BOOK GIVEAWAY: Read on for a chance to win a free copy of Night’s Cold Kiss. The contest ends midnight on Sunday, December 20 AEST.
What happens when an Aurealis Award finalist comes to visit our local bookshop? We take over the paranormal romance aisle, of course! And yes, there were Tim Tams involved.
Decadence, the early bird
This was not your traditional book signing, with a long line of people waiting, the publisher’s reps asking for the name you want to personalise your books and standing ready to take your photo with the author. Thursday night’s book signing with Tracey O’Hara took place during one of Galaxy’s book club meetings, so there was a row of chairs down each side of the paranormal aisle, ending in a table of refreshments. I was a book club virgin, so I didn’t know what to expect from the evening.
Sofia introduced me to Tracey (who was standing in the new releases section, at the back, with a female relative and her father) before the meeting started and we had a bit of a chat before the rest of the group showed up. I was only halfway through Night’s Cold Kiss, but that didn’t stop me from asking questions about the series and possibilities for the next book.
Tracey wanted to build the world slowly and have the glossary at the front of the book, but the publisher chose to put it at the end. The glossary begins immediately after the story ends and I have difficulty looking for it without accidentally spoiling the book. I asked if there was anything to watch out for on the last page so I could relax, and after a skim of my copy of Night’s Cold Kiss, Tracey said there was a bit of a spoiler on the last page.
She brought along an A4 printout of the draft for her next book cover. I asked if she had any input into covers and she explained that the opening scene of Death’s Sweet Embrace (released September 2010) is of the hero and heroine in Central Park after they’ve shifted back into human form, and that is represented on the cover. I actually like it but have to agree that it is a completely different style to the kick-arse warrior princess poised to attack and larger but more muted image of the hero’s face on the cover of Night’s Cold Kiss. The new cover creates a completely different impression of the series. Tracey mentioned another urban fantasy author is going to get a more romancey cover, too, but I can’t remember who she is.
The heroine of Death’s Sweet Embrace is a cat we meet briefly in Night’s Cold Kiss.
She loves hearing people talking about her book and tonight makes her third ever signing, as well as her first trip to Sydney in years (she lives in Canberra).
Oberon may get his own book in the series and she has inklings of his storyline, but he’s not ready yet. He hasn’t been tortured enough yet. If I’ve remembered correctly, we will meet his love interest in the next book, but Tracey isn’t sure yet if she is his HEA because it’s one of those on-again, off-again things.
I mentioned reading a scene where a group of Aussie guys are being arseholes to a waitress in a New York bar and the heroine Antoinette wanted to clean their clocks for it. What I didn’t say to her in so many words was that introducing these Australians as jerks (‘with some sort of British accent’, oh noes!) wasn’t going to help our international image, but what redeemed it for me was that, being Aussies, they drank (lightweight) Antoinette under the table. I was worried that the joke was at our expense, but in the end, we Aussies were in on it. In fairness, Aussie guys can be as sleazy as the men of any other nationality and the characters’ behaviour wouldn’t have raised my eyebrows if they hadn’t been identified as Aussie.
Tracey wants to introduce more Australian characters. Initially there was a scene set in Las Vegas, but her agent asked her to set it somewhere else because Vicki Pettersson’s Zodiac series is set in Vegas. Tracey wanted to move it to Australia, but her agent vetoed that. Tracey observed that Keri Arthur (whose series is set in Melbourne) is doing well.
She found writing Antoinette to be frustrating at times because she’s such a hothead. Tracey wanted to shake her and tell her to think before she acts.
I have Keri Arthur’s Full Moon Rising in my TBR and am behind on some of the authors that Tracey reads, such as Nalini Singh. Tracey works full time outside of her writing, so she has a decent TBR as well. Her publisher sent her a copy of The Child Thief by Brom, which Tracey describes as a dark Peter Pan and was coincidentally shelved directly above where she was standing in Galaxy’s new releases.
By then it was 6.30 and time for the meeting to begin. Tracey sat at the table, which also held juice, cabanossi, cheese, chips, caramel and double coat Tim Tams and homemade Mars bar slices. One by one, people went up to Tracey to get their books signed and have a chat. I got my book signed but didn’t take up any more of her time. In hindsight, I must have monopolised her for quite a while earlier and am a total stranger to her, but she was friendly and easy to have a conversation with.
Unlike most authors who can scribble out a message and signature in 2 seconds flat, Tracey slowly and neatly wrote a personalised note in my book before signing it, which I found perversely reassuring, most likely because I am also a slow writer. There are worse things than standing in front of a talented author while getting your book signed.
Once she’d signed a book for everyone who asked, we all sat down to discuss books. I was sitting around the middle of the row, which is a very interesting place to be in this book club because I was involved in discussions with both ends of the aisle as well as my friend sitting next to me. I have a lot of sympathy for schizophrenics after hearing snippets from here, then something else from a different direction while the other side moves onto another topic.
Tracey started by passing around little printed booklets of her prequel to Night’s Cold Kiss, Dante Rising – The Birth of a Venator (pdf), which can be read from her website. Other tidbits she let drop include:
- Tracey reads Vicki Pettersson, Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris.
- The second book is with the publisher and she is currently writing the third.
- She also writes for Harlequin Spice under the name Tracie Sommers
- The first (and only?) Anita Blake book she read was Micah, which caused most of the group to simultaneously groan.
- She recommended The Child Thief to the group and someone circulated a copy for us to look through. My only photo of Tracey shows her being a good girl for her publisher, to paraphrase her.
Tracey eventually left because she had driven into the city and was expecting a hefty parking fee. I was hoping to get the chance to ask her to autograph the booklet she’d handed out, but then others would have asked as well and we would have held her up.
The event started winding down after Tracey left, but some of us stayed until Galaxy closed.
Kat, the latecomer
Decadence warned me that I should be early for the signing so I could have a good chat with Tracey O’Hara, but despite my best efforts I arrived well into the event. Tracey was gracious enough to chat with me for a couple of minutes, and I got a squizz at the (potential) cover for her second book. It was very, very different from the cover of Night’s Cold Kiss, and I found it difficult to see the second cover as anything but a step down from the first, except that she might gain a different type of readership based on the second novel’s cover.
I congratulated Tracey on making the shortlist for the Aurealis Awards—Night’s Cold Kiss is a finalist in the Best Horror Novel category. Apparently, the Aurealis isn’t known for favouring paranormal romance/urban fantasy, so it’s a fantastic achievement. I’d say even more so given that this is Tracey’s debut novel.
The book signing was held during a combined book club meeting (usually, Galaxy runs two paranormal romance book clubs—they merged the December meetings for the signing), so after everyone’s books were signed, we all sat around the paranormal romance section and talked books. Although I’m signed up for book club, this was the first meeting I’d been to. The first group of readers I sat with sounded more like sf/f fans than specifically paranormal romance or urban fantasy readers. This was interesting for me, not just because a lot of their references went way over my head but because of their reactions and comments about romance outside the sf/f genre. Someone actually said ‘bodice-ripper’ and commented on romances in a slightly derogatory way and, I kid you not, I put my hand on my chest and gasped!
There was some discussion about that cover, with most saying they couldn’t understand the change. It seems to be driven by the publisher’s marketing strategy, and it sounds like will be the trend in paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Personally, I think this is lunacy, but hey, Pregnesia, anyone??? We speculated on what was driving this change. Someone thought it was the influence of manga, where sexual imagery is a lot more mainstream. Someone suggested the influence of books like the Anita Blake series. I think it’s an attempt to capture the erotic paranormal genre that’s mostly been the province of epublishers like Ellora’s Cave, Samhain and Liquid Silver.
The owners of FANGtastic Fiction came to signing—I thought they were bloggers and it was only later that I found out what site they ran. FANGtastic Fiction is a new online bookshop dedicated to paranormal romance, romance and urban fantasy with a focus on Australian publishers. It’ll be interesting to see how they develop.
Someone mentioned that they had seen a slogan to the effect of ‘If you like Twilight, you’ll love Laurell K. Hamilton’. Holy crap! Everyone agreed that these were not books they’d recommend to 14-year olds, although I did suggest the Anita Blake books were exactly the types of books I’d sneak read at 14. :-D There was some discussion of Anita Blake, and Tracey mentioned that she tried one but wasn’t motivated to read the rest. The discussions splintered among various groups as we started talking about books in a series—LKH, Kenyon, Ward, and so on. It was very lively and interesting, but rather frenetic.
Tracey left the book club meeting early because she and her husband were driving back to Canberra that night. (Later, I learned they took a not-so-slight detour around the southern suburbs. Possibly not the best time for the scenic tour … and possibly not even really that scenic!) I thought it was incredibly generous of her to come in just for a few hours to meet our small group of readers, and I hope she got some books sales out of it! (She got at least one, because I got a signed copy to give away—see details below!)
Also at the signing was one of the organisers for the RWA conference in Sydney next year. There are plans afoot for—possibly, maybe, hopefully—some kind of event that will enable readers to meet authors. This isn’t confirmed, though, so watch this space. (Better yet, join the Australia Romance Readers Association, because if anything does happen, they’ll probably be the ones organising it on behalf of readers.)
I also had a chat with someone who works for the company who does the book distribution for airports and railway stations, and I learned that the reason I can’t find Mills and Boon books at the airport is because it’s a captive market and they prefer to stock books with the biggest possible margin (while sticking to the RRP). I also asked if they sell books about plane crashes—they do! Laurell K. Hamilton’s rant about TV shows in the genre she ‘pioneered’ came up, and the book distribution person quickly scanned through the vampire book shelves and disproved that LKH was the first to publish a book where vampires are subject to human laws (or something like that—Decadence can explain this better, because I don’t read Anita Blake). So there!
Finally, I learned that a sf/f book club just started at Sappho Books & Cafe in Glebe. They meet on the last Wednesday of every month during happy hour (tapas and drinks!). The next meeting is December 30 and the theme is ‘End of the World’. If you’re interested, I suggest ringing the bookshop first to confirm.
Finally, as we were leaving, Sofia at Galaxy mentioned that some big-name paranormal romance/urban fantasy authors are rumoured to be coming to Australia next year—no confirmed details yet. I suggested to Sofia that they need a bigger store! The signing was intimate and fun, but just a little more room would have allowed Tracey and us readers to circulate a little more easily. Still, I enjoyed myself and was so engrossed in the discussions that I forgot to take pictures and—even more shocking—didn’t manage to eat a single Tim Tam!
NIGHT’S COLD KISS GIVEAWAY
For a chance to win a SIGNED copy of Night’s Cold Kiss, in 25 words or less tell us your favourite kick-arse heroine and why. She can be from a book or film of any genre, or someone you know in real life.
Some rules: You must post your answer as a comment to this post. Multiple entries are fine. By entering, you give us permission to quote your entry in future blog posts and articles. Overseas readers are welcome to join in. The giveaway ends midnight on Sunday, December 20 AEDT. Wandergurl, Decadence and I will pick our favourite answer. We’ll announce the winner the following week, and they’ll have a week to send me their delivery address before the prize is forfeit.