 (after a day of shopping, which included some nice purchases at the Half Price Books in Castleton) and got into Hartford just after 11pm. Then, after less than 12 hours at my parents' house, we took Amtrak to Penn Station via New Haven, which was a surprisingly pleasant ride.

Tomorrow morning I expect to meet up with a few HNS people at the Javits Center, after which the grabbing of galleys will commence. I do plan to talk to a number of publishers, too, about their fall historical fiction titles, and get catalogs so that I can request ARCs later on of what they don't have here.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Two reviews online, finally

It's only been six weeks since they were published... Amazon must have hiccupped somewhere.

From Booklist: my reviews of Jonis Agee's The River Wife (one of my favorite reads so far this year) and Laura Dietz's In the Tenth House. The latter credits "Roberta Johnson" rather than me, but the print magazine has it right. Susan, Sally, Sadie, Sandra, Sondra, I've gotten, often (sigh), but Roberta is a new one.

Added later - to see what else we've been doing this holiday weekend, see Randomography (including a picture of me holding a garden cat that demanded attention) and Greasy Spoons.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Oh, all right

Since both Tess and Rachel tagged me for the "8 random things about me" meme, I'll stop dithering and post already :)

Eight random facts about me:

1. My nickname on Yahoo and Librarything, Ariadne02, dates back to 1989, when my college boyfriend ran a BBS and I had to choose a handle to post under. I'd just read June Rachuy Brindel's novel Ariadne and thought the name was cool. The "02" was added later, because some other Ariadne had gotten to Yahoo before me.

2. I've seen every episode of American Idol since Season 2, except for the early auditions when they show the people who really suck.

3. When I worked as a temporary secretary for the Michigan Dept of Transportation, I read a book a day, making my way through every novel written by Jean Plaidy, Valerie Anand, and Norah Lofts that the East Lansing Public Library owned.

4. I was a vegetarian for about six years but gave it up when I left Ann Arbor and finding food to eat became too much of a chore.

5. My most infamous ancestor is Alice Bishop, one of the first women executed in the American colonies (again, "hanged" - not "hung").

6. I have scars on both of my knees after slipping on pavement while running to take my final exam in medieval English history during grad school. Rather than stop at the infirmary, I took my two-hour final, trying not to get blood on anything (sorry), after which my knees got badly infected. I got a B+ in the course. I'm not sure what the moral of this story is.

7. During middle school, I wrote a program in BASIC on my family's Apple IIe that did a fair job of mimicking ELIZA (a computer program that manipulates strings of text to emulate a psychotherapist's responses to statements).

8. I can bake a mean baklava.

I'm not tagging anyone else because this one's been around the block for a while, but if anyone else wants to join in, please do.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Continuing my indiscriminate reporting on books

To get the context for this post's title, see GalleyCat from yesterday. I'm very amused by it all. Ah well. The author's comments aside, my Booklist review of Bluebird (linked from the sidebar) still stands, obviously, and I'd already planned to talk it up at the HNS conference in two weeks.

One good thing about the GalleyCat post, besides alerting me to the NBCC interview and to Shirley Dent's well-reasoned piece from the Guardian on the blogger/print critic divide, was that I learned about novelist Michelle Moran's blog, History Buff (cute graphic). Michelle's been interviewing current historical novelists about women's roles in history. She'll be speaking at the conference, too.

I'll be giving a workshop about the appeal of historical fiction at the Western Mass. Library System on June 5th. It looks like registration has closed already.

The gallery of reusable cover art has been updated. For the Rap Sheet: I'll see your two long-skirted women and raise you two more. (Check the Rap Sheet link for more examples of this type, mostly from crime fiction.)

But without further ado, some new Publishers Marketplace deals.

Kathleen Kent's debut novel THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER, about one family's courage and defiance during the Salem Witch Trials, based on the author's own family history and the story of her grandmother nine generations back who was hung for being a witch, to Reagan Arthur at Little, Brown, at auction, by Julie Barer at Barer Literary (NA).

"Hanged," please, not "hung." Of course, maybe "hung" is acceptable now in this context - that, "orientate," and "irregardless" always get me, especially when I see them in historical fiction.

DL Armstrong's THE LAST TROUBADOUR, set against the flames of a rising medieval Inquisition, a heretic, an atheist and a pagan are the last hope to save the holiest Christian relic from a sainted King and crusading pope, based on true events, plus THE LAST QUEST and THE LAST STAND, to James McKinnon for Kunati, in a good deal (world English).

Publisher website here.

And Journalist Sherry Jones's debut historical novel A'ISHA, BELOVED OF MUHAMMAD, set in seventh-century Arabia, the story of the favorite wife of the Prophet Muhammad, recreating her marriage at the age of nine, her struggle for personal freedom in a society where women had few rights, and her dedication to The Prophet's vision of a true faith, to Judy Sternlight for Ballantine, in a pre-empt, for two books, by Natasha Kern of the Natasha Kern Literary Agency.

I'm home today, attempting to catch up on email, getting HNR tearsheets out, and general housecleaning. I leave for my big conference trip a week from today - I'm not sure if I'm ready.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Book meme du jour

I finished up my "romancing the past" chapter yesterday morning, and my brain hurts from writing almost continuously for the past three weeks. This meme on Susan's blog caught my eye, so I thought I'd break my blogging silence by participating. Besides, this way you get to see how obscu-- er, wide-ranging, my reading tastes are.

A book that made you cry: Liz Curtis Higgs' Thorn in My Heart. This novel (a retelling of the biblical Jacob-Leah-Rachel triangle set in the 18th century Scottish lowlands) ought to be sold with some small packets of tissues.

A book that scared you: Rett MacPherson's Died in the Wool. Very creepy, especially for a cozy mystery, where I don't usually expect such things.

A book that made you laugh: James Morrow's The Last Witchfinder. The introduction, in which Newton's Principia Mathematica describes the secret lives of books (and what they write about when humans aren't watching) is hilarious. Also Jane Harris's The Observations.

A book that disgusted you: It's a toss-up between Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front and Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Ugh. I read both in Miss Lerner's 9th grade English class, which was held right before lunch. I didn't eat very well that year.

A book you loved in elementary school: I'm sure we read books in elementary school, but I can't think of any specific titles. One book I enjoyed when I was that age, though, was Lorraine Beim's Just Plain Maggie, written sometime in the 1950s I think, about a girl named Maggie and her experiences going off to summer camp. My grandmother used to work at an education library and saved me a bunch of the discards. This was one of them.

A book you loved in middle school. Why can't I remember reading anything in middle school? I graduated, didn't I? Need to come back to this one.

A book you loved in high school: James Hilton's Lost Horizon, which may be my favorite book of all time. Dryly witty, tragic, romantic, well told, plus a great "what if" storyline you're tempted to believe in - what more can be said? I don't think I realized how truly clever the writing was until I reread it years later.

A book you hated in high school: Way too many, but see above, under "books that disgusted me."

A book you loved in college: I didn't take any English lit courses in college, only French lit, which probably explains a lot. I don't know if I'd say loved, but I thought Alain Robbe-Grillet's La Jalousie was very creative in terms of technique. Driss Chraibi's La Civilisation, Ma mère was enjoyable. And who can forget Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince.

A book that challenged your identity: Beats me. I must be reading the wrong books.

A series that you love: Rett MacPherson's Torie O'Shea mystery series - I pre-order these and buy them in hardcover (extremely rare). Also, Katheryn Kimbrough's Saga of the Phenwick Women. This is a 40-book gothic romance series, an extended family saga covering 300+ years of American history. All of the book titles are named after women from the same family. I should probably be ashamed to say I learned a lot about US history from these books because I know they're potboilers, but they were also great fun.

Your favorite horror book: Can't read the stuff, it creeps me out.

Your favorite science fiction book: Probably Dan Simmons' Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. Or anything by Sheri S. Tepper, Grass in particular.

Your favorite fantasy book: I'll probably get flak for this, but it has to be Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. Followed closely by Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince and Dragon Star trilogies.

Your favorite mystery book: Barbara Vine's Anna's Book.

Your favorite historical novel: I think I covered this a while back.

Your favorite biography: Anything by David Duff, such as The Shy Princess about Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria's youngest, or The Hessian Tapestry, about Princess Alice and her family. I don't read all that many biographies.

Your favorite “coming-of-age” book: I may have to come back to this one.

Your favorite classic: Lost Horizon, see above. Also Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. For short stories, Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," which I wrote an essay on in 10th grade.

Your favorite romance book: See link for "favorite historical novel" above, plus Rebecca Ryman's Olivia and Jai and Laura Black's Ravenburn. Laura Black is a pseudonym for Roger Longrigg, who also wrote as Domini Taylor. Never say that men can't write romance.

Your favorite book not on this list: Way too many to name. For reference: (besides my own book, of course) Alison Weir's Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy, which I consult pretty often. I'm sure I'll think of more.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

In search of historically accurate romances

No, this isn't a rant; it's more of a plea.

I'm in the middle of my book chapter on historical romantic fiction, specifically the section dealing with the historical romance subgenre, and am having trouble finding examples of romance novels set in certain places/periods. I'm looking for titles published between mid-2004 and now (well, up through mid-2008 - my deadline) in which the author takes reasonable care with historical accuracy. "Wallpaper historicals" have their audience, but this is a guide for historical fiction readers, and I'm not interested in them here. I'm also limited to novels that libraries are apt to own (which means mainstream and library publishers only, for the most part).

The time periods for which I have little or nothing: England/Europe during the Elizabethan period/Renaissance (I know about Susan Carroll's Dark Queen series, but have her in the "romantic historical" chapter); World Wars I and II and other 20th century settings; early America; early modern Europe (basically 1650-1900); medieval England and Europe. Actually, I have a handful of medieval romance novelists down already, but I don't want to miss anything or anyone major. I'm aware that these time periods aren't exactly popular nowadays, but...

Suggestions on other periods/places welcome, too. I've noted an absolute ton of Regency novelists already, but if there are any authors/novels I should be sure to include, please let me know.

Not sure how many responses I'll get, if any, but I figured it was worth a shot. Meanwhile, I'm going to hunt through my back issues of Romantic Times for titles I've missed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

More galleys to grab, and HNS updates

I probably won't be around here much until my whirlwind conference tour of New England is over in mid-June, but here are some quick updates.

Publishers Weekly just posted its BEA issue with their "galleys to grab" picks. All the ones I'm interested in are ones I mentioned earlier, so I'll let that list stand. In addition, I'll be at the show looking for galleys of many novels on HNS's forthcoming books list, which I spent four hours updating last night with titles through December '07. Not all publishers have their fall catalogs out, so there'll be some updates down the road.

I posted the editors' choice reviews from HNR's May issue last weekend, if you want to take a look and see what novels our reviewers enjoyed the most. I admit I don't understand the cover design for Harding's The Solitude of Thomas Cave, UK edition, and having read it, I agree wholeheartedly with Mary Sharratt that the UK cover design for Michael Wallner's April in Paris is inappropriate. It's a historical thriller, not a frilly romantic wartime saga. Oh well. It is a good book, though.