Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Turning Point

Something seems to have happened to cars lately. Maybe they’re being made by aliens...or maybe a time warp has slammed me back about seventy years.

What ever it is, cars now don’t have any turn signals.

I’ve gotten used to it on the freeways—I live in California—and now it’s seeping down to local streets.

For five years, I commuted daily to the San Francisco Bay Area; one way from my house to my office was 89 miles. This was always an adventure in driving, none more so than the morning I was hit.

I was driving about 75 in the fast lane when a car flashed into my peripheral vision, hit my right front door and bumper and sped off.  I was slammed into the guardrail, hit the brakes and was smashed from behind by a large SUV.   

No one was hurt, the CHP took a report and we all drove off to file insurance claims.  Of course, the sideswiping driver was never found, but I’m sure he didn’t have turn signals because he believed he was the only one on the road, Interstate 80.

After that, I got a little paranoid. I don’t trust most other drivers anyway, and this one made me watch not their absent turn signals, but their tires. Among other things.

I watch their tires, looking for any signs that they’re drifting, or speeding, into my lane.  Lord knows they’d never use turn signals to change lanes, the road is there for their driving pleasure. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve been cut off by folks just pulling into my lane.

Now, that lack of turn signals in cars has reached epidemic proportions on the city streets as well. The other day I followed a car into my neighborhood.  From the freeway to my street, there were eight turns.  There was never a signal.

I can only assume that the late-model car wasn’t equipped with a turn signal indicator.

Please aliens, when you make cars for us, install turn signal indicators!

Now, let’s talk about the two 18-wheelers I passed the other day whose drivers were texting.  That’s right, driving an 18-wheeler down a freeway at 65 miles an hour, texting.  


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Thanks

This Thanksgiving we want to thank you, our readers.

We wish you:
  1. turkey,

  2. gravy,

  3. stuffing,

  4. sweet potatoes,

  5. cornbread,

  6. green bean casserole,

  7. cranberry sauce,

  8. pumpkin pie,

  9. or maybe pecan pie,

  10. whipped cream,

  11. family,

  12. good friends,

  13. and well, all the best.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Author Interview: JL Hilton

Today we have a special interview with author JL Hilton ( who has published two science fiction romances with Carina Press. She also has a free short story available at  called "Wren and Wood" and likes to make Steampunk jewelry (her artwork is featured in that book). All her giveaways for her blog tour right now are at:

1) If you were captured and tortured by evil space pirates, what would be your authorial equivalent to name, rank and serial number? (IE What is the most general description of your writing focus?)

J.L. Hilton, speculative fiction. Under threat of torture, I might admit to science fiction, cyberpunk, fantasy and steampunk.

What if the space pirates were sexy and chaotic neutral instead of evil?

Can they be Cardassians? I love a man with dry wit and neck ridges.

Why are you drawn to include speculative and cyberpunk elements in your fiction? How do you think it enhances the plots or characters?

I enjoy writing speculative fiction because I love imagination and creativity. I grew up with sci-fi and fairy tales. They are mind candy. Twilight Zone was my favorite TV show as a kid. At the age of 4, I liked H.R. Pufnstuf ( ) and had a huge crush on Jimmy.

Not to say that stories about everyday people in the everyday world are boring. They're not. They're exciting, tragic, uplifting, amazing, and frightening. When I was a newspaper reporter, I wrote true stories about good deeds and bad deeds, and people from all walks of life – war vets, criminals, soldiers, farmers, students, politicians, police, firefighters, athletes, business owners, mothers, fathers, kids with cancer, grandpas with heart transplants. But I think, in some ways, the more imaginative the story, the closer it can get to truth. Writing about space aliens, magical wizards or undead minions is a way of exploring what it means to be human. It's also a way of defining who we are and what we believe in the real world, by creating a personal mythology.

Second part, cyberpunk. I think the Stellarnet Series is more accurately described as post-cyberpunk ( ), though I wasn't trying to write a post-cyberpunk series. My familiarity with cyberpunk as a genre goes about as far as Blade Runner and the Matrix movies. I was trying to write a story about the near future, with recognizable technology, politics and society, and where technology is a good thing.

In Star Trek, they've conquered silly things such as sexism, racism, imperialism and greed – which is noble and inspiring, but not realistic. In Babylon 5, they're still reading newspapers printed on paper, for goodness sake, in the year 2258. And then there's Firefly, which regresses into Wild West and Victoriana. Not that I dislike any of these shows. I love them. But I wanted to envision what a human race armed with an Internet, MMORPG's, social media and smart phone apps might do when it starts settling space and discovering aliens.

If some famous director were going to cast you in the movie version of a speculative or paranormal romance novel (and you had the acting chops to carry it off), which book would it be and what character would you play? (Note: doesn't have to be the hero or heroine. If preferred, you can list your role in the new version of a similar movie, since all movies seem to be getting new versions these days.)

I'd love to be Ogra in The Dark Crystal. Or Eunice St. Clair in Troll. I've always wanted to be that crazy old lady with crystal balls, vials, and cool stuff, who helps the hero along his or her journey. Or maybe Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle. Sorry, do those count as “romance”? No? Um... if I were younger, I'd like to be Stormy Gail from the steampunk time travel books by Christine Bell. ( ) Or maybe Isabeau d'Anjou in Ladyhawke (as I am now, I could only play Father Imperius, but that would be cool, too).

Do you have any writing rituals, quirks or requirements, like background music, flavored coffee, meditation--medication!--or what have you?

I can't write to music, I prefer silence, but I do listen to music sometimes while I'm plotting out a scene in my mind. For example, I used “Wake Me Up Inside” by Evanescence ( ) while staging a fight between J'ni, Duin and some thugs in Asteria Colony. Or I listened to “Hope Vol. 2” by Apocalyptica ( ) while staging a love scene in chapter 21 of Stellarnet Rebel. Something about those songs just makes me feel all of the emotions in those scenes, and it helps inform my writing.

I drink a lot of water anyway, but water has a special significance to the Glin race, so I often have a cup of water with me while writing the Stellarnet Series. Other than that, I must do something to “reset” my mind, when I'm changing gears from homeschooling my kids all day to being in the Stellarnet world at night, so I play Facebook games. For awhile it was Sims Social, then Candy Crush and Solitaire Blitz. At first, there were many arguments along the lines of “Leave me alone, I'm working” and “No, you're not, you're playing games!” But I need that mental transition when I first sit down at the laptop, or I find it difficult to concentrate on writing.

What were your favorite childhood (as in pre-teen, even) books or movies? Can you spy the seeds of SF and paranormal romance budding even then?

Oh, heck, yeah. I've mentioned Twilight Zone, Dark Crystal and Ladyhawke already. I also grew up with Star Wars, Star Trek, Buck Rogers, (the original) Battlestar Gallactica, Alien, and some of my favorite movies were Somewhere in Time, Time After Time, The Time Machine (1960 version rerun on TV), Labyrinth, and Hawk the Slayer. I read Michael Moorcock, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Narnia Chronicles, Dragonlance and the Twilight: Where Darkness Begins series from the '80s. ( ) In college, I discovered Diana Gabaldon. ( )

Do your characters "take over"?

My characters do come to life, as happens with many authors. I might want to have something happen in a particular way, such as when I wrote Stellarnet Rebel. I had a scene where I wanted Belloc to demonstrate his knowledge of various human dances to J'ni – La Volta, Galliard, Tango, Waltz. But they had other ideas, no matter how many times I tried. I finally gave up and wrote what they wanted to do, which was all full of sexual tension and much more interesting. lol

If I'm really deep into writing a novel, characters will sometimes linger in my head and give me a running commentary on other areas of my life. “Really, humans find this sort of thing exciting? They don't even eat the football when the game is over.” Shut up, Duin. “That politician is an ezzub. He should be whipped with a wurak.” Shut up, Duin. “This lemonade is too sweet. Why do humans like everything so sweet?” Shut up, Duin.

I probably shouldn't admit that.

What about this tarot reading stuff? Do you read the cards for your characters to try to decide where the plot should go next?

I started reading tarot cards in 6th grade. That was almost thirty years ago. I don't use them as writing tools, but I've incorporated them into my writing. In Stellarnet Prince, there's a sim character, a kind of holographic projection with AI, (I won't reveal who the sim is, because it's a bit of a spoiler) but she uses tarot cards as a search engine interfaced with the Net.

For fun, I created tarot cards of several of my characters. They appeared on Christine Bell's blog for Halloween ( ) and on my Facebook page in October. ( )

Do you like my hat?

It's very dapper, but it needs a bow.

Insert website and promotional info here!

Author site:
Book website:
Publisher website:
Buy link:

Stellarnet Prince official cover blurb:

An otherworldly love. Human blogger Genny O'Riordan shares two alien lovers: Duin, a leader of the Uprising, and Belloc, the only surviving member of the reviled Glin royal family. Their relationship has inspired millions of followers--and incited vicious anti-alien attacks.

A planet at risk. A Stellarnet obsessed with all things alien brings kidnappers, sex traffickers and environmental exploitation to Glin. Without weapons or communications technology, the planet cannot be defended. Glin will be ravaged and raided until nothing remains.

A struggle for truth. On Earth, Duin discovers a secret that could spur another rebellion, while on Glin, Belloc's true identity could endanger their family and everything they've fought for. Have the Glin found true allies in humanity, or an even more deadly foe?

94,000 words

*** Right now, JL is touring all over the interwebs giving away books and other loot. Be sure to check her website for the updated schedule of appearances!


Jody W.
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist  *  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hitting the Brick Wall (in the National Novel Writing Month) 13 Suggestions to Break Through Writer’s Block


 If you’re like me, the excitement of a new story or beginning a challenge is waning. Now that you’re into the second week, maybe you're wondering where your next 2,000 words will come from.
            Never fear, I have some suggestions. Thirteen, as a matter of fact.

  1. Have one of your main characters start a journal. What are her innermost thoughts/fears about her current plight?
  2. Write a back-story. Give yourself permission to compose a history for your heroes, villains and/or setting. Indulge in all those world-building details and trivia that might bore a reader, but as the creator you feel compelled to  know. Getting them down on paper/electronically will enrich your story. A word of caution, though: Use these details  sparingly in the final draft.
  3. Go through what you’ve written, but don’t edit. Envision the scene you're looking at,  then add another layer. Insert Smells, Sights, Sounds and Tastes -- impressions and associations your character would encounter during his or her experience.
  4. Look at a previous scene and play the "What-If?" game. What would have happened if Character X hadn’t found the gun? Or what if Character X somehow had survived a fall into the volcano?
  5. Write a scene again from the antagonist’s point of view.
  6. Add a new character.
  7. Kill off someone in the story.
  8. Consider handing out super powers.
  9. Look at one of the scenes and consider changing its setting. What if Character X broke up with the villain while both (were swimming in shark infested waters), (attending another character’s funeral), (relaxing aboard the Titanic), (locked in the trunk of a car), (bored to tears at a family reunion), (facing the camera in a reality TV special), (immersed in a fire fight), (climbing to the top of Mount Everest), (being held by airport security).  You get the idea. ...
  10. Make a list of each of your main characters’ dirty secrets. Then another list of the worst possible moments those secrets could be exposed.  If inspiration hits, write that scene.
  11. Look at the things that have happened to your hero. Say he has unlimited text minutes. Compose his explanations of those events in texts to his (boss, mother, girlfriend, child, priest, parole officer).
  12. Remember you’re writing for fun. Not perfection. Keep telling yourself, “This is a Rough Draft. I can always change things later.”
  13. Treat yourself to a reward for words written.

            Finally and possibly the best suggestion in my list, remember to ask friends and family for help. Phone someone or connect on twitter. Also, check out the forums on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) website:, or visit another writer’s blog.  
            One of the things I love most about NaNoWriMo and blogging is sharing the writing adventure with others. Please consider leaving a suggestion for defeating writer’s block or a comment. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

About John Carter, And Not The Character From "ER"

By Eilis Flynn

From the time Disney announced the title of one of their movies, it was pretty clear they wanted nothing to do with it, and did everything they could to kill it. Why, I never could figure out, but it was obvious something had happened, and Disney (symbol DIS, if you’re curious enough to watch the stock go up and down online) decided it was easier for them to make sure they washed their hands of it than recoup their losses. And they made sure there were losses.

I speak, of course, of the movie JOHN CARTER, which came out earlier this year and died almost immediately. The critics lambasted it, and the word spread about how terrible it was, and how it was basically an embarrassment, it was the end of the careers of all concerned, so forth and so on. Perhaps you might not remember that it came out at all; if that’s the case, that’s not a surprise, either. Based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs series of books, the title itself was guaranteed to confuse anyone familiar with the books, and it was guaranteed to confuse anyone who might recognize the name from, say, a character from a long-running TV series on NBC. (The series was ER. No one on the show, as far as I could tell, ever mentioned the books, or the hero’s name; I can only assume that it was creator Michael Crichton’s little private joke.)

Given that the movie was based on the first book of the series, the confusion mounted. The book was titled A PRINCESS OF MARS, and I’m sure that in the wisdom of the entertainment industry, anything with the word “princess” would scare off boys and men who would refuse to shell out to watch it, so Disney decided that the title had to change for the movie. But change it to JOHN CARTER? The title could have been WARLORD OF MARS, because that’s what the character, an ex-Civil War soldier, became, but perhaps the logic was that a title like that would scare off another group. The title they decided on clearly was someone’s punishment, and it pretty much worked, because it sucked. Mind you, this is all speculation. But it was a crappy title, because it didn’t say anything about the story.

(According to IMDB, there were conflicting reports about why the change in title – from A PRINCESS OF MARS to JOHN CARTER OF MARS, and then to JOHN CARTER – occurred, ranging from the marketing department or the director wanted to appeal to a broader audience, or the studio wanted to create a film series with “John Carter” in the title. Hm. And apparently the industry also believed that movies with “Mars” in the title underperform financially, and in the case of Disney, its MARS NEEDS MOMS, which was not a success, to put it mildly. Apparently producing a good product wasn’t in the cards.)

And everyone who knew the story would have been confused. And those who knew there was a movie based on the Burroughs books on the way would have been confused. Yes, pretty much screwed one way or another. “Flop” was the term used. “Flop of legendary proportions,” to be precise, was the term.

Was the punishment aimed at the director? He apparently had control of the marketing, and considering how much money the company put into the marketing, I had to think that they threw bad money after good, truly a money pit. And that pit kept getting deeper and deeper. Was the studio head on someone’s shit list? Sure seemed like it.

So what, you ask?

So there was a twist to the end of the story. The critics savaged it, and the general audience stayed away. But those familiar with the books? They liked it. And they told their friends, and even commented about it in social media. So when the movie became available on DVD and Blu-Ray, they even bought it. In fact, it made money overseas, so it did recoup some of the loss. By early April, the movie had made back its production costs of $254.5 million worldwide. As of August 2012, the gross was up to $283 million worldwide. (And of course, this is the company that also enjoyed the billion-dollar success of THE AVENGERS the same year, so it’s not hurting.)

But the Disney studio chief had to step down, and the movie still holds a reputation as being a stinker. So whatever happened in the background, someone cheered with a sneer and someone groaned with whatever rhymes with “groaned.” And who got screwed? We did.

What’s the moral of the story, you ask? Oh, I have no idea. I wanted to complain how badly this movie was treated, and you, dear readers, were convenient. What’s the moral? Uh, don’t piss off studio heads? Don’t get involved in a land war in Asia? Don’t screw with a classic, not when the title is important? Yeah, that’s it. Titles are important.

Titles are important. You can’t deny that, can you? Nobody can.

So go out and buy the JOHN CARTER DVD and enjoy it, because it’s a pretty good movie. The end.

Eilis Flynn saw JOHN CARTER and liked it, screw the critics. She can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at

Disclaimer: I own Disney stock. So what?