Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

Normally, this is my Monday to post an evaluation of a debut author's first novel, but since it's a National holiday, the diner is closed. Instead, the staff would like to take this opportunity to honor all the heroes of this great country, both the fallen and those who still walk among us.

The brave never die, though they sleep in dust:
Their courage nerves a thousand living men.
-- Minot J. Savage

Friday, May 28, 2010

Up Front on New TV

The Upfronts are over for the 2010-11 season, and it looks like there will be a few new scifi/paranormal shows on the horizon. As far as I can see, the only alien-oriented show is the renewed V, which I’ve come to enjoy more and more as the season progresses. But there are plenty of other interesting ideas to check out. Here are a few:

Terra Nova: A time travel drama from Steven Spielberg, the show begins in 2149, when massive environmental damage is killing the earth. In an attempt to change the course of history, a group of settlers goes through a crack in the time-space continuum to prehistoric times where they will try to start over and change the future. The show centers on the Shannon family, who face all the dangers of the prehistoric world, as well as the secrets they bring with them. As far as I could tell, the cast hasn’t been set yet (rumor has it that Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights and Kevin Bacon both turned down the lead)--which doesn’t bode well--but the production team has lots of big names, including Brannon Braga (24, Star Trek: Enterprise) and David Fury (Lost, Buffy). (Fox.)

No Ordinary Family: Heroes is gone, but this show could fill your craving for folks like us who gain extraordinary powers. Michael Chiklis (The Shield) heads up the Powell clan, who are growing apart because of busy lives and diverse interests. In an effort to bring everyone together, they take a family vacation to Brazil and end up crashing into the Amazon River. They survive, but are never the same. Slowly each one discovers unique abilities they never had and must learn to control, find a purpose for, and still keep the family unit strong. (ABC)

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman: If, like me, you wonder if John Crichton (Farscape) could really get sucked down a wormhole into a new galaxy where he finds the love of his life--this is the show for you. The questions the show intends to tackle—is there a Creator?; where do we really come from?; what the hell IS a black hole—sound thought provoking. And though the science is complicated--astrobiology, string theory, quantum mechanics and astrophysics—I trust ole MF to make it understandable. (The Science Channel…natch; summer 2010)

Haven: The only new scripted series on SyFy that I could find, this one comes from the team that did Dead Zone, so it could be good. The show is inspired by a Stephen King short story, but evidently diverges from there. It stars April Rose (Jericho, Brothers and Sisters) as Audrey, an FBI agent on a routine case. She stumbles upon Haven, a small town in Maine whose residents are all cursed in one way or another, but who are able to live normal lives because something in the town suppresses their supernatural afflictions. As these abilities manifest themselves, Audrey helps keep them at bay while uncovering the town’s secrets—and her own secret connections to them. It also stars Eric Balfour, who I always find interesting. (SyFy, July 2010)

Other TV News: Though neither of these is otherworldly, I want to give a shout out to two new shows that include actors from previous scifi/fantasy shows. My fave, Ben Browder of Farscape fame, will be in the new CW show, Hellcats. And CBS has Alex O’Loughlin from Moonlight, who will take the lead in the revamped version of Hawaii Five-O. Also starring in that are Grace Parks from Battlestar Gallactica and Daniel Dae Kim from Lost. Check out both shows this fall.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer Blahs

(Picture: Indoor activity wherein I learn that 'easy to clean up!' window crayons are not easy to clean up and offend the cat.)

I'm between projects these days -- writing projects, household projects, website projects, crafting projects. Or, more like, I'm between projects I can do efficiently and independently of outside input. It's kind of like being in the waiting room of life, counting the days until things start. Part of this is because it's summer vacation and I've got children at home who make productivity challenging. Another part is exactly as stated -- I can't do my work until someone else does his, her or their work.

Arguably, writers attempting to sell ought never be without a project. There's always a story or premise that could use your love and attention before presenting it to potential buyers (agents, editors, etc). As soon as you finish one book, you're supposed to inhale deeply and jump into another, or whatever your system for changing gears may be. Even if your new project may not be marketable. Even if you have no idea if the first book in your series will even sell. Even if you have other uncertainties about a project's usefulness. (Can you sense the personal issue here? *snort*)

Writers write. Right? When you're not writing--what are you?

I'm a mom with 2 children who aren't old enough to fix their own meals and who can't just be 'sent outside to play' due to Kid2's allergies. What about you?

Jody W. *

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Garden Hopes

My cat guarding the hole in the fence I need to fix.

As the weather warms and the sunshine lasts well into the evening, I’m digging in my garden, planting seeds, weeding and mulching my perennials. So I thought I’d share some of the plants I’ve high hopes for.

1.Raspberries. This is my favorite crop. Fortunately, we have a large planting and it's thriving. I can’t wait for the first berries.
2. Asparagus
3. Peas. We like to eat the peas raw -- fresh from the pod.
4. Green Beans
5. Yellow Beans
6. Tomatoes
7. Onions
8. Garlic Chives
9. Basil
10. Butter Crunch Lettuce. It may not look like much yet, but I’m already anticipating how good those huge bowls of salad will taste.
11. Romaine Lettuce
12. Spinach
13. Green Peppers

Let’s talk gardens. What are you growing? What’s your favorite garden vegetable?
Please leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Gayle Ann Williams

Tsunami Blue
Dorchester Love Spell, Mar. 2010

Book Blurb:

With her badass rain boots, her faithful dog, and the ability to predict the monster tsunamis that have reduced the US to a series of islands, Kathryn O’Malley isn’t afraid of much. Cut off from all society, she takes to the airwaves as Tsunami Blue, hoping to save something of humanity as the world around her crumbles. But Blue should be afraid—because her message reaches the wrong ears.

Now she’s the target of ruthless pirates known as Runners who want to use her special talents for their own profiteering—as soon as they can find her. Blue’s only shot at survival lies with the naked stranger who washes up on her rocky beach. A man who might just be working for Runners himself. Torn between suspicion and attraction, the two will have to navigate a surging tide of danger and deceit if they hope to stay alive.

This is Waterworld meets Mad Max. There are obvious nods to both movies here (Blue’s dog is even named after Mad Max) but Williams puts a fresh twist on it all taking us on one wild ride. It’s been 19 years since the first tsunami wreaked havoc and now survivors travel by boat, scavenge what they can, and eek out life on what bits of land are left. Society is all but gone and the only law is often kill or be killed.

Strong Points:
Pacing – Reader be warned, if you pick up this book you better have a big chunk of uninterrupted alone time because once you start reading you will NOT be able to put it down. The pacing is so fast I got a thumb cramp from pressing the Next Page button on my Kindle. This story grips you from page one and doesn’t let you come up for air until the last. I actually had to read it twice because I flew through it so fast the first time, I was afraid I’d missed some things. I did.

Originality – A post apocalyptic tale of a girl who can talk to the waves and they talk back to her. Don’t know about you but this is a new one for me.

A Kick Ass Heroine – Blue has lived an isolated life by necessity. She's a little bit crazy, doesn’t play nice with others, and has had to fight for her life on more than one occasion. She’s wicked with a knife and isn’t afraid to use it if she feels threatened.

Villains – There’s not one, but two major bad guys hunting for Blue. Add in all the nasty Runners working for them and there’s not a cardboard villain among them. The author does a brilliant job of creating some of the meanest, cruelest bits of semi-humanity left in this island world. These are what I imagine real pirates used to be like and there’s not a Jack Sparrow among them.

Weak Points:
Author Breaks the Show, Don’t Tell Rule – There were several places were the author broke this cardinal rule. I can forgive a little bit but she skimmed over two crucial scenes where Blue is negotiating with each villain for her life. I don’t want to be told about it. I want to feel it, taste it, and see it as it’s happening. I mean, come on, the author spends two chapters on a side trip showing us how Blue saves a little girl in a poker game and doesn’t spend time on these critical confrontations with the bad guys? I felt cheated.

Repetition and Backstory – Sometimes the author deftly weaves in backstory and sometimes, not so much. For instance, during what is supposed to be a passionate kiss, she spends seven paragraphs having Blue recall her first kiss. Blue should be doing nothing but *feeling* with a hot man like Gabriel French kissing the daylights out of her, not taking a trip down memory lane over another guy. There’s also quite a bit of repetition. We hear the story many times of how her uncle died, how she was raised with Runners as a child, and how she was almost raped and had to kill a man at 13. I got it all the first time. I don’t need the author to beat me over the head with the info.

Everybody Hates Blue – So the Runners want Blue to use for their own purposes. Control the girl who can predict the waves and you pretty much control the fate of everyone still left alive. People will pay a lot for that kind of info. Got that. However, we hear over and over and over (here’s that repetition thing) that Blue is considered a witch, a devil, or unholy because she predicts the waves. OK, I could understand a few crazies who might believe this but over half the surviving population? Don’t think so. Blue has been predicting tsunamis for nineteen years and has never been wrong. Why would anyone with half a brain doubt her at this point? The author makes the survivors sound more like superstitious village folk from the 1300s, not modern people who used to live in the age of technology.

In-between Points:
I’m torn here. This is one of those stories where if the hero and heroine had just sat down and had a nice, long talk, a lot of Blue’s fears and anxieties would have been alleviated. But no, Gabriel won’t fess up to what he’s doing or who he is and that keeps Blue guessing. And since the novel is 1st person POV (Blue's obviously), the reader is left in the dark too. OK, so if he’d told her everything at the beginning, the book would have pretty much been over. I understand that. Plus, the whole book spans less than a week and Blue has all these trust issues, so it sorta makes sense that it would take him 5 days to gain her trust enough so that she’d believe him. I can give the author a break on this one.

The ‘IT’ Factor:
The weak points aside, this talented author gives us a double whammy – a creative, original plot and light speed pacing. It received a 4.5 star RT review and it is well deserved. Tsunami Blue is a page turner at its finest. This is the type of rare gem when it comes across an editor or agent’s desk, they are going to scream “I must have it!”

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What is a Text Novel?

Last year Dorchester Publishing, one of the fine purveyors of humorous paranormal and speculative romances beloved by the staff of the Otherworld Diner, ran a contest for the "Next Best Celler". This didn't have anything to do with how attractive your new tornado shelter designs were (despite the fact I am currently hankering for one -- what can I say? I live in Tornado Alley). This was a contest run via a site called, where authors of serial fiction can post their work, for free at the general level. Readers can read everything for free or even have it sent to their phones or email programs in installments.

In specific, Textnovel encourages 'cell phone novels', which are really big in Japan and other places. The site claims to be "the first English language cell phone novel website, allowing members to write and read fiction with their cellphones or computers, using text messaging, email and online tools."

I didn't participate in the Dorchester contest for various reasons, but recently I did utilize the site to republish a paranormal romance short story I'd gotten the rights back to. It's a story about a girl, a panther and some bail money, and you can read the complete story here if you're curious:

I even earned an "Editor's Pick" badge at one point, which was nice, though I didn't pay money to be featured or premium. Though my little story didn't rocket to the top of the Textnovel charts, I did find it a handy distribution engine, very easy to use and direct readers to with a single link and commenting system. Built in social network, too, without having to bombard people to go visit my blog or website. I've also recently been considering rereleasing (or releasing) some short fiction for the Kindle. My friend Ellen Fisher has been having some great luck with her backlist of late. In particular her two SFRs, The Wrath of Jan and Never Love a Stranger, will be of interest to readers of this blog.

Has anyone else tried Textnovel, Kindle or any other similar sites of that ilk? Was your experiment beneficial or negative?

Jody W. *

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sometimes Fear Can Be Fun

goofy girl designs

Sometimes fear can be fun, at least in fiction. In my current work in progress, the general population is afraid of the dark. They suffer from "nyctophobia," but I’d argue they have plenty of reasons to jump at shadows.
While researching nyctophobia, I stumbled upon “The Phobia List” and found even more intriguing fears.

Here are 13 that caught my eye.

  1. Xanthophobia -- Fear of the color yellow or the word "yellow." I love yellow so this is definitely a phobia I don’t have.

  2. Verbophobia -- Fear of words. I wonder how this would manifest itself? Would you find it difficult to write? Or read? Or would talking be beyond you? What about listening?

  3. Textophobia -- Fear of certain fabrics. Which fabrics? Demin? Silk? How would this start? It's puzzling.

  4. Testophobia -- Fear of taking tests. I bet this is the most common of all the phobias I’ve listed. For my niece and nephew, it's probably a biggie. It was for me, too, back in the olden days.

  5. Pluviophobia -- Fear of rain or of being rained on. Could this be the inspiration for the sing-song, “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.”?

  6. Soceraphobia -- Fear of parents-in-law. Hmmm. I wonder how many married people experience this?

  7. Pteronophobia -- Fear of being tickled by feathers. This one makes me grin just thinking about it.

  8. Photoaugliaphobia -- Fear of glaring lights. Like headlights. Or those intense lights used in interrogation rooms?

  9. Linonophobia -- Fear of string. Makes me wonder -- big balls of string or all types?

  10. Katagelophobia -- Fear of ridicule. This one I can understand. I think the child in each of us never outgrows the fear of being embarrassed.

  11. Iatrophobia -- Fear of doctors or going to the doctor. I bet this anxiety affects lots of people.

  12. Homichlophobia -- Fear of fog. I wonder if this is more the anxiety of the unknown.

  13. Genuphobia -- Fear of knees. Ha! Can this one be real? And, if it is, it really has to be rare.

Did I tickle your interest? If you’d like to peruse a more complete list of phobias, here’s the link to where I found these 13 fears.
Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Viola Estrella

Angel Vindicated
Cerridwen Press, Dec. 2009

Book Blurb:
Abby Angel doesn’t always enjoy being a law enforcement Angel for Angels, Inc., but she excels at it. Deporting unruly demons back to Hell is her specialty. Her personal life, on the other hand, could use a little work. The virtuous and pristine genes seem to be missing in this particular Angel, getting Abby in more trouble than she likes to admit. To date, her biggest vice has been Siméon Keller, a half demon/half human, who effortlessly managed to seduce Abby five years ago. She’s avoided him ever since but can’t seem to knock the bad reputation the blunder has branded on her.

Now, the threat of a demon rebellion has Angels, Inc. overwhelmed, and Abby must trust Siméon to help her find the fiends threatening to destroy Earth’s only salvation. Staying out of Siméon’s bed is the least of her worries as she fights for the lives of Angels and the human race as we know it.

The Ups:
These aren’t your average angels. They cuss like sailors, have no qualms about premarital sex, and the head angel (MOG, or Messenger of God) smokes pot. I definitely saw a DOGMA influence here. (I loved that movie BTW).

Humor and a heroine with sarcastic wit -- always a plus for me. Although her partner Judd had most of the good lines. Hope he gets a story.

The male (ex)angels are regulated to desk jobs because they have too much testosterone to work the streets – and most of them resent it. I kinda got a kick out of the reverse discrimination twist.

The story starts off with 2 possible love interests for our angel with a tarnished halo. Judd, Abby’s partner and best friend, and Siméon, the half-breed demon who gave Abby the rep of ‘Demon Layer’ five years ago. The author did a great job of keeping me guessing who Abby would end up with throughout most of the book, because with urban fantasy, you never know.

The Downs:
Sometimes Abby talked more like a 17 year old cheerleader than a 28 year old woman. At first I wondered if this started out as a YA and then the author sexed it up for grown-ups but forgot to edit some of the dialogue.

The author included one of those “as you know” scenes where one character explained something to another character, which they obviously already knew, but the reader needed to learn the info somehow. A skilled writer can do this without being so obvious.

There was an editorial blip where Abby takes off her clothes after she’s supposedly already taken a shower. Don’t know about you, but I usually do it the other way around.

The bad guys were 2-dimensional, cardboard characters. Very clichéd.

Apparently the angels could be killed pretty easily. I had a hard time with that, since I’ve always considered angels to be immortal beings.

Siméon, her main love interest, professes his love for her after only 3 days together. Way too soon for me.

And my main pet peeve: Abby is a demon control agent and it’s her job to police the demons on earth. If a demon is caught ‘corrupting a human to commit sin’ then she gives him a strike in the form of a thumbprint on his chest. Three strikes and the demon goes back to hell to serve time there until he’s paroled back to earth to take a stab at being good again. This is how Abby meant Siméon the first time. She gave him his first strike/thumbprint for sleeping with someone else’s bride on her wedding day. Big no-no. OK, I got that. What I didn’t get was Abby having to give him his 2nd strike for not notifying the angels of his change of address. Huh? Evidently this offense ranks right up there with greed, lust and gluttony. Siméon has been behaving himself since his last slip up and this was the worst the author could come up with? Pa-lease. I think it was an uninventive way for the author to give Siméon his 2nd strike so that when Abby is forced to give him his 3rd in the black moment, she knows he’s going to be dragged back to hell by her hand (or thumb, actually). It would have been better if Siméon committed his 2nd transgression on purpose so he could see Abby again because he hasn’t stopped thinking about her after their one night stand 5 years ago. Then I might buy the “I love you” coming as soon as it did.

The In-Betweens:
After reading the book, I checked out some of the on-line reviews others have done for it. Many had issues with the fact that a female angel’s main goal in life seemed to be to marry and have babies. That’s how an angel becomes human, complete with the growing old and dying part, and how new angels are made. I can see where some might read it this way. Me, I took it as the angels long for what we all do – to fall in love – and they know when they meet the right person, it will be worth the sacrifice. You’ll have to read the book for yourself to see how you feel about it.

The ‘IT’ Factor:
Ok, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see a trend here. All 3 books I’ve evaluated so far were urban fantasies. I swear I didn’t do that on purpose. SUCCUBI just happened to be the first book I picked out of the hat and the other two were RITA finalists and I wanted to get to those right away. So does that mean to break in to today’s paranormal market, I need to write a first person urban fantasy? I hope not. I like writing my third-person historical paranormals, thank you very much. But I think that’s what sold this book, since nothing else stood out as ground breaking in my opinion. The urban fantasy genre is as hot now as the vampire genre was a year or two ago. Write a really good one and chances are it will sell.

Do I think this book is RITA-worthy? Not really. It was a quick, easy read but nowhere near the caliber of Myle’s SUCCUBI debut book (And why the heck isn’t hers a RITA finalist for Best First Book or Best Paranormal, I ask you? She’d get my vote if I was allowed one this year.) Still, I have to congratulate Estrella on being a RITA finalist. It’s a goal I’m sure all of us aspire to.

So, since the last 3 books have been urban fantasies, for the next debut book I’ll let you choose the paranormal element: Will it be an immortal warrior? A futuristic fantasy? A gothic? Or a shape shifter? You have until Sunday to cast your vote.