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Tuesday Midday Links: eBooks nearing $1 Billion Mark

Don Weise, formerly of Alyson Books, has launched his own press to publish LGBT literature.   It sounds like it is a print press and will publish 15 to 20 books per year in both fiction and non fiction.   More at Publishers’ Weekly.

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Lagardere, the parent corporation of Hachette (who owns Grand Central, Forever, and Orbit imprints among others), suffered another drop in sales when measured against last year’s results because the Stephenie Meyer book sales have slowed. Ebooks totalled 9% of HBG USA’s sales for the first nine months of this fiscal year.   Source: PW.

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According to Forrester Research, the ebook industry will near $1billion in sales and predicts that by 2015, just five years from now, the digital market will be $3 billion.   The article from Forrester says that digital should be the default for publishing because it is a single revenue business.

At that size and higher, not only do publishers need to take digital seriously, they must make it the new default for publishing, preparing for a day in which physical book publishing is an adjunct activity that supports the digital publishing business. And this dramatic reversal will have happened faster in book publishing than in any other media business. Not just because publishers have had years to watch other media industries face the digital transition, but also because book publishing is a single-revenue business. Music used to generate revenue from the radio, from CD sales, and from concert tickets.

Source: Forrester Blog

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Charles Stross is a hardcore Sci Fi author with a very loyal following.   I don’t read Stross’ work but apparently he is notorious for claiming that cunt is not a misogynistic insult in the UK like it is in the US.   His latest peeve?   Whoever let the girls into the steampunk club is going to get it.

We’ve been at this point before with other sub-genres, with cyberpunk and, more recently,  paranormal romance  fang fuckers  bodice rippers with vamp-  Sparkly Vampyres in Lurve: it’s poised on the edge of over-exposure. Maybe it’s on its way to becoming a new sub-genre, or even a new shelf category in the bookstores. But in the meantime, it’s over-blown. The category is filling up with trashy, derivative junk and also with good authors who damn well ought to know better than to jump on a bandwagon.

You see, the late 19th Century was a terrible, terrible time to live and all this girlie steampunk shit is falsely romantiscizing the era because the “taproots” of the genre is people having adventures in really horrible time periods.   In other words, throw a few starving adults feeding off the breastmilk of a newly minted mother ala Grapes of Wrath and maybe, just maybe, you are closing in on a realistic feel for the time period.

Cherie Priest, author of the Bestselling novel, Boneshaker, was called out specifically by Stross for her scientifically improbable gas induced zombies.   Priest responds:

OMG YOU GUYS it has come to my attention that  SOMEONE on the internet is saying that my fictional 19th century zombies are NOT SCIENTIFICALLY SOUND. Naturally, I am  crushed. To think, IF ONLY I'd consulted with a zombologist or two before sitting down to write, I could've avoided ALL THIS EMBARRASSMENT.

Scott Westerfeld, a YA author, suggests that the great thing about YA readers is that they don’t view things with the same rigidity as adults.   (I actually don’t buy this whole heartedly because otherwise you wouldn’t have the “OMG there are no books for boys” refrain)

Probably the biggest problem with Stross’ lament is, as suggested by Westerfeld, he isn’t reading the books about which he is complaining.   For example, had he taken the time to read one of those awful steampunk books by girls such as the Iron Duke, he would know that even girls are writing about a time period that is fraught with political unrest, racism, and dire living conditions.   Yes, there is love and sex in it, but in order for us to be here today, there would have had to be some love and sex during the Industrial Revolution, even a revisionary one.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

36 Comments

  1. Mike Cane
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 11:05:18

    Cherie Priest for the Win.

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  2. Ridley
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 11:13:46

    My husband loved Boneshaker but won’t touch romance with a 10ft pole, so I guess he needs to turn in his “Real Sci-fi Reading Man” credentials.

    Stross is just another one of those chauvinist dudes that can’t see the giant vat of privilege he’s swimming in. It’s hard to be offended by someone with huge, glaring flaws like that. So small-minded of him to think there’s only one way to imagine an alternate history.

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  3. Christine Rimmer
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 13:30:48

    What Ridley said–about Stross. Sheesh. What a jerk bag. And why is it guys like that *never* read the books they’re getting all in a tizzy over?

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  4. Chicklet
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 13:43:33

    A male SF/F author is behaving like a misogynistic asshole. I do believe I’m having a fit of the vapors. Where’s my fainting couch? *eyeroll*

    ReplyReply

  5. becca
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 14:01:11

    I do like his description of the books as “fang fuckers” though.

    ReplyReply

  6. Joanne
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 14:09:52

    Oh good. So calling Stross a dick won’t be mistaken for a misandrous insult- because I really like men unless they’re brains have been replaced with porridge. And the paternal pat on the head to those he calls the ‘good authors’? Ugh.

    I don’t know anything about Cherie Priest but I like her style!

    Okay, now that the big-boys can see there’s big money can we stop the games and get all the ebooks out to readers everywhere? No? hmmmmmm

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  7. MaryK
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 14:30:57

    “Scott Westerfeld, a YA author, suggests that the great thing about YA readers is that they don't view things with the same rigidity as adults. (I actually don't buy this whole heartedly because otherwise you wouldn't have the “OMG there are no books for boys” refrain)”

    I think a lot of the rigidity is learned from/taught by adults and probably starts with simple things like packaging before working up to the complexities of subgenre. I have three nephews under the age of 10 who will happily watch Sweetpea Beauty with no care for the pink packaging. I’m waiting for their parents to make negative remarks about boys watching “pink” movies about girls.

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  8. Isobel Carr
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 15:17:17

    Well, he's right about “cunt”. We really are two people separated by a common language (or whatever the exact quote is). Call someone a cheeky cunt in England (and you're probably talking about a guy) and no one bats an eye. It was a hard lesson for my friend Eddie when he moved to the States.

    And I'm so going to check out Boneshaker! It can go into my TBR right behind The Iron Duke.

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  9. Diana
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 15:17:52

    I’m pretty sure that I bought one of Mr Stross’s books. After I read that the heroine of the book unwound from her awful day by painting her fingernails whilst in the bath, I just couldn’t finish the book. What does this have to do with girlie steampunk? Hmm. Maybe it just means that he does not know everything in the world.

    ReplyReply

  10. KMont
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 16:13:22

    Once again, all the twitter posts and other seemingly separate clues now make sense. I didn’t realize that’s what Priest was talking about back when she posted that on Twitter, and I didn’t have the patience for Stross’ rant, AND missed that it was misogynistic bullshit. Looks like I saved myself a headache then!

    ReplyReply

  11. ocelott
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 22:00:07

    I dunno, it’s hard to take someone seriously after they invoke Godwin’s law on their own rant.

    Sorry, Charlie. Steampunk fashion is not the same thing as wearing a t-shirt with a swastika on it.

    ReplyReply

  12. Morgan Karpiel
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 01:36:02

    Thanks, Charlie. I’m sure you’ll set things to right with your next novel: MOLLY, THE TORTURED PROSTITUTE FROM DEATH ALLEY AND HER SOON-TO-BE-DEAD CHILDREN EXISTING IN SQUALOR UNDER THE OPPRESSIVE CONDITIONS OF THE EVIL ZOMBIE-FREE EMPIRE: PLUS HER REALISTIC(?) STEAMPUNK MACHINE.

    Sure bestseller, that. Another “hit out of the ballpark”–as your fans would say. Thanks for policing the world of imagination, you cheeky cunt. But it doesn’t belong to you.

    ReplyReply

  13. Milena
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 02:04:09

    OK, I apologise for what’s going to be a longish reaction, but I just can’t keep quiet here.

    First, Stross is a geek, and he talks like one. That means, among other things, that “romanticising” is not about his fear of girl-cooties. He objects to the fact that the 19th century we see in many steampunk novels is a sterilised version of the real 19th century. And you know what? He’s right. If you take the industrialisation and the social elements out of the equation, than it all becomes just so much window-dressing. That’s one of the reasons why I liked The Iron Duke so much; because it’s aware that there are things that cannot be ignored if your setting is supposed to make sense.

    He also objects to the fact that The Boneshaker was counted as science-fiction because it’s got zombies in it. This is, more or less, an internal speculative-fiction issue — but, again, not a gender issue. I’m sorry but, much as I like Cherie Priest, no amount of snark is going to make zombies somehow scientific. Boneshaker is a very good book in many ways. But I agree that it’s not science fiction, strictly speaking.

    And, finally, Stross is most definitely not a misogynistic asshole. We’re talking about the guy who publicly apologised for the fact that his early books wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test, and consciously started working on changing that. The guy who lobbies for more female nominations and awards in the SF community. So don’t imagine him to be another Heinlein or something.

    ReplyReply

  14. Maili
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 03:56:30

    Excuse typos etc.
    @Milena:

    He objects to the fact that the 19th century we see in many steampunk novels is a sterilised version of the real 19th century. And you know what? He's right. If you take the industrialisation and the social elements out of the equation, than it all becomes just so much window-dressing.

    I have to agree that some steampunk-labelled novels seriously lack the ‘punk’ element. Like I said before somewhere on this site, ‘punk’ is essentially about rebelling against a ‘Big Brother’-type organisation or anything that interferes with or restricts people’s right to freedom or free will through technology.

    Ideally, it shouldn’t be primarily about rebelling against monsters, vampires, magic or whatnot. I’m purist enough to reject steampunk-labelled stories that feature magic as part of the everyday life. This is fantasy, not SF.

    It’s not challenging, either. Magic never existed in the Victorian era. It wasn’t even a possibility. I think the only acceptable form of magic is supernatural-like magic tricks that depend on technology, something like Christopher Nolan’s fantastic film, The Prestige.

    The heart of steampunk are [advanced] technology and a reactionary element. Very much like how the Industrialist Revolution is the heart of the Victorian era, which both freed and imprisoned people in many ways.

    This is why I say The Iron Duke is my idea of a Steampunk Romance – technology and the Horde are what makes it Steampunk and of course, Mina and that Welsh fella’s relationship is what makes it Romance.

    Having said all that, in spite of my initial dismay, I came to understand why some Steampunk-labelled romances lack the ‘punk’ element. It’s keeping in with the tradition of Historical Romance. This genre rarely highlights and/or addresses social issues, wherever it’s set. It’s usually used to show how wonderful or kind heroines are. Being best friends with servants is NOT my idea of a good thing. It’s insulting as fuck. Helping the poor through the usual methods popular with the genre also irritates me. I’m digressing so I’ll shut up.

    Back to Steampunk issue: for many, it’s still in an experimental/adventurous stage so I think there will be many missteps before it’ll have its collection of conventions and tropes. And why not? It’s supposed to be fun.

    If there’s anything disappointing about Steampunk Punk at the moment – much more than the bloody magic thing – it’s lack of adventure on authors’ part with their characters’ ethnicities. British-set Steampunk needn’t to be a rehash of the British Empire. It can be a revision of that world, which means ethnicity shouldn’t stand in the way so why are almost all characters in steampunk romances so far still white? Gah.

    Admittedly, I think it’ll be a while before I could stop grinding teeth over publishers slapping the Steampunk label on everything but the kitchen sink. :D

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  15. Maili
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 03:57:46

    Er… “If there's anything disappointing about Steampunk Punk at the moment” is supposed to be “If there's anything disappointing about Steampunk Romance at the moment”.

    Sorry. Still half asleep, I’m afraid. Thanks.

    ReplyReply

  16. Morgan Karpiel
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 04:29:16

    @Milena. Just more thought police. I also loved Iron Duke, and it also had zombies, which are not historically accurate, even against a window dressing of poverty and social unrest. I’m not limited to enjoying a historically accurate version of complete fiction, light or dark. Sorry, but it’s extremely small-minded to try and limit a genre that focuses on alternate worlds that are, by definition, ALTERNATE. I find this especially loathsome in SF fans. SF’s “taproots” are supposedly based in hard science and its possibilities—and what is the current M (Superstring) theory? It’s a theory that introduces the possibility of millions of variations of our known universe, as existing on “Branes” floating in 11 dimensional space. Under this theory, you might have thousands of happy Victorian era worlds, you don’t know, and no one else does either. It’s sad that science is far more open to variation than science fiction authors and science fiction fans.

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  17. Morgan Karpiel
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 04:40:11

    @Maili: Call me an anarchist, but I hope the publishers never pin down what “Steampunk” actually is, and there are never rows of books all churned out with the same criteria and we never, ever, settle in to what we might expect.

    @Milena: Totally agree that it is especially enjoyable to have racial variation. Love authors who dream in color.

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  18. Morgan Karpiel
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 04:44:33

    anarchist–sorry

    ReplyReply

  19. DS
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 04:49:17

    @Maili: Thank you for taking the trouble to write this. While some of the books I have read that have been marketed primarily as romance have been successful on other levels, none of them in my opinion have been successful as Steampunk.

    I haven’t read The Iron Duck yet– I’ve been a bit afraid to, that and I have been reading mystery novels about depressed northern European detectives– Jo Nesbo is the latest.

    As for Stross, he’s just the latest in a long line of ranting male sf writers. I remember reading with indignation an editorial by Robert Silverberg explaining why James Triptree, Jr. couldn’t be a woman. I’ve always considered Alice Sheldon outing herself to be one of the more delicious moments of my sf reading life.

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  20. Morgan Karpiel
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 05:05:29

    Apologies, also, for my broad use of “science fiction authors and fans”—I’m also a SF reader, as well as a romance reader. Lots of open-minded SF readers and authors out there. Meant no offense. It’s just disappointing to hear from the few who want to define those genres for everyone.

    ReplyReply

  21. Milena
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 05:23:05

    @Morgan Karpiel: I think we’re talking about two completely different issues here. I’m not interested in historical accuracy of steampunk — if I were, I would have to dismiss the entire sub-genre. But, rather, I want to see the foundation of what happens instead of some undetermined hand-waving. Brook’s zombies are explained by technology. Historically inaccurate technology, yes, but one that sounds convincing within her world. Mission accomplished.

    This is an old discussion in the speculative fiction field, one that most fans I know actually enjoy: what is it that makes up a genre, and can we get new understanding of it from trying to capture its essence? Looked at from outside the fandom, however, it probably just seems like so much silly geeky squabble. But I certainly don’t agree with it being seen as thought-policing. It’s not a prescriptive discussion, but rather a descriptive one.

    To clarify: I don’t have a problem with steampunk-with-magic — but I wouldn’t call it science fiction. I read fantasy, too, and love a lot of it, but I don’t call it sci-fi, either. (In fact, that’s exactly why I prefer the term “speculative fiction” to the sub-genre specific names of science fiction, fantasy and horror.) However, also, please note that “not science fiction” does not equal “not good”.

    On the other hand, what I dislike in a large number of titles marketed as steampunk is the lack of punk. Writers choose their settings as a function of the story. If the setting is steampunk, then I’ll expect to see some punk, too, and not just the shiny gears. Because if that’s all there is, then I’ll rather go read a wallpaper historical. At least there the authors are honest about their intentions. Wallpaper steampunk, on the other hand, seems like cheating to me. YMMV.

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  22. Maili
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 05:41:40

    @Morgan Karpiel: I’m not sure if you were addressing me or Milena as it was me who mentioned the racial variation, but I’d like to address your comment:

    I hope the publishers never pin down what “Steampunk” actually is

    I hope they will, actually. Reader expectations. If I want a Steampunk novel, I want a Steampunk novel. If I get a Steampunk-labelled novel that’s anything but Steampunk, I wouldn’t be a happy bunny. In fact, I’d be pissed off. Steampunk is NOT a new genre. It’s been around for decades so it already has its conventions. However, there has never been a Steampunk Romance in either genre, so in this aspect, it IS new sub-genre of Romance hence a few missteps and stumbling around in the dark for some (including myself).

    Not only that, there is a new sub-genre as well: Gaslight Fantasy. Well, there are two reasonably new sub-genres and an established sub-genre of SF&F: Gaslight Fantasy, Steampunk and a long-time genre: Alternate Historical Fiction. For some reason, publishers are ignoring Gaslight Fantasy, which is growing much faster and more popular than Steampunk.

    Quite a few steampunk-labelled romances are actually Gaslight Fantasy, too. Gaslight Fantasy basically revolves around magic, supernatural and paranormal elements along. It can include anachronistic technology, or not. In many ways, Gaslight Fantasy is much more flexible and perhaps forgiving than Steampunk.

    @DS: While I enjoyed The Iron Duke, I do think it’s a good idea to wait until the hype dies down or when you largely forget what the story is about. That way, your expectations wouldn’t be so high that TID might be a let down. (The Iron Duck makes a better title than The Iron Duke, btw! lol.)

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  23. who_la_hoop
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 07:19:49

    @Isobel Carr: Perhaps it depends on your circle of friends… I’m English, and I would certainly bat an eyelid if someone used “cunt” in everyday conversation!

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  24. Sheryl Nantus
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 07:25:05

    First, Stross can kiss my big fat Canadian tushie – I’ll write what I want to write and if people like it, they’ll buy it. Call it Steampunk, Gaslamp Fantasy or Wookia wookia, if there’s an audience for it then it should be written.

    And also – it’s not his genre. Hardcore SF is one thing, with the actual mechanics taking front stage and the science being as accurate or extrapolating as close as you can – Steampunk sure as heck ain’t. It’s an extrapolation of what could have been and some people can’t wrap their mind around spinning off into those alternative universes.

    The Iron Duke rocks on so many levels, btw – he doesn’t know what he’s missing.

    As far as different ethnic groups and locations go – there’s a lot of steampunk romances out there doing it.

    *blatant plug here*

    My own steampunk romance, “Wild Cards and Iron Horses” takes place in the American Old West. The Native Americans have created their own country, the Indian Free Nation in the political upheaval after the Civil War.

    Other stories paint different pictures of the future and the past. And they’re good reading.

    Stross should get out more.

    :P

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  25. Maili
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 08:20:39

    @Sheryl Nantus:

    As far as different ethnic groups and locations go – there's a lot of steampunk romances out there doing it.

    Interesting. Almost all those I read feature white heroines and heroes so your comment surprised me. So far, aside your book which I haven’t yet read:

    The Iron Duke – Meljean Brook (half-Asian heroine)

    Although IMO not a steampunk series, it’s widely seen as one so I’m listing this:

    Stranger – Zoe Archer (in spite of the white-looking dude on cover, inventor hero Catullus Graves is a black Brit, who made his appearance in an earlier story, Warrior)

    That’s all I have. Either I have been in looking in the wrong places or you were referring to locations and general background characters only. If this is the case, then I should point out this is not what I was talking about earlier. If you do mean hero/ines of different ethnic ancestries, please do name the titles as I’d love to read those. Thanks.

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  26. Anne Ardeur
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 10:48:49

    @Isobel Carr: I suspect it varies by region. I’ve only ever heard it in the context of an insult: “Oh, she such a cunt” where “cow” or “bitch” would also work, all three of which are misogynistic.

    In general, EVERY time in history has been a terrible time to live for someone in one way or another (or more). Male authors romanticise history, too, and there are tons of horrendous “historical”, “mystery”, “crime” and “sci-fi” books out there written by male authors.

    I love steampunk, but honestly, I haven’t seen that many books about it. There are certainly no steampunk novels in my local bookstores in either the YA or Fantasy/Sci-fi or Romance or Historical or general fiction sections… Isn’t it a good thing that a genre gets exposure? Then maybe I might actually be able to find a book…

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  27. Lynnd
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 13:21:36

    @Maili: I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term Gaslight Fantasy – would Zoe Archer’s books fit better into that category since they have magic and are more “fantasy”? Could you suggest some other titles that would fit into the “gaslight” group? I really enjoyed Iron Duke and am enjoying Zoe Archer’s books, but I don’t see the latter as being Steampunk.

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  28. rm2h
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 20:40:30

    I have not seen any figures from the big book publishers on the change in ebook prices as if it effecting their bottom line. I know that I have not bought many ebooks from them and other ebookstores out there. However the amount of ebooks from Harlequin that I buy has now gone up as they still offer discounts for them.

    I am on a limited income and only have so much money and I also live in a bachelor apartment which has 400 square feet so I do not have the room for paperback, trades or hardcover books. I am buying from ebay, half.com etc. if I need to have a regular book.

    If anyone knows who about this or where I can find this info, I would greatly appreciate it.

    I am sorry if this is not on topic.

    Rachel

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  29. Milena
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 02:03:06

    @Lynnd: Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel is set in Victorian London, and has a lot of brasswork and cogs, but also vampires and other supernatural beings. The same for Gail Carriger and her Parasol protectorate series, which is also very funny. There’s also Naomi Novik’s dragon series, and for a very poetic take on the gaslight fantasy, I recomment Ekaterina Sedia’s The Alchemy of Stone.

    I’d also like to mention Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliasotti is not gaslight fantasy (it’s “pure” steampunk, if you want), but still has a very good story and a great romance, so I’d recommend it to anyone who likes the setting.

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  30. Milena
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 02:04:13

    RecommenD. I recommend TAS, not recomment it. Although that’s a book that can be commented and recommented many times. :)

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  31. Estara
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 07:39:04

    @Milena: Seconding Milean’s recommendation of Clockwork Heart.

    Also, I have never read Stross yet, but I am partial to him because he is one of the small group of readers (and even smaller group of authors) who really enjoy P.C. Hodgell’s Jamethiel Dreamweaver series (I first got to know it in the UK as Chronicles of the Kencyrath). And she’s a female former university lecturer – so I think it may not be pure misogyny, just utter distaste (articulated in an idiotic way) of certain tropes and tendencies that are now part of a genre he loves.

    ReplyReply

  32. Tweets that mention Tuesday Midday Links: eBooks nearing $1 Billion Mark | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 11:03:06

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ella Drake and Book Lovers Resource, NightsEmbrace. NightsEmbrace said: Tuesday Midday Links: eBooks nearing $1 Billion Mark | Dear Author: This is why I say The Iron Duke is my idea o… http://bit.ly/9DukOZ [...]

  33. Lynnd
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 11:49:11

    @Milena: Thank you. I have read His Majesty’s Dragon by Novik and I have the others on my ever-growing TBR pile. I will take a look for the others.

    ReplyReply

  34. Lynnd
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 11:50:13

    I meant to say the other’s in Novik’s series on my TBR pile.

    ReplyReply

  35. Maili
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 14:26:32

    @Lynnd: Thanks! Yes, I’d file Zoe Archer’s fun adventure series under Gas Fantasy. Other steampunk-labelled romances that I’d classify as Gaslight Fantasy.

    Soulless / Changless / Blameless – Gail Carriger
    New Blood / Heart’s Blood – Gail Dayton
    Wicked Gentlemen – Ginn Hale
    The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker / The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker – Leanna Hieber

    Some of these are plain good fun.

    Clockwork Heart is a toughie to classify (as I understand the author has, since the review, classified it as ‘Fantasy’). I loved it, though.
    DA review of Clockwork Heart

    Actually, I have been packing today (due to a house move) and I stumbled across a forgotten box of books. Among them is a steampunk romantic novel: The Grand Ellipse by Paula Volsky (Spectra, 2000). It’s not a romance genre novel, but those who enjoy steampunk novels with a romantic element – or indeed, Clockwork Heart – might enjoy this. *off to whip self for forgetting this book*

    ReplyReply

  36. Stumbling Over Chaos :: The Return of Linkity!! Now with even more linkity!!
    Nov 12, 2010 @ 02:03:27

    [...] news: Dear Author and ReadReactReview (and [...]

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