A Slice of Orange


A Beginner’s Guide to Manga

March 12, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

by Sara Black

Pretty boys. Magical girls. Demons. High School angst. Fruits Baskets. What’s not to love about manga? For the uninitiated they are worth checking out because they are hideously popular to the point that Harlequin is publishing their own and “manga-style” romances are being solicited, they are fun reads, and you’ve already raided all the other sections of the bookstore.

However, if it’s your first time voyaging into the Graphic Novel section maybe it’s a little intimidating. Maybe you even lose a little cred with the bookstore clerk by referring to the comics as Anime. Maybe you’re still hung up on ‘what the heck is a Fruits Basket?’

Here, let me help. Manga (mawn-gah) refers to Japanese comics books and only the comic books. Though popular series often get turned into Anime (Japanese animation), the comic books are still called manga.

How about some titles?

If you’re looking for action and adventure you may want to give Inu Yasha, One Piece, or Naruto a try. These comics are aimed at younger boys and as such feature long fight scenes, fantasy worlds, and occasional pre-teen level romance (something around the level of ‘I really like her, but kissing is gross’). Ranma 1/2 is similar but focuses on comedy more than adventure.

And now for a plug. My favorite manga: Rurouni Kenshin. The title character is a diminutive man who killed a whole lot of people during the Meiji revolution and is now trying to atone. The romance is more sophisticated than in the stories mentioned above without getting sensual, though the story revolves around the main character’s redemption.

If your taste is more towards the romantic, teenage angst plots try Mars or Paradise Kiss. These stories are more graphic and feature teenage heroines and heroes struggling with hardship and soap opera level conflict. If you want a little more fantasy (and maybe a magical girl or two) with that angst you may want to try Ceres, Red River or From Far Away. These may depict sensual sexual situations.

For a more innocent view of high schools give the oddly named Fruits Basket a try.

If a mix of history and violence is your thing Blade of the Immortal, Lone Wolf and Cub or Vagabond are more artistically sophisticated series aimed at adult males. There may be a little romance but there is probably more blood.

If you like horror try Monster, Hellsing or Deathnote and sci-fi lovers might want to check out Battle Angel Alita (which may one day be a movie directed by James Cameron) or Blame.

And if you’re wondering about the ones with groups of pretty boys on the cover and not too many girls on the inside, like Gravitation or Love Mode, those are Shounen-Ai and/or Yaoi. These stories are typically written for woman and revolve around homosexual male relationships, Shounen-Ai being the less graphic of the two. The lesbian equivalent, yuri, is less popular but they are out there.

Of course there are hundred of titles I haven’t mentioned, about sports and board games and anything you can think of, but hopefully I’ve given you enough to approach those shelves with a little less wariness.

Good luck.

Sara Black has a degree in Cinema/Television from USC. She watches far too much television, eats way too much sushi and is always writing a romance novel. For someone who religiously stays out of the mainstream, she knows an awful lot about Pop Culture. This is the first in a series of posts on the subject.

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A Writer’s Life

March 9, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

A Writer’s Life
By Mary Castillo
The first audience a writer has to convince is her family. And God help you if you have kids.

I lucked out. I was already writing when I met my love so he had no problem leaving me alone every Saturday so I could write. But I had a full-time job, a two-hour commute and a close-knit Mexican family who didn’t understand what I was doing on weekends when I should’ve been with them.

The thing is, until you have some street cred, the people you love will not understand why you’re begging them to leave you alone so you can sit in front of a computer. My mom would call me every Saturday morning and ask, “So what it is that you’re doing again?”

“I’m writing a book.”

“About what?”

I think I answered that very same question on more Saturday mornings than I care to remember. It wasn’t that mom didn’t care. She just couldn’t figure out why I’d rather hole up in a bedroom than drive down for a bonfire barbeque on Coronado.

My family finally cut me some slack after I wrote two screenplays and two novels. But it wasn’t because I had written two screenplays and two novels. It was because I started writing movie reviews for my local paper and had a byline to prove it.
After mom had tangible proof of what I was doing – she showed my reviews online to her co-workers – she would call on Saturday mornings and ask, “What are you doing answering the phone? Shouldn’t you be writing?”

Mary Castillo is the author of two romantic comedies – Hot Tamara and In Between Men. Her novella, “My Favorite Mistake” is featured in the anthology, Friday Night Chicas. She is a columnist with VidaGirl.com and has also contributed feature articles to Catalina Magazine, Romance Writers Report and Och Tamale (the alumni magazine for the University of Redlands).

Mary has two blogs: Chica Lit for writers and readers at http://www.marycastillo.blogspot.com/ and How to Survive Your Best Friend’s Baby for friends of new moms at http://www.bestfriendsbaby.blogspot.com/.

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It’s Worth It

March 8, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

It’s Worth It

By Kitty Bucholtz

Last month, my credit card bills were higher than I expected them to be. I didn’t buy a slinky new dress or a couple of pounds of Godiva truffles. (And if I had bought the one, I probably couldn’t have bought the other!) No, I had to pay over $100 in late fees and finance charges. I was so caught up in working on my book that I totally forgot to pay the credit cards until the day after they were due.

I’m a full-time writer, and as such, I have a tendency to forget a lot of things. If I’m writing, I forget to stop for a bathroom break until it’s nearly too late. If I’m walking down the beach, I forget to turn onto my street because I’m thinking about how that tattooed guy doing the one-handed pushups could fit into my book. If I didn’t set an alarm, I’d forget to pick up my husband from work – if I’m off in Book Land.

But I say it’s worth it. Writers get to spend their time thinking about solutions to impossible situations. They get to wonder “how” and “why” and “why not” – and if they wonder aloud, people forgive them because “you know how writers are.”

I downloaded a lecture I found on the Internet by Dr. Valerio Massimo Manfredi called “Storytelling and History Writing” given at The Australian National University on September 4, 2006. He tells the audience that early storytellers had a function, “to diffuse and transmit models of behavior that were essential for the survival of those communities.” I believe this is true today.

As often as you hear the sad and tragic tale of what is going wrong in the world today, you hear someone bemoaning the fact that something must be done. Writers can be part of the solution! We can give people hope. We can remind them that anyone can be a hero. We can urge them to act, to push themselves, to work together to make the world a better place. Perhaps a teenager will befriend “the new kid” because she’s emulating the cool teenager in a book she just read. Maybe a woman will find love where she wasn’t looking because she stepped out of her comfort zone – just like the heroine in a favorite book. Maybe a writer will help combat illiteracy with an idea that just may increase their book sales as well.

I no longer feel embarrassed that I write novels. As a storyteller, I have an essential function in the community. I may spend a lot of time alone. I may forget to pay a bill or two. But I might be able to make the world a better place.

And I say that’s worth it!

Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

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March 7, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

with Gina Black

It’s appropriate that I, who once considered cyberspace to be my home-away-from-home, have been enlisted . . . er . . . I mean invited to create a monthly blog on the topic. It’s true, I spend hours a day clicking and typing my way from one URL to the next, compulsively checking my email, and monitoring the RSS feeds for my favorite blogs. I’ve forgotten how to shop at brick and mortar (or steel and stucco) stores.

How did shopping get into this?

What I mean to say is that I can find my way from one end of cyberspace to the other even though I still get lost going from place to place. We all have our favorite internet haunts, so I thought I’d start out by sharing some of mine with you.

I usually start out the day reading blogs of all sorts. I’ll trip from Et in arcaedia, ego. (Jennifer Jackson agent at Donald Maass), to Miss Snark, The Rejector, Lit Agent X (Rachel Vater with Lowenstein-Yost Associates), Agent Obscura (Nadia Cornier of Firebrand Literary), Agent in the Middle (Lori Perkins), LIT SOUP (agent Jenny Rappaport who works with Lori Perkins), Anna Louise Genoese (our favorite editor at Tor), Bookends Agency (where agent Jessica Faust does most of the blogging), Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, the Knight Agency, Writing and Rambling (agent Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency), and Pub Rants (literary agent Kristen Nelson). Not all of them represent romance, but I’ve learned plenty just by hanging out.

I’d probably stop by the Crusie Mayer Writing Workshop to see what the topic is at hand. And then I’d, no doubt, look up at my clock, swear soundly and start dashing around because, as usual, I’d be late for work.

Which you probably are too if you’ve accompanied me on my visits today.

What I’m hoping you’ll do once you’ve read this, is post in the comments any cyber-related questions you have so I can answer them in an upcoming blog. No matter how silly or small, feel free to ask away. You can query me on the tough stuff too, I promise to get answers.

And before long you’ll be able to tell your FTP from your IP, so stay tuned . . .

Somehow Gina manages to work some writing time in around her internet forays. Last year her first book, a historical romance, was an American Title II finalist. She’s currently working on a young adult with light paranormal elements. Most days you can find her blogging on The Gina Channel.

And yes, her computer screen really has burned itself into her glasses.

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Things That Make Me Go Mmmruh

March 6, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Things That Make Me Go Mmmruh

By Geralyn Ruane

Mmmruh . . . you know, that sound you make when biting into the most succulent piece of chocolate – or when you see an incredibly hot guy and you know you’ll never have him – or when you see the absolute cutest pair of baby shoes EVER.

Mmmruh . . . I live for that sound. More precisely, I live for those moments that create that sound – those moments that reach right into the bloody pumping heart of me and squeeze – those moments that can sometimes make me hurt, make me cry – but always make me feel alive. Those moments that steep me in a well of pure sensation – a well so often iced over in a frenetic world.

Sometimes these moments of mmmruh are HUGE and witnessed from afar – the U.S. hockey team defeating Russia at Lake Placid (“Do you believe in miracles?!”) – or Matthew McConaughey flying in a chopper through the aftermath of Katrina to save a man and the stranded animals he would not abandon.

But the really cool thing is that these moments of mmmruh don’t have to be huge . . . they can be tiny . . . and they’re everywhere – like pearly drops of dew glistening on the grass at daybreak, just waiting to be licked off and savored by a thirsty cricket. These drops are so small, ephemeral, always there, too often unnoticed. Like the way the pot-bellied old man cradled the little white dog settled so trustingly in his arms as they made their way through the cross walk right in front of my windshield. Or like the car that pulled over on an exit ramp two lanes over from me so the driver could get out and help the man pushing his disabled car up the ramp.

These are random drops of mmmruh. Moments that cut right to the essence of love, trust, compassion, understanding, nobility. Moments that I savor in life. Moments that I crave when I’m reading. Moments that I strive to evoke in my writing.

If I can recognize these moments, find these moments, access these moments, re-create these moments – but most of all, remember these moments and the way they make me feel – mmmruh, what a wonderful world it can be.

Geralyn Ruane’s favorite Hardy Boy is whichever one Parker Stevenson played, and these days she writes romance, chick lit and women’s fiction. Last year her short story “Jane Austen Meets the New York Giants” was published in the New York Times Bestselling anthology The Right Words at the Right Time Volume 2.

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