What to Read and Watch: 3 Fantasy Novels + 2 Futuristic Movies + 1 Horror Show #SFF

I’m a panelist at SF Signal’s Mind Meld today. The question was:

What lesser-known books have you read, fairly recently, that you think deserve more attention, and why?

If you stop by, you’ll get to see what my answer was (hint: 3 fantasy novels), as well as read the other panelists’ answers, which should give you some great reading ideas for your holiday break.

For those of you who need to take a break from your TBR pile (it happens; you’re forgiven 😉 ), below are my thoughts on what I’ve been watching.

General Spoiler Warning: I find it hard to discuss things without giving too much away. I’m not a reviewer, I’m a fan. So… if you don’t like spoilers, go watch MR. NOBODY, HOW I LIVE NOW, and AMERICAN HORROR STORY (COVEN) and come back.

Mr. Nobody

Like Inception and Cloud Atlas, this is a movie you’re gonna wanna watch twice. I knew from the trailer that it was trippy science fiction (a good thing). Even so I still had to resort to some post-viewing internet searches to get the red-yellow-blue thing. But once I did, I thought it was a brilliant visual way of reinforcing Nemo’s various life choices/paths. The story is about a man named Nemo Nobody who is 118 years old when the movie starts. He is the last mortal man in a futuristic society that has learned how to achieve immortality through stem cell compatible pigs (that part sounds absurd, but the movie isn’t, and the filmmakers treat the concept as absurdly as it sounds… perhaps a commentary on the futility and absurdity of man’s constant search for immortality?).

In any case, Nemo is being interviewed on his deathbed. A journalist has snuck into his room and wants to hear his life’s story. But his joy at snagging the scoop turns to confusion as Nemo weaves a story that is full of multiple inconsistencies and not a few earlier deaths. Nemo isn’t just musing about “what if” or “wish I woulda.” His constructs three different realities with alternate endings in each. Most of us tell our life’s story in chronological order. Not Nemo. His story is full of all the choices he made – and all the ones he didn’t. It’s pretty neat. (Although I found his “blue” life and wife hard to take, but she’s supposed to be that way. Great acting by Sarah Polley, btw. Who saw The Claim? That’s another good one to rent, although there’s not even a whiff of SFF in it).

All of the above aside, I’m not sure I agree with the ending premise: that all your life’s paths are just as worthy, equal, or meaningful. At the same time though, since we live in the real world (where smoke will not go back into the cigarette even if we live to be 118), I think it’s important not to regret past choices or wonder too much about paths not taken.

Interested in reading more about Mr. Nobody?

How I Live Now

Fifteen year old Elizabeth a.k.a. “Daisy” – a troubled teen who hears voices and has a constant need to wash her hands – arrives from the U.S. to spend a summer with cousins on a remote farm in the English countryside. A nuclear bomb is dropped on London. WWIII breaks out. Martial law is declared. And then… bad stuff happens. The kind of stuff you can imagine. And then are glad that you’re only imagining it, not remembering it.

The movie opens with scenes of idyllic summer days (you know their only purpose is to sharply contrast with whatever’s coming next) and scenes from an idyllic summer love (the fact that the young lovers are cousins is glossed over and, in light of the film’s true horrors, I had no trouble forgetting about that too).

Saoirse Ronan plays Daisy and she is terrific, as always. I wanted to know more about Daisy’s character. Why did she hear voices before the war even started? Why was she always washing her hands? There was other evidence of mental and/or emotional vulnerability (medication, a vague reference to a possible eating disorder) but the underlying cause was never explained. Were all of Daisy’s pre-war problems just due to the fact that her dad ignored her? Maybe the character was more fully fleshed out in the novel. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. The message of the film was survival and forward motion, not looking back.

Regardless of the cause of Daisy’s initial troubles, the one bright spot of the film was watching her transform from a prickly, obsessive, anti-social teen into someone with close family relationships, the competence to plan and execute a cross-country trek back home through land pock-marked with enemies and other dangers, and the will not just to survive but to make sure those she cares about do too.

Above all, How I Live Now is a film that makes you appreciate life. All of it. The big stuff. Family. A safe place. A sense of self. And the small stuff. Gardens. Sunshine. Clean water.

American Horror Show (Coven)

Even though I’m a speculative fiction fan, I don’t read or watch a lot of horror. But I love certain aspects of it: dark, macabre storylines, monsters, usually a twist or two, and sometimes, humor. I think I first heard about this show in Entertainment Weekly and the premise intrigued me: a New Orleans boarding school for non-conformists who also happen to be witches. In the first episode, a witch accidentally kills her boyfriend – by her act of passion, not in an act of passion – and another is burned at the stake (she comes back to life in E2). The show never looked back. Each episode just got more and more outlandish, which is what makes it so entertaining.

Ordinarily, by now, I would be wondering how the creators could possibly sustain the dramatic trajectory they’ve put themselves on, but that brings me to the other reason I got hooked on the show: its unique anthology format. Each season is a standalone story, with its own story arc – a promised beginning, middle, and end – all in one season. Each season stars many of the same cast members: Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters… As well as some who are there only for that season: Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Emma Roberts, Zachary Quinto… So, of course, I had to go back and start watching season 1 (Murder House) in between episodes of S3. Be forewarned, however, this is not a show for the meek. (Fans of True Blood or Game of Thrones, you’ll be fine. 😀 ).

What about you? Have you seen Mr. Nobody, How I Live Now, or American Horror Story (Coven)? What do YOU think? Hope everyone’s having a great week!

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Cover Reveal: WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE (Noon Onyx #3)

Today I’ve got a fun, beautiful, fantastic post that I’ve been looking forward to sharing with you — the new cover for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, the third book in my Noon Onyx series. As with FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, Jason Chan was the cover artist. Below are my thoughts on the cover, the book blurb, pre-order and Goodreads links, and a chance to win some neat prizes: signed copies of DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL (US only) and a $25 eGift Certificate to the book store of your choice (international). Please help me to share the new cover by tweeting, posting, etc.!

urban fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy, White Heart of Justice, Noon Onyx, Jill Archer, cover reveal, cover art
WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE
Noon Onyx #3
Cover Artist: Jason Chan
Cover Designer: Lesley Worrell

My Thoughts

I’ve loved each of my covers for different reasons. DARK LIGHT OF DAY was my first cover so I’m rather sentimental about it. I’ll always love it because it was my first and because cover artist David Palumbo incorporated a lot of design elements that I appreciated: the blackened vine motif on the gate, St. Luck’s in the background, the books that Noon held, the fireball raised high in her hand, and that defiant, though somewhat hesitant, face. It fit the story and the character for that book perfectly.

I loved FIERY EDGE OF STEEL’s cover because it was visually striking. Noon looked tougher and, instead of carrying books and a vague, unshaped fireball, she was now griping a knife — a fiery filleting knife that she’d shaped out of waning magic. The backdrop was the New Babylon docks — appropriate since that story was, for the most part, a river adventure.

But — wow! — I think the cover for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE is the best yet. It’s stunning.

When my editor sent me the cover art and I opened it up for the first time, I was thrilled. It’s beautiful, and like my first two covers, it incorporates many of the design elements that we discussed early on. Noon’s clothing is different than it was on the first two covers. Instead of a bustier and cloak, she’s bundled up in a fur-lined hood and gloves for her trip into the dark parts of southern Halja. She’s graduated from a knife to a sword. It’s symbolic of how far she’s come as a character. (Whether or not the sword on the cover is actually the famed “White Heart of Justice” that Noon seeks in the book, I leave to readers to determine). And a fiery war bird circles her, another nod to her growing magic skills and a hint to readers that they will see magic used in new and different ways in book #3.

But the two things I love the most about this cover are its attention-grabbing, bright, bracing colors and Noon’s expression. Though she is looking down, she looks contemplative and strong, almost meditative. Appropriate for a character whose decisions have become more weighty with each book. Here’s the blurb…

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE

A Noon Onyx Novel

Since Lucifer claimed victory at Armageddon, demons, angels, and humans have coexisted in uneasy harmony. Those with waning magic are trained to maintain peace and order. But hostilities are never far from erupting…

After years of denying her abilities, Noon Onyx, the first woman in history to wield waning magic, has embraced her power. She’s won the right to compete in the prestigious Laurel Crown Race—an event that will not only earn her the respect of her peers but also, if she wins, the right to control her future.

However, Noon’s task is nearly impossible: retrieve the White Heart of Justice, a mythical sword that disappeared hundreds of years ago. The sword is rumored to be hidden in a dangerous region of Halja that she is unlikely to return from. But Noon’s life isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance. The sword holds an awesome power that, in the wrong hands, could reboot the apocalypse—and Noon is the only one who can prevent Armageddon from starting again…

Please Pre-Order and Add to Your Goodreads Shelf

Who else is participating

in the cover reveal?

Below are the other bloggers that are participating in the cover reveal. THANK YOU to each and every one of them! I am very grateful that they wanted to help share the new cover and spread the word about WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE. Please stop by to check out their sites, subscribe and/or follow them, and for more chances to win my cover reveal prizes. A big thank you to Roxanne Rhoads at Bewitching Book Tours, who helped to organize the cover reveal.

Prizes!

To celebrate the new cover, I am giving away a signed set of DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL (US only) and a $25 eGift Certificate to a book store of winner’s choice (international). To enter to win, click here.

So what do you think? Do you love the new cover as much as I do? Thank you for helping me share it!

Dark Tower: More Vintage Gaming

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board games

Are you old enough to have played Dark Tower as a kid? My husband’s birthday was last week and his mom surprised us by giving him a vintage Dark Tower game. Apparently, he and his brother and parents had spent many a night playing it decades ago. (As with King’s Quest, Dark Tower wasn’t a game I played as a kid. Inside, we played Risk, Monopoly, D&D, and various other video games. Outside, Kick the Can and Flashlight Tag). But, of course, I’ve heard of Dark Tower! Who could forget the Orson Welles commercial?

So we were all pretty excited to take a trip down nostalgia lane and play the game.

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board games

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board gamesAfter immediately losing two warriors to plague, I headed straight to the bazaar to buy a healer. I quickly added a scout to avoid getting lost and a beast to carry all my GOLD. Was cursed not once, not twice, but THRICE by my own family members!

Thought the fact that the battles with brigands and the dragon didn’t give me any experience was odd, but overall, I was pretty darn impressed with all the stuff the little computer inside the Dark Tower kept track of. For 1981, this game was ahead of its time.

Pegasus made a very late showing in our first game, after two players had already attacked the tower. (Had to wait for our second game for the elusive Dragonsword to come into play. And then my husband was the one who found it!)

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board games
I couldn’t resist a little “what if…?”

The first time I approached the Dark Tower (not having played before), I didn’t know what to expect. I laughed out loud when I saw that I’d tried to attack with only 6 warriors. (No less than 54 brigands were lying in wait). Other newbie mistakes I made? I starved some of my men out of ignorance. I found the way the game kept track of food confusing. I wasn’t paying attention (duh) to the “Death March” that had sounded at the beginning of my turns when I was running low on food.

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board games

By the end of my first game, I’d tried to storm the tower twice, but I never had enough men for the final battle. The good news? No one else won either. At 12:21 a.m., we threw in the towel. To be continued…

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board games

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board gamesHow about you? Did you ever play Dark Tower as a kid? Do you remember the commercials? What was your favorite game from the 80’s? If you missed my post about King’s Quest (vintage gaming on an IBM PC Jr.) and want to read, click here. Hope you’re all having a great week!

If Fiery Edge of Steel was made into a movie, who would I cast as Noon Onyx?

I’ve never answered the question of who I would cast as the lead characters in the Noon Onyx books if the books were made into movies. Mostly, it was due to the fact that no one actress came immediately to mind. But another reason is that I was reluctant to limit the character’s interpretation in that way. Books and movies are very different storytelling mediums. One of the amazing things about books is that readers can fill in the gaps of the story with their own imaginations. Part of me felt like if I said who I thought would make a great Noon, that’s who people would always visualize. But that’s ridiculous. And SO NOT FUN!

EJ over at From the Shadows asked me “the casting question” and this time, I had to answer it. So if you’re wondering who I would cast as Noon, Ari, and newcomer Rafe Sinclair, then check out today’s interview by clicking here. I talk about other stuff too, like when I started writing, what brought me to the paranormal genre, which supernatural talent I would want for my own, and why people will like Fiery Edge of Steel. And, of course, there’s a giveaway! Come comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Fiery Edge of Steel!

If you’ve read Dark Light of Day, I’d love to hear *your* thoughts on who would make a great Noon and Ari. Or you can tell me what you think of my choices and whether you’ve seen any of the MOVIES I reference. 😀

Hope to see you there! Have a great Wednesday!

One of the neatest things about Release Day: Friends sending you pictures of their recently delivered copies! Thanks, Dianne, for texting me this pic!!
One of the neatest things about Release Day: Friends sending you pictures of their recently delivered copies! Thanks, Dianne, for texting me this pic!!

Supernatural Smackdown, Tour Winners, and Cloud Atlas

Noon Onyx is Competing in Dark Faerie Tales Supernatural Smackdown!

This weekend, Noon is competing in Dark Faerie Tales Supernatural Smackdown. What’s a Supernatural Smackdown, you ask? It’s a really fun online cage match among a bunch of tough-as-nails paranormal characters. It was fun for me as a writer because this is the first post I’ve written from Noon’s perspective. And it’s tons of fun for readers because all of the posts have been great. If you are looking for a quick entertainment fix, stop by! There are prizes (I’m giving away a signed copy of Dark Light of Day and Fiery Edge of Steel) and other participating authors are offering terrific prizes as well.

While you’re there, you can VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTER. Being a pacifist at heart, Noon’s a little disadvantaged in this competition (she could use some online love to survive!). But, honestly, just check it out and vote for whoever — because all of the posts have been witty and well worth reading.

ARC and eGC Winners!

Thank you very much to everyone who participated in the exclusive excerpt tour for Fiery Edge of Steel. I really appreciated all of the comments, tweets, status updates, etc. It helps a lot to have readers spreading the word about new releases online. Bewitching Book Tours sent me the list of winners and prizes have either already been delivered or are on their way. Here are the winners:

eGift Certificate: Roger S.

ARCs: Ashley S., Carol A., Shannon R., Jennifer S., Sherry F., Megan M.

Cloud Atlas

I watched Cloud Atlas last night. Has anyone else seen it? What did you think of it? For the most part, I liked it. I’m usually able to follow complicated plots, but I have to admit that I was baffled and confused at times by the myriad story lines (the movie follows six separate stories set in 1849 South Pacific, 1936 England/Scotland, 1973 San Francisco, 2012 United Kingdom, 2144 Neo Seoul, and 2321 “The Big Island”). Since I’d be hard pressed (in the time I have to write this post) to come up with a decent description for this movie, I’m going to just quote IMDb, which says that Cloud Atlas is “an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.”

I definitely have to see this movie again. I’m sure I missed a lot in the first viewing because this film is so sprawling (not necessarily a bad thing). It’s feels all over the place in the beginning — and it is — in time, space, and plot. But one of the things that was interesting (although more confusing, because I was so distracted by the actors’ many different visual transformations) is that the same actors play different characters in each story line. Since this movie was based on a book (Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell) I found myself wondering why the filmmakers chose to make the film version of the story that way. I can’t imagine the choice was made for budgetary reasons. But I’m not sure I understand the creative choice. Were the filmmakers trying to underscore the book’s interconnectivity theme? I think there is some controversy surrounding the film and this choice, but I’ll have to wait until I have more time to look into it. Maybe some of you movie buffs can fill me in. The film reminded me of The Fountain and Tree of Life (although I admit, I was so tired during Tree of Life that I don’t even remember half of it). And there’s also a little bit of a Matrix vibe to the Neo Seoul 2144 storyline, which makes sense because the Wachowskis directed both.

Have you seen Cloud Atlas? What are your thoughts? Hope everyone’s having a great weekend!

Fiery Edge of Steel Exclusive Excerpt Tour: ARC Giveaways and More!

Fiery Edge of Steel is releasing at the end of this month — May 28th! To help spread the word about its release, I’m doing a six stop exclusive excerpt tour through Bewitching Book Tours. From today through May 11th, one part of Chapter 1 will be posted at each of the stops below. I’m giving away six signed ARCs (US only) and one $25.00 eGift Certificate to the bookstore of the winner’s choice (international) during this “teaser” tour. I’m ALSO giving away two more signed ARCs of Fiery Edge of Steel and two signed copies of Dark Light of Day from my site (US only). All you have to do to enter to win one of those is e-mail your US address to [archer at jillarcher dot com] by midnight EDT May 13th. Subject line should be the title of the book you are interested in. (You can say “both” :-D).

Fiery Edge of Steel

Exclusive Excerpt Tour

In writing Fiery Edge of Steel, I was inspired by a number of things, among them an old French imposter case, two children’s songs, and a fairy tale. I wanted to explore the themes of love, betrayal, knowledge, death, and duty. To set up those themes I could think of no better way to open the book than to recreate a Haljan version of the 16th century execution of Arnaud du Tilh, the man who impersonated the French peasant Martin Guerre. That recreation forms the basis for Chapter 1.

May 6th: Part One at Fang-tastic Books

May 7th: Part Two at Urban Girl Reader

May 8th: Part Three at Preternatura

May 9th: Part Four at Urban Fantasy Investigations

May 10th: Part Five at Rabid Reads

May 11th: Part Six at Romancing the Dark Side

Great First Reviews!

I was thrilled and excited to see that the first reviews for Fiery Edge of Steel were positive. In fact, I love what was said about the book and the series. I’m very grateful for any interest and thankful to everyone who takes the time to read and review.

“Archer delves deeper into the enticing and magical world of Dark Light of Day in this original and clever urban fantasy… Excitement and action leap from the pages as Archer’s skill with description pulls readers fully into her magical world.” — Publishers Weekly

“The second Noon Onyx story is an astounding adventure tale. Archer’s unique world, where Lucifer’s army triumphed at Armageddon, is filled with adherence to strict laws that keep an uneasy peace between races. This is proving to be a really fresh and fascinating series!” — RT Book Reviews

Noon Onyx is participating in a

Supernatural Smackdown

Does that sound hilarious and fun or what?!? I couldn’t resist saying I’d participate even though Noon’s character isn’t as kick a$$ as the characters she’ll be competing against. If you’re interested in seeing how a Supernatural Smackdown works, stop by Dark Faerie Tales (I’ll be taking notes along with you because this is the first one I’ve ever done!). And, if you want to vote for the underdog, come check out my post there on May 16th! (Yes, I’ll be sending out reminders. ;-))

More About the Noon Onyx Series

In Dark Light of Day, the first book in the series, Nouiomo “Noon” Onyx, a 21 year old post grad magic user, had to choose between death or training to become a demon peacekeeper. In Fiery Edge of Steel, Noon faces a different question.

The Noon Onyx series is a genre-bending fantasy series. The setting is post-apocalyptic, but it’s not dystopian fiction. In fact, Armageddon is old news. Demons have inherited the earth, but goodness and love still exist. In short, the series is for readers who adore adventure, passion, mystery, and magic.

I’ll be posting info and links to various other events in connection with Fiery Edge of Steel‘s release. And I’ll be posting more guest blogs from the fabulous authors who are participating in the Spring Into Summer Romance guest blog series. Behind the scenes, I am working feverishly (sometimes literally — dang spring colds!) on book #3.

I had a lot of fun writing Fiery Edge of Steel and I hope you enjoy reading it! Have a great week, everyone!
Jill Archer's Dark Light of DayJill Archer's Fiery Edge of Steel

King’s Quest: Vintage Gaming on an IBM PCjr

King's Quest, IBM PC Jr, vintage video game

Remember King’s Quest?

Truth be told, I don’t. We didn’t have an IBM PCjr. We had Atari. So I played Asteroids and Pitfall. But my husband played King’s Quest. And he still has the floppy disk. And he still has the IBM PCjr to play it on. The other night he loaded it up so that we could wax nostalgic about 80’s gaming and our kids could ogle at the vintage graphics and anxiously await the moment when the next screen would load. It was fun. Because it’s neat to remember the way things were and how far we’ve come.

IBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video gameIBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video gamingIBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video game

What was happening in the U.S. when kids were playing this?

  • Ronald Regan was President
  • Ma Bell was breaking up
  • Johnny Carson hosted the Oscars
  • World’s Fair held in New Orleans (I went)
  • Summer Olympics held in LA
  • MTV Music Awards started

IBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video game

What was happening in the tech world when kids were playing this?

  • Apple put the first Mac PC on sale
  • Sony and Philips introduce first commercial CD players
  • Sony made the first 3 ½” floppy disk

IBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video gamingIBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video gaming

Sources:

  • The People History
  • Wikipedia
  • King’s Quest: written by Roberta Williams, programming by Charles Tingley and Ken MacNeill, artwork by Doug MacNeill and Greg Rowland

King's Quest, IBM PC Jr, vintage video game

What about you? Do you have any vintage video games? Which ones? Did you play games in the 80’s? What were your favorites? Are you a gamer now? Do you have any vintage tech equipment? Hope everyone is doing well!

Crime Thriller Author John Lansing: How Working in Hollywood Helped His Novel Writing

Crime thriller author John Lansing is touring with Bewitching Book Tours to promote his debut novel The Devil’s Necktie. He discusses how his acting career and time spent writing for both television and film helped him to become a better novelist. He’s also giving away a Kindle 6 inch screen with WiFi at the end of his tour. Details are at the end of the post. Welcome, John!
crime thriller fiction The Devil's Necktie John Lansing

“Men make plans, God laughs.”

There may not be vampires or paranormal activity in, “The Devil’s Necktie,” but I think there’s enough sex, drugs and murder to keep things interesting.

I didn’t grow up dreaming about being a writer. It wasn’t even on my short list. But now in hindsight I do think writing books was a natural evolution from my time spent working in Hollywood.

My acting career helped inform the characters I wrote for, and about, and created, in my television work. The craft of acting helped me understand the emotional roadmap needed to flesh out complex characters, characters that will hopefully be compelling enough to maintain a reader’s interest.

My television work taught me discipline, writing on a schedule, collaboration, and it really hammered home the type of characters I enjoyed and wanted to invest my time with, characters that were interesting enough for me to spend a year of my life with, and again, hopefully keep an audience reading. Only you can tell me if I’ve succeeded at that and I look forward to hearing from you.

The most difficult part of my transition from television to novels was the writing itself. I had a wonderful partner, Bruce Cervi, who I co-wrote all of my television and film projects with, but now I was on my own. Just me, my computer, and my twenty-four pound poodle named Lucky.

The joy of writing my first novel was not having to adhere to a formula created by a television Pilot episode. I had total freedom to explore the psychology and behavior of not only my primary characters, but also my secondary tier. And I didn’t have to worry about satisfying a star’s ego or writing to commercial breaks.

I’ve always been drawn to flawed characters that were interested in reinventing themselves, who wanted a new life. Maybe because I’ve had such a varied career myself. I grew up in middle class suburbia. People worked for the same corporation or company, had the same vocation for their entire lives. Well that doesn’t fly anymore. We can all look forward to experiencing three or four different careers in our lifetime.

I wanted to write about a detective who was on the verge of change, who was recovering from a nasty divorce, retiring from the NYPD, leaving Staten Island, and starting over. The old Yiddish proverb pretty much nails it. “Men make plans, God laughs.” My protagonist, Jack Bertolino, chose to do all of those things; it just didn’t quite work out the way he planned. Twenty-five years of taking down drug dealers, money launderers and killers came back to bite him in the ass, and shook up his newfound sense of bliss in Marina del Rey, California. That was enough of a hook for me to write “The Devil’s Necktie.”

More About The Devil’s Necktie

A sizzling thriller for fans of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell. An exciting tour into the real-life world of cops, crime, and murder. Retired inspector Jack Bertolino had strict rules when dealing with confidential informants. But Mia had the kind of beauty that could make a grown man contemplate leaving his wife, his job, and his kids. After a passionate night together, Mia is found murdered – and Jack is the lead suspect. Facing threats from the LAPD, the 18th Street Angels, and a Columbian drug cartel, Jack delves deeper into the seedy world of drug dealers and murderers and discovers that the top players knew Mia personally. And now Jack is torn between fearing for his life and seeking revenge for his slain lover…either way, the body count will rise.

Where to buy

More About John

John Lansing
John Lansing

John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease.” He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows. During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop, Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. The Devil’s Necktie is his first novel. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

Where to find John online

More About the Contest

Kindle LansingAt the end of his virtual book tour, John is giving away one Kindle 6 inch screen with WiFi. If you’d like to enter to win, click here =>

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So, writers, have you had a another career that’s helped your writing in some way? Readers, what do you think of the saying “Men make plans; God laughs”? Too true at times, right? Thank you for guest blogging today, John!

#Movies: 3 Great Paranormal Movies and 1 “Pitch Perfect” Musical Comedy

Below are my thoughts on Looper, ParaNorman, Frankenweenie, and Pitch Perfect. Have you seen them? If so, share your thoughts in the comments!  Later this week, I’ll have some more guest bloggers with some terrific giveaways.

Despite different endings, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie have wonderfully similar messages
Despite different endings, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie have similar messages

Looper (time traveling assassin)

At times reminiscent of Terminator, Twelve Monkeys, and Inception, this film was fantastic. I know some reviewers have discussed the film’s time traveling paradoxes (and it’s true, some parts of the plot require an even greater willing suspension of disbelief than normally required for time travel movies), but the other parts of the film (the acting, the slightly futuristic 2044 Kansas world, and the surprisingly sentimental character motivations) make it all worthwhile. The only thing I was confused about was the sound of the crying baby when Old Joe was with his wife. If you’ve seen it, what do you make of that? Was that part of a plotline that was later abandoned?

ParaNorman (boy can speak with ghosts)

One Friday night during the holiday break, I took my youngest to see Parental Guidance, but it was sold out by the time we made it to the theater. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we came home and rented ParaNorman. I feel certain I would not have enjoyed Parental Guidance as much as I did ParaNorman. Because most of the movie up until the end was funny, the climatic ending scene between Norman and Aggie was more sad, scary, and serious than I expected it to be. But, of course, “scary” is relative. (Obviously, it’s not true horror and my eight year old was fine with it).

Frankenweenie (boy brings dog back from dead)

It’s Tim Burton so I wanted to see this immediately, but I wasn’t able to see it in the theater so I had to wait. Two things that had my kids hesitating over it was that it was all black & white and one of them thought it would be too sad. No doubt there were sad moments, but this movie was as wonderful as I thought it would be and everyone was glad I convinced them to watch. The whole family enjoyed it. It’s cute, funny, and not very scary.

Pitch Perfect (all girl a capella group competes in college competition)

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned how much I love watching movies about young performers. (Lemonade Mouth was adorable too and better suited to younger audiences). These kind of films are just pure fun. They require little to no thought to watch, they are not emotionally wrenching or graphically violent. They have no hard-core message. They are predictable, but that’s also why they aren’t stressful. Let’s see… what else can I say other than I thought Anna Camp and Rebel Wilson stole the show. They (and the musical numbers) were awesome! 😀

Final Thoughts – ParaNorman v. Frankenweenie (spoilers!)

It’s interesting to compare and contrast ParaNorman and Frankenweenie. Both films have outcast protagonists with no “real” friends. (Victor’s best friend is his dog and Norman spends more time interacting with ghosts than living people). So it was neat to see two very different possible endings for protagonists like them. In ParaNorman, the ordeal with the zombies and the witch leads Norman to integrate himself more fully into his family and community. Norman has a clear “real” friend by the end of the movie – Neil. I think, because I watched ParaNorman first, I kept thinking Frankenweenie would end similarly – with Victor peacefully accepting Sparky’s death, grateful that he had more time with him and/or was able to say goodbye, and then deciding to embrace a “real” friend – Edgar. So I was pleasantly surprised when Sparky lived and continued to be Victor’s best friend. For me, the underlying messages are the same: close relationships are the key to happiness. Who your relationship is with matters less than the fact that you have one.

Argo versus Lawless and 5 Movies to Consider for This Weekend

Movie Reviews

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post about movies! Anyone who remembers my movie posts from many moons ago will remember that I’m not a true reviewer – I’m a fan. I don’t rate them (except on Netflix) and my “reviews” are really just stream of consciousness notes about what I thought about them. That said, if I’m including a movie in one of my samplers, then I think it’s worth watching. Sometimes just because it’s fun or entertaining – and other times because you can learn something from it or it has a great message. SPOILER ALERT: This sampler’s full of spoilers. If you hate spoilers, watch the movies first and then come back to discuss! 😀

Argo

This was a fantastic movie. If you can’t see it in the theater, put it in your queue for later. For starters, Ben Affleck! I love him, always have, even in some of his choices that weren’t as commercially or critically successful. When he came out with The Town in 2010 I wanted to track him down and give him a high-five. (If you haven’t seen that movie yet, what are you waiting for? Rent it tonight!) So… Argo… It was tense, somber, and serious. Affleck deftly set up the historical background of the story (a 1980 joint Canadian-American covert rescue of six American diplomats in Iran during the time of the Iran hostage crises) and then immediately immersed viewers into this compelling drama of survival and rescue. But what sets this movie apart from other spy thrillers, survival stories, and rescue missions is the movie’s use of its true life inspirational sources. The movie was based on an event called the “Canadian Caper.” Since a “caper” is a lighthearted prank or trick, one would assume a modern-day filmmaker creating a film about at-risk diplomats in the middle east wouldn’t even try to work in all the mental associations that the word “caper” brings to mind. Not so. I found the film’s Hollywood set scenes just as engaging – in entirely different ways – as the Iranian set scenes.

Possession

This is an older movie that I streamed because I wanted to take a look again at the way the parallel plot was structured. I’d remembered this movie as being sweet and entertaining. (I remembered correctly). It stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the British scholar Maud Bailey and Aaron Eckhart as the American scholar Roland Michell. Over the course of the film the two research the possibility of a romance between two fictitious Victorian-era poets. The film alternates between the two modern-day characters hunting for clues and the two poets living in the late 1800’s. The film does a great job of switching between the two timelines, while teasing out the mystery elements (with both clues and further unanswered questions provided at just the right moments) and the romantic elements in each of the two lovers’ stories. Who would like this film? Anyone who likes quieter romances, period pieces, and literary mysteries.

Moonrise Kingdom

When I saw the trailer for this, I *had* to rent it. It had quirky written all over it, it’s directed by Wes Anderson, and it has a terrific cast (Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman)! If you liked The Life Aquatic or The Royal Tennebaums or you like slightly offbeat coming-of-age movies and/or odd or unusual romances (Amelie or Benny & Joon), this is a movie you should see. I loved the look of the film (the scenes and costumes had a sort of vintage, cartoonish look to them), the way in which the story was told (likely a Wes Anderson hallmark I could spend an entire post trying to analyze), and the acting by both of the young stars who play the main leads (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward). Suzy, the character, has her faults, but oh – how I adored her expressions! Hayward pulled off haughty-yet-vulnerable to a tee.

A Cat In Paris

My whole family watched this one Friday night. Everyone enjoyed it. If you’re looking for an animated film that doesn’t feel like it’s just another regurgitated Disney plot, this is one to consider. The English speaking cast included Anjelica Houston, Marcia Gay Harden, and Mathew Modine. I don’t know anything about art or music, but both the noir-ish animation and the jazz soundtrack contributed to the welcome unfamiliar feel of this movie. The artwork seemed to have sharper edges than a Disney or Pixar film might and the soundtrack featured Billie Holiday instead of cast members singing songs made for the movie. The story also felt different. I very much liked it, but couldn’t help laughing good-naturedly over the almost too easy ending. How likely is it that Claudine (a cop) and Nico (a cat burglar) would ever get together in real life?

Lawless

Brutal and violent, not my usual top choice, but it was a good movie. Worth seeing. As a writer you can’t help but muse about how you might have told the story differently. I don’t have any huge criticisms, just small gripes based on personal taste. Maybe it was late, but I missed a big theme or message. Answering the question What’s this movie really about? would have catapulted this movie from “B” to “A” for me. It was based on a true story, so that’s what it was about, but even so, lots of filmmakers have used true stories as inspiration to make a statement about something. Also, I might have chosen only one hero – and that hero would have been Forest Bondurant. While I found Jack Bondurant’s growth arc compelling (and Shia LaBeouf’s acting excellent), it was predictable. Three minutes in I pegged him as Michael Corleone. Forest, however, was a potentially mythical character. All the talk of the Bondurants’ invincibility and Forest’s immortality, well, maybe’s it’s my love of fantasy, but I would *loved* to have seen the filmmakers make more of that. Lastly, the epilogue ending. Was that really needed? I could have done without the frozen pond scene and the voice over of reality at the end.

Final Thoughts: Argo v. Lawless

Why did I like Argo so much more than Lawless? They were each based on true stories. Each were set against a backdrop of violence. Hmm… I’m still thinking over this, but I think for a few reasons. First, Argo had an unquestionable hero – Tony Mendez. Second, it had a message: do the right thing, even when the likelihood of succeeding seems impossible. The movie underscored all of the risks everyone took to rescue the diplomats: the Canadian Ambassador and his wife, their Iranian maid, and Tony Mendez. But when Mendez made the decision to continue with the rescue despite Washington having cancelled the operation, that was a heroic moment. That, for me, was the defining moment of the film. Third, Affleck’s use of humor in Argo was nothing short of genius level work whereas Lawless was completely humorless, which was fine because it was a dark story. But that’s why I loved Argo more. It too was a dark story, but it seemed to use humor to illustrate another message: sometimes, laughter and an appreciation of the absurd can be a lifeline –the difference between life and death.

So, how about you? Have you seen any of these movies? What did you think? Have you seen any other movies that we should consider watching this weekend? If so, let us know in the comments. Best wishes for a wonderful weekend with lots of movie watching, book reading, holiday shopping or whatever it is that makes you happy! 😀

Cover Reveal: Fiery Edge of Steel, Noon Onyx Book #2

Today, I’m excited to share with you the fantastic new cover for Fiery Edge of Steel, the second book in the Noon Onyx series. Check it out below and then stick around for my thoughts and a chance to celebrate and win some terrific prizes!

fantasy, new adult, post-apocalyptic

Cover Artist: Jason Chan

Art Director: Lesley Worrell

I have to admit that when my editor first confided that they changed the cover artist, I was wary. I really loved the cover for Dark Light of Day and it had been well received. But this second cover is terrific! As with the first cover, I love the clothing details and the expression on Noon’s face. That’s one of the neatest things about having two different cover artists. Having the opportunity to see the character interpreted two different ways. And each interpretation has perfectly fit the character within the book.

Noon looks bolder and more confident on the cover of Fiery Edge of Steel. And, of course, I love the dramatic fiery knife, moody sky, and troubled waters behind her. But my favorite part is the way the glow from the knife is reflected on her face and clothes. I often complain that covers just aren’t the same digitally as they are in print, but this cover works incredibly well on the screen. In fact, it almost looks like a lenticular print. (Go ahead, lean back in your chair and see how Noon’s face disappears in the shadows. Neat, huh?)

For those of you that like cover details, I’ll also share that Noon is standing in front of the New Babylon docks. She’s holding a filleting knife that’s made of fire and waning magic. Where is she headed? The Shallows, a swampy outpost far to the east of St. Lucifer’s. Here’s the blurb for book #2:

Fiery Edge of Steel

Lucifer and his army triumphed at Armageddon, leaving humans and demons living in uncertain peace based on sacrifice and strict laws. It is up to those with mixed demon and human blood, the Host, to prevent society from falling into anarchy.

Noon Onyx is the first female Host in memory to wield the destructive waning magic that is used to maintain order among the demons. Her unique abilities, paired with a lack of control and reluctance to kill, have branded her as an outsider from her peers. Only her powerful lover, Ari Carmine, and a roguish and mysterious Angel, Rafe Sinclair, support her unconventional ways.

When Noon is shipped off to a remote outpost to investigate several unusual disappearances, a task which will most likely involve trying and killing the patron demon of that area, it seems Luck is not on her side. But when the outpost settlers claim that an ancient and evil foe has stepped out of legend to commit the crimes, Noon realizes that she could be facing something much worse than she ever imagined…

Celebrating the New Cover – Prizes!

In celebration of Noon’s new cover, Bewitching Book Tours helped me organize a cover reveal giveaway. There are some terrific prizes! For U.S. participants, I’m giving away signed copies of J.D. Robb’s Delusion in Death (hardcover), Sara Humphries’ Unleashed (mass market paperback), Addison Fox’s Warrior Enchanted (mass market paperback), and Dark Light of Day (mass market paperback). For international participants, I’m giving away one $10 eGift Certificate to either Barnes & Noble or Amazon, winner’s choice. See the Rafflecopter form: a Rafflecopter giveaway or the Bewitching Book Tours website for details on how to enter the giveaway.

Fiery Edge of Steel is available for pre-order now

It will be released May 28, 2013

Goodreads and Pre-Order Links

Who else is participating in the cover reveal?

Thank you to all of the cover reveal participants! Earn extra entries by visiting additional stops. 🙂

So, what do you all think?

Do you love Noon’s new cover as much as I do?😀

Book Signing at Turn the Page with Nora Roberts, et al.

Sidewalk in front of Nora Roberts' bookstore

Dark Light of Day Promo Poster
Display window at Turn the Page. I LOVED the DLOD poster my publicist made for the signing and sent ahead! (Thanks, Brad!)

Book Signing at Turn the Page in Boonsboro, Md

This past Saturday I participated in a once-in-a-lifetime multi-author event at Turn the Page bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland with Nora Roberts and four other authors. The “once-in-a-lifetime” remark referring to me, of course, because Nora does these events quite frequently! Still, this one felt special. In addition to the fans, there were artists out painting on the sidewalk and at least two news crews present. Click here to read more about the local artists en plein air painting during the signing. Click here for a quick 50 second pre-signing video interview of me by romance writer and blogger, Sara Humphreys.

Romance book signing in Boonsboro, Maryland

Multi-Author Event at Turn the Page Bookstore

Turn the Page is Nora’s own bookstore. It’s managed by the wonderful Janeen Solberg and stocks every title Nora has ever written (over 200!), local history books, autographed books (including Dark Light of Day now), and gifts. Nora was signing The Perfect Hope, which is the third book in her Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy, inspired by the bed and breakfast that Nora renovated. The Inn BoonsBoro is right across the street from the bookstore. Each room is named, themed, and appropriately decorated based on a famous romance couple from literature (for example, Marguerite and Percy from The Scarlett Pimpernel; Elizabeth and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice; and Eve and Roarke from the “In Death” novels).

The town of Boonsboro is charming. I only had time for a quick coffee at the Icing Bakery & Cafe, but my friends met up at Dan’s Restaurant & TapHouse for drinks and a bite to eat while they waited for their ticket time. (Yep, there were that many fans at the signing. Over 300 people came! Luckily, the bookstore is used to managing large crowds and Nora’s readers were patient about waiting, excited to meet her, and as enthusiastic to be a part of the event as the rest of us. We authors ate well too. Janeen and her staff ordered pizza from Vesta’s for us. :-D)

Dark Light of Day book signing at Turn the Page

Great Friends

As with my book signing at New York Comic Con, I was incredibly lucky to have a pack of girlfriends come for the event. Some of these ladies woke up at 7:00 a.m. and drove nearly two hours to attend the book signing. They were as thrilled as I was about the event and had just as good a time.
Jill Archer and friends at book signing

Jill Archer and friends at Boonsboro book signing

Jill Archer signing copies of Dark Light of Day

Terrific Authors

In addition to Nora Roberts and me, there were four other authors at the signing:

  • Sara Humphreys: Author of Unleashed and the Amoveo Legend books (“What if you suddenly discovered your own powers were beyond anything you’d ever imagined…”)
  • Addison Fox: Author of Warrior Enchanted (“Their power: a millenia-old force derived from the zodiac; Their mission: Protect humanity from the darkest of evils.”)
  • S.A. Van: Author of CounterPlay (“Deceit and obsession have met their match.”)
  • Katrina Shelley: Author of Timeless Melody (a time travel Civil War romance featuring heroine Lyric Taylor)

I bought signed books from each of them, and Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, which I’ll use for future giveaways — so, even if you weren’t able to make it, you’ll still have a chance to win some of the signed books that were being offered at the event.

Book signing at Turn the Page
Jill Archer, Addison Fox, and Sara Humphreys
Author book signing in Boonsboro, Maryland
Jill Archer and Nora Roberts

Wanna see a fun wrap up video montage of the event put together by Sara Humphreys? Click here. This is the LAST WEEK I’ll be posting about Dark Light of Day. I’m wrapping up the blog tour and will be awarding tour-wide prizes next week!

Have you hosted or attended any good book signings lately? Have you been to Boonsboro, Maryland? Do you like small towns? How about cozy bookstores and historic inns in small towns? (Who doesn’t, right?) I hope everyone had a good weekend. I know some people are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy. I was glad the marathon was called off and that more people have power now. If you haven’t already, consider donating to one of these relief organizations (or your own favorite): Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army, or the Humane Society. I already gave to the Red Cross, but I’d love to give to the Humane Society too. If you’re an animal lover and want to add to my contribution, just post a comment below. I’ll donate an extra dollar for every comment left until midnight E.S.T. November 13, 2012, up to $50.00. (I don’t think I’ve ever had 50 comments on a post! Who knows? This could be the one! 😀)

NEW YORK COMIC CON Pt. 2: First Book Signing and NYC!

Jill Archer signing Dark Light of Day at New York Comic Con
My first book signing was terrific! I loved meeting everyone!!

This past weekend I attended the New York Comic Con for the first time. Every bit of it was fun, but my favorite parts were meeting new people and hanging out with old friends.

First Signing at the Ace/Roc Booth

Terrific People

There are a few special people who I wanted to thank for making the book signing such a great event: my editor, Jessica Wade; my publicist, Brad Brownson; and my girlfriends from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey who came to New York (with their own copies of DLOD!) to be at the signing with me. We’ve been friends since college and have been through all sorts of life events together: graduations, first jobs, change of careers, marriages, divorce, kids, countless moves, shared vacations, family crises, and celebrations of every kind.

My editor, Jessica, and I at the Ace/Roc Booth
Can you tell it was about a thousand degrees in there?
What was I thinking wearing a sweater?!
My publicist, Brad, and I on the floor
AMICITIAS IMMORTALES ESSE OPPORTET 😀

Out on the Town

After the book signing on Saturday, my friends and I took full advantage of our weekend getaway! We celebrated and got caught up on personal news. Everyone’s lives are so busy these days, a weekend away is a nice luxury. We started the night off with drinks at NIOS Restaurant at The Muse and then wandered over to The Bar at Dream and then up to the Ava Lounge, which was every bit as glamorous as its namesake, Ava Gardner, with retro decor and panoramic views of the New York skyline. We spent so much time sipping cocktails we missed our original dinner reservation. Instead, we squeaked into Molyvos just before they closed the kitchen. That spur of the moment decision was one of the best of the night! The five of us were famished and we ended up sharing all sorts of wonderful, but difficult to pronounce, dishes like tzatziki, keftedes, spanakopita, and lavraki plaki. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at St. Andrews. Why? ‘Cause it was on the way and they were playing good music. Too soon the weekend was over. Back to Maryland and Noon Onyx’s book #3! 😀

See ya next year, NYCC!
So long, NYC!

If you missed me at NYCC, I’m doing one more book signing for Dark Light of Day. On November 3rd from 12:00-2:00 I’m going to be signing books at a multi-author event featuring Nora Roberts at her bookstore, Turn the Page, in Boonsboro, Maryland. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Top Ten Romantic Halloween Movies

Snowtober 2011
Remember Snowtober? It was neat, but I’m glad it doesn’t happen every year!
Snow storm
Normally I don’t look this happy when scraping snow off my car…
but a snowstorm in October was worth a grin!

Tomorrow, I’ll be at NYCC but I’ll also be over at Book Lovers Hideaway for their Halloween Spooktacular. Because I’ve missed doing my movie reviews lately (and maybe you have too), I put together a Top Ten List of “Romantic” Halloween Movies. Plan a movie marathon for this weekend or just pick one to watch after handing out all the candy on 10/31! Stop by and tell me which one is your favorite – or add your own suggestions. You know how much I love movie recommendations!

NYCC Update

I was excited to find out that they added a new panel at NYCC for Saturday on genre-bending novels, which includes Dark Light of Day:

GENRE-BENDERS: Out-of-the-box Science-Fiction and Fantasy Novels that blur the lines of fantasy, SF, horror, romance, steampunk, you name it! Join authors in a discussion about stories that can’t be bound by the constraints of any genre. Whether mixing elements of romance with horror, or fantasy with thrillers, these authors show that a good tale can be spun from multiple traditions. Saturday, October 13th, 2:45–3:45 PM, 1A01

Have a great weekend, everyone! I’ll be posting again on Tuesday!

2012 Fall Into Winter Darkness Book Blast!

Fall into reading
If she can do it, so can you. What’s your excuse for not reading more? 😀

Starting this Saturday, I’m going to be hosting another round of guest bloggers interspersed with an author interview or two.  Darker days means darker stories and I’m happy to report that this round of writers is just as diverse as the last. If all goes well, we’ll be hearing from authors who write urban fantasy, dark paranormal, horror, even non-fiction — one author has compiled a collection of local ghost stories to share. Morgan Keyes, author of Darkbeast, a middle grade fantasy that was just released from Simon & Schuster yesterday, will get us started. She’s going to be giving away a copy of Darkbeast to one lucky commenter.

Hope to see you here this weekend… and throughout the fall!

4 Movies You Should Rent or Stream and My Favorite Summer Movie

Former Movie Theaters
This is why I buy lots of movie concession stand food and patronize local theaters. This “Surf Mall” in Ocean City, NJ was once a movie theater. (Okay, I really love Sour Patch Kids too… and Twizzlers… and popcorn… so it’s not exactly a hardship).

While I was in the midst of edits for Dark Light of Day and finishing up the second Noon Onyx book, I was in a massive dry spell of movie viewing. So the minute I handed in that second book I went on a movie watching binge. I rented them at home and tried to see as many as I could in the theater this summer. (I have a feeling another dry spell is approaching! ;-))

So the “reviews” that follow are really just my thoughts on a bunch of movies that I had fun watching. If any of you saw them too and want to discuss, please tell me your thoughts in the comments. If you saw other ones that are worth seeing, let me know! If you disagree with my thoughts, let me know! Half the fun of watching movies is comparing notes after. So here they are in no particular order:

Secret World of Arrietty

Watched this with my kids. Simply adored it. When I was a kid, I loved reading The Littles. This movie reminded me a bit of those stories, but possibly even better. Why? Well, for one, I am a huge Hayao Miyazaki fan. He did the screenplay. (He was also the director for these fantastic movies:  Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and Ponyo, as well as many others). I also loved the relationship between the two main characters, which was sweet and touching. And I loved how some of the scenes in the movie celebrated nature.

Are you a Hayao Miyazaki fan? If so, what’s your favorite movie of his?

First Position

This is a terrific documentary that focuses on the lives of six ballet dancers ranging in age from nine to nineteen as they prepare to compete in one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world. It is an inside look at the life of those who dedicate themselves to this discipline, showing both the good and bad. Usually I watch documentaries in pieces as I do stuff around my house, but the whole family watched this one start to finish one Friday night. It was compelling and gave us something meaty to discuss. My oldest was fascinated by the dancers’ talent and dedication, but I’m honestly not sure I could put my kid through that kind of rigorous life. There’s a fine line between pushing and supporting.

If you or your child had that kind of talent, how would you handle it?

Giant Mechanical Man

I would put this movie squarely in the “quirky romance” category, which I love. The characters were fantastic, especially the title character Tim, who performs as a giant mechanical man because he feels like “modern life can be alienating. It can be like you’re mindlessly walking through it, like a robot.” And he wanted people to know that they aren’t crazy. That they’re not alone. So he created an alter ego, this silver-painted, stilts-wearing street performer. Jenna Fischer (of The Office fame) plays the other main character, Janice, who’s down on her luck and living with her sister. Topher Grace’s portrayal of a massively self-centered, egotistical author was funny too.

Do you like quirky romances? What are some of your favorites?

John Carter

I have to admit, the poor reviews had me staying away at first. But then Katy Hulme, the Storytelling Nomad, said how much she liked it, so I figured I should at least give it a try. While John Carter may not be my favorite movie of the year, I enjoyed it and was glad I watched it. For anyone who likes science fiction or fantasy, you should give it a go. Watch with an open mind. I would *love* to hear other people’s thoughts on this, but my take on why it didn’t do better is (1) it was set on Mars. The story seems a little too fantastical for Mars these days (A Princess of Mars, the story upon which the movie was based, was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in the early twentieth century); and (2) its title was confusing. Unlike Spiderman or Tarzan, the name “John Carter” isn’t immediately recognizable outside of the SF/F fan community.

Did you see John Carter? What did you think? Why do you think the movie wasn’t more successful?

Summer Blockbusters

At the beginning of the summer season, I predicted the movie I would love the most was Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Self-prognosticating usually doesn’t go as well for me, but I’m happy to report that, after seeing all of the “big ones,” Prometheus was indeed my favorite. Why? Hmm… I guess because, one, I loved Noomi Rapace’s character (man, was she fierce or what?! And yet vulnerable too. My favorite type of heroine.) Two, I LOVE movies that combine big special effects and awesome SF/F settings with a little mind-bending “what if?” I like movies that entertain, but also allow you to think. Prometheus was also a fantastic action movie, with a little mysticism thrown in for good measure. How could it not be my favorite movie of the summer?

Which SF/F films have made you think and, if so, what about?

Forget about The Endless Summer. Don’t we all just want endless popcorn… and endless movies? Thankfully, Oscar season is just around the corner! 😀

Four Fun Movies to Consider for this Weekend

In between my last movie sampler (back in January!) and this one, I saw lots of Oscar nominated movies and, of course, I saw the Hunger Games. But all of those movies have been reviewed a million times by now and most of them require a huge emotional commitment. The movies below, on the other hand, deserve late mentions as movies worth watching — especially if you are looking for something light and fun that you don’t have to think too much about.

Have you seen any of these movies?

Footloose

After the aforementioned Oscar nominated films, and then Anonymous and Drive (!!) I just wanted something frivolous. This 1984 do-over was perfect. I didn’t realize until I watched this ‘modernized’ 2011 version how much of the movie would NOT change. Entire sequences and whole portions of dialog were faithfully reproduced. Sure, now Ren has an i-pod and they race school buses instead of tractors. Honest Kids and Barbie now have prominent product placements. But the basic story is unchanged. I guess the story of a small town outlawing dancing is timeless. Nobody puts Baby in the corner! 😉

In Time

So this movie made me desperately want two things: an arm full of glowing green numbers that would tell me I could live forever and Amanda Seyfried’s ability to run in heels. Wow. Even on a sandy beach! Was that just masterful editing or is she just that good? I don’t agree with everything Melissa at Film Corner! said (I never thought the movie had any ‘profound existential and justice commentary’ to be undermined in the first place), but her post reviewing this movie was hilarious for pointing out the metaphor of huge clocks and huge… ahem, well, something else that rhymes with clocks.

Real Steel

Robot Rocky or Transformers meets Terminator 2 (the one where the Terminator kinda acts like a dad to John Connor… the one where Sarah Connor says, “Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up”), doesn’t matter how you describe it, it’s ALL good. Hugh Jackman and Evangeline Lilly had some decent chemistry together too. But, of course, their chemistry’s not the chemistry that counts in this story. It’s really the story of a boy and his robot. Well, the story of a boy, his robot, and his dad. Okay, fine. It’s really the story of a boy, his robot, his dad, and the girl who owns the gym where they all live…

Soul Kitchen

I guess I’m just a sucker for these foreign foodie films. What is it about them that is so enjoyable? This one’s about German restaurant owner, Zinos, and his romantic, fraternal, culinary, and entrepreneurial struggles. All of the characters are wonderfully eccentric: Zinos’ shady brother Illias, his less-than-loyal girlfriend Nadine, his new  egocentric chef Shayn, and the local patrons who truly love the bad food Zinos serves… The movie is cute and comical with a few scenes that are so over the top you can’t help but laugh out loud at the audacity of the filmmakers.

How about you? Have you seen any of these movies? What did you think of them? Have you seen any other fun and/or  completely un-thought provoking movies lately? If so, I want to hear about them! Have a great weekend, all!

Why I Blog — Some Foodie Metaphors for Thought

Blog posts are like butlered apps at the internet cocktail party

Today’s post is about why I blog, who I’ve connected with, a thank you to readers, a celebration of how many countries I’ve managed to reach, and an open invite to people I haven’t yet found.

Creative Intermezzo

Foodgeeks defines an intermezzo as something that “cleanses the palate in between courses.” It’s something you consume that is “small, light, and refreshing.” Writing a novel takes a long time. (Sometimes, longer than you want it to!) For me, the process is quite lengthy. There’s all the prep work: designing characters & settings, creating premises & plots, thinking up all that GMC, writing the synopsis, first draft, second draft… You get the idea. It takes FOREVER. Sometimes, I just want to read something that gives me a quick, refreshing break. Someone else’s blog post, especially if it’s about something I’m interested in, is perfect!

Amuse Bouche

An amuse bouche is an “amusement for the mouth.” It’s served at the very beginning of a meal, not in between courses. Instead of cleansing the palate as an intermezzo would, the amuse bouche seeks to invigorate it. More than the intermezzo, the amuse bouche seems to be a reflection of the chef’s tastes or current interests. But unlike appetizers or intermezzos where guests may be offered some choice, all guests are served the same amuse bouche. As One Chef’s Odyssey said, selection of the amuse bouche is determined entirely by “the Chef’s discretion and creativity.” Sometimes (when I’m in the mood to use fancy food words in lieu of actually cooking), I think of my blog posts as amuse bouches. I try to be creative in what I offer and each post gives guests a peek at my writer’s voice and life interests. Hopefully, visitors will also find them invigorating!

Some of the Interesting People I’ve Found So Far

Yesterday I posted my answers to fellow blogger Justjacqui2‘s excellent questions in the 11 Questions Game. It was a fun exercise and also a chance to highlight some of the interesting blogs I’ve found since I started blogging. Since I first “went live” with this blog five months ago, I’ve connected with all sorts of fascinating people: writers, book reviewers, movie reviewers, poets, life enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and documentary filmmakers. It’s been great!!

I want to give a late shout out to a blog I should have tagged yesterday and didn’t: the Storytelling Nomad, written by Katy Hulme from down under, who recently traveled through five European countries in four weeks, posting an A-Z blog series the entire way. Her posts were charming and informative, accompanied by great pics, and well worth reading. Katy is currently working on her first fantasy novel. I told her I hope she keeps us updated on her new journey through future blog updates! (For all of you women fantasy writers and fans of female fantasy protags, she wrote a great article, Heroes and Heroines: Females in Fantasy, which can be found here).

Thank You to Followers and Blog Readers — 40+ Countries is Awesome!!!

Part of today’s post is also a huge THANK YOU to readers. I’m extremely grateful for each and every subscriber. I’m also happy to see that this blog is reaching an international audience. How thrilling it’s been for me to see visits from people in:

Australia, Austria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam

Future Connections

If you have a blog (or any other online presence) focusing on any of the areas below, feel free to ‘like’ this post or comment below so that I can find you!

  • Books: Are you a writer? Avid reader? Do you love fantasy, science fiction, supernatural thrillers, romance, and/or mysteries?
  • Movies: Do you love to watch movies? Review them? Are you a screenwriter or independent filmmaker?
  • Outdoor Adventures: I’ll admit, I can be an armchair warrior at times, but my family is into recreational flying and in the summer we like to hike, bike, boat, and camp.
  • Interesting Career or Hobby: Do you have an interesting career or hobby? Something that’s unusual or unique that people might be interested in learning more about? If so, please e-mail me or get in touch with me through my contact page. I’d love to discuss the possibility of interviewing you.
  • Authors: I’d love to start working in guest posts and more author interviews. If you are interested, please contact me. If we both feel the fit is right, it would be great to discuss a possible future post!

What about you? Do you blog? If so, why? If not, why not? Have any recommendations about who I should be connecting with? Are you a blogger that blogs about books, movies, outdoor adventures, or anything else that I might find inspiring? If so, give yourself a shout out.  I’d love to connect with you!