Monday, July 30, 2012

Foreign Covers

So I was playing around on my iPad while watching the Olympics last night, and I came across this foreign cover of one of my books...

I'd never seen it before and assumed it was a reprint of one of my romances. But when I investigated, I discovered it's actually the Czech edition of What Angels Fear! That's right: the Czechs obviously published my Sebastian series under my own name. Who knew? Certainly not me.

So I kept poking, and found a new cover from my French publishers, who recently reissued Midnight Confessions. Gorgeous.

Here are a few more. The first one is Beyond Sunrise...

The next is another Midnight Confessions (this book always seems to inspire a red cover)...

And I assume this is The Last Knight, since there's a knight on the cover, and I've only had the one medieval setting...

I'm still waiting for my editor to give the go ahead for me to show the cover of What Darkness Brings. Hopefully soon...

Monday, July 23, 2012

What Darkness Brings

I don't think I posted this before. At any rate, here is the cover copy for What Darkness Brings, book number eight in the Sebastian St. Cyr series.

The death of a notorious London diamond merchant draws aristocratic investigator Sebastian St. Cyr and his new wife Hero into a sordid world of greed, desperation, and the occult, when the husband of Sebastian’s former lover Kat Boleyn is accused of the murder.

Regency England, September 1812: After a long night spent dealing with the tragic death of a former military comrade, a heart-sick Sebastian learns of a new calamity: Russell Yates, the dashing, one-time privateer who married Kat a year ago, has been found standing over the corpse of Benjamin Eisler, a powerful gem dealer. Yates insists he is innocent, but he will surely hang unless Sebastian can unmask the real killer.

For the sake of Kat, the woman he once loved and lost, Sebastian plunges into a treacherous circle of intrigue. Although Eisler’s clients included the Prince Regent and the Emperor Napoleon, he was a despicable man with many enemies and a number of dangerous, well-kept secrets—including a passion for arcane texts and black magic. Central to the case is a magnificent blue diamond, believed to have once formed part of the French crown jewels, which disappeared on the night of Eisler’s death. As Sebastian traces the diamond’s ownership, he uncovers links that implicate an eccentric, powerful financier named Hope and stretch back into the darkest days of the French Revolution.

As the killer grows ever more desperate and vicious, Sebastian finds his still-new marriage to Hero tested by his loyalty to his first love, especially when Sebastian begins to suspect that Kat is keeping secrets of her own. And when matters reach a crisis, Sebastian must face a bitter truth—that he has been less than honest with the calm, fearless woman who is now his wife.


When I first started blogging, I was very careful not to post any images that weren't my own photographs. The problem, of course, is that posts are so much more attractive and fun with pictures than without. And, sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words. As time passed, I noticed that other bloggers were simply using images floating around the Internet, so I finally decided I was being overly cautious and began doing the same. If I used an image from an identified photographer, I was careful to give credit where credit was due, and if it was a photographer with a blog, I'd also provide a link. I reasoned I was providing them with free advertising and directing traffic their way; a win/win situation for all concerned, right? Who would complain?

Well, this morning, a friend sent me a link that chilled me to the bone (not an easy feat in New Orleans in July). Roni Loren is just another random, struggling author with a blog, A few months ago, Roni snagged a photo from Google images and used it to illustrate a blog post. A few weeks later she received a cease and desist notice from the photographer. She immediately took down the photo and apologized, but that wasn't enough for the photographer involved. He sued her. She had to get a lawyer, and the entire incident ended up costing her a small fortune. You can read about it here on her blog.

As a result, I've spent the last four hours going through old blog posts and taking down photos. Some posts are so gutted that they no longer make sense--such as, for instance, the posts I did showing the images that inspired a book cover. I will need to go back later and make certain I caught everything, but at the moment I'm too bleary eyed and, frankly, cranky. In some instances I probably deleted my own pictures, but I simply don't have time to check and make certain.

So, in the future I won't be using as many images, which will take some of the fun out of blogging. As a writer, I'm very sensitive to copyright; I would never dream of using an image in something like a book video or a website design, for instance, without securing copyright and paying for it. (The images you see in the header above were all purchased for my website). One might think that use of images in blogging is different, but it isn't. It doesn't. It doesn't make any difference if you're not using the image to make money, or if you found it in some Creative Commons but the person who put it there didn't actually have the right to do so. You can still get sued.

When I first put this post up, I included some rather salty opinions, but on second thought I've deleted them. Suffice it to say that in a sense, I fall on both sides of this argument as I've posted lots of my own photographs, of Louisiana, of Mardi Gras, of Idaho, of wherever. If anyone uses them, it would be nice if they linked back to my blog. But if they don't, no biggy. You see, I feel like when I put them out there on the Internet, I gave up control over them. If I didn't want them copied, I could have put a watermark on them, or simply not posted them. But what I think, and what the law thinks, are two very different issues.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Alienation and Redemption

How bad does bad have to be before a character is simply beyond redemption?

I recently read a novel by one of my favorite authors that severely disappointed me. The prose was as insightful and beautiful as ever, the descriptions as poetic. So what was the problem? In the beginning, our author introduces a seriously nasty character, the kind we normally expect to see suffer his just deserts by the end of the book. Only, in this case, he doesn't. For reasons I will never understand, our author decides to take this truly despicable human being and "rehabilitate" him. At the end of the book, this disgusting piece of humanity does a noble deed and goes off to open a cafe in the Cascades with his newly acquired girl.

When the redemption of a fictional character works, it can be truly uplifting. But in my opinion, some deeds are simply unforgivable and the characters who commit them are beyond redemption. So just how nasty was this character? We're talking about a sadistic prison guard, an Abu Ghraib torturer, who inflicts a brutal, humiliating rape on a nice boy unfortunate enough to fall under his power. Sorry, but that I can't forgive.

What else can't I forgive? Ironically, I stumbled upon another example just last night while reading The Hunger Games. On page one, Katniss tells us she would have drowned a kitten if her little sister hadn't stopped her. There went my sympathy for this very popular character, and my sense of alienation has so far persisted through the first half of the book. I am continuing to read because I'm interested to see how the author develops this extraordinarily successful story, but I frankly couldn't care less if Katniss were to get killed in the next chapter. The author alienated me from her main character at first meeting. I don't care how hard their lives; real heroes do not kill kittens.

Actually, Katniss alienated me for another reason; she hates her mother and holds a really vicious grudge against her. That reduces her in my estimation. Compare Katniss to the protagonist of Winter's Bone, Ree. Ree also has a mother who emotionally buckles beneath adversity, forcing Ree to undertake the care of both her younger siblings and her mother. Only, unlike Katniss, Ree loves her mother anyway and is touchingly gentle with her. Ree is a heroic figure, whereas in comparison, Katniss comes off as unsympathetic and judgmental. Yes, she loves her little sister and makes a truly noble sacrifice for her. But somehow that doesn't redeem her in my eyes. As the mother of two daughters, I'm simply too alienated by Katniss's attitude toward her mother. Perhaps by the end of the book she will come to the conclusion she really does still love her mother. But it will be too late for me; I've disliked her for too long.

So, it seems that as far as I'm concerned, there are at least three unforgivable sins (I've no doubt there are more): drowning kittens, sodomizing boys, and hating your mother for her weaknesses. What about you? What are your unforgivable sins? Have you found characters whose redemption you simply can't accept?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

To Gladden the Heart

One of the things I love about flashmobs is the slowly dawning joy you see in the faces of the people watching as they realize what they are witnessing. Here is Beethoven's Syphony No. 9, presented in the Catalonian city of Sabadell by Banco Sabadell. Participants include the Valles Symphony Orchestra and the choirs of Lieder, the Friends of the Opera, and the Choral Belles Arts.

There is something so uplifting and infectious about this kind of pleasure.

It's the sort of thing that makes you feel good about the human race. If only we could have more of it in our world.