Surprised, right? Me, too. Romance novels aren’t exactly my thing.

Not that you could really call Wired a romance novel. Yes, there is a sex scene, and a battle for love, and a mention of six pack abs. It’s not exactly an adventure or sci fi novel, either. It’s a merge of all three — and I don’t read any of these genres. So how did I choose Wired? Because of Book Expo America.

For the last two years, I’ve gone to Book Expo America on assignment for Poets & Writers magazine. It’s hard to describe what BEA is because it can be a lot of things for a lot of people. For me, it’s a long, exhausting pair of days where I try to take in what just about every publisher in America — and beyond — is saying will be the next greatest thing, and it’s my chance to get a jump on what will be coming out over the next six months. I mine for story ideas, shake hands, kiss babies — well, maybe I don’t kiss babies, but I do try to pass out as many business cards as I can, and pick up as much press material as I can. I still have a stack from BEA 2007 on my desk waiting to be filed. Yes, I collected up that many.

My first year was the 2006 convention in Washington, DC. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. I had no idea there were so many publishers, let alone books. If you want to know why not every book published makes the author a millionaire, just go to BEA.

I also had a blast. I manged to crash a university press party and was such a hit that they invited to the party surrounded this year’s Book Expo, which was held in New York City. Given that I knew more people, and that I knew we’d all have a good time, I ended up staying out later and hitting some of the bigger parties of the evening, one of which involved hired models dressed like Greek Gods. Very strange, but very fun (though not as strange as the 2006 after party I went to, which involved an unfinished restaurant, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and a guy wearing a rabbit outfit. I am not making this up).

As a result of the Greek God party, I had a pinch of a headache the next day. Instead of settling for a bagel while sitting on the floor of Penn Station to wait for my train, I headed to the Cellar at the flag ship Macy’s store, which is across the street from Penn Station. I didn’t go to BEA with a book to read because I knew I’d be picking up free galleys along the way. I wasn’t interested in the baseball game on the TV, so I rifled through whatever I’d stuffed into the Puff the Magic Dragon take home bag, which was a hit at the expo (something’s big every year — last year was Captain Underpants bags; this year was Puff the Magic Dragon bags). Most of the books were tucked away in my suitcase, except for a slim red paperback that said “Shomi.” I’d picked it up in the BEA press room. I’m not sure why — probably because it was small and I liked the logo. My food came out of the kitchen, and I dug in, to both the sandwich and the book.

I liked what I read. Maybe it was the fast pace of the novel, the hangover that would have prevented any heavy literature from filtering through, or the time bending weaved through the plot (if you’ve read my post where I came out of the Star Trek closet, you’d understand why this caught my eye), but I was intrigued. What I didn’t realize, though, was that the slim volume held snippets of three different novels, not one whole one. So I was left hanging, wondering whatever happened to Leo, Mason and Rox.

In the haze of work that was this summer, I forgot about Wired. I couldn’t give up on it, though. I figured I might be able to write about it somewhere, so I stuffed it into my nightstand. I found it again when I rearranged my bedroom furniture, so when I wanted something a bit less dense after Of a Feather, I picked up a copy of Wired.

I quickly read through the first few chapters, which had made up the excerpted portion of the Shomi volume. Woo hoo! I can find out the rest of what happened! But the reasons why I don’t particularly enjoy the genre caught up with me. There was little to no plot development, and the plot seemed way too far out there. After the next 30 pages, though, I got the hang of the writing style (“I did this. I then did that.” kind of thing) and enjoyed the book for what it was: a fast, quick light read where the good guy had a 99% chance of winning. It’s a beach book (the novel was published in July) — or a decent paperback to kick back with on a rainy Friday night.

One sad thing I realized as I went over my 2008 calendar (yes, I’m one of those annoying people who has to plan 2008 stuff this early) is that I probably won’t be going to BEA in 2008. It’s in Los Angeles, and it’s being held the week after Memorial Day weekend, which is when I plan to do my heaviest PR for my book. Oh, well. There’s always 2009.

I have no idea what book 6 of 52 will be. Stay tuned.

P.S. Isn’t Liz Maverick a great name for a romance novel author? It’s almost as good as Mason Merrick, one of the main men in the book. Who comes up with this stuff?

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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