Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Heriot: A Death Tax

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

So, I was reading this book from 1806 about the duties of a Steward. It’s got loads of interesting information and some examples of the different types of accounting. One of them made me just shake my head.

The ledger example is for recording income received and money spent for tenant and household-related expenses.

This line is what made me pause, the author has it labeled for the year 1800:

Agreed this day with R. S. to accept as a compensation for a heriot due at the death of his father…………… £26 5

I admit I had to look up “heriot”

British historical
noun: heriot; plural noun: heriots

  1. a tribute paid to a lord out of the belongings of a tenant who died, often consisting of a live animal or, originally, military equipment that he had been lent during his lifetime.

Right. Even if this is only a made up example and not drawn from an actual example, (which I think it is since the author says he got examples from his own work and others), it’s not something I’ve run across in any of my previous research in the Regency.

R.S’s father died, and he has to pay Lord Soandso £26 5. Sigh.

Also interesting is that J.B paid half a year’s rent of £79.5 and D.S paid a full year at £125
J.S. Sadler was paid the full amount of his bill £19.10 as was P.A. Smith in the amount of £21.5
The Groom was paid expenses of £4.3.11

I just paged forward, there are several examples, plainly drawn from documents lent to him, that mention heriots:

Received of (J. D. a composition for three heriots, instead of his three best beasts or goods, due at the death of his father E. D

There are many of them.

Trees were branded, and boy, they were quite profitable.

When an account of the timbers is taken, they may be marked with iron stamps, the rough part of the bark being taken off with the hatchet before the stamp is applied, that the impression may be made fair; and that it may be lasting, the stamp should go no deeper than the bark, but it may be renewed.

Then I came to a long rant about lazy poor people and how taking away the commons and giving them to “ingenious gentlemen” to rent back to the poors who would then be no longer lazy, and, well, I’ve had about enough of that kind of talk lately so I stopped reading.



Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

I’m tidying up A Notorious Ruin before I get it copy-edited and proofread, but in between I have read three books I have really enjoyed.

The first is The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley. It’s set in modern England, but with a secret governmental society that deals with paranormal threats. The members of the society have various powers and as you can imagine, there’s a dark-side, too. It’s delightful and fun and really, I’m looking forward to more! Get the book. I have a theory about the story and its future, and I can’t wait to see if I’m right.

I resisted buying this book for a really long time because the eBook is $9.99 and that is a price that makes me unhappy.  However, if you are going to buy an overpriced eBook, this is the one to get.  (The author in me says, what a shame, a lower price would probably have put the book on a bestseller list. I know for a fact I’m not the only person who didn’t buy in the initial buzz period because of the price. I didn’t buy until I heard from two people I trust that it was worth the money.)

The second is The Hidden Blade by Sherry Thomas. This book is a prequel to the upcoming Romance. Disclosure: Sherry is a friend. We have the same agent. We were both in the Midnight Scandals Anthology and have books in the upcoming box set Seven Wicked Nights.

The Hidden Blade is not a romance. It’s set in England and China. The writing is wonderful (doh) and reading it was an unusual experience because I kept thinking, this book is pulling me alongm and I don’t understand why. I just know I was engrossed and invested in the characters and it was just a wonderful, wonderful story and all the time while I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about the characters and how I needed  NEEDED to get home and find out what happens to them.

Another thing I loved was the Wushu. I love martial arts movies. The ones set in China that draw on the magical powers and effects of Wushu are among my favorites. Chinese martial arts films have a strong tradition of women fighters. It’s not even right to say “strong tradition” it’s that women were also fighters who could kick anybody’s ass and did so. It’s normal. Normal. (One of the best, most easily accessible movies for Westerners that demonstrates this is Jackie Chan’s The Legend of Drunken Master. If that film had been American, the parts of the women would have been eviscerated and/or replaced by men. But instead, you see Chan playing opposite a female fighter who is never a love interest and who also cannot be disentangled from the plot. It’s hilarious, by the way.)

So, I loved loved loved the martial arts in this book and that it played out through the women. Hell yeah. Plus, at the end, if the main book were out, I would have one-clicked it. I have it pre-ordered. I can’t wait!!!!

The third book is The Hunt For Red October by Tom Clancy. Yes. That’s right. Somehow, even though I LOVE thrillers and read them all the time, I’d never read this one.  ::Head Smack::  I loved it. I really did. It’s everything I love about thrillers and it was engrossing the whole time.  It made me think lots of writerly thoughts, too, but not when I was reading it. When I was reading it, I was too busy going, oh my god now WHAT!!!

What have you read, lately?




Thursday, June 26th, 2014

I’m reading a book that I saw several people say they really liked. As in a lot. So I bought it and have started reading it. Despite an incredibly cheesy series subtitle.

I will represent to you that the subtitle is . . . well . . . approaching self-parody, only totally serious.

In the first paragraph an object is described like this (I am not using the exact phrase.)  “shiny matte-finish.”  A  matte-finish is, by definition, not shiny.  So, I said to myself, “this is a very careless, thoughtless even, choice of words.”

By the middle of the chapter, I was thinking, “wow. I were [Author of a NYT bestselling series] I would be thinking about talking to a lawyer.”  If felt to me like all this author had done was slant a few salient details as she essentially writes the exact  same series framework. EXACT.

But then there were elements from another NYT Bestselling series. Though when you’re able to say, “oh, that line came from the first book in Series X, and this is Character Y from series X, isn’t that kind of a problem? So maybe a mashup, kind of?

It’s not badly written. But it’s not thoughtful and it’s completely unoriginal.

I’ve already reached points where I know exactly what a character’s internal narrative is going to be. Because that’s what it ALWAYS is.

It’s grammatically correct, about 1/2 deep, and completely and utterly derivative.




Risky Sampler

Sunday, May 11th, 2014
Cover of the Risky Sampler

You Want This. Tots.

A sampler of chapters from books by authors of the Risky Regency blog. Free. Totally free.

Ammada McCabe

Diane Gaston

Elena Greene

Carolyn Jewel

Janet Mullany

Gail Eastwood

Susanah Fraser

Megan Frampton

Download the version of your choice. And please let me know if you have any trouble with the files. This should work, but hey.

Kindle (mobi)

All Other Readers (ePub)


The Enjoyment Ratio: T-Shirts vs. Books

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Forget the stupid coffee. Now it’s Books versus T-Shirts!

15.00 for a t-shirt (Because I am NOT paying $25.00 for a t-shirt–I wait for a Woot-off.)

Wear it once a week for 1 year (assuming 12 hours of wear-time per day) = 624 hours of enjoyment!

My T-shirt costs me $0.02 per hour of enjoyment. Admittedly, some T-shirts last a LOT longer than a year. I still have and wear T-shirts I bought when I was in college.

I can read a 100,000 word novel in 8 hours, more or less, assuming I am captivated enough to finish it.

Let’s compare that to T-shirt enjoyment at $0.02 per hour

The comparable Book price should be …..


You’re welcome.



Even a highwayman ….

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Even a highwayman, in the way of trade, may blow out your brains, but if he uses foul language at the same time, I should say he was no gentleman.
William Hazlitt, “The Fight”, New Monthly Magazine, February 1822


Oh, Librarian, whoever you are. You have made me sad

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

This post at Library Journal made me sad. It’s a late commentary on the whole Joe “No Such Thing as a Conflict of Interest” Konrath/Amazon review situation (I blogged about that here) and also slightly about some review abuse (which I have blogged about here – sarcasm version and here – the Swiftian version as well as here – This is just wrong version.

It’s pretty clear the author of the post isn’t fully informed about the whole Amazon review thing and missed entirely the disturbing implications regarding the outing of Harriet Klausner. That’s a whole other post. Here’s what this post is about: (Emphasis added):

Sitting around all day reading romance novels hardly qualifies as a life, and romance novels hardly qualify as books.

But it’s also hard to feel sorry for customers who were duped into buying a “bad” romance novel by a good review. After all, they’re all bad books. It’s not like people are reading romances for their literary quality. I almost feel sorry for the people who get so worked up over this.

Right. Anyway, I left a comment and since comments are moderated there, it’s possible mine won’t be approved. Here’s what I said:

Wow. I was with you, kind of, up until this: “romance novels hardly qualify as books.” I’m so sorry you feel this way. I am, as you may note, an author of romance. Like many readers and writers of Romance, I am not only a college graduate but in possession of a graduate degree. (In English, by the way.)

It’s been my experience that most people who go down the “All Romance is trash” path have in fact never read a romance. There are as well a lot of people who read one romance (often years ago) didn’t like it, and now, based on a sample size in single digits and in no way reflective of Romances being written today, decided that the entire genre must be awful. This mutually assured stupidity conclusion about the genre and the people who read it is, sadly, all too familiar.

There are so many talented, gifted authors of Romance and they come from all backgrounds, some are academics, some are librarians, some are even men. Since I write in the genre, I happen to know a lot of authors of the genre. They are lawyers, PhDs, engineers, technologists, teachers. There are also, by the way, many fine Romance authors who did not go to college, but let me ask you this:

Do you really believe that so many smart, educated women (and a few men) would ALL write awful books with no redeeming value? Are you honestly willing to suggest that’s remotely possible?

Please, please, consider the possibility that you are wrong. Maybe Romance just isn’t the genre for you, but I can assure you there are Romances out there as fine, or finer, than any literature you care to name.


Great Books I have Read Lately

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

A couple days ago I ranted about the rash of rotten books I’d read lately, and I asked for recommendations for well written erotic romance. Twitter and blog commenters came through for me. I thought I’d report back on my reading since then.

Several people recommended Cara McKenna and I was reminded that I’d read her Willing Victim some time ago and really liked it. At the time, I recall thinking that WV was not quite edgy enough for me. However, see below. The book specifically recommended to me was Ruin Me but I also bought Brazen and Don’t Call her Angel.

Ruin Me was wonderful and it was the perfect antidote for all those badly written books that made me want to reach through my iPad screen and slap the writers with a dictionary and a copy of Strunk & White. The writing was excellent, the characters were actual adults and the subject matter was complex. YES! Total win.

For all that I adored Ruin Me, I think I liked Don’t Call her Angel even better.  I’m not so fond of the title, but it doesn’t matter. The story was complex and full of interesting moral questions. Also, the hero of the story is … gasp … Middle Eastern but he was not just a collection of cliches about Middle Eastern men. I’m sure someone who is more familiar with the culture would know how accurately he’s situated in the story, but, for what it’s worth, he did not strike me as poorly handled. I fully admit I may merely be ignorant. For everyone who (rightly) bemoans the lack of heroes of color in Romance, here’s one for you.

Brazen was also a good story and I enjoyed it. Again, complex, grown up characters and excellent writing. I also re-read Willing Victim and liked it more on this second reading than on my first. I still wish the story had taken some bigger risks, but the writing is lovely and the characters are adults. I think that’s why I liked Don’t Call her Angel so much. The risks there are bigger.

I also re-read Heat, by R. Lee Smith only I skipped all the parts I knew would drive me crazy.  Heat is a crazy-ass unapologetic story that is utterly politically incorrect. Despite the weak writing (but still better than E. L. James) I give major kudos to any writer having the balls to write Heat. I wish Smith would hire a formatter and an editor. I wish she hadn’t put some of her other stories out there that made me sad because they were just rotten for all the reasons I ranted about before, especially when I know she can do better.

I have several more recommendations to get through and I’ll report back on those, but I did want to say thank you to everyone who recommended McKenna.




The Letter Before P: Help a Reader Out

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

I have not had good luck lately with my reading. Very, very few have been wins and this makes me sad.

I’m tired of eBooks with rotten formatting. As someone who self-pubs, I understand the complexity of good formatting, but I am now tired to death of people uploading a Word document, doing little to no QA and calling it good. Maybe for 3% of you the result is fine. For the rest of you: Not. Outsource it or learn how yourself. I guess that’s a longer rant for another day.

My main complaint now is crappy books. What’s more, crappy books with double digit glowing reviews.

Here’s a hard truth: 97% of writers who get rejected by traditional publishers are getting rejected because the writing is crappy. Period. Obviously some writers have no idea how weak their writing is and they’re self-pubbing their crap. Bleh. I’m not sure if that’s worse than the traditional publishers who obviously didn’t bother to edit, copy-edit- proofread or format their over-priced offerings.

CRAP writing. CRAP!

“I just want to run,” she whispered, her eyes strangely blank, like she was retreating internally.
He pulled her so she was sitting and put his hands on either side of her face. It was so small, so precious, so cold between then. He was finding it hard to take air in.

Worse, the blurb actually suggests this book is edgy and full of disturbing sexual power dynamics. Uh, no. This book is full of emotionally immature characters with no depth and completely implausible events. Stupid and wrong history, too.

Should have stopped at down

I read three sentences of a YA that started like this:

I stand up and look down at the bed, holding my breath in fear of the sounds that are escalating from deep within my throat.

Great. More crap writing. stand up and look down. BAD. BAD CRAP! holding my breath…. Right. How the HELL is she making any sounds at all if she’s holding her breath? Really. Hold your breath. Now try to make a sound. You can’t.  . . .sounds escalating from deep within What the hell? Escalating is the WRONG verb. WRONG!

Downhill Fast

So then I started another book and that went downhill fast, too. I want the authors I read to have spent some time seriously pondering word usage because they find the subject riveting. Because then it’s likely words will get used carefully, correctly, and in interesting, thought provoking ways. The exact opposite of the use of words in this book.

Big Dark Secret!!! —— KIDDING!

The next book had some promise. There was a big dark secret in this OCD heroine’s past. BIG. DARK SECRET! And then… it wasn’t big or dark. It was just stupid. All her fucked-upness was fucked up only because the author didn’t have the nuts to make her actually fucked up. AND, she thinks she’s plain yet the hero describes her as centerfold hot. I’m sorry, but women who look like centerfolds are rarely unaware of the fact. BAD. BAD BAD BAD.

Dumb and Dumber

The next book also started out well. It quickly crashed and burned with the characterization getting stupider and stupider. The author set up rules of her story “We cannot do X because bad things will happen.” And voila! They do X and nothing bad happens. I’ll be honest here, this book devolved into what read like the author’s masturbatory fantasies where the rules only matter during the build up and then…. o …. and there’s no need to examine the thin constructs that lead to the letter before p because, you know, you got to the climax, only now there’s still 200 pages to write…. I could not finish. Skeevy and stupid.

Billions and billions of them…

The book before that one started out well enough. It takes place in an establishment dedicated to the pursuit of BDSM pleasures. The heroine is there and oddly clueless… she is unaware she is sexually submissive … and then wait for it . . . she’s actually a journalist looking to write a story about… Oh? You mean you’ve read 10 bazillion books with the same fucking plot? (Pun INTENDED!!) Yes, yes, all the dom men stand around getting hard ons because ohmygod she thinks she’s plain abut they all know she’s hot and submissive. Shoot me now.

Guess what else? Some of these books were traditionally published.


All I want is an insanely hot book that explores sexual power in a thoughtful, edgy, dangerous way. Need not be politically correct. MUST be well written and risky. The author MUST have spent some time thinking about alright vs. all right and come to a decision about which to use when (like maybe NEVER for one of them?) and why, and she/he should probably feel slightly smug about it. If tasked with writing 250 words on the subject, she/he should feel constrained by the word count and ready to rumble on the subject.

I would like recommendations. I have already read just about all of Charlotte Stein. The two big authors who probably leap to your mind I have either already read or, frankly, are not good enough in my never humble opinion.

Anyone who recommends his or her own book will be BANNED forever.


Books I’ve Been Reading

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

In the current order in my Kindle App, which is not chronological because I was talking about several of these books with others:

Gaijin, by Remittance Girl

Erotica. Trigger warning for flat out rape.

Why I bought it: From a discussion at Dear Author.

What I think: I’ve read this several times. Not for everyone, and not romance. Remittance Girl is a writer to watch.

A Virgin Enslaved, Artemis Hunt

50 Shades Fan Fic?

Why I bought it: Saw it being tweeted as it was read by someone whose opinion I respect. It sounded interesting.

What I think: It’s well written and not very long. It’s also 50 Shades fanfic and/or a retelling. From the story tag line, you’d think it is parody, but it did not read like a parody and I did not detect anything that was a comment on all the issues of 50. (and I went to grad school where I was trained to do that!) This is way better written than 50 Shades, but ultimately, it didn’t work for me overall. The virgin in this story was never enslaved (literally or figuratively) and the BDSM stuff completely dropped out. It had zero impact on the story. I did not find the characters as compelling as the poorly written ones in 50. This story, for me, missed that Alpha/Innocent trope that hits so hard in Twilight and 50. Nevertheless, I will be reading other things by this author and I will NOT be reading anything more by James. I’m glad I found out about this writer. There’s a deep, deep backlist. YAY.

Please note: If this book had contained clickable buy links to that backlist, I would have bought at least one and probably several. In other words, I now have to work 10 times harder to find/buy this author’s books. Don’t do this to me. This author now has to depend upon me remembering those pen names…. And, sadly, that’s just not a guarantee.

Doubled, by Charlotte Stein

Erotic Romance

Why I bought it: Megan Frampton tweeted that she’d been reading Stein. She has good book tastes, but I’m also very clear about how and where we differ in our reading tastes. I’ll typically take a look at any author she really likes. Which I did a while back. This purchase was just another book by an author I’d read before.

What I thought: Stein is a Jekyll and Hyde author for me. The writing is always good, but some of her books have been a total fail for me, while others have made me weep with jealousy at her talent. This one was a meh for me. I know how good she is, so I want that complexity in everything I read from her, and this lacked the punch. It’s an EC (Ellora’s Cave) book so I’m wondering if that’s the problem….  I think the books that work for me are not EC books. See below.

Ember, Bettie Sharpe

Romance, Fairy Tale, at the border of erotic.

Why I bought it: I recently tweeted a plea for book recommendations. (Yes, I ignored the one from an author pushing his own book. Bad Form, author dude.) I wanted to try several of the suggestions, but I’m just not going to pay $8.99+ for an eBook. Ember was a suggestion, the price was right, I bought it.

What I think: LOVE IT. This is a wickedly subversive retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale. I have a couple of quibbles, but nothing that makes me not love this story. I will be buying more by this author.

Note: Also NO BUY LINKS. What the H?

Easy, Tammara Webber

College Age Romance? (What is this called? New Adult?) Trigger warning for attempted rape scene.

Why I bought it: I bought it instead of the $9.00 plus books that were recommended. It happened to be either free or sub $5.00 when I saw it, and I knew I’d heard others talking about it. I can’t recall where, though.

What I thought: I have to confess that when I started this book, I was under the completely mistaken impression that it was erotic romance. Uh, NO! So I spent a disorienting few moments thinking, wow, this writing is amazing, but OMG this scene is …. <<horrific in impact>> But then I realized the problem had to be me, because writing that strong rarely goes along with that kind of world view without also offering deep hints as to intent– in other words, I knew the writer was saying what she meant on several levels whereas weak writing is often full of offensive and likely unintended ideas because, well, the weak writer isn’t thinking at a very complex level.

Anyway, then I settled in for a very enjoyable read except in the middle where it began to feel very preachy. I LOVED the hero. OK with the heroine. Can’t say that I loved the book, but I liked it a lot and I will absolutely read more by this author. This was a win, by the way. I’m really glad I read it.

This book was also missing any links to buy other books by her. FAIL. Because I would have clicked and probably bought.

Control, by Charlotte Stein

Erotic Romance.

Why I bought it: Because I have really, really liked other books by her.

What I think: Holy cow. The hero of this book is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I like in a hero and I still think this is an amazing book. I just like those alpha men and this guy is not in any way an alpha. But this is a damn fine book and one of those, OMG why can’t I write like this books. Complete win even though there were parts where the hero/heroine dynamic simply did not work for me. Not an EC book…

Plummet, by Michael Zaracostas

Legal Thriller

Why I bought it: Someone recommended it on twitter, I think. It was free and though I had doubts, I do enjoy a good mystery/legal thriller…

What I thought: Well written and definitely engaging, but so unrelentingly oblivious-male in its gaze, I ended up depressed and annoyed. The women weren’t very well done. You could just feel this author’s lack of understanding about the real lives and experiences of women. There are male writers who carry off unsympathetic female characters without falling into offensive cliche.

I have lost all tolerance for writing, however fine, in which the female is merely a reflection of what is, in fact, a male point of view that fails utterly to understand what it means to be a woman in America. Such a flaw in the authorial view diminishes the male characters, too, by the way. I wish I’d liked this book better because a lot of interesting things went on. If I want to read about a male view of the world that manages not to portray demeaning and damaging views of women, I can read Lee Child or Barry Eisler.

Concluding Remarks

Whoa! Twitter is a major source of book recommendations for me. Generally not from author promotion but from readers, reviewers, or bloggers.

Did you notice how many sales were lost because books did not have buy links? If you’re an author, think about what that means to your bottom line. You, dear author, cannot rely on me remembering, late at night (or at any time) who I read that I liked. Names and titles blur in my head. I know I have stared at Kindle book recommendations or search results while I thought, “Who was that author I liked???”

Do not ever, ever underestimate the power of the one-click buy. Put the damn buy links in your book so I can buy while my love and satisfaction with your book is hot and immediate.

I’m surprised by my resistance to books that are $8.99 and above. I’d pay that for certain non-fiction books, and possibly for certain fiction — maybe for a brand new, just released book by really big author. But not for genre fiction. Here’s part of what goes through my head: I am on a reading jag. Chances are I’m going to read 10-20 books in a very short period of time. 10-20 books at $10 bucks a book is $100-200. I do this several time a year . . . I have a growing teenager who will be off to college soon. I have bills and groceries…

So, do I buy 10 or fewer books or do I get more books that are priced at less than $8.00? Why should I pay the same price for an eBook as for paper when, with the eBook, I can’t lend it (except, possibly, once) and I have to worry about what happens if I try to read it on too many devices? Why, I think, should I support a publisher’s refusal to price to the market?