I’ve returned refreshed, revitalized and freakin’ inspired by the energy at Geek Girl Con in Seattle last weekend.

To all of you who attended my “Romance is a Feminist Genre” panel on Sunday morning that also featured Barb Ferrer, Karen Harbaugh, Kat, fandom representative extraordinaire, and moderator Suzete Chan, thank you so very much.

I had no idea we’d have such a receptive audience.

And to the person who asked about LGBT romance, thank you! We don’t have as much of it as we should, and there has been some pushback in the romance writing community about it from some quarters but thankfully, we also have people like Heidi Cullinan, who founded Rainbow Romance Writers.

After the panel, a number of people asked about where they might start in romance. I talked about a few at the panel but it seemed a good idea to have these down for posterity.

First, of course, I’d recommend Karen and Barb’s books, which are awesome, and Kat’s fan fiction is certainly a fun read. And you could amble over to my books page here and check out what I have and see if that interests you…

And then it depends on genre.

Science Fiction/Fantasy.
Linnea Sinclair. As far as I’m concerned, she’s the place to start for most geek girls who want to crossover as she’d working in the familiar galactic-style world, she writes fast-paced, layered, fascinating books with awesome characters from the leads to the supporting characters.

My favorite is Hope’s Folly. But Gabriel’s Ghost in the first book in her Dock Five series. She also has a number of unconnected stories. My favorite is Finder’s Keepers but, hey, the Kel-Patan fandom love in many quarters compels me to point out Games of Command.

Lois McMaster Bujold.
There are some writers whose books just fill your soul. Bujold’s books are like that for me. Ignore the dumb cover and the supposed similarity to David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. You want Cordelia’s Honor.

This is shelved in SF, not romance, and there’s so much going on around our leads, including galactic and civil war but it’s all the lovely characters that keep me coming back, from Cordelia to Aral to Bothari and later Miles and Mark, and Count Pierre, and Illyan and….I love these people.

Go. Read.

Contemporary: Jennifer Crusie.

Crusie was my gateway drug into romance. Hey, I like stuff blowing up and fights and murder, right, I don’t want a contemporary book but okay I’ll take a look and…what? This is FUNNY. This is interesting. I love these characters. I love their flaws, I love the way they interact, I love their ideas about how some men are muffins and some are donuts, I love the Krispy Kreme sex, and I love the Wonder Woman underoos.

Where to start? Bet Me is always a good place, and Welcome To Temptation starts with two sisters coming to their hometown to film a soft-porn movie (they’re directors, not the actors), and Don’t Look Down, written with Bob Mayer, is fast-paced action and a Wonder Woman theme.

Historicals:  Amanda Quick

Amanda Quick is the historical alter ego of contemporary writer Jayne Ann Krentz. Both her selves write books that are like crack, meaning once you start, you can’t put them down. I love the way her historicals layer in the setting, with heroines who are botanists and photographers, and fortune tellers and not just your average lord or lady. The heroes, too, aren’t necessarily heirs to great fortune, though some are, but they’re smart, resourceful and dangerous to their enemies.

These aren’t comedies of manners, like Austen or Heyer, but that’s okay because instead they’re thrill rides with mad scientist villains and obsessed magicians.

I’m not sure where to put the J.D. Robb series, which stars a homicide detective in a futuristic New York City and has elements of the police procedural, a touch of Bladerunner-style world building, and a hot romance, but start with Naked in Death. To me, this series is all about Eve Dallas, the most compassionate, bitchiest, haunted, relentless and intelligent woman in romance. I could build shrines to Eve Dallas.

And for more? Check out the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout Group on Goodreads run by Bonnie Burton and Felicia Day.

Because even if you don’t find titles, you’ll still be able to click and watch drunken Bonnie Burton and Felicia Day talk about romance books.

 

 

Every now and then I need to play Stuart Smalley for myself and keep my spirits up about writing and, well, life.

This is my favorite pin. It was a gift from dear friend who’s no longer with us:

Cheerfully slogging our way to greatness.”

This is on a doily hand-made by my friend Katy Cooper which sits on my desk. It’s a cherry slogan, picked up from Jenny Crusie and the JenniferCrusieFans yahoo group some time back.

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, anybody could do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

League of Their Own.

“You know, if you don’t want to run again, I respect that.  But if you don’t run ’cause you think it’s gonna be too hard or you think you’re gonna lose – well, God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you.”

The West Wing.

“It’s an impossible job.”

“That happens sometimes.”

–Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

“Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.”

Bujold again, this time in A Civil Campaign

No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

Eleanor Roosevelt.

And I can’t make a list like this without including something from the Princess Bride. I use this one when I’m having trouble figuring out exactly how to say something.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

What are your favorites?

Last week, I was asked a question about the one book that influenced my life. I had trouble narrowing it to just one.

So I started thinking about all the books I’ll  hold close to my heart and will have in my collection until I die.

And I made a list.  🙂

1. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley.

This is the first book I remember carrying around with me constantly.

My favorites passages are Alec’s first ride aboard the Black on the deserted island, Alec’s midnight ride on a real racetrack that becomes almost surreal, and, most especially, the climatic match race between The Black, Cyclone and Sun Raider.

When I needed a name for my superhero, I called him Alec. His last name isn’t a coincidence either. 🙂

2. Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

When I was twelve, I got a subscription to the SF Book Club and got to choose five free books. This was included, along with a couple of Edgar Rice Burroughs books and Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. I like Zelazny’s work a lot but it was this collection I read until the pages fell out. It still has orange stains from the Cheetos I ate while reading.

The book is likely a little dated now but the dragons in this series are still the best.

3. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

I know some people think the narrative moves slow at the beginning but I was hooked right away with the descriptions of Bilbo’s birthday party. I just adore Tolkien’s narrative voice, rambling and all.

By the time Strider showed up in Bree, I was hopelessly in love with the story. Eowyn’s battle against the King of the Nazghul remains my favorite scene though Gandalf’s confrontation on the bridge in Moria is a close second.

4. DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke

I love any number of superhero stories but if I had to pick one story that distilled everything I love about superheroes, this would be it.

5. The Sherlock Homes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle

I’m the proud owner not only of the classic William S. Baring-Gould Annotated Sherlock Holmes but also of a new annotated edition published a couple of years ago. These stories are everything I love about mysteries and I’ve yet to find a detective I like more than Holmes.

But it’s Watson who really makes the stories to me. He’s flawed but intelligent and kind and adds the human touch that the stories need. The new movie with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law didn’t impress me much but it got Watson right, a big point in their favor.

6. Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie

I normally steer away from contemporary stories–they’re too close to reality for me. But this is the book that really turned me on to romance stories. It’s sad, it’s funny, and everyone in it is so real. It’s a beautiful book.

7. The Plantagenet Chronicles by Thomas Costain

I think this four-volume set came through a mail-order book club too. It starts with Henry II and ends with the death of Richard III, the last of the English Plantagenet kings. It’s more of a collection of anecdotes spliced together than it is a linear history. Costain is a great storyteller.

And I’m still with him that Richard III may have been innocent of his nephews’ murder and that Richard II was a really lousy king. One of these days, I’m going to write the William Marshall story inspired by Costain.

8. Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is the book that brought me back to SF after years of avoiding it because of cardboard characters. I’d been mostly reading fantasy until a friend insisted on read this. It’s now one of the most dog-eared books in my collection.

Aral. :sigh:

It’s…well, ostensibly it’s about a woman from a very liberal culture who falls in love with a man from a planet and a culture isolated for thousands of years from the rest of galactic civilization.

But that’s like saying the Sopranos is about mobsters. It’s true but there’s so much MORE.

9. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

The first novel in a series so good that other Arthurian fiction writers use it as a basis for their stories. Young Merlin is a bastard child in a court that would rather see him dead but his Gift of Sight ultimately protects him long enough to find his father, the Roman heir of Britain.

There is magic in these pages.

10. Hope’s Folly by Linnea Sinclair

My latest obsession. Adrenaline-fueled romantic SF with a pace that would please Robert Heinlein. It’s just sheer fun to read.

So what are your favorites?