#WritersLife: Ed Hoornaert (a.k.a. Mr. Valentine) shares his 5 PHOTOS (adorable animal pics, an update on my garden, and more!! :-D)

My guest today is Ed Hoornaert, a former principal oboist and current romance writer, who shares his Five “Writer’s Life” Photographs. I couldn’t resist adding a couple of mine. Loved this post and hope you do too!

Something that represents something unique about you

Two things about this pic. First, the beautiful lady is Judi, my high school sweetheart whom I married a week after graduation. We’re still living the HEA 48 years later. Lordy, I’m getting old.

Second, my first teaching job was a one-room school on isolated Gilford Island in British Columbia. Judi and I had to fly in on a floatplane; we had no television or radio reception; people lived on floathouses; and since there were no roads, the students came to school on a schoolboat.  A fisherman tamed the island’s deer and threatened to shoot anyone who hunted them—and people believed him. Judi is feeding a carrot to Sassy.

Jill: That is so neat! Gilford Island sounds beautiful, quaint, and charming (all except the man who threatened to shoot people 😉 ). The picture of Judi and Sassy reminded me of one my husband took of me a while ago in western Pennsylvania.

Something that represents where you live

Since I now live in Arizona, I considered a saguaro cactus or maybe the Grand Canyon—but no, too predictable. Instead, here’s a sunset pic taken from my front yard, with a mesquite tree in the foreground and palms in the background.  Sunset colors are caused by light filtered through particles in the air. Deserts have lots of dust, hence spectacular sunsets.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Behold my dog Twiggles, a tailless schnoodle whom we adopted from an animal rescue organization three years ago. Although she’s terrible at walking on a leash, she’s tempered, friendly, and loves my three-year-old grandson. We’ve had many dogs over the years, but Twiggles is one of the best.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Weeds! We have a corner lot with much space for errant plants, and I feel a modicum of pressure not to have the crummiest place in the neighborhood. You might think the southern Arizona desert wouldn’t support many weeds, but you’d be wrong. It’s a lush desert, with almost too much rain to be classified a desert. Weeds grow like, well, like weeds.

Jill: Weeding was a popular answer for this question this summer. (See Diane Burton’s and Renee Regent’s 5 Photos post.) I get it! Weeding drives everyone nuts!! In Diane’s post, I shard that the weeds in our back garden were so bad, we decided to just plant grass back there this year and take the summer off from growing our own vegetables. The grass is coming along. We planted morning glories along the fence (still growing) and there’s some mint left from the herb patch we had. Next summer, we’ll probably turn that area back into a vegetable garden, but some other ideas we toyed with were more bees, chickens, goats (I don’t think there’s enough room), and making the whole thing one big strawberry patch.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

This is a picture of a picture on my music room wall, my lone souvenir of the last time I performed a solo concerto. I’ve been a musician far longer than I’ve been a writer, serving as principal oboist of one orchestra or another for 40 years. As I said above, I’m getting old. These days I play for fun, not money. This weekend, we played Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes and Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony—and I loved every minute of it.

Jill: Awesome!! That’s fantastic that you still enjoy performing. Have you seen Mozart in the Jungle? I started watching and enjoyed the episodes I saw, but I’m very behind. If you’ve seen it, wondering what you think…?

 

The Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

She was born to kill. Not love.

Jo Beaverpaw is born fully grown, well-armed, and impatient to tackle her destiny … which is to kill her alien nation’s most wanted fugitive. Her life is pre-programmed and straightforward – until she meets the sexy bodyguard of her intended target.

Wonder what would happen if Schwarzenegger’s robot assassin in the original Terminator had been a bad-assed (yet petite) female?  Find out in Newborn.

What are you working on next?

The fourth novel in my Alien Contact for Idiots series is tentatively titled Rescuing Prince Charming.  Although it follows Newborn, both books stand alone.  The manuscript has been a real problem child; this is my third attempt to salvage it.  Sigh.

Jill: I feel like all of my manuscripts were problem children. 😀

What are you currently reading?

Unsportsmanlike Conduct by Sophia Henry, a New Adult novel that blends two things I love: hockey and romance.  So far I’m extremely impressed.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

I recently finished watching seasons one through nine of Murdoch Mysteries.  In general, though, I don’t watch much TV.  I’d rather spend the time writing.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Standing out from the hordes of books and authors to get an audience.

How can we meet that challenge?

When I figure that out, I’ll let you know.

You can find Ed online here: 

Thanks, Ed, for guest blogging today!

Advertisements

Ann Gimpel on Seasons of Change

Just got back from a long weekend in Florida. Terrific trip but the airports were nuts. One cancelled flight due to Niko, one delay to address a maintenance issue, another due to lightning in a connecting city… so Ann’s weather-related guest post is particularly timely. Stay safe, everyone!


“Weather is a potent element in fiction.”

I’m a four-season gal, myself. I like cold winters, balmy springs where things are coming alive again, and long, languid falls with that crispness in the air that promises winter is just around the corner. The only season I’m not crazy about is summer. I’ve never liked heat much, so thirteen years ago we moved to the mountains. The first few years were great, but the advent of climate change has brought ninety degree days to the High Sierra. I’m not terribly pleased about that, but there’s not much I can do, either. One good thing is that at eight thousand feet elevation where I live, it always cools off at night.

Weather is a potent element in fiction. It can actually be a character in its own right. I’ve written some books where the weather was one of the antagonists. Quite aside from that, there’s something delightful about misty, foggy moorlands. Or rainy, blustery days. Real people have to deal with weather, so story characters should have to as well. It makes the book seem more real, at least to me.

Writing convincingly about weather is a challenge. After all, how many ways can you describe a blizzard? It turns out, there are a whole bunch of them. And what a wonderful opportunity to show the reader watery eyes, shivers, frosty whiskers, and half-frozen fingers and toes. It’s impossible to write a whole book from a “show” perspective, plus it would be exhausting to read. But there are tricks that can make a manuscript come alive to a reader’s senses. Weather is one of them. Smell is another. The world smells different after a winter rain than it does after a gentle spring shower. Writers who pay attention to their surroundings come up with the best descriptions of how their characters react to elements in their environments. Maybe it’s clichéd, but Margaret Mitchell’s description of Atlanta burning in Gone With the Wind is amazing. I could almost smell the smoke reading it as a thirteen year old long after lights-out by flashlight under the covers.

I’m not quite old enough to remember when families gathered around the radio, because TV either hadn’t been invented, or was in its infancy. I have, however, listened to some old radio programs like Mystery Theater. Radio used a lot of sound effects, many of them weather-related. There was the patter of rain, the whoosh of wind, and people huffing and puffing against a storm in progress.

How about you? What’s your favorite season and why would you pick that one? Do you have a favorite book where the weather played a significant role?

More about Ann

Ann Gimpel is a USA Today bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients. Now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 45 books to date, with several more planned for 2017 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren, and wolf hybrids round out her family.

Website | Blog | Amazon Page | Facebook | @AnnGimpel

More about Ann’s Latest Release

edge-of-night-cover

Edge of Night

Here’s a roadmap to Edge of Night. Welcome to an eclectic collection of nine short stories.

You’ve done time at the edge of night. Nail-biting, stomach-churning time filled with hissing snarls, menacing growls, the whoosh of unnatural wings, and the flash of hellfire. Time that lasts forever, but is over within seconds because time becomes unpredictable in places like that. You don’t want to stay, but it’s too fascinating—in a grisly, macabre, toe-curling kind of way—to turn your back on.

You recognize it, though. The place just at the threshold of darkness where it’s not quite safe anymore. Evil broke its bounds at the edge of night, or maybe it always ran free and we’ve been deluding ourselves all along.

Join me for nine supernatural tales. Monsters, demons, gods—fallen and otherwise—ghosts, aliens. A touch of science fiction. More than a splash of romance. From magical lands to a chilling glance into the past, Edge of Night has something to tempt everyone. Everyone who craves danger, that is. It takes guts to read the stuff woven into nightmares.

It’s a tough job, but you’re up to it.

Welcome to my world. A world where magic holds court and the dude next door just might be a demon. Or a shifter. Or an alien.

Click here for information and buy links

edge-of-night-banner


Thank you for guest blogging today, Ann!

Susannah Sandlin on Instalove: How Soon is Too Soon? #Writing #Romance

Brief, final reminders about upcoming events this week: I’m hosting from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET at Bewitching Book Tour’s Halloween Spooktacular Facebook Party. I probably have enough material for 2+ hours so we’ll see how much we have time for. There will be some super easy games/contests with giveaways from either Etsy or Book Depository and, hopefully, some fun discussions about books and movies, as well as lots of talk about All Hallows Eve. More details here. This Saturday, I’m at HallowRead in Have de Grace, Maryland. More details here

Today’s guest is Susannah Sandlin, author of the romantic suspense BLACK DIAMOND, which releases tomorrow. She’s also Suzanne Johnson’s alter ego and has guested here many times. Suzanne’s a terrific blogger and prolific writer with a wonderful voice. If you haven’t already checked out her work and/or her blog, do so now! 🙂 Er, rather, do so after you read her post. Details on where to find her are below, along with info on her tour-wide giveaway — Amazon gift cards. Welcome, Susannah!

How do you feel about instalove?

Do you love an immediate bond or enjoy the slow build?

Most readers, if asked, will say they dislike “instalove”—that moment when, a half-second after a couple’s first meeting in a novel, each knows that the other is “the one and only.”

Seriously? Not in this world.

Which leads those of us who like writing fast-paced stories into a quandary. How soon is too soon?

At what point does the heroine ignore the dude threatening her with a knife and think longingly about having a night of passion with the hero?

At what point during his daring escape from saliva-dripping zombies does the hero think, “I need a mate”?

Exactly.

This has always been an issue for me. In my Penton Legacy paranormal romance series, the “bond” is supernatural so even if the characters fight that lovin’ feeling, it can happen early without stretching the flexible bonds of paranormal plausibility. But my stories move fast. Penton’s four books (so far) span about seven months total…and four couples find their HEAs (or at least Happily For Nows). In my Sentinels of New Orleans series (written as Suzanne Johnson), books two through five cover only three months. Each book covers only about two or three weeks. They’re urban fantasy, however, so my main couple can have more realistic ups and downs (mostly downs…and I think there was a saliva-dripping zombie in book three).

Which brings us to my new Wilds of the Bayou series, which is about a team of wildlife enforcement agents working deep in the heart of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. These books are romantic suspense, heavy on the suspense, which means the gators aren’t the only things that move fast.

Book one, WILD MAN’S CURSE, covered about three weeks, but I was able to get the hero and heroine to at least a happily for now with a foxhole romance that I’m sure will last. Hero Gentry and heroine Celestine have a lot in common (well, once you get past her independent streak and his utter need to Control Everything), so the reader knows they’re going to make it.

Then there’s BLACK DIAMOND, book two in the series, which comes out tomorrow (Oct. 18—pauses to throw confetti). The heroine, Louisiana Wildlife Enforcement Agent Jena Sinclair, has some serious emotional baggage. She’s kickass on the outside; she has to be in order to make it in the man’s world of what used to be known as “game wardens”—they’re basically paramilitary-trained law-enforcement officers who can fine you for fishing without a license—or bust you for drugs or speeding…in the middle of a swamp. Inwardly, though, Jena is very, very fragile. She’s questioning herself, second-guessing her choices, feeling guilty over some of those choices.

And yet Jena makes our hero, Cole Ryan, look like the soul of emotional stability. Cole has been living off the grid in an isolated cabin on the edge of a desolate bayou for five years like some blond-haired, blue-eyed Unabomber. The first time Jena comes to his door about a nuisance alligator, he slams the door in her face.

Face it: instalove was NOT going to happen between these two.

Attraction? Sure. They find each other intriguing, even attractive (although Cole hasn’t cut his hair in five years, he does have a hippie braid thing going and is totally hot). But neither of them are in any emotional condition to act on that attraction, at least not for a good long time.

Plus, you know, there are rampaging hallucinogenic alligators to capture and crazed drug dealers to track down and skeevy suspects to interrogate—not to mention someone’s tossing Molotov cocktails like they’re going out of style and shooting at them. The moments for stolen kisses are stolen moments.

But I fell in love with Jena and Cole, separately and together. Sometimes it takes a really damaged soul to recognize another soul in danger, and together they can lift each other out of their respective dark places.

They just need to take their time.

So in BLACK DIAMOND, Cole and Jena are on a slow burn toward an HEA by the time the book ends, but it took some maneuvering.

How do you feel about instalove? There’s a lot of it in contemporaries these days—do you love an immediate bond or enjoy the slow build?

Jill: It’s hard for me to buy instalove in any romance subgenre besides paranormal because the only basis for it is physical attraction, which is a fantastic start but I always want couples in a romance to develop deep connections and have more grounded, complex reasons for loving each other. Initial, intense infatuation is fine — even fun — but I always hope the characters will evolve beyond it.

romantic suspense, Susannah SandlinMore about Black Diamond

For some people, the untamed beauty of the bayou is a place to hide. For Louisiana wildlife agent Jena Sinclair, it’s a place of refuge—one where she can almost forget the tragedy that scarred both her skin and her soul. But when the remains of yet another fisherman turn up, Jena realizes that Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes is not safe for her…or anyone else.

The mysterious deaths aren’t her only problem. A dangerous drug known as Black Diamond is circulating through Terrebonne Parish, turning addicts into unpredictable sociopaths. Jena’s investigation leads her to Cole Ryan—a handsome, wary recluse struggling with his own troubled history—who knows more than he’s willing to admit. If they want to stop the killer, Jena and Cole must step out of the shadows of their pasts and learn to help each other…before the evils lurking in the bayou consume them both.

Amazon     BN    Book Depository    Books-a-Million    Indie Bound

Book 1, Wild Man’s Curse, is now on sale for 1.99 for the Kindle

More about Susannah

Suzanne Johnson writing as Susannah Sandlin is the author of the award-winning Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, including the 2013 Holt Medallion Award-winning Absolution and Omega and Allegiance, which were nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award in 2014 and 2015, respectively. She also wrote The Collectors romantic suspense duology, including Lovely, Dark, and Deep, 2015 Holt Medallion winner and 2015 Booksellers Best Award winner. Her new suspense series Wilds of the Bayou started in 2016 with the release of Wild Man’s Curse and continues with Black Diamond. Johnson is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Susannah loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV.

More about the Giveaway

Susannah is giving away one $50 Amazon gift card and five $10 Amazon gift cards. Click here for the Rafflecopter form. Click here for my complete giveaway rules.

Thank you for guest blogging today, Susannah. Black Diamond sounds great. Love the cover. Best wishes with the tour!

black-diamond-banner

Author Interview: Juliette Cross on Dogs, Dragons, Romance, and Writing

My guest today is Juliette Cross, author of the paranormal/fantasy romance DRAGON IN THE BLOOD. Since Juliette and I both have labs, there are DOG PICTURES!!! I also ask her about some other fun topics: Gothic romance, worldbuilding, the biggest challenge of writing characters that are human-dragon hybrids, and the hero and heroine from her novel. She’s offering the chance to win a $25 Amazon eGC. Details below. Welcome, Juliette!


Jill: I read that you have a black lab, Kona. I have a chocolate lab puppy, Tug. Labs are known for their loyalty and their chewing tendencies, at least during the first year or two. Has Kona ever chewed anything she shouldn’t have? Feel free to share any Kona stories and a picture!

Juliette: OMG! Kona chews EVERYTHING! We’ve bought her several chew toys of her own, but she’s so playful, she loses them under furniture then steals stuffed animals and toys from my five-year-old’s room. We recently went on a family vacation and Jackson came back with a stuffed otter. The first day we were home, Kona was hiding in the corner with it. Jackson said, “Kona ate Bodie (the otter’s name) and now he can’t see anymore.” Kona chewed off the eyes first as she always does. Good thing we love her!

You’re a fan of Gothic romance. Me too! Have you written any Gothic romance stories? Any favorite Gothic romance authors or titles you can share?

Ooooo, my favorite topic. Actually, a good bit of my writing has dark elements, settings, and emotional threads, similar to Gothic literature. I’d say my historical paranormal THE DEEPEST WELL is the most Gothic of my romances that I’ve written thus far. Demons and darkness abound in that one. As for my own favorites, most of my friends already know that JANE EYRE is my favorite book ever written, and it’s also considered Gothic lit. The misty moors, the brooding hero, the unlikely heroine, the mystery in the attic—all of it appeals to my love of the Gothic romance.

I love to hear about how authors build their worlds. Are there any behind-the-scenes details you can tell us about Gladium Province, the Morgon Guard, Nightwing Security, or the Wastelands of Aria?

I think it’s important to know that while Gladium Province prides itself on its desegregation laws and mixture of the populations of humans and Morgons, just like in the real world, there are people who hate for no reason. And no law can change that. As for the Morgon Guard, I’d like readers to know this is the global police force for all Morgon provinces. However, it’s also their military. It is expected for all Morgon males to do service time in the Morgon Guard, but of course there are always rebels who don’t. Nightwing Security is a private security team started by the Nightwing family living in Gladium to protect the interests of Morgons living and working in the city. But they are now more than guns-for-hire. They work with the Gladium Precinct as well as the Morgon Guard to help maintain law and order.

As for Aria, I can tell readers that my inspiration for this frozen wasteland was the “Wild West” of America. Outlaws flee there to escape punishment and to live on the fringes of society. And just like in the old west, all those passing through must beware of dangerous predators and hostile natives.

What was one of the biggest challenges of writing characters who are Morgons—human-dragon hybrids?

The only thing I find difficult is during technical scenes where I must remember they have wings and so they move, sit, stand, even have sex differently than humans. And because of their wings, they even think differently, especially during travel. This inspired some interesting scenes, such as their conversation with the Morgon priest they meet on their first stop in Aria.

Sounds like your hero and heroine have some great chemistry! Can you tell us something about them that you haven’t yet shared?

Hmmm, I’d probably share that Valla wants nothing more than to give in to her desires for Conn, but she often resists because she’s afraid this will make her weak. She doesn’t think like most women because she never had a woman’s or a mother’s influence growing up. What she doesn’t realize (which Conn does), and it takes her a while to do so, is that Conn’s love will only make her stronger. Luckily, my heroines and heroes always learn from their mistakes.


Dragon In The Blood

More about Dragon in the Blood

When desire bites, there’s no patience for a slow burn.

While all seems quiet in Gladium Province, the Morgon Guard—the global justice force for the dragon hybrid race—knows their enemy is rebuilding its forces in the underground.

Valla Moonring, an assassin for the Order of the Morgon Guard, is ordered on a mission into the Wastelands of Aria—a formidable, icy wilderness fraught with all manner of dangers, including outlaws, deadly weather, and big-game predators.

To her great distaste, she’s partnered with a Nightwing Security operative, Conn Rowanflame, a Morgon with the aggravating ability to get under her skin. While she takes her mission seriously, Conn’s confident charm throws her off balance, a dangerous place to be in conditions like these. Especially when cold nights require close contact.

Sensual attraction binds them ever closer, igniting a passion of unexpected force—the soulfire. But when the hunters become the hunted, their bond could prove perilous. Even fatal…

DragonInTheBlood_Teaser2

Available at Amazon


More about Juliette

Juliette lives in lush, moss-laden Louisiana where she lives with her husband, four kids, and black lab, Kona. Multi-published author of paranormal and urban fantasy romance, she loves reading and writing brooding characters, mysterious settings, persevering heroines, and dark, sexy heroes. From the moment she read JANE EYRE as a teenager, she fell in love with the Gothic romance. Even then, she not only longed to read more novels set in Gothic worlds, she wanted to create her own.

You can discover more of Juliette and her books on her website.

More about the Giveaway

Juliette is giving away one tour-wide $25 Amazon eGift Certificate. To enter to win, click here for the Rafflecopter form. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Thanks for a great interview, Juliette!

TOP TEN SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY TV SHOWS – RANKED! [#2]

From now until mid-June, I’m counting down my ten favorite SF/F TV shows – ranking them from least to most. Least favorite doesn’t mean it’s bad though. If it’s on my list, it means I liked it enough to watch beyond the pilot. My thoughts on each are included and, for once, these are SPOILER FREE posts. Because these are the last two, and because many of you are likely watching them already, I’m doing a spoiler-free description followed by my slightly spoilery thoughts in orange.

2. Outlander [time travel]: I’ve mentioned my love for this show and the books they’re based on before. For anyone who isn’t familiar with this series, the main character is Claire Randall, a WWII nurse who travels back in time through a stone circle to Scotland 1743 right before the last Jacobite rebellion. Although she’s happily married, she meets a young Scotsman with a dislocated shoulder and a price on his head. He’s also handsome, honorable, and easy to talk to. Yes, there’s a love triangle, but I’ve never heard anyone joke about being Team Jamie or Team Frank. It’s just not that kind of story.

What I loved about the books: the multi-layered, well researched writing; the mix of genres (historical fiction, romance, science fiction); the characters; and the way the author, Diana Gabaldon, brings Scotland (and other places) to life.

What I love about the show: The casting! The costumes! And it’s a faithful adaptation. Ronald D. Moore, the show’s developer, seems to have struck a nice balance between the needs of TV (visual, episodic structure, etc.) and his source material. It can’t hurt that Gabaldon is a consultant.

Other random thoughts: Tobias Menzies as Black Jack! How much do you hate him?! I remember him from Rome. A skilled actor. I thought the cast & crew did a great job of taking the show to France for a while. The meticulously detailed costumes were amazing! And I liked that composer Bear McCreary (who worked on Battlestar Gallatica with Moore) tweaked the Skye Boat Song for S2, layering in French words and a viola de gamba.

Gabaldon is writing Episode 27 (“Vengence is Mine”), which is THIS WEEKEND’S EPISODE if you’re caught up. It’s the first one she’s written so I’m interested. (She cameoed in E4, which was fun to see).

Are you watching Outlander? What did you think of S2? Did you like how all the changes were handled?

DARK LIGHT OF DAY Pinterest Book Board #Fantasy #Romance #Giveaway

I’m on Pinterest, people! 😀

I made a book board for DARK LIGHT OF DAY. Twenty quotes from the book matched with twenty pictures of items sold on Etsy. The result? A relatively quick, easy, creative project for me and a fun extra for readers and Noon fans.

I plan on creating boards for the rest of the books and will update with new pics and quotes every now and then.

In the meantime, a small giveaway to celebrate the fact that I’ve crossed one item off of my 2016 To Do List (“Check out Pinterest”)—

GIVEAWAY

Winner’s choice: one print copy of DARK LIGHT OF DAY or any other fantasy book from Book Depository up to $10. Open to international. Other details here. (Why not an Etsy gift card? Theirs start at $25. I’ll be giving away an Etsy gift card in connection with one of the giveaways I do for POCKET FULL OF TINDER though…)

I’ll draw the winner from those people who are following the Pinterest Dark Light of Day board by midnight EST on Valentine’s Day. Winner will be announced here. (I’ll also try to reach the winner via Pinterest). Since there are only a handful of people currently following the board, your chances of winning are terrific!

And quick plug for my newsletter – the first one’s coming out next month with some POCKET FULL OF TINDER sneak peeks! Sign up here.

Okay, back to work. 🙂

#Fantasy #Romance Author Linda K. Hopkins on Dragons – Fable or Fact?

Today’s guest is Linda K. Hopkins, author of The Dragon Archives. Set in the medieval period, these tales tell of the dragons that roamed the earth in days gone by. At the end of her blog tour, Linda is giving away one $20 Amazon gift card. Details below. Welcome, Linda!

The Dragon Archives Banner

Folk tales and mythology are littered with stories about dragons. Fire-breathing monsters in the west, benevolent and magical creatures in the east. Some legends tell of dragons with human features, while other myths suggest human dynasties that could trace their lineage back to dragons. The blood of a dragon could be poisonous or magical, and the creatures flew at great speed. Sightings have been recorded throughout England, some as recently as the seventeenth century. So perhaps, like the legends of Arthur, the stories are rooted in truth. Maybe there is more to the tales than mere myth.

We all know that dragons are huge, that they fly and that (at least, western dragons) breathe fire. We laugh at the idea that they are real, but maybe, just maybe, there really were huge monsters flying the skies. Is it possible? If we free our minds from the idea of a flesh and bone behemoth that weighs as much as a plane, then perhaps we can peer through the mists of time and tale, and see these magnificent creatures gracefully soaring above the clouds, circling on air currents high above the earth. Like a hot air balloon, our giants of the sky were not created of flesh and bone as we know it, but were filled with gas and heat that freed their huge frames to rise above the earth and take to the skies. Like birds, their bones were hollow, creating a strong but light-weight structure. Their tough hide was made of keratin scales, beneath which was a layer of muscle and sinew which gave them their massive strength. The huge wings which sprung from their backs were framed in bone and covered in a thin, silk-like material that gave propulsion and manoeuverability. Their huge bodies were filled with hydrogen, a highly combustible gas. And when hydrogen mixes with oxygen it produces – flames!

So did dragons exist? You will need to come to your own conclusion. As for me, these magnificent creatures walk into real life each day as I relate their stories from the Archives.

More about The Dragon Archives

Bound by a Dragon

Bound by a Dragon

At twenty-two, Keira Carver needs to find a husband, but the prospects in her small medieval village are not pretty slim. So when Aaron Drake, a handsome stranger, takes up residence at Storbrook Castle, set deep in the surrounding mountains, Keira takes notice.

Just as interesting is the fact that a fire-breathing dragon has also moved into the neighborhood, and is rumored to live in caves beneath the mountain fortress.

What exactly is the connection between Aaron Drake and the dragon? And when the dragon rescues her from the unwanted attentions of some village boys, who will set out to rescue her from the huge, scaly, fire-breathing monster?

Available for Free

Amazon    Kobo    iTunes    BN

Continue reading “#Fantasy #Romance Author Linda K. Hopkins on Dragons – Fable or Fact?”

Anna Durand: New Year, New Risks, Plenty of Romance

My first guest blogger for 2016 is writer, librarian, and audio book addict Anna Durand. She’s here with a post about goal setting and taking risks. If you’ve somehow escaped making resolutions for 2016, NOW’S YOUR CHANCE! Use this post as your final push to write this year’s To Do List. Welcome, Anna!

Take a Risk With Your Writing This Year

At the end of every year, I start to think about what I want to accomplish the next year. I rarely make resolutions, because I prefer to set goals. Resolutions feel like something you’ve failed at if you can’t live to up to what you resolved to do for the year. Goals, on the other hand, are guideposts for your life and career. If don’t reach your goal, it somehow feels like less of a failure.

That’s why I make stepped goals — do A, if that works, do A1, and after that A2, and so on. In this way, the overarching goal becomes more attainable. If I don’t complete all of goal A or goal B this year, I know I’ve done a good job working toward my goals. This year, most of my goals revolve around my writing career. I plan on taking more risks, branching out into new subgenres of romance, both self-publishing and submitting to traditional publishers.

Last year, I set a goal to write more and write faster. I accomplished that through my self-imposed challenge to write a complete 20,000-word story in five days, as well as by self-publishing two books and contracting another with The Wild Rose Press. I also finished three more books, as yet unpublished.

This year, I’ve set more writing goals:

  • Put the final polish on my three finished manuscripts and submit them to publishers.
  • Write my first historical romance, a time travel story with witches, set in 15th-century Scotland.
  • Write a fantasy romance.
  • Write the third book in the Psychic Crossroads series.
  • Write and publish the fourth and final installment in the Reborn series.
  • And oh yeah, write more erotic romances!
  • Sign up for more guest posts on other blogs.
  • Pay for targeted advertising to boost sales of my currently published books.
  • Schedule more guests on my blog, but only three days a week now. I nearly went insane scheduling them seven days a week!

That’s just what I’ve thought of so far. I will add more goals as I progress with these, and each of the above goals has sub-goals. By breaking things down into bite-size chunks, my goals become more attainable and less forbidding. When I look at my list of goals, I know I can achieve them all. My 2016 will be even better than 2015.

Happy New Year, everybody! May you achieve everything you want and have fun while doing it.

More about Anna

Anna Durand
Anna Durand

Anna Durand is an award-winning writer, a freelance librarian, and an audiobook addict. She specializes in steamy romances featuring spunky heroines and hunky heroes. As a member of Romance Writers of America, she volunteers for its chapters to give back to the romance community. In her previous life as a librarian, she haunted the stacks of public libraries but never met any hot vampires hunting for magical books.

Intuition-AnnaDurandMore about Anna’s Latest Release

Torn apart by their haunted pasts, Grace Powell and her fiancé David Ransom are struggling to reclaim their passionate bond and build a normal life — one without danger and paranormal powers. But David can’t renounce his obsession with hunting down Karl Tesler, who abducts and tortures psychics. David endured Tesler’s tactics himself, but despite what Grace believes, he’s not out for revenge.

Tesler covets her unprecedented abilities and her mysterious connection to a source of limitless psychic power. David will do anything — even abandon and lie to her — to protect Grace from Tesler.

With a psychic stalker on her trail, Grace charges into a desperate mission to uncover the truth about David’s obsession. But Tesler’s agents are closing in on her, and a terrifying new enemy is rising…

As events drive Grace and David toward a battle of epic proportions, they must risk everything — their relationship, their lives, and even their souls — to defeat an enemy who wields unspeakable psychic power.

Buy Links

Thanks, Anna, for guest blogging today!

SPRING: #horror #romance #movie

Has anyone watched SPRING yet? The 2014 horror, sci-fi, romance flick directed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson and staring Nadia Hilker and Lou Taylor Pucci? (It’s not rated, but I’d put it squarely in the rated “R” category.) I saw it last week and have been thinking about it on and off since. If you’ve seen it and want to discuss, read on! If you haven’t, be aware – big spoilers below!!

Spring

The woman who cuts my hair recommended this to me. I’ve been going to her for years and we talk about movies all the time. We have similar tastes and she watches as many movies as I do. So it’s always fun to catch up and swap recs. I have to say, the day we discussed this one was pretty funny. The backdrop was this semi-swanky hair salon and there we were, me in the chair, her chopping away behind me, talking about blood and tentacles and syringes and killings and body transformations… and it seemed like every head in the room turned our way. I couldn’t figure out if they thought we were insane or just wanted to watch the movie too.

As some of you know, I’m actually not a huge horror fan. I prefer supernatural thrillers, psychological suspense, and/or dark fantasy to straight up horror but, occasionally, I’ll watch something with a twist (The Cabin in the Woods comes to mind). So I was wary when my hairdresser first recommended Spring. After hearing all the gory details, I asked her:

Does it have a happy ending?

Yep, I’m a wimp sometimes and I just wanted to know what I might be getting myself into. She was reluctant to spoil it for me but finally said, “Yes.” And her answer is what convinced me to watch it and why I’m passing this info on. Romance fans who like dark stories, this one’s for you. Bonus: horror fans will not be disappointed either (but don’t tell them the ending 😉 Half the fun for horror fans will likely be trying to figure out whether the guy will end up the girl’s victim in some sort of gruesome black widow scenario).

Why did I like it?

I loved that it successfully blended two near-opposite genres. Combining horror and romance is really difficult. Romances are about bringing two people together. They are about human connections, closeness, emotions, warmth, and love. Horror is about frightening the crap out of the audience. You know someone’s gonna die and it might even be the MC.

Ok, so what’s it about?

The movie opens with Evan losing his mother. It’s a really sad scene. Tough to watch, but it immediately establishes his capacity to love and be there for those he loves. Grief-stricken, he decides to travel and round-aboutly makes his way to Italy where he meets a mysterious, beautiful woman – Louise. The rest of the movie centers on their developing relationship, which is massively complicated by who and what she is.

What you may not like about it

FlickFilosopher wrote a review that points out that, in order to get to the happy ending, Louise had to give up her immortality and change who she was. The reviewer’s point was that, not only was Evan not worth Louise’s sacrifice, but why should the girl always have to change to get the guy?

It was an interesting point and one that caught my attention. (Obviously, the stories are different, but in my first novel, Noon also struggled with who and what she was. Ultimately, she decided not to change.)

For me, however, Louise’s change and sacrifice worked. Why? Three reasons.

First, I thought Evan might be someone who was worth that kind of sacrifice. Hey, it’s a movie. The filmmakers only get two hours for audiences to fall in love with their characters. They showed me enough of Evan’s character for me to fill in the gaps. He had potential as an awesome beau even if we didn’t see all of it. His devotion to his mom and his interactions with the other characters (the two buddies he traveled with for a while and the old widowed farmer he worked for) gave us hints that he was someone who, despite being at a very dark point in his life, was still going to approach the world with openness and warmth.

Second, he loved Louise enough to die for her. Yes, he fell in love quickly but, man, once he was in, he was all in. When he found Louise mid-shift in her apartment looking deadly and terrifying, he didn’t run. Nope, he bashed down the door and found a way to help her. And, at the very end, when Louise kept telling him she was probably going to kill him – that she didn’t love him and that, for his own sake, he should get the hell out of dodge – he didn’t. He never left her. He was willing to risk her killing him if it meant having a chance at a life with her.

Third, there were hints that Louise was sick and tired of that immortality b.s. Is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Sounds pretty lonely to me. And Louise’s rebirths every twenty years sounded awful. If she was fully embracing who and what she was, she wouldn’t have been carrying around all those syringes to stop the transformations. Nope, she was ready for it to be done.

Have you seen SPRING? What did you think?

[Am I back to blogging? No. Not really. I may share my thoughts on stuff from time to time here, but for now, I’m still focused on my WIP. So I’m heading back to my writing cave. NaNoers – soldier on!!! Wishing you – and me – high word counts for today! 😀 ]

#Writing #Workshops for October (#indiepub #selfpub and cross-genre #fantasy)

Below are the online workshops being offered in October by RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. If you are a writing instructor and are interested in teaching a workshop, please contact me for available dates, rates, and proposal submission guidelines. (I just signed up for the self-pub one. Come join me! 🙂 Not in the mood for a workshop? There’s a cat pic below. Enjoy! 😀 )

Self-Publishing Part 2: Self-Publishing Your Manuscript

10/01/2015 – 10/22/2015

This workshop is Part 2 of a two-part, five-week self-publishing workshop designed to teach students about the business of self-publishing books digitally and in print. (Part 1 is not required to take Part 2.)

Self-publishing provides an amazing opportunity for authors to take control of their own publishing career. It’s also a lot of hard work. Authors must build successful, long-running businesses and supervise their own production and distribution process.

Part 2 covers:

  • Finding and working with freelance editors, formatters and cover artists
  • Distributing directly to retailers vs using aggregators or publishing services
  • Self-publishing audio books and foreign translations
  • Where and how to sell your book
  • Building a basic timeline and budget
  • Best practices for building your self-published book
  • Understanding metadata and how and where it’s used
  • Is self-publishing really for you?

Workshop Goals include:

  • For students to gain a clearer understanding of how to self-publish
  • For students to take ownership of their publishing career path
  • For students to gain perspective on the financial and artistic reasons to choose self-publishing
  • For students to gain knowledge and tools to help them embark on self-publishing their work
  • For students to discover trustworthy resources for further research

About the Presenter, Kelli Finger

Kelli Finger is published under her pseudonym Abbey MacInnis and publishes books under her sole-proprietorship publishing company. Kelli recently added a certification in grant writing to her writing experience. A classically-trained vocalist with a Masters of Social Work, Kelli is a strong advocate for people with disabilities and has worked for over six years as a Braille proofreader. Having faced the challenges of developing her own self-publishing career, she’s eager to help others save time and understand their many options.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop

Defying Gravity: Writing Cross-Genre and Succeeding Anyway

10/18/2015 – 10/31/2015

Genre definitions have a profound influence on writers’ careers. From the first queries where we must specify the book’s genre to long-term decisions about pursuing or giving up on a “dead” genre, dealing with what feels like a false construct is a necessary skill. However, following our hearts and inspiration often means tossing aside these considerations.

Or chopping them to pieces in a murderous rage.

But shedding conventions can be what sets a book apart. That’s what takes a writer’s career from midlist to break-out. So… how do you know? More—how do we find the courage to embrace a bold move?

In Wicked, the heroine Elphaba is faced with that crucial decision, of whether to choose the safe path or to risk flying on her own. This workshop will explore genre definitions and how Jeffe Kennedy went from being a “Crack Ho” – being told that her work fell in the cracks between genres – to receiving a nomination for Book of the Year and an RT Seal of Excellence for the one title each month that stands out from all the rest by an innovative twist on a familiar story or pushing genre boundaries. Participants will discuss their experiences with genre—both coloring inside the lines and stepping across them—and will leave inspired to take risks and follow their hearts.

Everyone deserves a chance to fly!

About the Presenter, Jeffe Kennedy

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and has been nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose, has been nominated forbest fantasy romance of the year. Two more books will follow in this world, beginning with The Pages of the Mind in Summer 2016. A fifth series, the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, started with Going Under, followed byUnder His Touch and Under Contract.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.

Cost: FFP Members:$10.00/Non-Members: $15.00

Register for This Workshop

Nutmeg Back to School
WHO SAID CATS ARE TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL?

Five Photographs: Laurel Wanrow (“Without the next book, we are sunk!”)

My last Five Photographs guest is Laurel Wanrow. She’s here with a picture of her blind rescue turtle, as well as more about her debut steampunk fantasy THE UNRAVELING. Welcome, Laurel!

Hi Jill–What a fun way to have an interview! Thanks for extending it through June!

My pleasure, Laurel. I’ve really enjoyed this series and will be sad to wrap it up. But all good things must come to an end. 😀 I’ll be sharing my five pictures soon!

Something that represents something unique about you

Laurel Wantow cabin porch

A cabin built by my dad—with help from his parents—while he was in college. I think it’s unusual these days to have an entirely handcrafted house made by a family member. I’ve visited my entire life and my husband and I have taken our kids just about every year. I also sneak off for writing retreats. 🙂

[Jill: definitely rare and unusual. Looks like the perfect writing retreat!]

Something that represents where you live

IMG_6886.JPG copy

 

I walk on a nearby golf course and frequently see wildlife: fox, deer, geese and even turtles cross through our neighborhood.

Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Laurel Wanrow Clady

While working at a nature center I did a lot of turtle rehab and was given an Eastern Box Turtle who crossed the road at the wrong time and lost her eyesight. My daughter was little when she came to live with us and named her Clady. We’ve hand fed Clady for twenty years. She’s between 50 to 80 years old. (It’s hard to tell the age once they’re full-grown.)

[Jill: that is really neat. No one has shared a picture of a pet turtle yet. Clady was lucky to find a home with you.]

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Laurel Wanrow door lock

Ohmygosh, our door lock! When we had a new door installed it was hard to work. My husband thought it would loosen up, and we had such a time getting the installer to caulk properly that I hesitated to call them back. Five years later I still hate the thing!

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

IMG_0782.JPG

IMG_0783.JPG

Since my kids were really even too little to hunt fossils we have made family trips Westmoreland State Park along the Potomac River. At low tide we scour the beach for fossilized shark teeth, whale vertebrae and other oddities.

[Jill: hunting for fossils is more popular than I realized. Izzy Norse is also a fan of fossil hunting]

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

In The Unraveling, a steampunk fantasy romance, a proper Victorian artist must learn to use her bloodline’s wild magic to help the shapeshifter she loves, or become what she fears most: another cog in a magnate’s plan to control agriculture.

What are you working on next?

The Unraveling is the first volume of three in a serialized novel called The Luminated Threads. I’ve finished edits on the second volume and am starting them on the third.

What are you currently reading?

Penelope’s Song of Blood & Stone

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

The Big Bang Theory has been a favorite for years. Recently my daughter introduced me to Once Upon A Time, but I’m only in season one.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

I love Dobby the house-elf and his rather perverse way of ‘helping’ Harry Potter.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Balancing the demands of social media and marketing with keeping your head together to keep writing the next book.

How can we meet that challenge?

I’m not sure I have the answer, since I’m a debut author and just putting into practice the next techniques I’ve heard for years at RWA workshops. The message resonating with me as I approached my first release was Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ oft repeated line “Protect the work.” She usually uses this line when advising writers to get over their review angst, but it applies to all of your writing time. Without the next book, we are sunk!

Laurel Wanrow
Laurel Wanrow

More About Laurel

Before kids, she studied and worked as a naturalist—someone who leads wildflower and other nature walks. When not living in her fantasy worlds, Laurel camps, hunts fossils and argues with her husband and two new adult kids over whose turn it is to clean house. The Unraveling debuted June 23rd.

Thank you for the interview, Laurel, and for sharing your pictures with us today. Good luck and best wishes with THE UNRAVELING!

#Writing #Workshops for May (oh, and a chipmunk pic, bc why not?)

Below are the online workshops being offered in May by RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. If you are a writing instructor and are interested in teaching a workshop, please contact me for available dates, rates, and proposal submission guidelines.

What does a chipmunk have to do with writing or workshops? Absolutely nothing. We caught this little guy (girl?) in our house earlier this week. No idea how it got in, which is somewhat disturbing. Not that I would have wanted them to go after it, but my cats showed zero interest. We let it go in the backyard.
What does a chipmunk have to do with writing or workshops?
Absolutely nothing.
We caught this little guy (girl?) in our house earlier this week. No idea how it got in, which is somewhat disturbing. Not that I would have wanted them to go after it, but my cats showed zero interest. We let it go in the backyard.

Beginning WordPress

05/04/2015 – 05/31/2015

This class will focus on understanding the basic functions of WordPress such as making posts and pages, adding images, copying and pasting from one post or page to another, creating links, connecting your social media links for Facebook, Twitter, etc., using plugins, widgets, and themes, creating parent and child pages, using menus, and customizing the look and feel of your site. In short, everything you need to create a website or blog and make it uniquely yours. The class lasts four weeks.

Lessons include:

  1. Navigating the Back End of WordPress
  2. Understanding Themes: Changing the Look of Your Site Through Themes
  3. Customizing the Themes: Changing the Header and Background
  4. Understanding the Difference Between Posts & Pages: What They Are; How to Use Them
  5. Adding Images & Links
  6. Things you can do to Jazz up your site. Using Asides and Widgets
  7. Working with Plugins: Understanding Plugins, Some Plugins You Must Have, Setting Up FB & Twitter Links on Your Site
  8. Some Things You Need to Know About the Web and Websites

About the Presenter, Pepper O’Neal

Pepper O’Neal has a doctorate in education and has taught a number of adult education classes on many different subjects. She currently works as a freelance researcher and author. When she was told by both of her publishers that she needed to have a website, she realized she needed to finally join the age of technology. She also realized she had two options. She could pay someone to design the site for her, or she could to do it herself. As she hates depending on others for things involving her career, she decided to learn how to use the free web-design software WordPress and Joomla. She took classes, hired experts for tutors, and picked the brains of her web-designer friends. After designing her own websites, she decided she liked doing it, and now she designs websites for others.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop

Beware the Info Dump, My Child

05/04/2015 – 05/17/2015

Say you’re starting work on your latest story. You’ve just done a ton of research to get all the details right, down to the outer ridge of your heroine’s left boot. You are proud of what you’ve done, and who could blame you? Inspired, you want to bring the reader into the story and you want him or her to be as fascinated and intrigued by it as you are. But you make a small tactical error. Just a small one. You dump all this stuff at the beginning of your story so they can get started on the wonderfulness that is your story… And you are left scratching your head when the readers don’t come, or they read the first couple of pages…and wander away, choosing not to continue.

What happened? Why weren’t they fascinated? What’s wrong with them?!

How much research is just right? What’s the tidbit to work in? What isn’t?

This class will teach you some tricks and tips to keep in mind when it comes to making the best use of your research, along with examples.

About the Presenters, Elizabeth Flynn and Heather Hiestand

Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a young adult novel, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for more than 35 years.

Heather Hiestand wrote her first story at age seven and went on to major in creative writing at the University of Washington. Her first published fiction was a mystery short story, but since then it has been all about the many flavors of romance. Heather’s first published romance short story was set in the Victorian period and she continues to return, fascinated by the rapid changes of the nineteenth century. The author of many novels, novellas, and short stories, she is a bestseller at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. With her husband and son, she makes her home in a small town and supposedly works out of her tiny office, though she mostly writes in her easy chair in the living room. She also writes as Anh Leod.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop

Deleted Scenes: one from Dark Light of Day + one from future Noon Onyx B4

Writers: do you share your deleted scenes?

Readers: do you like reading them?

I don’t share many deleted scenes mostly because they’ve been deleted for a reason. They’re either not very good, they’re redundant, it’s a story thread I didn’t pursue, or something similar. So sharing them doesn’t make much sense. If I wanted to sell a beautiful dress, I wouldn’t stand on the street corner handing out remnants, right? And sharing a deleted scene from a WIP is doubly precarious because it may give something away that I shouldn’t or show something that I’ll change my mind about later.

But deleted scenes can sometimes be fun and/or interesting. Who doesn’t watch the blooper reel? I love story extras, whether they’re coming from authors or filmmakers. Below are two of mine. (I’ll also eventually share a bunch of deleted scenes from White Heart of Justice featuring Ari and what he was up to when Noon was down in southern Halja with Rafe, but I’m not sure yet exactly how I’ll share those… I might share them here or I might make them available some other way).

This first deleted scene is from Dark Light of Day (Noon Onyx #1). It’s a second training scene. I cut it because that book was already long and I didn’t think we needed to see another Wednesday in the Manipulation dungeon. The scene below wasn’t as strong as the scene in the book where Brunus attacks Noon with the nadziak.

Deleted Scene from

DARK LIGHT OF DAY

The day after the call from Night was a Wednesday, which meant the next morning I was back in the Manipulation dungeon. My mood was one of weary resignation… that is until Rochester told us we were through (for a while anyway) with learning how to try to shape our magic like weapons. We would now be moving on to our most important magical skill — throwing fire. And we would be practicing it alone, one on one, with Rochester. He picked me as his first victim and then kicked everyone else out.

The dungeon felt like a melting ice-cube today: cold, hard, clear, and dripping wet.

“Have you ever been to the Osmium Mountains, Ms. Onyx?”

I shook my head. No one had that I knew of. They were the edge of the world as far as most people were concerned — high mountains located miles and miles northwest of New Babylon, far past the scattered Hyrke outposts and demon devotion sites situated in Halja’s northern hinterlands.

I stood in the center of the room, near one of the floor grates, listening to the trickle of water. My breath puffed in the cold and I stamped my feet, although it was more out of expectation than impatience. Over the course of the semester, I’d mastered the attitude of this room, if not its lessons.

“They’re glacier mountains, prone to avalanches,” Rochester explained. “Do you know which type of demon is the most common there?”

No, but I could guess. “Ice breathers.”

Rochester’s mouth quirked in a smug little self-satisfied smile.

I wanted to kick him in the shin.

“Oh, there are plenty of those. But there’s even more of another type of demon. Pyrothropes.”

“Pyrothropes? Why would demons whose true form is fire want to live in a land full of snow and ice?”

“It’s not that they want to. That’s where they’re spawned.”

“They could leave. Come down from the mountains. No one’s forcing them to live up there.”

Rochester stared at me. “There’s a lot you can learn from the pyrothropes, Nouiomo. But we’re only going to focus on one of those things today — the difference between heat and an explosion. The pyrothropes are capable of creating huge explosions with their magic.” He raised an eyebrow at me and his implication was clear. Like me. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got it. “But if they went around throwing explosive fireballs everywhere up there, what do you think would happen?”

“Avalanche,” I supplied dutifully.

“Right,” Rochester brightened, smiling at me. I was instantly suspicious. “And yet, despite all their precautions, the pyrothropes are still buried from time to time under natural avalanches. How do you think they use their magic to escape?”

“Explosion?” I said, imagining a plume of snow erupting like a volcano.

But Rochester shook his head. “Definitely not, as you will see. Throwing an explosive burst of fire while lying trapped beneath tons of snow and ice is quite… uncomfortable. Even throwing fire or — for the pyrothrope, reverting to true form — is risky. Do you know why?”

I remained silent, suddenly worried about the direction this lesson was heading.

“The pyrothropes didn’t learn to control their magic because they were afraid of hurting somebody. They did it because, if they didn’t, they would suffocate to death.”

And then — whoosh! — a wave of magic washed over me. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t see. Couldn’t hear.

I could feel though. And what I felt was terrifying. Because I was trapped in a block of something so cold, solid, and crushing, I couldn’t even lift my eyelids to see what it was. I couldn’t expand my lungs enough to take a breath to smell it. I tried to wiggle my fingers. The tips moved the tiniest little bit. All I could feel was cold.

Rochester’s muffled voice called to me, “Use your magic to melt the ice. But be careful, Nouiomo. No uncontrolled explosions this time. If you panic and throw an explosive fireball, you’re likely to be trapped in there with it. Much better to concentrate. Shape your magic into a nice warm ball and then slowly expand it.”

I started panicking almost immediately. How could Rochester use words like nice and warm when he was referring to my being smothered to death? My eyes started to water with tears of frustration. They instantly froze, further cementing my eyes shut. My lungs burned with the need for breath. Before I could stop what was happening, my magic ‘popped’ inside of Rochester’s life-sized ice-cube and the most exquisite blistering pain bubbled up underneath my skin. I screamed, but of course no sound came out of my mouth. My lips didn’t even move. I tried to run, but only my toes twitched.

I tried to heat up my magic again, just to get out, but this time it sputtered. Its spasms echoed mine as I started to black out. Just before I did, Rochester melted the ice-cube. I fell to the floor, burned, shivering, and gasping for breath.

Rochester put me in the cube eighteen more times that Wednesday morning. When I left I didn’t even look at him. I couldn’t.

~

The scene below is from the as yet untitled Noon Onyx #4. It’s from the first chapter, so I don’t think it gives much away, but it’s a fun sneak peek because it shows three of the main characters and hints at a few things. Just remember, like the scene above, it’s an irregularly shaped, rough-edged remnant. It’s been discarded for a reason. (It’s cute, but didn’t have enough oomph for me for chapter one).

Deleted Scene from

Untitled Noon Onyx #4

Like a glowing aura of glamoured light, Fara Vanderlin stood all white and bright at the end of the dirty alley in between Corpus Justica, our law library, and Rickard Building, where all my classes were held, waiting for me.

“What’s with the paper bag?” she called.

“Don’t ask,” I answered.

She raised her eyebrows, but said nothing else as I set the bag down on the pavement.

“Do you think you can cloak this so that it’s safe here until we get back?”

Her slightly puzzled expression turned to one of complete bewilderment. “You want me to cast a cloaking spell over a bag of trash?”

“Yep.”

She shrugged. “Okay.”

She murmured a series of unfamiliar words and the bag disappeared into the grunge of the alley. And that was one of the things I loved about Fara. Unlike my previous Guardian, she didn’t ask all sorts of unwarranted questions. If she knew a spell that could help me, she cast it.

“Where’s Virtus?” I asked.

Fara glanced at Nova. “I thought since he and Nova were still… getting aquainted… it might be better if he stayed behind while we ran our little errand.”

I grunted my assent. Virtus was Fara’s tiger. Her having him as a four-footed companion was just as unusual as my having Nova. We’d been hoping their mutual non-verbal, no opposable thumbs status would make them BFFs but no such luck. It had been hate at first sight.

“And the Joshua School’s still okay with you keeping him there?”

“Yes. Why wouldn’t they be?”

“Ah… no reason.”

So… how about you? Thoughts on deleted scenes?

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

#Writing #Workshops for March

Below are the online workshops being offered in March by RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. If you are a writing instructor and are interested in teaching a workshop, please contact me for available dates, rates, and proposal submission guidelines.

Balancing the Paranormal and the Romance

03/02/2015 – 03/29/2015

It’s difficult enough to write a good romance, or to write a good paranormal or fantasy novel—when you put the two together you now have an even bigger challenge. How do you structure your story so the paranormal plot doesn’t overwhelm the romance? How do you create characters that have a great romance—with paranormal elements that increase the conflict and are key to the story? This workshop looks at a process to create a really strong paranormal romance that has a romance as the main story arc, but which also uses paranormal/fantasy elements that are vital to the plot.

Lectures include:

  • What’s the difference between Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Paranormal, and Paranormal Romance?
  • Blending other subgenres (such as suspense) into the mix—what can this give you and what are the dangers?
  • What’s a story arc and what are character arcs?
  • Crafting your characters for romantic conflict that includes vital paranormal elements?
  • How to balance action and romance—what are the turning points for each?
  • How to test if your story is really more of a paranormal/fantasy or a romance?
  • Do you have strong enough antagonists—and are they well developed to create maximum romantic conflicts and increase the paranormal/fantasy elements?
  • Making sure the dark moment hits both the romance and the paranormal/fantasy story line.

About the Presenter, Shannon Donnelly

Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the “Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer” contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA’s Golden Heart, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: “simply superb”…”wonderfully uplifting”….and “beautifully written.”

In addition to her Regency and Historical romances, she is the author of the Mackenzie Solomon, Demon/Warders Urban Fantasy series, Burn Baby Burnand Riding in on a Burning Tire, and the SF/Paranormal, Edge Walkers. Her work has been on the top seller list of Amazon.com and includes the Historical romances, The Cardros Ruby and Paths of Desire.

She is the author of several young adult horror stories, and has also written computer games and does editing work on the side. She lives in New Mexico with two horses, two donkeys, two dogs, and the one love of her life. Shannon can be found online at sd-writer.com, facebook.com/sdwriter, and twitter/sdwriter.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop

The Nuances of Dialogue

03/02/2015 – 03/27/2015

Whether in prose or dramatic mediums, characters need to speak in a succinct, entertaining manner that moves the story forward. Inner character motivation and personality can be revealed through what is spoken and how. This workshop will cover diction & syntax, concepts of multi-layered meaning, the difference between speech patterns of male-female speakers, influence of age-education-culture, how to control lecturing and argument orchestration.

About the Presenter, Sally J. Walker

Sally J. Walker has taught over 35 different workshops both on-site and on-line.  An avid learner, she is always ready to change and grow her own process then pass on what she has learned in a practical manner intended to challenge participants rather than dictate end-all-be-all concepts.  She has taught for Omaha’s Metropolitan Community College, Kansas City’s Johnson County Community College, Lincoln (NE)’s Southeast Community College, several chapters of RWA including KOD and Scriptscene, a Romantic Times national conference, and the Moondance International Film Festival, as well as conducted a mini-workshop of writing and meditation for Omaha-area churches.  Sally has also been an Artist-in-Residence and motivational speaker at several Omaha area schools and conducts free weekly mentoring sessions for teens at the Ralston Baright Library.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop

Kylie Chan, Author of DEMON CHILD, on Magic, Martial Arts, Romance, #Writing a Long Series, Living in Hong Kong, and More (#Giveaway)

The author interview I was supposed to have posted Tuesday is here! It was worth the wait. Kylie Chan, bestselling author of Demon Child, discusses her characters, their relationship, and what it’s like to write a long, successful book series. She also talks about the Sidhe, or Shining Folk, who are featured in her latest novel, what it was like to live in Hong Kong, and her four favorite things about her current abode: Brisbane, Australia. She’s giving away ten print copies of Demon Child (Rafflecopter form below). Welcome, Kylie!

Kylie Chan, Demon Child, fantasy, romance, magic, martial arts, demons,

Author Interview: Kylie Chan

Your first book, WHITE TIGER, came out in 2006. Since then you’ve released seven other novels in the series, including your latest, DEMON CHILD. You’ve also written a prequel graphic novel and a couple of shorts.

That’s a lot of stories! How do you keep the series fresh and exciting?

Yes it is! It’s been a tremendous journey for me – WHITE TIGER was the first novel I’d ever written. I keep it fresh by raising the stakes. I’m enjoying myself by making things seem a little better and then take it up a notch and make everything terrible again. My characters are suffering. It’s great fun.

Did you know you when you first started writing WHITE TIGER that it would turn into a nine book series? How did the structure of the series develop? Any advice for writers who want to write a long series?

I planned for a three book series – Xuan Wu’s departure, his return, and the big final battle in three volumes. When I was halfway through enough words for a second novel and still not up to the departure bit, I realized that I had more than three books – way more than three books, and started changing the plan to three sets of three.

For writers planning to write a long series I’d suggest that they make each novel readable by itself, but still fit together into something greater. I’d do that in future if I could, so that people aren’t forced to start at the beginning with – admittedly – my weakest work.

Can DEMON CHILD be read on its own? If not, do readers need to start with WHITE TIGER?

As I said, if you want to read the series it would absolutely be best to start from WHITE TIGER. DEMON CHILD is the eighth book in a complex saga and if you try to read it alone you will probably enjoy it, but not as much as if you started at the beginning.

Your stories feature magic, martial arts, and romance.

It’s all good stuff. It’s pure escapism. Sometimes when I’m told by a man in the supermarket to ‘smile, you’ll look prettier’ or the staff at the post office call me ‘darling’ and ‘sweetheart’ in a terribly condescending way I just want to kick heads. This is my way of channeling that aggression!

[Jill: Lol. Yeah, it’s been awhile but I can remember times in my life when I thought, “Is that a compliment or a cut? Do I want to bloody their nose or just say ‘thank you?’” I always opted for being polite, but I’ve also had a lot of dental work done on my back molars. 😀 ]

How would John describe Emma? How would Emma describe John?

Both of them would describe each other as infuriating. As one of the biggest gods in Chinese Heaven, John is accustomed to being immediately and unquestioningly obeyed by everybody around him, and Emma’s constant second-guessing and outright disagreements sometimes drive him nuts. Emma finds John’s expectation that everybody will immediately obey him similarly annoying, and sometimes disagrees with him just to see his face when he’s exasperated with her. It never descends into full-on arguments because he’s such a big softie, though.

How has their relationship changed over the course of eight novels?

It was absolutely love at first sight, but the balance of power between them has always been uneven and that’s led some serious relationship issues. It started out very inequitable – he was the employer and she was an employee. She was more willful and disobedient than he was used to, however, and he loved that. Through the books, she’s grown until they consider themselves equal in will and intelligence by the end of the second series. In this final trilogy, he’s regained his full ancient god powers and once again is much more than she is – but he turns to her when he needs a second opinion or someone to back him up when the Jade Emperor is bullying him. When they’re alone all of the ‘who’s more powerful’ business is ignored and they see themselves as equals, even if the rest of Heaven doesn’t. In the book I’m working on now, she throws him out of meetings more than once because people are so awestruck and terrified by him that it’s interfering with their ability to get things done.

How did Emma react when she found out she has demon blood?

It was a huge ‘I told you so’ for her. All along she’s suspected that she’s a demon, and that John’s been in denial about it. When the truth came out about her demon nature, she was completely unsurprised. She has something of a yell at him about it in ‘Demon Child’.

Tell us more about the Sidhe or Shining Folk.

It’s easy to do some light research into Celtic mythology and come back with a theme that’s full of nature-loving Druids, gallant fae and sparkly unicorns. I delved deeper into the original nature of the Druids as recounted by Julius Caesar when he fought the Celts and found a completely different type of theology. The real Druids were a bloodthirsty bunch who basically got off on torture and human sacrifice and collected their enemy’s heads as trophies. I really enjoyed including this into my own venture into the West. The Sidhe in my stories are noble, caring, and gone – they deserted the world just when they were most needed, in a passive-aggressive act of penitence that really helped nobody. I have to admit that I still managed to throw in a unicorn just because.

[Love it. Everyone could use more unicorns in their lives. 😀 ]

Without giving anything away, tell us about a scene from DEMON CHILD involving magic, martial arts, or both.

Both magic and martial arts are threaded through the book and an intrinsic part of it. The first chapter has a great deal of both – without either Emma or John being involved. Katie, Number Three Daughter of the White Tiger, goes into Russia to investigate a villa owned by a demon posing as a Russian gangster. She has to use her unique abilities to defend both herself and her squad, and finds prisoners used as lab rats and a new, disturbing type of demon.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

That’s a very long list. I started reading science fiction and fantasy in the 1970’s. My go-to comfort books are Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, Nalini Singh’s angel series (I’m really enjoying the power plays and politics) and Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series. Jim Butcher gets a shout out, as well as Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series and Nora Jemisin’s remarkable fantasies. I adored Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan books.

If your books were made into movies, who would play Emma? John? Who would direct?

Goodness, I have no idea. I don’t generally look around for actors, that’s Hollywood’s business. It’s not really something I do – when Queenie Chan did the illustrations for Small Shen we designed the characters exactly as they were in my head, so any real-life actor or actress will never match the images I have already created.

What was your favorite thing about living in Hong Kong?

Having a full-time live-in domestic helper. Edwina was part of the family, and when she left us to get married in Australia she arranged for her sister Dahlia to come look after us, because she didn’t trust anyone else. Both lovely women are now married and have settled down to raise families of their own and I am so glad I had a chance to help them start out. Having a live-in helper meant that I could work full-time without having to worry about the kids being cared for at all. It was incredibly liberating and really helped my IT career.

Least favorite?

The crowds. If we went down to the mall on a Sunday it would be like the pre-Christmas sales anywhere else. There would be so many people at the mall that there’d be a queue to enter the car park and you’d have to wait at least two hours to find a seat at yum cha. Migraine-inducing.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Brisbane?

Two things: the wonderful mild subtropical weather, and the fantastic supportive literary community. I have made friends with a magnificent group of fellow writers who regularly go out of their way to help each other. Oh, three things: the great beaches close by as well. Four things: the city’s skyline next to the lovely river, and the South Bank parklands. Okay, I’ll stop there.

Least favorite?

The forty-degree-plus weeks in summer where it’s just way too hot to even go outside. A small price to pay for all the other benefits of living in this lovely city.

More About Demon Child

Australian bestseller Kylie Chan returns with a new, fast-paced adventure of magic, martial arts, and romance.

This trilogy follows the story of John Chen and Emma Donohoe. They have just found out that Emma has Demon blood. The Sidhe – or Shining folk, who defeated the Western Shen a thousand years ago – are prepared to do battle against the Western Shen to retain their dominance.

Emma’s allegiance is torn: to fight for her kind, the Western demons she is descended from, or to stand alongside her beloved Xuan Wu.

Available at HarperCollins

Add it to Your Goodreads Shelf

Kylie Chan
Kylie Chan

More About Kylie

Kylie Chan is the bestselling author of the Dark Heavens and Journey to Wudang trilogies. She married a Hong Kong national in a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony.

Kylie has studied Kung Fu and Tai Chi and is a senior belt in both forms. She has also made an intensive study of Buddhist and Taoist philosophy and has brought all of these interests together into her storytelling.

She lived in Hong Kong for many years and now lives in Brisbane, Australia.

The Giveaway

As part of her blog tour, Kylie is giving away ten print copies of Demon Child. (U.S. only). To enter, click here for the Rafflecopter form. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. 18 or older. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Thanks for the great Q&A, Kylie! I enjoyed reading your answers. Good luck with your tour and best wishes for Demon Child!

Kylie Chan, Demon Child, fantasy, romance, magic, martial arts, demons

Egg Timer Reviews: 20 Stories! (Books, Movies, TV & Broadway Shows)

I was supposed to post an author interview yesterday, but I never received it. If I do, I’ll reschedule because I think her Q&A would be interesting and fun to read. In the meantime, however, I was in a bind bc I had nothing of my own ready to post. What to do?

Egg timer reviews.

What the heck are those? Well, it’s where I take a look at my bookshelf, Kindle, movie queue, etc. and see what I’ve watched and read lately (or eons ago) that I can talk about in three minutes or less. So these aren’t really reviews. They’re more like stream of consciousness goo. (I filled in some of the names via internet search later – my memory’s not that good. 😉 )

Are there spoilers? Is it still miserably cold outside!? Yes, there are some spoilers!

BOOKS

Stolen Songbird

Trolls! Trolls! TROLLS!! I always wanted to do a romance featuring a leprechaun but could never figure out how to make a leprechaun sexy. Well, Danielle Jensen found a way to make trolls sexy. When I read the back cover copy, I knew I had to read it just to see how she did it. The first part of the book is the best: the dynamic tension between Cecile and Tristan, the descriptions of Trollus and its inhabitants… good stuff. There was a bit too much coming and going in the end (it felt a little “fillerish” to me) and I worry that the trolls might really be “e—” (maybe not…? since that would take away from the Big Accomplishment here). But, if you love YA fantasy, pick this one up. You’ll love it. (Worth noting: Jensen started out with Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot’s now defunct YA imprint. I think Angry Robot picked this series up, but it’s still nice to support authors who end up in this situation).

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

I loved this character’s transformation. You all know I love big character growth arcs and Elisa has one! At the start of the book she is clueless, overweight, and timid. By the end of the novel, she has sought forbidden knowledge, grown physically stronger, and become much more confident and assertive. The only thing that gave me pause was the almost over emphasis on the character’s weight. I’m a big “love your own body” kind of person. And yet, I can also get behind a person’s wanting to change themselves. (My own work reflects my ideological tug of war between “learn to love yourself” versus “pursue your dream to change,” especially my first novel). The bigger question is always, why does a person want to change? Is it society telling them (perhaps subtly and evilly) that they should or is their desire to change truly coming from within? – But rest assured, genre fans, Girl of Fire and Thorns is mostly an adventure story with some magic and romance.

Throne of Glass

I think I read this in a day or two. (I’m a big DNF’er so that, in and of itself, is a rec to read). Hmm… what else can I say? Cool cover. She looks really bad ass. I think there’s a love triangle, but I don’t mind them. (Ahem 😀 ) Who would like this? Fans of YA female assassin characters and YA fantasy with equal emphasis on both romance and action. It’s been a long time since I read it, but this reminded me of Maria Snyder’s Poison Study.

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

It was the cover that drew me to this book. A historical romance heroine in pants! As with Jensen’s troll hero, I had to check it out. What was the story behind this heroine? I read quite a bit of historical romance. And many times the heroines run together. That doesn’t mean the books aren’t well written. They are. They’re doing exactly what they’ve promised their readers they will do: deliver a hot, sometimes witty, romance. So why egg time review this one? Well, the heroine backs up the cover and the title’s promise. There was a lot more going on with the plot than I expected. The heroine had not just one cover (aliases), but two. That’s three different personas for the author to keep track of. Sarah MacLean did a great job! (Worth noting: MacLean wrote Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. I haven’t read it, but may now. MacLean was on an RWA panel last summer and discussed how hard it was to come up with titles, especially when you lock yourself into a format. She was funny. (I buy some of the recorded sessions). I’m currently trying to title Noon Onyx B4. It’s tough. Blank Blank of Blank. Left Hand of Darkness? Oops. Taken. 😉 Little Shop of Horrors? Dagnabbit. Nabbed too. 😀 In any case, I thought the title to Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover was extra awesome bc it fits MacLean’s “Rules of Scoundrels” series title format, it references the heroine’s aliases, and it’s a nod to the book’s unusual genre cover.)

MOVIES

Belle

A period romance with a great hero and heroine, Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy officer who was raised by her rich great-uncle. The film divides its time between the romance and the hero’s quest for social justice (he’s an aspiring lawyer attempting to change the law on slavery, albeit through a fairly narrow ruling). Gugu Mbatha-Raw was excellent.

Begin Again

I actually thought this would be awful. Like some sort of weird Juno [aging music aficionado has unrequited feelings for someone who’s totally inappropriate for him… am I remembering that movie right?] meets Love Actually [clichéd romance]. But it was better than that. My worst case scenario plot prediction did not come true. Instead this was a cool, little story about a down-on-his-luck music exec with zippo money who helps a talented, young up-and-comer. The story’s take on how imagination can be used to see a person’s potential and creatively solve funding problems was fun. I liked that the exec fixed his unhealthy family dynamics (he has a teenage daughter and estranged wife) instead of having a romance with his music mentee.

Chef

The shame of this movie is that it’s rated R but the best part about it was the story of how the character reconnected with his son. Minus a few parts, I’d love to watch this with my kids. What’s it about? A chef (duh) who is fired from his job bc he wants to create exotic dishes versus tried-and-true. When he gets panned by a food critic for his boring menu, he lashes out at his boss and gets the pink slip. After some soul searching, he decides to take it on the road. He gets a food truck and goes cross country. With the help of his social media savvy son, he draws crowds wherever he goes. It ends well. For foodie movie fans, road trip movie fans, Jon Favreau fans, food truck fans, fans of movies where characters reinvent themselves, tell their boss to shove it, and/or tell a critic to shove it (and then make up w them later).

Annie

Saw this over the holidays with my daughters. They loved it. And I did too. It was cute. Quvenzhane Wallis was wonderful. I was less taken with Jamie Foxx. Cameron Diaz as a reimagined Ms. Hannigan was ok, as was Rose Byrne. Who should see this? Quvenzhane Wallis fans and anyone who liked any of the other eighteen million Annies.

Box Trolls

We actually bought this, which meant we were able to watch the extras. And they were pretty neat. There was a featurette on how the filmmakers created characters that live in boxes and the world they inhabit and some cast member interviews, but my favorite was the one where Dee Bradley Baker and Steve Blum talk about how they came up with the Box Troll language. Oh, and I loved Winnie and Eggs! 🙂

Magic in the Moonlight

My recollection is that this was not a huge success but I enjoyed it. I like Emma Stone and Colin Firth. I’m not familiar with Woody Allen’s work (although I liked Midnight in Paris). Magic in the Moonlight is for anyone who likes the idea of a stage magician and would-be clairvoyant falling in love against the backdrop of the 1920s French Riviera.

Maze Runner

I had heard so much about this, and it had been hyped so much, before I watched it, that I’m amazed I wasn’t disappointed. That said, it didn’t make me think very much (not like Into the Woods or Predestination did) and that’s the main reason why it’s getting an egg timer review. I thought it was good. Definitely worth two hours of your time. None of the actors really wowed me, but I’d happily watch them again. The sets were visually interesting but not stunning. In fairness, maybe part of my mehness is bc I didn’t read the book so watching this didn’t give me the pleasure of seeing a favorite novel successfully adapted.

Lucy

Finally!! I had been wanting to watch this since the summer when I’d mistakenly assumed it was based on Laurence Gonzales’ book. It isn’t, but (as I’d suspected; it’s not like the reference was subtle) it is based on Lucy, the Australopithecus, and a “what if” evolution scenario. Bottom line: Scarlett Johansson is a good action heroine. I’d watch her in a similar role again. As for Lucy? Read Gonzales’ book instead. I didn’t love everything about it, but it was better.

Showrunners (documentary)

Featuring J.J. Abrams, Steven DeKnight, Jane Espenson, Michelle King, Damon Lindelhof, Janet Tamaro, Joss Whedon, and a gazillion other people, this is a full length documentary on showrunners – the head writers/creators of a show. If you’ve ever wanted a peek inside a writer’s room, or if you’d enjoy hearing behind-the-scenes interviews of some of the most well-known and/or interesting TV show wranglers, this doc is for you.

World without End (miniseries)

I’ve read the book (and read and watched Pillars of the Earth) so when I saw this was available for streaming, I had to see it. I loved the books (although Pillars was my favorite; I liked Aliena and Jack better than Caris and Merthin). Even though I utterly despised her (I was supposed to), the best part of World was Cynthia Nixon’s Petranilla. Conniving, deceitful, murderous, immoral… she was just Jaw Droppingly Awful. Which made the scene where Caris forgives her sins just before her death that much more powerful. If you’ve read the book, like TV miniseries set in the Middle Ages, or just want to see Nixon’s range, rent it.

TV

Finding a TV show that I love enough to watch every single episode is extremely rare. Ones I’ve enjoyed start to finish in the past: Alias, Lost, and Battlestar Gallactica. Shows I’m currently addicted to: Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge’s, and Outlander. So I wanted to find a new addiction. Below, my candidates.

Reign

I streamed 10 episodes of this before I couldn’t do it anymore. At first, it was amazingly addictive. Definitely a guilty pleasure type of show. Beautiful kids playing monarchs-to-be with friends who have names like Kenna. (Is that historically accurate? Do I care? Does anyone who watches a show like Reign? No! 😀 ) BUT the problem was exactly that. History. I know where this story is going. There wasn’t enough tension in the story questions. Will Mary wed Francis? Will Mary become Queen of France? Will Mary live happily ever after? I know the answers to those questions already.

Vikings

I watched 2 episodes before moving on, but may return. I like Lagertha. And kudos to the writer/director/showrunners/whoever for moving the story along at breakneck speed! I remember saying to my husband, “Wow! They’re already going to England.” I thought it would take Ragnar all season to gear up, find men, etc. And then – in that same episode – saying: “WOW! They’re going back home!” After they’d landed in England, I’d just assumed they’d spend all season there. And I liked that it’s based on real Norse mythological characters. But… it didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped.

Arrow

I wanted to like it. The pilot opened well. It captured my attention… but couldn’t hold it. (My husband hated it, although we often differ on TV shows.) As with Vikings, I’m hard pressed to say exactly why. I might return to this. But would choose Vikings over Arrow.

House of Cards

Streamed 2 episodes so far and am very much looking forward to the next one. I had to talk my husband into this one (he watched Vikings and Arrow with me, not Reign; lol). He’s in DC a lot for work and I think he thought the show would be one big cerebral snooze fest. And the opening credits! Geesh, sorry, but horrible. They’d make anyone who works in DC feel like they’re commuting in instead of lounging on their couch getting ready to watch an entertaining show. (Although maybe that’s the feeling the credits hope to evoke…?) But the show itself – terrific! We’re hooked. Kevin Spacey! Robin Wright! My only worry is that the show may end up like The Newsroom, which I stopped watching midway through the first season.

SHOWS

Matilda at the Shubert

Saw this just this past weekend. Fantastic! If you are looking for an entertaining, funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately happy, family show – see Matilda. The whimsical, bright, colorful sets seemed custom-designed for book lovers. The letter tiles surrounding the proscenium and incorporated into the many sets were decidedly Scrabble-esque. Bookshelves, libraries, classrooms… not to mention swings, scooters, lasers, confetti, strobe lights, helium balloons, a story-in-story told partially through a vintage paper doll/shadow puppet-like presentation. But the best part (as it should be with live shows) was the singing and acting: Brooklyn Shuck as Matilda! So expressive, sweet, sympathetic, and adorable… So confident, bold, and fearless. Also loved Mrs. Wormwood and Rudolpho. And Christopher Sieber as Miss Trunchbull!! (10.0 for the vault number. 😀 )

The Illusionists at the Marquis

Saw this a few months ago. Seven magicians, each with completely different acts. There’s an escape artist, an archer, an inventor, a Vegas style comedian “trickster,” a truly phenomenal card manipulator, an Edward Scissorhands type “anti-conjuror,” and a dance performer “futurist.” It was fun trying to figure out the magicians’ tricks. (I’m no magician and lots of their acts stumped me). Watching audience members (who may have been pre-selected?) become part of the act was hilarious (glad it wasn’t me!). Who should see this? Anyone who likes top-notch stage magic and illusionists who can put on a diverse, spellbinding show.

So, please, go forth and purchase, rent, stream, read, or watch. Support creativity… and stories… and egg timer reviews!

What have you read or watched lately that’s worth mentioning? Come on, sharing only takes three minutes or less…

Gracie Madison, author of SING FOR ME, on Magic, Music, Song, and Emotion (#angel #fiction)

Today’s guest blogger is NA PNR author Gracie Madison, whose novel SING FOR ME, came out a few weeks ago. When I saw that she was doing a BBT tour to help get the word out about her release, I asked if she’d be willing to share her thoughts on adding music to her stories and/or the idea of mixing magic, emotion, and voice. As part of her tour, she’s giving away a $25 Amazon eGC and one signed copy of her book. The Rafflecopter link is below. Welcome, Gracie!

[Quick note before Gracie’s post… remember how much I loved the cover for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE? Well, I entered it in the JABBIC (the Judge A Book By Its Cover contest). I’ve never entered before and didn’t realize it’s one of those contests where EVERYONE can vote. So, if you have a minute, it would be awesome if you could check out all the entries and cast your vote. Today is the last day to vote. There are some great covers! Click here for the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Paranormal category link. For new followers who like reading about covers, check out the “For Cover Lovers” links below.]

Sing for Me, Gracie Madison, paranormal romance, new adult, magic, angels, demons, magic, emotion

“Because music is so universal and so many people have their own special relationship with it, music became a natural way to introduce the plot and characters.”

I should preface this blog post…I love music and the theater, but I am a writer for good reason. The only thing worse than my trumpet playing in high school and college was my singing. I earned a scholarship out of pity, and they probably would’ve paid me more to stop. Music always fascinated me, but it doesn’t come easily to me.  It’s brimming with theory and compositions and its own language, and it blends an almost mathematical precision with creativity. It utterly fascinating to me, and Sing For Me utilizes that mysterious quality and blends it with the paranormal and divine to create the romance.

Sing For Me is a paranormal romance novel set within an opera house. The main character, Madeline, is the supporting soprano for the Eden theater company’s production of The Magic Flute. She also happens to be a specific breed of angel called a Choir, which, in the mythology of Sing For Me, means she is a creature created specifically for music and the entertainment of the angelic realm. Her magic exists within her songs and the power of her voice. In Sing For Me, music doesn’t soothe the savage beast, it is the only way to survive it.

So much of Sing For Me is influenced by music—from the Opera production, to the everyday life of the characters, to the very purpose of their creation. Music is not only emotional, it’s a sensual expression, a weapon, and a way to escape the horrors of the darkness chasing Madeline.

But it is hard to write about music, especially opera. Without hearing the songs or seeing the productions, the narrative relies on the feelings created by the music. The characters each have their own emotional connection to what they sing or to music itself. Madeline is actually forbidden to indulge in any emotions as they fuel the power in her voice, rendering it uncontrollable. Natalie, the director’s assistant, is not a singer or star, but she is a songwriter, and the theater offered her a sanctuary from an abusive upbringing. And the prima donna, Danielle, is a feisty diva who lives, breathes, and is her role in the production. Because music is so universal and so many people have their own special relationship with it, music became a natural way to introduce the plot and characters.

Angels are so often portrayed as strumming harps and singing hymns, so it was really fun to re-envision them in a modern way. But let’s face it, opera has a bad reputation. People envision the horned ladies in golden breastplates wailing at the top their lungs. However, there’s a tremendous amount of power and talent and skill involved within the productions, and there’s just as much hierarchy within the theaters as there is within the orders angels in religious mythology. Though Madeline’s attempts to hide within the crew, her natural talent and beautiful voice take center stage. Everything she seems, experiences, or knows is because of music and related through music.

Magic and music are intertwined within the novel, as are song and emotion. The only thing more powerful than a song is the love of the main characters and the promise that Madeline makes to Damascus throughout the story—she always sings for him.

Sing for Me, Gracie Madison, paranormal romance, new adult, magic, angels, demons, magic, emotion

More About Sing For Me

Madeline Noel fled war-torn Heaven to hide within the mortal world, but the blessing that could protect her from evil is the holy realm’s forbidden power.

As a talented soprano for the Eden Theatre Company, Madeline hides among prima donnas and tone-deaf flutists. Her perfect voice may entertain audiences, but a careless laugh may shatter glass, and her greatest scream can kill. To control her unrestrained voice, the angels forbid Madeline from embracing the emotions that strengthen her song. Anger. Fear.

Love.

The demon-hunter Damascus vows to defend Madeline from Hell’s relentless evil, but he cannot protect her from her own feelings. Though they deny their dangerous attraction, her guardian becomes her greatest temptation.

Surrendering to desire may awaken the gift suppressed within Madeline’s soul, and neither Heaven nor Hell will allow such absolute power to exist.

Sing for Me, Gracie Madison, paranormal romance, new adult, magic, angels, demons, magic, emotion

Gracie Madison
Gracie Madison

More About Gracie

Gracie Madison would spend every day, all day writing…if it were socially acceptable.  Ever since she was a little girl scribbling with a crayon, Gracie’s dedicated herself to her books and all the supernatural and paranormal, creepy and beautiful stories and characters born within the pages. Now Gracie is committed to finally sharing those books with the world.  When the laptop is pried from her hands, Gracie is probably working her day job, rooting on the Steelers, or out with her husband searching for Pittsburgh’s best sushi.

More About the Giveaway

Gracie is giving away a $25 Amazon eGift Certificate (international) and one signed paperback of SING FOR ME (U.S. only). To enter the giveaway, click here for the Rafflecopter form. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. 18 and over. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Sing for Me Banner

So how about you? Do you like stories with angels and demons? I hope so! 😉 How about music, magic, love, and emotion? Do you think Gracie’s cover is as pretty as I do?

Thank you, Gracie, for guest blogging today!

FOR COVER LOVERS

urban fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy, White Heart of Justice, Noon Onyx, Jill Archer, cover reveal, cover artA fun discussion of the Noon Onyx Covers at The Reading Cafe

Goodreads List: Best Books with Jason Chan Cover Art (Fiery Edge of Steel is on there; White Heart of Justice isn’t?!)

The Qwillery: Dark Light of Day‘s Sept 2012 Debut Author Cover War Challenge win – woohoo! (I was a little better about getting the vote out for that contest than I have been for the JABBIC. If you vote over there today, THANK YOU!!)

SilkWords: Branched Fiction Grows Up

My next guest is Sharon Lynn Fisher, author of the steampunk romance, A Heart for Copper, which is a “branched fiction” story — a “pick your path” sweet romance featuring the automaton Copper.

Along with being intrigued by the premise, I was interested in the story structure of branched fiction and how that might work with e-books, as well as the publisher’s two online interactive storytelling formats (Pick Your Path versus Reader Vote), and I was just the tiniest bit curious about what it was like to work with Boyd Multerer, “Xbox’s father of invention”  so I asked if Sharon would be willing to come talk about any of those things. Happily, she agreed. (SilkWords also publishes erotica and this post briefly discusses some of those stories; recommended reading age 18+).

As part of her blog tour, Sharon is also giving away 5 e-copies of A Heart for Copper and a boxed set of other stories. The Rafflecopter form and other giveaway info is below. Welcome, Sharon! 

A Heart for Copper

Have you ever read a romance where you wished the heroine had made a different choice?

Lots of us have memories of reading the old Choose Your Own Adventure stories as kids. Branched fiction has been around a long time, but telling adult stories this way is a more recent development.

Technology has made this style of storytelling a more seamless experience for the reader — hyperlinks have taken the place of page-flipping — and it’s become part of the growing genre of interactive fiction.

SilkWords was born of the conviction that romance/erotica and branched storytelling were made for each other. Have you ever read a romance where you wished the heroine had made a different choice?

In my Pick Your Path story A HEART FOR COPPER, the heroine is an automaton who has just been animated by her inventor. For the alchemy to stick, she must choose whether she wants to stay with the inventor — a charming young man she’s known her whole life — or find her own way in the world. Both choices lead to interesting outcomes. The reader is free to follow one path, in the style of a linear story, or explore the possibilities by reading them all.

COPPER is a sweet romance, but the majority of SilkWords stories are hot romances, erotic romances, and erotica. We’ve weighted more heavily in favor of these stories because that’s the type of content our readers prefer. Pick Your Path works beautifully in stories of erotic adventure, where choices are often about sexual partners, flavors of erotic activity (spanking? bondage?), and devices. It’s a lot like choosing a flavor of ice cream.

We were having so much fun with Pick Your Path that we started thinking about new ways to tell choice-based stories. We liked the way some authors were collaborating with readers on Wattpad, so we decided to create a similar experience on SilkWords.

For our Reader Vote stories, authors write an introduction with a selection of choices at the end. Readers vote for how they’d like to see the story proceed, and the author writes a new installment with a new set of choices. The story wraps up in about four installments.

We’ve got a lot of big plans for the site going forward! In a couple months (coinciding with our one-year anniversary) we’ll be launching a major site update that will introduce a game currency (hearts, of course) to boost interaction with and between readers. This was cooked up by our dev guy and co-founder Boyd Multerer, who founded Microsoft Xbox Live and was director of development for Xbox One.

We’re also looking at developing a shared world for SilkWords, where our authors can create a series of stories with the same setting and potentially the same characters.

If you’re interested in staying up to date, visit www.silkwords.com and sign up for our newsletter. You can also check out some of our content for free!

More About A Heart for Copper

An automaton created by an inventor’s son, Copper has finally been given a heart by her young master. Her choice of whether to keep the key or give it to him will determine what happens next in this “pick your path” steampunk fairy tale.

Will she join his family in their English country manor, where she’ll be forced to consider the question of whether she’s really human? Or will she search out the quirky alchemist responsible for giving her life?

Will her master hold onto her heart, or will she be tempted by the charms of an automaton man?

Sharon Lynn Fisher
Sharon Lynn Fisher

More About Sharon

An RWA RITA Award finalist and a three-time RWA Golden Heart Award finalist, Sharon Lynn Fisher writes stories for the geeky at heart — meaty mash-ups of sci-fi, suspense, and romance, with no apology for the latter. She lives where it rains nine months of the year. And she has a strange obsession with gingers (down to her freaky orange cat).

Sharon has written three science fiction romance novels for Tor Books — Ghost Planet (2012), The Ophelia Prophecy (2014), and Echo 8(2015) — and she’s indie publishing her erotica series Fantasies in Color.

She’s also the editorial director for (and a partner in) SilkWords!

The Giveaway

Sharon is giving away 5 ecopies A Heart for Copper and an ebox set of The Harem Club, Storm at SEA, and Fetish Fair. For the Rafflecopter form, click here. For my official giveaway rules, click here.

A Heart for Copper Banner

Thank you, Sharon, for guest blogging today!

p.s. tell your cat my cat, Ginger, says hello! (Mine is super sweet, not freaky 🙂 )

EVERY CAT WANTS CONTROL "We wants it. We needs it. Must have the precious."
EVERY CAT WANTS CONTROL
“We wants it. We needs it.
Must have the precious.”

#Writing: The Elements of Southern Gothic Romance (and TWO #Giveaways for Readers)

THE ELEMENTS OF SOUTHERN GOTHIC ROMANCE

The popularity of Southern Gothic Romance ebbs and flows but its continued existence and entertainment value is never in doubt. Why? Because this is a subgenre with a potent mix of dramatic ingredients. In honor of the recently-released-stateside Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance (which includes my novelette “Dream, Interrupted”), here’s my list of What It Takes To Be “SoGoRom”:

Mandatory

Set in the South: exact geographic boundaries are debatable so, to be safe, stick with one of the five “Deep South” states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, or South Carolina.

Romance: perhaps an even more hotly contested definition than what states should be considered southern is what “romance” is, especially when the element is not a central part of the story (RWA, I’m looking at you).

Gothic: even trickier to define than romance. Gothic fiction has been around for centuries.

Gothic novels were labeled as such because their “imaginative impulse was drawn from medieval buildings and ruins, such novels commonly used such settings as castles or monasteries equipped with subterranean passages, dark battlements, hidden panels, and trapdoors.” – Encyclopedia Britannica

But gothic fiction is more than just a story set in an old building. Notable authors who wrote gothic fiction include Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe, and Nathanial Hawthorn.

Strongly Advised

The Aforementioned Old Building: Encyclopedia Britannica doesn’t lie. It all starts with the setting. For SoGoRom that means, in addition to a Deep South state, you gotta set your story in a castle, an old manor house, a crumbling mansion, or the like.

Supernatural Creatures and/or Characters: Ghosts, witches, vampires, zombies (a la Frankenstein’s monster)… If there’s magic, it has its own feel; more magical realism than sorcery.

Graveyards: the older and creepier the better, even if you don’t think real graveyards are such. Mausoleums, memorial sculptures, and cemetery statutes too.

A Sense of Menace and/or Isolation: ofttimes there is a darkly handsome, potentially sinister man and a young, vulnerable woman. (The man usually has a hidden vulnerability and the woman inner steely grit).

Atmospheric: Related to the sense of menace but includes the entire “southern creepfest” milieu.

A Mystery: the reader doesn’t really know what’s going on. Not necessarily a whodunit, but something is amiss and part of the reason readers keep reading is to figure out what’s going on.

Eccentricity or Even Outright Insanity: Nearly everyone in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre. Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca. The Narrator from Tell Tale Heart.

Southern Drawl: Yeah, it’s hard to get this right if you’re not actually from the south, but it’s hard to take a southern story seriously if there’s not even a nod to this.

Optional

  • Spanish moss
  • Oak trees
  • Magnolias
  • Antebellum anything
  • Alligators
  • Wrought iron
  • A curse
  • A tragedy
  • Voodoo or folk magic
  • Dreams, portents, or omens
  • A swamp, bayou, or other body of water
  • Endless rain, heat, and humidity (a.k.a. “steaminess” – in the weather sense 🙂 )
  • Parasols
  • Gowns
  • Southern drinks and food (e.g. biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, mint juleps, sweet tea)

Did I get the mix of elements right in my novelette “Dream, Interrupted”? I’m not sure (which is acknowledged in the story itself).

But you know what the most important ingredient is? Having fun. So if you can twist these elements in a unique way that’s fun for you – do that.

Interested in reading more about southern gothic fiction?

More About the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance

gothic romance, dark fantasy

Set in a lush, steamy world of ceaseless rain, swamps, alligators, overgrown cemeteries, and home-grown magic, these are dark and scary, yet pleasurably thrilling stories that unfold sinister secrets at every turn. These paranormal, suspenseful Southern Gothic romances are by both bestselling authors and bright up-and-coming talents, including Erin Kellison; Jessa Slade; Laurie London; Shelli Stevens; Coreene Callahan; Bec McMaster; Jill Archer; Elle Jasper; Angie Fox; Kait Ballenger; Tiffany Trent; Michele Bardsley; Sonya Bateman; Shiloh Walker/JC Daniels; JD Horn; Dianne Sylvan.

BUY LINKS:

More About Dream, Interrupted

What if your snoring really did wake up the dead?

When Corelei Neverest ends up at a sleep disorder clinic, she’s searching for a cure for Apnea Anima, a rare sleep condition that occurs when a person’s snoring wakes the dead. But after countless therapy-filled days and terror-filled nights, Corelei’s almost ready to call it quits when an old crush shows up.

Alluring, irresistible, and beguiling, Caradoc Ambrose has had his eye on Corelei for years. When he hears Corelei is a resident at the Oneiroi Institute, he can’t resist meeting her at breakfast one morning. They’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship that feels like one big dream, interrupted to Caradoc. He wants a chance to convince Corelei to stay with him, forever.

Approx. 13,500 words, “Dream, Interrupted” is a stand-alone story.

Giveaway No. 1

I’m giving away one print copy of the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance. If you entered my previous MBOSoGoRom giveaway, you are automatically entered for this giveaway. This giveaway is open to international so long as Book Depository ships to your address. If you live in the U.S., I’ll send you a signed copy. The cover will be the one shown in this post. (I’m not sure what happened to the previous cover. I really liked it and it fit my story better, but I’ll admit that the cover pictured in this post in immediately tells readers that most of the stories are set in the Deep South).

To enter to win, comment below, use my contact page to send me a message saying you are interested in winning the book, OR tweet one of these tweets (one entry per person):

I love gothic romance! Win copy of Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #gothic #romance

I love dark fantasy! Win copy of Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #fantasy #anthology

Does Corelei Neverest really suffer from Apnea Anima? Win Mammoth Book of SoGoRom: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #shortstory #mystery

Will Caradoc convince Corelei to stay? Win Mammoth Book of SoGoRom: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #fantasy #romance #mystery

Giveaway No. 2

So… my new kitten, Nutmeg, got into one of my boxes of books and chewed the corner of one of my copies of Fiery Edge of Steel. Bummer. But maybe it will be to someone’s benefit. I’m giving this slightly damaged copy away (U.S. only). I’ll sign it (or, if you wish, I’ll sign it on behalf of Nutmeg — kind of funny since cats were a big motif in the book 🙂 ).

Nutmerg-Gnawed FEOS
BAD KITTY

Fiery Edge of Steel  Final

To enter to win, comment below, use my contact page to send me a message saying you are interested in winning the book, OR tweet one of these tweets (one entry per person):

I love Nutmeg-Gnawed #Books! Win copy of @archer_jill’s Fiery Edge of Steel http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M #fantasy #UF

Virtute non armis fido. Courage over weapons; #cats over sanity.” Win copy of @archer_jill’s Fiery Edge of Steel http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M

Giveaways will be open until midnight EST on January 16, 2015. I’ll announce the winners here by January 23rd.

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Open to international participants 18 and over. For my official rules for website giveaways, click here.

Now go forth and purchase, tweet, read, write, etc. 😀

Hope everyone is having a great week!

 

Ten Things from Summer 2014 (#movies #books)

My thoughts on ten things I watched or read this summer:

  1. The Lunch Box
  2. Outlander
  3. Snowpiercer
  4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. The Giver
  7. Noah
  8. The Firebird
  9. Lucy
  10. Me Before You

The Lunch Box

This mixed-up lunch box story involves India’s dabbawallas, the men who pick up hot lunch from home and deliver them to office workers. I was nearly as fascinated by the dabbawallas as I was infatuated with the movie. And I’m not the only one. Apparently, others have been interested in the process by which the dabbawallas deliver hundreds of thousands of lunchboxes daily with very few mistakes or delays. But don’t watch the movie just to see the dabbawallas! Watch it for the wonderful characters: a lonely, unappreciated housewife who cooks amazing food, a cantankerous, soon-to-retire office worker, and his genial replacement.

Outlander

Who else is watching this series on Starz? I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was worried it might be too much Lifetime and not enough HBO, but I was pleasantly surprised by Episode 1 and now, after six episodes, I’m firmly entrenched. I read the books years ago so it’s been fun returning to the story and seeing how it’s being told on screen. Tobias Menzies as Frank/Jack Randall (remember him from Rome and GoT?) and Graham McTavish as Dougal (in truth, I did not remember him from The Hobbit) have been doing a terrific job. And Claire and Jamie (Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan), if not looking exactly as I imagined them, are skilled actors with great chemistry. And I loved the author’s cameo in Episode 4!

Snowpiercer

I loved this movie. Yes, it’s gory and violent and bloody. And, yes, it strains credulity (there’s steak up front; where are the cows?!) and, yes, there are a few things not to like about the MC (well, one thing in particular). But it sticks with you. It’s unique and memorable, as much for the story – admirable these days since post-apocalyptic stories seem to be everywhere 😉 – as for the juxtaposition of scenes and characters (gruesomely dark and wet ax fights; kids singing over-the-top propaganda songs inside a surreally calm and disturbingly charming classroom car; Tilda Swinton as a vile, deranged second-in-command; Octavia Spencer as a vengeful mother on a search and rescue mission; and Chris Evans as oh-so-conflicted Curtis).

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I wanted to love it. I really enjoyed the first one, despite the fact that I didn’t think the franchise needed a reboot. But 2 didn’t wow me. It wasn’t the ending, it was the fact that the relationship between Gwen and Spidey before the end didn’t seem as fun as it did in the first movie and the villains were kind of meh. I’m still planning on seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 3, but only because Spidey is one of my favorite superheroes and I like Andrew Garfield. I think if everything around him comes together it could be great fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy

All the fun that was missing from Spidey 2. Word seems to be that this was everyone’s favorite summer ’14 film. Yeah. What they said. And for good reason. Mostly, the cast. I was largely unfamiliar with Chris Pratt before the film. I don’t watch Parks and Rec, I didn’t see Her, and, even though I saw Moneyball, I don’t remember his character. But he was terrific in Guardians! I read an Entertainment Weekly article before the movie that detailed his career to date. He sounded genuine and grounded. His portrayal of Peter Quill made the movie for me. And, of course, I loved Zoe Saldana as Gamora and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket too. My kids loved Groot.

The Giver

I didn’t read the book. My older daughter did though and it was interesting hearing her take on how the book and the movie were different – namely, and among other things, that the movie’s characters were older and its ending less ambiguous. I found myself wondering if the novel’s vague ending was a subtle message and, if so, what that message might be. Ambiguous endings can be more powerful and achieve a more lasting impact because readers love to argue about them. Regardless of her original intent with respect to The Giver’s ending though, Lowry’s now written three other books that provide definitive closure.

Noah

I put this off for a while even though the trailer looked great and reviews were positive because I worried that it might be The Fountain meets Evan Almighty. But it wasn’t. If you are on the fence about this movie, rent it. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly had already proved they worked well together in A Beautiful Mind and adding Emma Watson to the mix definitely cinched it. They all delivered emotional, compelling performances. The special effects and visuals were fantastic and the filmmakers’ take on one of our oldest stories (especially the watchers, a fanciful bit of storytelling) was interesting.

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

The story of modern-day Nicola who has the gift of psychometry (she can sense an object’s history by touching it) interwoven with the story of Anna, a young Scottish woman living in Russia during the aftermath of the 1715 Jacobite Uprising. I love parallel timeline plots when they are done well (Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth and Katherine Neville’s The Eight come to mind) so I very much enjoyed this. Two romances, historical detail, and a bit of ESP = an irresistible combination. I will definitely be searching for other Kearsley titles in the future!

Lucy by Laurence Gonzales

Last month, I promised to talk more about this. At the time, I wanted to see the movie so that I could compare and contrast it with the book, even though they are two entirely different stories. But I never made it to the theater. (I see very few R rated movies in the theater because I can’t bring my kids). In any case, my theory, which I’ll have to test later, is that the book and the movie share a similar title because each is about an evolutionarily advanced girl/woman and Lucy is a reference to “Lucy” our oldest human ancestor, the first Australopithecus afarensis skeleton ever found. [Incidentally – and as a wonderful example of how art can impact science deeply and directly – the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton was named after the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”]

So what about the book? If you like social science fiction, read it. It’s the story of a girl who is half-human, half-bonobo, which to someone like me (who spends lots of time in a fictional world inhabited by all sorts of shapeshifters and human hybrids) doesn’t sound too outlandish. But the story initially appealed to me because it wasn’t fantasy. It’s billed as a Crichton-esque “biotechnical thriller.” And the book jacket copy describing the fifteen year old “adorable, lovely, magical Lucy” made me curious. I was worried about what would happen to her before I even started reading her story.

The two best parts of the book for me were the character’s relationships (more time is spent on these than on the scientific aspects, which suited me fine but may disappoint others) and the author’s idea of The Stream (his term for the whole ecosystem of living things and their observable and imperceptible, though real, effects on that ecosystem and other living things within it).

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I saved this one for last because it was the toughest one for me to gather my thoughts on. Initially, I downloaded this book because I was simply looking for a nice, warm emotional romance – one I could read in 24 hours and would, by and large, likely forget about 48 hours later. [As an aside, this is not a criticism of stories that can be consumed quickly or are forgotten easily; there’s an art to crafting them too – just because a story’s easy to read doesn’t mean it’s easy to write]. But Me Before You *isn’t* that kind of story. Parts of it are nice, warm, emotional, and romantic. But the book is a lot more than that and it’s not easily forgotten. Nor should it be.

It’s the story of a 26-year-old woman (Lou) who’s a little lost. At the start of the book, she’s living with her parents, she’s in a so-so relationship, and she’s lost her job. It wasn’t a glamorous or high paying job but it was one she enjoyed and its loss propels her in search of another. She finds one caring for a 35-year-old quadriplegic (Will) who’s not lost (he knows all too well what he wants). He’s rich and handsome… a former business tycoon and lady charmer who is now at times angry, withdrawn, or resigned.

SPOILERS… don’t read ahead if you want to read it and don’t like spoilers…

Before reading Me Before You I’d never heard of DIGNITAS, the Swiss right-to-die organization. And then, the day after I finished it, CNN ran this article. And then, the next week, a very close friend of mine had a family member take her own life. She wasn’t quadriplegic, but she was dealing with issues that were just as serious as Will’s. So I’ve been thinking, on and off nearly every day since I read Me Before You not just about the dignity of life, but the dignity of death. Is it a happy topic? No, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It’s a huge, meaningful topic. A blog post can’t do it justice. So, for now, I’ll simply say that Jojo Moyes’ book should be read – as much for the author’s thoughtful portrayal of Will and his struggles as for the author’s down-to-earth and at times truly humorous take on Lou and Lou’s life.

UPDATE 6/2/16: I’ve thought about this book on and off since I read it, and with increasing frequency lately since the movie is being released tomorrow. I can’t say my thoughts have gelled any further. Perhaps because the issues raised by the book are too complicated for a simple reaction.

Stephen Spohn, COO of AbleGamers, offers an interesting, thoughtful response to Me Before You over at Chuck Wendig’s blog. As someone who values both life and an individual’s right to direct their own destiny, the ending to Me Before You would have been excruciating for me to write. Everyone reading/watching the story will likely identify with Will in different ways. It’s impossible for an author to satisfy everyone’s desires with respect to that character.

‘Me Before You’ was an opportunity to create a commercially successful, Nicholas-Sparks-level, true genre-defining romantic movie starring someone who is severely physically handicapped conquering his demons, winning the girl and riding off into the sunset like we see in so many other Hollywood romances. – Stephen Spohn

Ironically, I picked up Me Before You looking for a fairly typical romance featuring a handicapped hero who conquered his demons, won the girl, and rode off into the sunset. Which isn’t what I got, obviously. But I can’t in good conscience say what I got wasn’t worthwhile or valuable. In hindsight, Moyes probably wishes she’d done her research differently. But I still admire her for writing a difficult story about a sympathetic character readers loved and wanted to champion. Do I wish the story would have ended differently? Sure. But I think that about lots of books. If Moyes had chosen a different ending, my guess is she’d have just as many critics, they’d just be saying different things.

Writers should think carefully about the effect of their work upon the world. But they also deserve the right to write the endings for their characters that they feel are appropriate for those individual characters.

Have any of you watched or read any of the above? If so, what did you think? If not, are you watching or reading anything worth sharing? Let me know in the comments! I hope everyone’s September is off to a great start.