Monthly Archives: September 2013

Movie Review: Mortal Instruments, City of Bones

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I downloaded a sample of the book and meant to look at it before the movie came out, but never got the chance. Therefore, you may at some point see me reviewing the book as well. But there were some elements about the movie that I want to discuss first.

First I want to say that visually, the movie was stunning. There were a lot of artists who had a good time with that movie, with the runes, the exotic buildings, the garden, etc. So it was visual candy, if nothing else.

I didn’t mind the basic world set up, although I kind of sighed and rolled my eyes at the cliché vampires and werewolves battling things out. The friend who watched the movie with me pretty much said it–“What is, this, YA Underworld?” I wanted more demons, more variety of demons, and fewer vampires. I think zombies would have been an improvement, actually.  I liked the demon dog–that part was freaky and totally scary. The lava demons were decent as well.

The whole brother/sister question for me was very Luke/Leia, except with chemistry. I personally think it’s a lie, but I guess I’ll have to wait to find out. The romance was a little overdone–why not just let them get to know each other a little first? But I know that’s all part of the YA genre with the drama and angst, omg.

So in all, it was an okay movie. I liked some parts, like the whole rune thing. That was cool. The placing things inside paintings was another nice element. I would have liked to know more about the whole history of everything and how this faction came to be at war with that faction, why the werewolves are good, etc. I had a very hard time believing all the evil in their city is being held back by three hunters. Other nits–why do they make such a big deal about summoning demons when demons seem to be everywhere? Or did I miss something there?  Last, how is it possible to come OUT of the portal, rather than in? I didn’t see a way to get back once you went through. So yeah. Some things didn’t make sense for me.

I’ll probably still read the sample and decide if I want to read the book, see if it holds all these missing pieces. If the angst is over the top (or the romance), then I’ll pass.

Last, I really wonder why so many Millennials find paranormal romances so interesting these days. Is it because our world is so dark these days that it seems natural to fill it with vampires and werewolves? Do they think we’re near the End Times? (see my blog post about that). Or maybe it’s the opposite–they were so sheltered and helicopter-parented as children that they want away from safe, bland things. They crave danger. Maybe they crave a crisis where they can show their heroic side. Demons taking over the world would definitely qualify.

I’d love to hear some thoughts on this!

Author Interview Thursday: Gwen Mayo

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This week’s author interview is with Gwen Mayo, mystery writer with several books to her name. She’s a Kentucky-born writer with a flair for history. You can find more about her here on Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4108648.Gwen_Mayo

1. What drew you to writing?

I started writing because I have a bad memory. When my younger sister was about four-years-old she had nightmares. I would tell her stories to get her to relax and go back to sleep. It worked, but kids that age want to hear the same stories over and over again. The trouble was, I couldn’t remember what I told her the night before. I had to start writing my stories down and learning them.

2. I understand your story “A Proper Job for a Lady” is featured in an anthology that you helped publish. Tell me about the story.

Strangely Funny is a paranormal humor anthology, which is great fun for writers and readers. “A Proper Job for a Lady” features Atalanta Wilde, a fashion conscious monster hunter who has returned to her hometown to face the monster who has plagued her family for the last century.

3. How did you come to be a publisher of an anthology?

A little over a year ago, my spouse and I had to choose between her parents selling their home and going to a nursing home and relocating to Florida to take care of them. We sold the house to my daughter, left our day jobs, and moved to Florida to look after them. It was a very difficult time, because we knew her father was dying. He needed a lot of care, so we couldn’t be away from the house for any length of time.

The second shoe fell when our publisher closed her doors, leaving us with both no jobs and no publisher. We had to scramble to get back on our feet. My second novel is currently under consideration with another publishing house, but we really wanted to keep doing the kind of short fiction we love. That’s why I started researching what it would take to start our own press. We had already formed an LLC for tax purposes so adding a publishing arm wasn’t difficult. The rest has been a learning experience.

Strangely Funny is the first of three anthologies we will be doing this year. All Hallows’ Evil our Halloween Mystery anthology has just closed to submissions, and we are currently taking stories for the Undead of Winter. We are also publishing Ha Ha Horror, a monster joke book by Monster Matt Patterson.

4. What other kinds of stories are in Strangely Funny?

All twenty-five stories are a cross between things that go bump in the night and situations that make us laugh. There are so many great stories that Strangely Funny it is hard to pin down the range of stores. Agatha award winning Author Catriona McPherson introduced us to a ghost with awful decorating taste. David Bernard does a wonderful story on why you shouldn’t take short cuts through the cemetery to hook up to County Water. Ken MacGregor’s pixie detective story kept me laughing. There are vampires, gnomes, gargoyles, even a dinosaur in the mix.

5. Who is your favorite writer and why?

That’s a tough question. One of the best and scariest books I ever read was Margret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. With mystery Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death series is outstanding. The truth is, that any author that can give me a great plot and great characters is going to rank high on my favorites list.

6. What was the most difficult thing about the publishing process?

Formatting. Formatting. Formatting. Print versions of the book have issues, but the big headaches are hit with the ebooks. Ereaders have different formats and the manuscript must be set up to work in all of them. Every author, even me, will leave invisible formatting problems in the manuscript. A lot of hours were spent fixing problems that couldn’t be seen until the format changed. When you have twenty-five different authors to work with, the problem is exponentially worse.

7. What are you working on next?

Right now I am splitting my time between Murder on the Mullet Express, a roaring twenties mystery Sarah Glenn and I are writing together, revising Concealed in Ash, the sequel to my first novel, and All Hallows’ Evil, the Halloween mystery anthology coming up next from Mystery and Horror, LLC. As you can see, I have a full plate. I am hoping to find time to write a short mystery for the Speed City Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

8. What advice do you have for other writers?

Rejection isn’t personal. The hardest part of being a writer is rejection, because there is a little bit of us in the words we put on a page. It takes a lot of courage to send your work out over and over again when you’re getting those form rejections. You have to remember it is a story that was rejected not you.

Editors have a limited number of stories they can accept. As we were getting ready to close Strangely Funny, there were a dozen stories on the short list and only room for four. We had to turn down two good stories for each one we selected. If you take every rejection to heart it will crush your sprint and stifle your talent.

Banned Book Week: what is appropriate?

So I’m seeing posts on my Twitter feed that this is Banned Book Week, with links to various sites listing books that have been banned or suggested banned, particularly from younger readers.   http://ow.ly/p7M1s 

This got me to thinking about my upcoming novel, Journey to Landaran.

I’ve been working back and forth with my cover artist, trying to get the tone right for the cover–she kept going too light, and I had to keep telling her to go darker. There are some dark themes in the Spirit Mage Saga, including the rape and ongoing sexual molestation of a minor, death of parents, and dealing with grief and loss. The child molestation is particularly a tricky subject, because I do show a couple sex scenes, although I try to focus on the pain and horror rather than the physical details. Still, I have to ask myself, who is my audience?  The characters are fourteen years old. I know that it is likely I’ll have readers about that age.

So do I censure myself?

Let me make this even more immediate. Not only may there be teenagers who may buy and read my book; my OWN teenager will likely read it as well, when she is fourteen. She was a big fan of my first book and had been eagerly waiting for this one. She may also tell her friends or donate a copy to her school library (we also did this with my first book).

So what do I do?

I have to say, I’ve never supported censorship. Do I believe that some movies are inappropriate for children? Yes, I do. I think in particular that violent, horrific movies should be kept away from young eyes. My daughter is not allowed to see anything like Saw until she’s an adult. However, I think in America that we shelter our kids from the wrong things. We think it’s okay to see violence and bloodshed, but don’t allow our kids to see anything with nudity or sexual references. I think that’s wrong.

Look at Europe. I think they have a healthy attitude about sex. The human body is beautiful, they’re not ashamed of it, and nudity isn’t a big deal. And yet they have lower teen pregnancy than the United States. And then look at Japan. Manga, Yaoi, shouta are all commonly found and they know that teenage girls are reading highly sexualized comic books, and that’s okay. I don’t see Japan’s youth falling into debauchery. Funny enough, they actually seem more reserved. I know that’s a cultural thing, but it still shows that being exposed to sexual knowledge does not equal loose morals. They also have some extremely dark themes in movies, literature, and art. Ever watched an anime movie with subtitles that was not “cleaned up” for an American audience? Try it. You might be shocked.

I also look at some of the difficult themes addressed in what is now considered great American literature, like Catch 22, Catcher in the Rye, Huckleberry Finn, Scarlet Letter–the list goes on. If you don’t teach children about controversial subjects, how can you ever expect them to make up their own minds about things? To think for themselves?

So I’m keeping the rape scene. I’m keeping the molestation and the skewed sexuality of the main character, her journey from victim through recovery and eventually health. The world isn’t always pretty. (Are you there, God? It’s Me, Margaret. The Color Purple, Lolita).

So your teen is reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover in school? Don’t freak out.

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Let them broaden their minds. Have a little trust.

Author Interview: Hope Welsh

It’s been a busy week–I’ve been conversing back and forth with the digital artist working on the cover for my next book. I’ve also been busy doing edits, and hope to be ready for beta readers in a couple weeks.

Meanwhile, today’s interview is with Hope Welsh, a writer of paranormal romance (and suspense, by the looks of it). You can find more about her here at Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4561774.Hope_Welsh

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  1. How did you first start writing? What drew you to it?     Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I was writing stories when I was in elementary school. I’d read a book and want to create my own. My first ‘public’ writing was a play the school put on when I was in third grade. (And I didn’t even get to go see it; my sister had the audacity to get married that night!)

    2. Paranormal romance seems to be the hottest thing right now. What drew you to this genre, and why?

    Paranormal romance has always been my favorite. I remember reading a vampire book more than twenty years ago by Linda Lael Miller and I was hooked. Back then, angel books were also quite popular, and I loved them. The biggest one, though, that got me interested in writing general paranormal was Gift of Gold by Jayne Ann Krentz. That book, and its sequel, Gift of Fire, are two of my favorite books twenty-five years later!

    3. What makes your vampires different that what’s out there already?

    My vampires are a bit different. Vampires can only be created when one is a ‘Chosen’—a specific gene that makes it possible to be a vampire. All vampires can sense the Chosen, which puts them at risk for Vampire Hunters. Normal mortals cannot be turned. Vampires can also procreate—and the children are mortal and age normally until adulthood. The hero in Once Bitten went to school with the heroine—as he was able to be out in the daytime until he reached age twenty-one.

    4. Tell me about your latest book.

    My latest book is Holding the Link (Prophecy Series Book Two) I released it early in June. This is the second book about Lana and Cole, and their battle with the evil shifter, Connall.

    Their relationship happened very fast in Linked, which is causing some issues for them now as well.

    5. I see that you have several books out. What is your writing method like? How do you schedule in your writing time?

    I’m lucky enough not to work outside the home. I write when the mood strikes. I know that’s awful, but I don’t have a set writing schedule, though I do try to write each and every day.

    Some authors plot meticulously, I’m not one who does. Generally, I know the main plot when I begin the story—but the rest comes together as I’m writing.

    Once Bitten actually came with my only knowing the first scene. I didn’t know another thing about it—I just saw the heroine in the outfit she wore the first night of the story and it went from there.

    I’m also a fast writer. One of the pitfalls of not plotting, though, is that unless I’m on a roll—at which time I can write up to 25k in a day—I generally only manage 2-3k a day. More of my time is spent on trying to figure out what happens next.

    6. What are you working on next?

    My latest project is a four-book bundle along with Elizabeth A. Reeves, Lanie Jordan and Charity Parkerson. Coming on its heels will be a series I’m writing with two other authors, Lanie Jordan and Elizabeth A. Reeves, and the series name is Karma’s Witches. My book is Life’s a Witch. Three sisters separated at age three when their mother dies. None of them      realizes she is a witch.

    This is the first time I’ve ever written a series along with other authors. The series is coming out in August. I’m very excited about it.

    7. Who is your favorite writer, and why?

    It’s a toss-up between Linda Howard and Jayne Ann Krentz. Those were two of the first romance authors that I read, and their book were just so wonderful, I knew that I wanted to follow and write romance novels that readers would love.

    Both of them can create entire worlds that just draw you in from the first line and keep you turning pages.

    I always hate this question, to be honest, because there are just so many authors that I consider my ‘favorites’.

    8. What advice do you have for new writers?

    First, to be a good writer, you must be a reader. I always suggest that a writer read in the genre that they want to write.

    It’s also very important, in my opinion, to write every day. I believe this is especially true for new writers.

    Everything you write will be just a bit better than the last—so the more you write, the better you will be, I think.

    I’ve found also that when I write myself, if I have to struggle with a story too much, that it’s best for me to move on to another project. (But never, ever, just toss a project.)

    I’d also suggest that you write what you love! I’m not a fan of ‘writing what is hot’. Write what you just must write. Write what you’re passionate about. Write the story that is in your heart, always.

    I also suggest joining critique groups—either in person or Online. It’s important to have input on your writing.

Author Interview: Elizabeth Corva

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This week’s regular interview is with Elizabeth Corva, who has her first book, A Million Miles Away out. You can find more about Elizabeth at Goodreads here:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7163266.Elizabeth_Corva

1. What first made you want to write a book?
I started creating my original characters when I was around 15. At the time, I lived in a small town and felt very isolated and misunderstood…your classic teenage misfit. Music was my escape. Since I have no talent for playing, I decided to write about it instead.

2. You’re writing New Adult (previously known as Young Adult) fiction. What about this audience appeals to you? How would you describe this genre?
New Adult takes Young Adult topics a step further. If YA is about the start of the coming-of-age journey, NA is about the end of that road, where the things you do in life start to really matter. The NA audience seems to appreciate books that are little edgier and grittier, and a little more grounded in reality than YA. My writing fits NA in all of those respects.

3. Tell me about your latest book.
My latest book A Million Miles Away is also my first complete novel. It’s an ordinary-girl-meets-famous-guy story, but there’s a twist. Let’s just say our heroine has to put on her big girl panties and deal with some tough situations more than once. It’s not a Romance but it has some romantic elements, some loss and reconciliation themes, and a few good doses of humor to lighten the mood when things get too crazy.

4. What was the hardest thing about publishing a book?
I’d say it’s the marketing and publicity. You can crank out an epic novel every year, but publishing online is like dropping a pebble into the ocean. You have to be willing to spend time exploring channels and more importantly, to reach out to people. If you believe in your work, that helps a lot.

5. Who is your favorite writer, and why?
Lindsay Davis of the Marcus Didius Falco mystery series, because she is incredibly good at writing from a male POV. Her humor isn’t forced and the dialogue is natural and yet unpredictable at the same time. And her work is so well-researched; I swear she has a time machine. You hear, feel, see and even taste ancient Rome in her books.

6. Tell me about your next project.
My next project is the sequel to A Million Miles Away (#2 in the Angel Interceptors series). Unlike the first book, it will be a Romance with a fair amount of steam.

7. Romance is probably the most popular genre–why do you think that is?
My theory is that Romance isn’t just an escape for many people; it’s a dress rehearsal for the real thing. Romances let readers experience things from a safe distance and live vicariously through the characters. Sometimes you read a romance because you want to picture yourself in the main character’s place. Other times, especially with the super-angsty dramatic romances, it’s like a trip to Las Vegas – a lot of fun, but you don’t want to live there.

8. What tips do you have for other writers?
I recently saw a blog post by an aspiring author who said that she gets this horrible feeling of dread whenever she sits down to write, and the only thing that makes it stop is to close her word processor and play video games. I believe that people can overthink the process and make it into something much more intense and nerve-wracking than it really is. Eliminate all of the distractions, uninstall your games, put the headphones on, and commit to writing something every day. Even if it’s just a page.

Author Interview: Kate de Jesus

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I have a special interview this week–I’ll still be doing my regular feature tomorrow, but I thought I’d add in an extra. Meet Kate de Jesus, who is promoting her series The Gateway Discoveries. You can find more information about her on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7092119.Kate_de_Jesus

1)      What first made you want to write?

I always seem to be stuck in my own head, thinking about books or movies and sort of extrapolating what would come next for the characters.  In high school and college I would actually volunteer to write papers for my friends because I just liked to do it.  I put off writing for a lot of years but when I started reading some of the books my twelve year old son read and talking to him about what he likes in a book, I decided to put pen to paper myself.  It’s sort of a productive way of getting stuck in my own head, because I get to spend hours thinking about awesome characters in fabulous circumstances, and all for a good reason!

2)      Why the Bermuda Triangle?

Most people are interested in the unknown and the unexplained.  To this day there is no concrete explanation for some of the disappearances and events that happened in the Bermuda Triangle and a lot of kids in my target age group have heard of some of these mysterious stories.  It seemed the perfect setting for a group of scientists and their kids to disappear off the face of the earth, and to offer a sort of ‘explanation’ of it being the location of a gateway that the characters found themselves pulled into.  It added a touch of real life to the story.

3)       My latest book.

I just released The Brutal Ones, The Gateway Discoveries Volume 2 on Amazon.  This is a continuation of the first book and characters, except the second book delves deeper into the other world the gateway has led them too.  The characters now face forces and age old clash between the people of this newly discovered world while trying to find a way home.  They are drawn into events because they cannot, in good conscious, leave without helping, and because if they don’t do something they will be crushed by the conflict.  There is definitely a message of ‘do the right thing’ in this book.

4)       Who do I see as my audience?

I collaborated heavily with my twelve year old son on the first book.  We discussed the types of action he likes to see in the books he reads, and I used pictures of monsters he had drawn to describe the creatures in my book.  My goal was to write a book that had the stamp of approval for action, theme and cool characters for the 9-12 year range.  It was also important for me to make both a strong boy and girl character so that the book would cross over and all kids can relate to the characters.

5)      Who is my favorite author?

I would have to say JRR Tolkien is my favorite author, not only because he wrote one of the best all time epic fantasy stories with The Lord of The Rings trilogy, but because I can pick the books up every few years, read them cover to cover again and love every minute of it.

6)      What was the process for my book cover?

This was my first book cover, so it actually was a hit and miss type of thing.  My son liked the picture and we made a stab at creating a cover ourselves with Powerpoint.  It wasn’t a bad effort for our first try but it just looked a little too home made for my tastes.  I actually found a website, Author Marketing Club, that lets book cover designers list their services on their site, so I picked a designer whose examples I liked.  I was so thrilled with the cover that I asked her to do a cover for my second book, which I was about half way done with.  Having a cover already finished for my second book was a huge boost for me, and I actually incorporated a few small details from the book cover picture into the story since I was still writing it.  I just started book three but I already have a cover pictures and have the same designer working on it.

7)      What are some important tips for authors?

I would say write every day, or at least every day you can.  I treat it like a job, I write Monday through Friday for several hours.  If you already have a nine to fiver, set aside time in the morning or at night, even if it’s just a little bit of time.  It’s too easy to get out of the habit of writing and then those great stories never get told.

8)      What am I working on next?

I am currently working on book three in the series, Arden’s War, The Gateway Discoveries Volume 3, with a goal of having it available by January, 2014.  This book will wrap up the characters current adventure and launch them into the next one.  One of the things I liked about the ‘Gateway Discoveries’ concept is that I could develop some likeable characters, tell a complete story of their adventures in several books and then completely change course for another set of books.  The gateway possibilities are endless; outer space, Wild West, zombie apocalypse, all the characters need to do is step through a new gateway.  As to which gateway they will find themselves in for book four, we will all have to wait and see!

Author Bio:

Kate de Jesus is a wife and mother of two active boys who love to read. BUT, it wasn’t always that way; getting kids to love reading is usually an ongoing battle.  Trying to find a story with all the things kids love: lots of action, likable characters, weird science, bizarre creatures, mystery and positive messages at a cost that parents can afford, well; that’s asking for a lot!.    Enter Kate’s love of writing, and a new series that covers all these things!  Kate lives in Las Vegas Nevada and is a graduate of Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.  She is hard at work on the third book in The Gateway Discoveries series, Arden’s War, The Gateway Discoveries Volume 3.  The Brutal Ones, The Gateway Discoveries Volume 2 was just released and is now available on Amazon.com.

Book Review: Collapse, by Richard Stephenson

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Title:  Collapse

Author: Richard Stephenson

Publisher: Amazon Digital

Genre: Thriller, Disaster, Dystopian

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

I liked most of this book. In fact if the book had included a climax with a decent hook at the end, I probably would have given it more stars–at least three, and maybe even four. The writing was okay–not Faulkner, but it got the job done. My problem, however, was the ending.

First I want to premise this by saying I LOVE disaster films. I don’t care how outlandish, how unscientific the situation. Give me the asteroid hitting the earth while a new ice age is starting and there’s a volcano in Los Angeles. I like to see how people react when the world goes to hell. I also enjoy dystopian fiction, which I’ve reviewed before on this blog. I like thrillers with lots of action.

The first three-quarters of this book, I had all that. Basically there were four different story lines going on including a billionaire recluse with the world’s first AI computer, a sheriff in Texas about to be hit by the mother of all hurricanes, and an inmate in California about to be hit by a giant wildfire. Throw the president and an imminent war with Iran and nuclear detonations in the atmosphere to cause an EMP and you’ve got plenty of disaster. I like how the four stories narrowed to three and then converged into one at the end. (an expected outcome).

But then the writer got lazy.

A thriller by definition aims to thrill. One of the biggest letdowns, unfortunately, is when a thriller doesn’t deliver. You can have nonstop action throughout a book or movie, but if you skip or just plain put off the big bad climax at the end, it’s kind of like a big air balloon that you just suddenly let all the air out of. All the big exciting stuff in this book happened midway. Then the remainder of the book was pretty much just preparation for an upcoming fight . . . which won’t happen until next book.

Boo. I don’t plan on reading it, because what if the next book does the same thing?

This is a self-published book, and it’s a debut book, so I get it, the writer is still learning. Lesson #1:  don’t ever cheat your reader out of a big bang finish. I don’t care how many chases, shootings, fires, hurricanes, etc. you have. There should be at least a good confrontation with the enemy at the end. The good guys don’t have to win (and shouldn’t if there’s a sequel). But at least have that confrontation!

So yeah. 2.5 stars.

*sigh.*