ReCOVERy Room: Blue Kingdom by Max Brand

Click for original cover copy.

You know how it’s generally frowned upon to touch, drool, attack, or otherwise mess with great works of art? Well I almost felt like I was breaking this universal law by messing with Max Brand’s cover copy. I mean, the man is a legend. His books may not be framed in a museum (that I know of), but they’re most definitely works of art.

I hope Mr. Brand will forgive me, but this week’s ReCOVERy Room is a fill-in-the-blank fun house from the back cover of his 1929 Blue Kingdom.  Originally titled “The Strength of the Hills” and published in a six part serial by Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine, this classic was resurrected and renamed in 1957. The hero, Carrick Dunmore, is…well, kind of silly. Of all the Western heroes out there, I think he would appreciate the silliness of this week’s ReCOVERy Room the most.

Carrick, this one is for you.

Blue Kingdom ReCOVERy Room PDF

Romance Covers Court Readers

Everyone who reads romance has their own very specific tastes when it comes to covers. A love/hate issue for many readers is that rarely do the cover models look like the characters described in the book let alone any real-life people, and often the covers are so provacative that some readers are embarrassed to be seen with them in public. And yet, these “bodice-ripping” trends persist and romance continues to sell, sell, sell!  I suspect the same covers readers don’t want to be seen reading are also the covers that got them to buy the books in the first place. For all the jokes and snark romance covers elicit, they must be doing something right. Check out these Dorchester highlights from the past twenty years. Did any catch your eye, then or now?

1)      I *Heart* the ’80s—The cover trends of the ’80s lived well on into the ’90s in the world of HEAs. Flashy, neon colors grab the eye—a promise of the fantasy that awaits on the pages within.

  2)      The Foldout—The explicit nature of these covers’ content—rippling muscles and ample breasts—can always be found, if not on the cover, then, on the foldout.

3)      The Chick Lit Influence—With the rise of chick lit in the late ’90s came the fun cartoons, which abandoned the couple-centric covers of the past and endorsed a feminist take on women who controlled their romantic futures.


4)      Reissues—Sometimes popular titles of yore need a little help finding their way into the hands of the next generation of readers. Reissues reintroduce classic romances to a new audience with snazzy new packaging.

Which types of covers give you pause when browsing the shelves?  Do you have a favorite cover that transcends time and trend?

ReCOVERy Room: Operation Prince Charming

Click to see original cover copy

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. DayY’all!

It’s time for another ReCOVERy Room, and I’ve selected one of our African American Romance titles, Operation Prince Charming, by Phyllis Bourne. Phyllis is also a co-author of our African American Romance Anthology, Holiday Inn, so if you like playing with the cover copy here, go grab her books! Maybe Hunter, aka Mr. Prince Charming, learns more than he expected at finishing school. Everyday his secret crush continues to grow! Let’s just say,  he’s “hot for teacher!”

ReCovery Room_Operation Prince Charming

Reading on a Budget: Book Swaps!

Hey Y’all,

If your wallet is still recovering from the holidays, or, like me, you’re a savvy shopper, have I got some great ideas for you! Reading can become an expensive habit, but what would we do without this joy?! Enter book swaps. If you’ve never participated in one, a book swap is pretty much just what it sounds like:

n: “…Practiced among book groups, friends and colleagues at work, it provides an inexpensive way for people to exchange books, find out about new books and obtain a new book to read without having to pay. Swaps occur between individuals, without central distribution or warehousing…”

Book Swaps Across the World!

It’s just like trading clothes with your sister or b.f.f.! True, swapping books has been happening for a while, but now there are more and more organized book swappers with an online presence. E-book lovers, don’t fret, whether you prefer print or digital, there’s a book swap for all readers! I’ve compiled a few swapsites for all you avid, budget-conscious readers.

Meetup: If you prefer to see the books, meet swappers, and chit chat a bit, then Meetup might be the search engine for you. Meetup is “the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.” All you have to do is type in “book swap” and your zipcode, and Meetup spits out the website for your local book swap.

BookMooch: If you’ve completed a book and want to use it as currency, BookMooch is the place to go! You earn a point every time you mail a book to a “Moocher,” and in turn, you can get any book you want from other “Moochers”. Once you’ve read a book, you can keep it forever or put it back into BookMooch for someone else, as you wish. You only have to pay for shipping books to “Moochers;” that’s it, no joining fee or anything! The only costs you incur are the mailing costs. They even include an option to give your earned points to different charities. Check out their website for more details!

eBookfling: If y’all have an e-reader, don’t worry, you can still swap, borrow and lend. eBookfling lets you swap, borrow, or lend ebooks using your e-reader device. Like other swapsites, it’s free to join. All you have to do is sign up, list the books you’d like to swap, earn credits, and start reading!

The whole swap mentality is pretty cool, and I feel like I’ve been living under a rock to have missed this trend! Also, if you prefer, many major e-retailers also have swapping programs. I’m sure I’ve missed some other creative swap ideas. What do y’all think—what are the other thrifty ways to get your read on?

What’s your blood type?

Stow away that garlic necklace and turn down your collars! It’s National Blood Donor Month where your contribution can provide much needed help to those in need. Be sure to spread the word—every drop counts! To learn more, visit the American Red Cross website for details.

In honor of this worthy cause, we offer you blogging mortals (and immortals!) a few of our fanged favorites. New York Times bestselling author Nina Bangs enchants us with her book My Wicked Vampire. A delectable thrill-ride, this paranormal romance is set in a theme park with plenty of twists and turns to leave you reeling.

“You know all about vampires, right? Wrong! Ms. Monajem has approached vampires from a totally new direction. A direction you are going to be captivated by.” —The Long and the Short of It

Fancy a set of feminine fangs? The incomparable Barbara Monajem spices up the usual flavor of old lore in Tastes of Love & Evil.

On the run and ever-tempted, the femme-fatale vampire Rose must solve the mystery surrounding the elusive Jack and why he is being hunted by underworld hitmen. Or will she be the one to stop his pulse first?

Now what sort of undead line-up would this be without the famed daughter of history’s first vampire slayer, I ask you! Minda Webber’s wit is razor sharp in The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing where our heroine has big shoes to fill. In this particular gavotte through the graveyard, Jane attends a masquerade party and all hell breaks loose. Literally!

What are some of your fanged favorites? Do you prefer the walking undead or the wandering slayers? Tell us! Personally, I’m partial to the slayer’s assistant. What? Somebody needs to hold the bags!

Allow me to thank all those who volunteer and donate to the American Red Cross.

Signing off—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern

Acrostic New Year’s Bash!

We’ve got more than books, people. We’ve got skills. Acrostic skills.

To celebrate the New Year, I’ve created an acrostic TBR pile for all you book lovers out there! You can always count on Dorchester to have a book that starts with any letter in the alphabet. Except for ‘Y,’ of course. That one stumped me.

Enjoy, and a happy New Year to you all!


New Authors of 2011!

Can you believe it’s almost 2012?! Before you toss that 2011 calendar take a look back at Dorchester’s debut authors of 2011. Check out these great newcomers to the Dorchester family!

S. Craig Zahler had an amazing year in 2011, and we’re looking forward to more from him in 2012! Between his successful screenwriting career and Western debut of A Congregation of Jackals, Zahler is creating much buzz, including becoming a 2011 Spur Best Western Award finalist! Here’s what people are saying about A Congregation of Jackals:

“A noir western of uncommon power…what happens…is more horrific than anything we might have imagined…All of (the) characters…confound us with their complexity.” —Booklist

“Genre fare will always be a premium in Hollywood, but original, literate voices that embrace dark material are anything but common. Enter Craig Zahler…”  —Variety

Laura Navarre is another Dorchester newbie this year! Like others new to the Dorchester family, Navarre has an interesting background. She holds degrees in National Security and International Relations! You definitely see the effects of Navarre’s background in her novel, as mysteries lurk around every corner in the dark, romantic plot; there are tastes of espionage sprinkled throughout. Her second novel, The Devil’s Temptress, met rave reviews, as many historical romance readers embraced her vividly described Crusades setting, dark and mysterious characters, and steamy relationships! Here’s what fans are saying about The Devil’s Temptress:

The Devil’s Temptress is a well-written novel that explores the lasting effect of the Crusades on the soldiers that served the King during that time. The dark, sexy romance is both satisfying and enjoyable and every chapter is filled with secrets and subterfuge. I will certainly add this author to my auto-buy list.” —Night Owl Reviews

A fresh face in the thriller genre is Chuck Hustmyre. What’s a Harley Davidson-riding, retired ATF special agent to do in the off season? Write a fast-paced crime thriller, of  course! If you like cop drama, then you’ll love Hustmyre’s books! His back-to-back 2011 releases are both set in The Big Easy and tell the tale of detectives caught on the wrong side of the law. Pick up Hustmyre’s House of the Rising Sun and A Killer Like Me today!

“Hustmyre is as gritty and in-your-face as can be, making readers feel like they’re poring over a real-life crime scene.” —The Best Reviews

A Killer Like Me is a thriller from page one, to the very end. Hustmyre keeps you gripping the edge of your seat, just hoping that Murphy tracks down this crazy [#] killer and doesn’t [let] himself go down the path of destruction…” —The Kari AnnAlysis

All the best in 2012!

A Cowbot for Christmas, a Short Story

While promoting Bobbi Smith’s latest holiday romance, A Cowboy for Christmas, I accidentally typed ‘cowbot’ instead of ‘cowboy’ in an e-mail. After cackling over this typo for a few seconds, I got to wondering about cowbots. Would they be cowboy robots? Would their metal rust on long cattle drives? Would they have muscular chest plates? Hey, the Tin Man was hot, or he would be if you left him out in the sun too long. Cowbots could be hunks of the future, I thought. So for your benefit (and mine), I’ve written a short story about one! Read on for my imagining of a cowbot and his lady love.

“A Cowbot for Christmas,” a short story inspired by Bobbi Smith’s A Cowboy for Christmas

Sagebrush, Texas, 2625

It was the final night of the 35th Annual Holiday Cowbot Rodeo, and Penny was wearing her best dress. She anxiously made her way to her seat in the exclusive, women-only Rose Section of the arena. The biggest rodeo in the circuit, the events spanned over three nights, and tonight’s event was the biggest of all: the Bot Bull Riding competition.

Penny still wasn’t used to the spectacle of man’s perfectly engineered Cowbots faced against God’s creatures. Although rare, every once in a while there was a rogue bull who would manage to throw a bot. Those were the moments she craved, because in that defeat, the Cowbots almost seemed human. Almost.

For as long as she could remember, this had been the biggest televised event in Texas. The Texans were proud of their Cowbots; they represented modernity while also preserving traditions. When artificial intelligence was outsourced by China in 2500, bots began slowly infiltrating the industries that needed them most, including, not surprisingly, the entertainment industry. Cowboys became fewer and fewer as rodeo deaths became more common, so eventually Cowbots replaced them, both on the rodeo circuit and ranches.

Every woman Penny knew would be at the rodeo dressed to the nines. It wasn’t their fault that the Cowbots were so perfect. Synthetic skin as flawless as a newly-made speedster, perfectly cut muscles, piercing eyes of any imaginable color, and of course, perfection in any pursuit they applied themselves to. Anatomically, they were really no different from your above-average man, except for that occasional moment when the sun would hit their skin and glint brightly like light on steel.

A respectable woman would never think of being seen with one; it was common knowledge that bots—especially Cowbots—had a certain reputation. It was still against state and federal laws to marry one, but that didn’t stop some women from socializing with them. Most of her friends were here to drool. She was here for him.

Penny knew a fair amount of the women seated near her from her work on the local charity board. Their incessant chattering was luckily drowned by the crowd’s cheers as the Cowbots entered the stadium. “Ooooh, do you see that one? Look at that…” “He can’t be a bot. He looks so human!” “I wish Michael had that one’s build. I would never deny him anything if he looked like that!”

And on and on it went while the Cowbots scheduled to compete were introduced, to the delight of the crowd. Her friend Megan leaned in and whispered, “Penny, isn’t that your bot?”

Her eyes scanned the arena searching bot after bot in the lineup, and then…yes, there he was! That same cool demeanor. That unbearably handsome face. The deep, almond shaped, violet eyes. And as she drank him in, she perceived that same sense of humanness. Dan Roland. He’d been competing for years and was practically a celebrity in the circuit. But strangely, he didn’t partake in most of the perks that the other celeb Cowbots enjoyed. Penny had never seen him tied to any scandals in the mags, she’d heard rumors that he had donated his share of the prize money to an anonymous orphanage, and he had notoriously opted out of the rose ceremony both times he had won in the past. She’d first seen him compete when she was ten, and even then, she remembered thinking that he was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. She had never obsessed over the Cowbots like the other girls did, but she knew he was different, and she couldn’t help but wonder about him.

“That’s your bot, right Penny? You’ve been talking about him since last year’s rodeo. Are you going to give him your rose?”

“Oh shush, Megan. First of all, he’s not my bot. You know as well as I do what people would say if I was with a bot. And second of all, I haven’t talked about him that much….have I?”

Megan shot her a glance that said you know as well as I do how much you’ve talked about him.

“Well fine,” Penny said, “Maybe I will give him my rose. But first he has to win…and then he has to actually accept a rose for once.”

The odds didn’t seem in her favor, but Megan beamed at her and went on with her chattering. The Cowbots left the stadium as the opening introductions concluded. One by one, they took their chances against the bulls. The rules were much like they were back in the olden days: a Cowbot had to stay on his bull for eight seconds. All contestants were judged by a panel, and the highest score won.

At least twenty thousand audience members were in the stadium this year. Penny sighed. With crowds this large, there was no way he would notice her, even if he wanted to…

She watched as the first Cowbots competed. They were all so infallible; it didn’t seem like they could fail. After the first hour Penny was beginning to feel her legs numb beneath her. A few of her friends had left their seats to grab snacks, and as she stood up to join them, she heard the announcer say “And now we have Dan Roland, bravely returning after last year’s defeat. Dan was created in the Northern Texas Bot Branch in 2600, rare model 11.411….”

Penny sat herself down, her eyes locked on Dan. He was preparing to mount his bull. It was the biggest bull she’d ever seen, and the angriest, too. Dan seemed calm, though. He seemed ready. Oh, how she hoped he would win. He was up on his bull, and before they pulled the gates back, his eyes shot up and met hers for a split second. She couldn’t look away. She was wholly consumed by the distant violet of his eyes, and a memory of their last glance washed over her.

It was during last year’s holiday rodeo, and he had fallen. As he pulled himself up from the floor of the stadium, the first person’s eyes he had met were hers. In that defeat she saw humanity reflected back at her, and an indescribable beauty. Maybe it was coincidence that their eyes linked, maybe not, but she knew she had felt something, knew that he had felt something—something that no bot should feel.

The gate crashed open and she was brought back to the present. The beast launched out of the holding cell, bucking and tossing for the life of him. Dan, using his strength and skill to stay astride the wild bull, barely seemed phased, the look of complete confidence never leaving his face. Penny’s fists were clenching the material of her dress. She thought her heart would never stop beating so madly in her chest.

And then the buzzer rang. After his eight seconds were up, Dan stayed on the bull for two seconds more, and achieved the most graceful dismount she had ever seen. The crowd gasped then erupted in cheers. From the middle of the stadium, Dan turned and looked straight at her, through to the soul of her, communicating something she could not understand, and smiled slightly in promise.

The remaining Cowbots took their turns, but no score came close to Dan’s and he was the clear winner an hour later. As the traditional award ceremony began, Penny nervously fidgeted with the rose in her hand. Every year, the eligible ladies fortunate enough to watch from the Rose Section would throw their roses into the arena as the winning Cowbot was presented with his trophy. The Rose Section seats were not easy to come by—hundreds of seats were set aside in the front rows for the young ladies attending the rodeo. A charity raffle was held every year, and as this was Penny’s first year on the charity’s board, she was guaranteed a seat. If the winning Cowbot so chose, he could claim one rose, and one lady, to join him in his victory lap. This was the only time public interaction between a Cowbot and a lady was appropriate, and every girl dreamed of being chosen, just once, by a creature of such perfection.

She examined the rose she had created with him in mind. A dense iron stem grew into delicate copper petals infused with subtle tones of violet. She promised herself that if her rose was left on the dusty stadium floor with the rest, she would forget this ridiculous notion that a Cowbot could actually notice her. That she could actually be with one. That love between a human and a bot could ever even exist.

As Dan rode into the arena after accepting his trophy the roses began soaring through the air. Penny let out a deep sigh and sent her rose to meet the rest in their hopeful flights.

Dan rode his horse to the area of the arena now littered with roses, and Penny realized he was actually going to choose a rose this year. She really did wonder if her madly beating heart could cause her harm. He had never accepted a rose before…was this really happening? She watched as he passed by the beautiful gold roses, the shining silver petals, and then he was directly in front of her tarnished, beautiful dusty violet rose. He dismounted, knelt down, and gently plucked it from the ground. Time stopped. He looked slowly up at her and held the rose up for all the world to see. There he was with his beautiful, charming smile, arm outstretched, waiting for her to take it. She couldn’t believe it. She stopped breathing. She was only brought back to the present by Megan’s insistent prodding.

She slowly rose from her seat, her friend’s eyes, and everyone else’s, following her every move. She was remotely aware of her face plastered on all the jumbo trons around the stadium. She slowly walked down the steps until she came to the edge of the arena. An attendant opened the gate for her, and she was suddenly face to face with the Cowbot that had consumed her dreams.

She looked up into his eyes, a smile in her own, and accepted the hand he offered her.

“Howdy, miss,” he said softly, “I’m Dan Roland, and I believe I’ve been meaning to introduce myself to you for some time now.”

-The End-

I hope you enjoyed this cowbot short! For more on A Cowboy for Christmas, enjoy our exclusive ReCOVERy Room and a country song inspired by A Cowboy for Christmas!

A Cowboy for Christmas Country Song

Bobbi Smith has been writing romance novels since 1982. In that time, she’s written over forty books that have captured the hearts of romance readers everywhere. She’s a big deal. Such a big deal, in fact, that she’s even inspired a country song!

Award-winning country singer Royal Wade Kimes wrote this song for Bobbi Smith’s A Cowboy for Christmas, titled ‘Penny, I love you.’ So go on; tap your toes, hum the tune, and maybe even get a little crazy with a two-step. If you can’t feel the music, you ain’t country!

If you like the sound of the song and the look of the book, A Cowboy for Christmas is 50% off in paperback through the end of the year.

Happy Holidays!

Pardon the Interruption—Christmas movie montage!

Ah, the classic films of Christmases past! Whatever you may celebrate this winter season, the joys of family, friends, and all those films on repeat remain universal. From all of us here at Dorchester, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season! :)

Signing off—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern


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