Thursday, March 26, 2009


Chicklit has gone MIA.

Once so ubiquitous and easy to spot (Those shoes and tubes of lipstick on the covers! The cartoon images! Neon-bright girly colors!), chicklit has developed such a rampant case of shyness that onlookers suspect it should be declared dead. Let's have a look at the evidence, shall we?

Previously reported:
- An agent putting in writing to Apprentice Writer that (paraphrased) chicklit is toast,
nigh impossible to sell to publishers anymore,

- A used book store owner giving
less credit for chicklitish titles (including those clearly marked 'Women's Fiction') than any other genres due to difficulty unloading,

New clues:
- Harlequin's much-advertised 60-year anniversary celebration doesn't seem to have sent a party invitation to the genre. As far as AW could tell, none of the 16 featured free books available for e-download included chicklit, nor the featured series to be released during the year. Paranormal, suspense, inspirational titles etc. offer multiple choices for the reader each month; while
Red Dress Ink, the chicklit imprint, offers a single December 2008 title as most recent choice.

Upsurge in titles now described as 'Contemporary/Upbeat/Light/Humorous Women's Fiction'. Author Jane Porter's website divides her work into 'Classic Romance' (referring to series titles) and titles described as 'Modern Lit'.

Migration. First there was the disbandment of such sites as 'Literary Chicks', now previous chicklitish authors are popping up in other genres:

CARA LOCKWOOD - Young adult series and paranormal title
Every Demon Has His Day
ALESSIA HOLLIDAY - writing as Alyssa Day, paranormal series
LANI DIANE RICH - Co-wrote paranormal title
Dogs and Goddesses
EILEEN COOK- Young adult title
What Would Emma Do
EILEEN RENDEHL - writing as Eileen Carr, suspense title
Hold Back the Dark and urban fantasy title Don't Kill the Messenger

From this off-the-top-of-her-head and by no means exclusive sample, Apprentice Writer concludes that a) Some people are amazingly good at seeing the writing on the wall and doing something about it, and b) Young adult, urban fantasy, and holy-smokes-its-unstoppable,-Batman paranormal are the rainmakers at the moment.

Is there any hope of chicklit survival?
Well, yes. Apparently a chicklit voice can thrive by immigration to other genre lands and blending in there. Funny, first-person stories have been popping up (as would be expected from above) in Young Adult land, Paranormal land, and Fantasy land. Also, JANET MULLANY'S upcoming title,
A Most Lamentable Comedy, is billed as 'Regency Chicklit'.

But, the outlook for chicklit survival in the land of its birth - straight contemporary?
Looking doubtful.

Optimists will promise the inevitablity of its rebirth, certain to rise from the ashes anew at some unknown future point. Maybe. But, who knows how far in the future, and under what name?

Until then, AW wishes someone would
clue her in about the identity of the NEXT rainmaking subgenre.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Laughter Reviews #24

Julie James

Contemporary Romantic Comedy

Workaholic lawyer must educate actor on courtroom etiquette for sake of career.

Partial view of a couple facing each other in a casual, happy pose. The fact that the man is wearing a shirt and jacket instead of only his chest shot this reader's goodwill way up before she had even read word one.

What Works
Much of the sparkle of this debut story comes from the way the heroine fails to meet the hero's expectations of female fan adoration. Time and again, she gets in the last word in a discussion and walks away from him, something he as an extremely successful and good-looking actor can't fathom. In the beginning his reaction to her is based on pride, slowly colored by increasing genuine emotion. The story has a bit of a feel of classic, black-and-white movies with a lot of verbal sparring between the protagonists; it is not surprising to learn that the author began as a screenwriting hopeful. Apprentice Writer defies readers not to run through ideal casting choices for each character as they pop up in the story.

What Doesn't
The author is very fond of the suffix 'ly'. The top page count came in at ten or so - and the fact that there was a count at all says something about the distraction the writing quirk posed for this reader.

AW's second quibble stems from her status as chronic, unrepentant armchair traveller whose wallet-challengedness forces her to live vicariously through novel characters' journeys to distant places. In this case, Los Angeles - which, sadly, the reader gets to see little of. Let AW be clear: This made complete and total sense for the story, given the heroine's 'all work, all the time' personality and the hero's need to evade paparazzi. But AW, reading this story while trapped in the much-snow-involving chill of Canadian winter, selfishly yearned to be transported to balmy breezes and gentle sun. Maybe the author can take a page from the Eloisa James/Julia Quinn notebook and include a bonus chapter about, oh, say, a honeymoon, on her website?

Finally, the character who came closest to being a villain sort of dropped off the radar. Imagining that he might turn up in a sequel, AW thinks this may not be a bad thing.

A bright star on the contemporary horizon. AW promises herself great enjoyment from the freshly released follow-up, 'Practice Makes Perfect', also peopled with lawyers taken from the author's pre-novelist working life. What is it with legal professionals who transform into scribes? There seem to be so, so many of them.

But does it make you laugh? YES
The buzz delivered as promised. JTSMA is a fun, battle-of-the-sexes romp that can easily be pictured as a date-night movie.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reader under the Microscope

A reader under the microscope meme.

Which book has been on your shelf the longest?

A collection of fairy tales by
Hans Christian Andersen, in German.

What is your current read, your last and next?

Current: 'Book of Negroes' by
Lawrence Hill (excellent literary fiction; voted the book Canadians should read in 2009 if they could only choose 1)
& 'What a Scoundrel Wants' by
Carrie Lofty (excellent historical romance)

Last: 'Magic to the Bone' by
Devon Monk (excellent urban fantasy)

Next: 'For Pete's Sake' by
Julia Harper (hopefully excellent contemporary comedy)

What book did everyone like and you hated?

Not hated (liked, actually) but not as powerfully as buzz led me to expect: 'The Raven Prince' by
Elizabeth Hoyt. There was a disconnect for me between tone of the first chapter (& very funny teaser hero interview) and the rest of the book. I did enjoy another in the series, 'The Serpent Prince' much more, though. Haven't had a chance to read the second.

Which book do you keep telling youself you'll read?

Anything by
Nora Roberts. Still haven't dived in even though I've come to respect the author's online persona. Maybe I'm afraid I'll drown in the backlist?

Which book coming out in 2009 is a top priority?

- 'Corambis', the conclusion to the 'Doctrine of Labyrinths' series by Sarah Monette
Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas and Loretta Chase's next

Last page: read it first or wait till the end?

Leave it till last if I like the book, read it if it looks like the book will be a DNF.

Acknowledgements: waste of ink or interesting?

Must read. They say so much about the author.

Which book character would you swith places with?

Helena Justina. She gets to go back and forth between the worlds of her love, Falco, and her senatorial family, plus she travels to all corners of the Roman Empire. Her story starts in 'The Silver Pigs' by
Lindsey Davis.

Which authors do you want to read that you haven't yet?

The Brontes, George Eliot, Bill Bryson, Neil Gaiman.

Which books are still on your shelf from when you were in school?

Dictionaries: English straight up, English/German, English/French, German/French

11. Which book has been with you to the most places?


Any required reading in high school you hated but that's not so bad ten years later?

Classics of German literature like
Schiller and Goethe's 'The Sorrows of Young Werther'.

Stephen King or Anne Rice?

Have never read either.

Used or brand new?

It's all good! But how telling that it wasn't phrased as 'used or new or e-ink'!

Movie that you liked better than the book?

'Lord of the Rings' trilogy (ducks rotten tomatos). I know, I know, but the style just didn't speak to me. I read it for the story rather than
Tolkien's prose.

Who is the person whose book advice you always take?

Always: no one. Pay attention to: reviewers at 'Dear Author' and 'Booksmugglers', my neighborhood Book Club, and my writer friends
Abby Godwin and Wylie Kinson.

Which one book or series you recommend?

Cannot possibly do just one:
Funny first-person sleuthing in Imperial Rome: 'Falco' series by
Lindsey Davis
Funny first-person sleuthing in Victorian Egypt: 'Amelia Peabody' series by
Elizabeth Peters
Funny third-person alternate reality in literature and nursery rhymes: 'Thursday Next' and 'Nursery Crimes' series by
Jasper Fforde
Funny historical romance: almost any title by
Loretta Chase, especially 'Mr. Impossible'
Funny Young Adult: 'Alice' trilogy by
Susan Juby
Funny Social Satire: early
Wendy Holden


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Non Laughter Reviews: MAGIC TO THE BONE

Devon Monk

Urban Fantasy

Hound (person whose magical talent lies in examining spell residue to identify the caster) gets caught in the crossfire of magical abuse, technology development, and family complications.

Girl in obligatory jeans, shortie top and tattoos, seen from behind against darkish, vaguely sinister background. In other words: generic UF-type cover, yet representative of content.

What Works
There is not a vampire, shapeshifter or demon in sight. The characters and plot are exclusively driven by variation in ability to sense, utilize, or conduct scientific research for business applications of magic. This was the first magic-centered UF story AW has read, and it was a refreshing change.
The author's world is divided into people and zones who have good/poor access to magic reservoirs (which lie beneath the city and are channeled through a pipeline structure like water or electric power), and excellent/no sensitivity to it, almost like a non-YA variation of Rowling's wizard/muggle duality. A nice touch was the addition of a social/business level to the conflict, in that the author has thought about the implications of magic in her created world beyond how strong individual characters in various smackdowns are. Not only thorough scene-setting but raises great possibilities for future plot threads.
Descriptions are intriguing and evocative of a raw, dour environment - not just because of the near-permanently overcast and cold weather and the heroine's penchant for economically depressed parts of the city, but because we see everything through her cynical, down-on-her-luck-in-every-way first person eyes. She is doing everything in her power to carve her own path apart from her mega-successful but manipulative father (and anyone else, for that matter), and to find a way to use her talent as a help rather than hindrance to others. Her complement in personality and magical affinity, the hero was a delight, standing out from the crowd of male love interests.

What Doesn't
In a case of 'A Person's Strength is also their Weakness', in different spots the author's skill at description crossed the line of well-done and veered into over-done. In scenes where characters are eating and drinking, the reader need not be reminded with every mouthful that it is still soup or wine that is being consumed. The number of times the heroine hissed 'I can take care of myself!' when she clearly could not, having to be more or less rescued by the hero time and again, became tedious, as did her chronic question of 'How do I pay for this?" whenever she needed to get anywhere. But these were minor points; larger was a feeling of nagging dissatisfaction at the end of the book. It is clear that this was intended as the launch of an ongoing series, meaning some plot threads needed to remain dangling - which is fine. Yet Apprentice Writer would have liked a finer balance of questions answered/threads left over for the sequel. A great deal of time is spent building up tension around identity and motives of a villanious character, as well as questions about an abused, talented character. Compared to the input and pace of most of the book, the ending felt too simple and non-explanatory. Will this keep AW away from the next installment? Not a chance.

An engaging series opener. The author participates in the new 'Deadline Dames' grog of paranormal, urban fantasy autors. This new arrival in the blogosphere is a welcome addition for aspiring authors, providing a wealth of clear, useful advice.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Further to yesterday's post on the opening parade for Ebook Week, the next step: answering the question, "But Apprentice Writer, what shall we read on?"

AW has no ereader. She can give no valid opinion on
So700nyKind500leII's of any kind. She can, however, direct the gentle reader's attention to other parties who have formed an opinion:

AW especially liked the feature that allows the user to zip straight to the first mention of 'heaving'.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

EBOOK WEEK - Freebie!

This is EBook Week.

In celebration, some epublishers are offering
free reads to coax print readers into the idea that hey, ereading is not so painful after all!

One author whose novel is now available free of cost to the ecurious is
KIMBER CHIN, a wildly creative chaptermate of Apprentice Writer's. Not only is she a patient coach on all things blog-related, she is a pioneer of the new subgenre business romance. Yay, people unafraid of the cutting edge!

To get a free copy of Kimber's latest release,
go to
and click on the first post (in blue).
You can also get there from
http://businessroma 03/09/read- invisible- for-free/

Now please excuse AW as she leaves to take advantage of this no-hidden-fees opportunity (hee!).

Saturday, March 7, 2009

'THE END' in sight...

Apprentice Writer is mere pages, possibly paragraphs, away from writing 'THE END' for her first manuscript.

In theory, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel should be a tremendous incentive to working faster and faster, mowing down scene after scene now that it's clear what is supposed to happen in each (the gentle reader can tell that this is a pantser speaking).

In practice, this didn't seem to happen to AW. Is she some kind of freak?

Maybe. Or maybe, this is all the result of her specific
'Writing Process'. When AW first heard this phrase at a writer's group meeting, she was a little concerned as she had had no idea she was supposed to have acquired such a beast, much less figured out exactly what it looks like. People have different kinds, and to attempt to write outside of it apparently leads to all sorts of ailments, manuscriptally speaking. This is what AW has learned about hers:

It is very similar to how she goes about
jigsaw puzzles. Pieces radiating out from the corners first, till the outside 'frame' is complete, then the most distinctive and recognizable bits for multiple small 'islands' created inside, gradually figuring out how to stitch those islands together, and the vast, uniform bits of featureless blue sky last. That's the part that takes the most time.

AW is now putting the final bits of blue sky in place.
Get ready with the confetti and chocolate, everyone.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Goodreads - GOOD, Shelfari - EPIC FAIL

Apprentice Writer received an email 'friend' invitation to exchange book recommendations on Shelfari. She knew nothing about Shelfari beyond occasionally seeing the graphic on different blogs, displaying books the blogger had read.

Since the person sending the invitation was a blogger known to AW, she trusted that the invitation was genuine. And having received a similar invitation in the past to friend a fellow blogger at Goodreads (a similar online book recommendation and personal library catalogue community) and been very happy with the results, AW clicked on the link and was transported to the Shelfari site.

One step in the registration process showed a number of email addresses (should have been interpreted as a warning sign right there), apparently plucked from AW's addressbook, with the question of whether AW wished to extend a friend invitation to those addresses. AW indicated her wish NOT TO DO THAT. There was no possibility of pressing mistaken button due to distance apart. The next screen then informed her that she was now waiting for a bunch of people to respond to her friend invitation.


AW fired off an email to Shelfari HQ reporting on what had happened, and expressing unhappiness about it. Two weeks have gone by without any acknowledgement. Yet an email inviting her to finalize the registration process has arrived.

AW then sent emails to those people whose email addresses she recalled seeing in that list to explain what had happened, and that if they had received a Shelfari email (they had) it was not actually sent by AW.

Finally, AW sent an email to the original inviter asking if she really had intended to send the invitation. She had, but said that she had sent such invitations only to book-related friends yet other people in her addressbook had also received messages.

No matter how pretty the Shelfari graphic is
- invasion of privacy and acting against participants' wishes is too high a cost.

Goodreads, by contrast, is user-friendly, respects the wishes of partipants, and does not pester with too-frequent general messages.

In AW's opinion
- Goodreads = good, Shelfari = Epic Fail.