Thursday, April 30, 2015

Taken in Death

I'm not done with J. D. Robb. Not just yet. With two novellas (or is it novelettes?) to find and complete, only then I will be officially caught up. Luckily, my local library had a copy of the novella anthology, Mirror, Mirror (2013), featuring an In Death short called Taken in Death.

Taken in Death features a story about fraternal twins, Gala and Henry’s, kidnapping from their New York East Side home. Unfortunate for the twins–and their nanny–the parents are out of town when this incident happens. This leaves the twins’ nanny to fight with their abductor, leading to her murder and the call for New York City homicide lieutenant Eve Dallas. Upon reviewing the home’s security footage, it seems as if the children’s mother committed the murder/kidnap. However, when the twins’ parents arrive upon the scene, it appears that it was, in fact, the crazed and highly deranged twin of their mother found entering the home.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, it really was. Crazy and warped. I've long recognized that it’s these In Death shorts that allow Robb to really go to town with twisted villains. And I mean this one was twisted. We're talking cannibalistic, blood-licking twisted. Nevertheless, there’s a theme here. The theme is fairytale villains, spirited-away children, heroes, breadcrumb trails, and the consumption of tampered sweets. And that’s exactly how Taken in Death operates, with its In Death characters and police procedural bend.

This was easily one of the better In Death novellas. A few were boring and forgettable, but Taken was a thrill that I had no choice but to swallow in one sitting.  Now I need to find a copy of The Unquieted anthology, which features the novella Chaos in Death.  Then, I'll be good until September.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Okay. I gave in for $5

I feel somewhat like a cheap whore. Let me explain why. You see, after all that fussing I did about Sandra Brown, suspense romance, and her formulaic writing; I crawled back to her for $5. (According to my library’s used bookstore, that’s expensive.) So as you can see, I’m now the owner of Brown’s latest, Mean Streak. To be fair, I did say in that video that I wanted to try Mean Streak. I also prayed that it wouldn't be a frustrating disappointment similar to her 2013 release, Deadline. I pray even more that it isn't as awful as Smash Cut (which I consider the worse). 

Nevertheless, I saw it on display the minute I stepped inside, and I couldn't resist it for that price. I've held out since its release last August, and now I'm going to copy and paste its Goodreads synopsis so you guys can tell me if it sounds promising or not.
Dr. Emory Charbonneau, a pediatrician and marathon runner, disappears on a mountain road in North Carolina. By the time her husband Jeff, miffed over a recent argument, reports her missing, the trail has grown cold. Literally. Fog and ice encapsulate the mountainous wilderness and paralyze the search for her.

While police suspect Jeff of "instant divorce," Emory, suffering from an unexplained head injury, regains consciousness and finds herself the captive of a man whose violent past is so dark that he won't even tell her his name. She's determined to escape him, and willing to take any risks necessary to survive. 

Unexpectedly, however, the two have a dangerous encounter with people who adhere to a code of justice all their own. At the center of the dispute is a desperate young woman whom Emory can't turn her back on, even if it means breaking the law.

As the FBI closes in on her captor, Emory begins to wonder if the man with no name is, in fact, her rescuer.
I see the formula.  It's screaming in my face.  And yet... I can't resist....  I'm a slave to some authors.  I have to learn to accept that. 

Naked Jacqueline Kirby

Jacqueline Kirby is back for the final time in Naked Once More. For her last murder mystery, Kirby has settled with becoming the popular, bestseller author of two books. Her ex-librarian days are behind her, and it’s time to keep her winning momentum with a third book. She has ideas. She has potential drafts.  She has the will. However, she’s not 100% sure of her direction, until her literary agent calls her for lunch to discuss a project that may be worth her efforts.

Kathleen Darcy collected millions off her debut novel, Naked in the Ice. From her publisher's advance, a movie deal, and heavy promotion, she’s created just enough wealth to take care of her family.  This also provides her leeway (as well as pressure) to start on her second novel. With an outline partially at hand, matters seem promising until a string of "accidents" start to happen to Kathleen. Accidents so frequent that Kathleen soon finds herself driven over a cliff.  Her body unfound, the locals and her family label her fate as suicide.

Seven years later, Kathleen’s agent, family, and family attorneys have come together to audition and interview a few popular authors for the task of completing Kathleen's second book. And that's where Jacqueline Kirby’s agent shoots her the idea of taking a part in the auditions. It would be perfect for Jacqueline’s career–so he says. While it took some heavy convincing to the forever cynical Jacqueline, she eventually nails the project.  Afterwards, she decides to temporarily relocate to Kathleen’s town to dig into the late author’s files, and uncover everything she needs to produce the sequel properly. Unfortunately, a stream of accidents begins to happen to Jacqueline as well. Accidents meant to stop Jacqueline from uncovering some of Kathleen’s secrets. On the other hand, maybe something else entirely.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

~5. Back 2 High School - Towel Style~

Nearly forgot to update date the junior year comic post.  So here we are with pages 21-25.

The two stories kind of bleed into one another at this point.  Towel's still there (fighting with her kid brother over video games) and so are the two new girls who decided to chase a cat (it somewhat resembles Sailor Venus's Artemis) into a black hole of some sort.  The Naoko Takeuchi influenced kicked into overdrive at this point.

If you pay close attention, you'll probably recognize that the character with the braided pigtails has on Claire Redfield's Resident Evil 2 outfit.

The two girls jump into the black hole, and on starts another adventure that should eventually cross into Towel's.  Meanwhile, Towel is getting ready to go hang out with her best friends.  Apparently, she's given up on finding the missing students and the hypnotizing new student.  Yet, she still has an uneasy feeling about her night.

We'll see what happens next time...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Reads

I’m about 60 pages from the end of Elizabeth Peter’s Naked Once More; and considering I'm off tomorrow, I have plans on sitting down tonight and finishing it. That means no PS4. So… I wobble a bit. 

Nonetheless, I do want to share the newly purchased books I'm following Naked Once More with. As seen, that'll be the latest by Toni Morrison, God Help the Child. Many of you know how I feel about Morrison’s writing post-Beloved. Therefore, I won't get into all that. The subject of brevity of style in place of coherency within scenes just won’t be discussed. But I feel like God Help the Child is going to be a good fit.  At 178 pages, it'll be the perfect weekend read. And that’s exactly what I plan to do with it. Just to be certain of my decision, I stood in the front of the bookstore for a good ten minutes reading a couple of pages.  I wanted to make sure Morrison's scenes bubbled up into my imagination effortlessly.  I say that in contrast to a wall of prose I have to sift through to gather my bearings on what exactly is taking place within the story.  Luckily, I got scenes.

On the opposite side of Morrison’s display was a newly released book called God is Always Hiring. It’s written by Regina Brett, and is subtitled with the statement, “50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work.” I ached over it, while squeezing my coupons in my pockets. Then I answered that little voice inside of me telling me that this was exactly–in this right moment and time in my life–what I needed read.

It wasn't until hours later that I realized both titles contained "God" in it.  Hmmm.  I take that as some kind of sign.

Bein and His Wind

Tokyo is about to find itself in the grips of a stream of terrorist attacks driven by a religious zealot named Joko Daishi. Joko is dedicated to his beliefs, those of which circulating around how society needs purification through a baptism of fire. However, the unconcerned citizens of Tokyo are too wrapped up in their bustling lives to give a damn about his message. And not “giving a damn” may be the reason Joko found himself released from police custody after his last terrorist event (check out book two in the series, Year of the Demon). And while Tokyo’s police department may have turned somewhat of a blind eye to Joko’s terrorism, Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro has not. Unfortunately, there’s not much she can do.  Having thwarted Joko in the past, Mariko's petition for her Captain to detain and hold Joko eventually causes her her badge. (You know, because she’s a woman and can’t be vocal.  That type of bullshit.)

Without the support of the Tokyo Police Department, Mariko has to find other resources to stop Joko from destroying Tokyo.  What Mariko doesn't know is that she's already drawn the attention of an underground syndicate known as The Wind. The Wind once harbored and trained Joko Daishi and, in effect, is responsible for him. Regardless, they need Mariko’s help.  She carries an Inazuma blade, handed down to her by her deceased senshi.  Inazuma blades are centuries old and cursed; The Wind believes this is their means of stopping Joko.  So Mariko's choice becomes simple–yet highly complicated.  She can join The Wind to stop Joko Daishi, or go at it alone before her city is destroyed. And the longer she contemplates her choices, the more personal her decision becomes.

Wow. Now where do I really start with this one? First, this is book three (and I believe it’s the last) in Steve Bein’s Fated Blades series. As I've mentioned in previous posts about previous books, the series is part contemporary crime thriller and part historical fantasy. It switches time and space.  A lump of chapters are told in the today's world, viewed through Tokyo Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro.  Her chapters focuses on her role as the owner of one of the various cursed Inazuma blades crafted in ancient Japan, and how she uses the blade to stop terrorists. Meanwhile, the counter chapters follows the story of a young, crippled samurai named, Daigoro. During Japan's Azuchi-Momoyama period, Daigoro is the owner of the same Inazuma blade as Mariko. The majority of his narrative revolves around him using the sword as a means to protect his clan.  With a mother suffering from a nervous breakdown after the death of his father and brother, adjacent clans use political manoeuvres and intrigue in attempts to take what little honor and status Daigoro has.  Naturally, they want his blade as well. 

These two have carried the series since the first book. However, in the second book came a new character named Kaida.  

Kaida was a pearl diver who turned away from her family to become an assassin working for The Wind.  Unfortunately, the continuation of her story isn't in Disciple of the Wind. So I was a bit disappointed.  Clearly her portion was meant to give readers the history behind the origins of The Wind, origins that would've been beneficial to Disciple.  But for Disciple's length purposes, her story is available in a Kindle novella.  I'll probably get to it at a later date.

Despite all that, I'm happy to say that there is more Mariko in this entry. And more Mariko means far more action in the form of shoot-outs, sword fights, and a healthy dose of detection and crime boss confrontations. In Year of the Demon my biggest complaint was the lack of her presence, so I suppose it worked to cut out Kaida’s story. Nevertheless, that’s not to say that Daigoro’s portion isn't as strong, as it draws to its own conclusion within the series (his opponent is easily the most interesting and best). I love his bits in particularly because they're all about ancient Japanese political intrigue.  Careful navigation of politics operate better than a flat-out sword fight, if you want to save your family and save your ass from a beheading. But trust me, there are still plenty of sword fights and action in his story as well.

Now I still have to mention how–after three books–some of the characters in the series come across as slightly overblown. One example comes in how Mariko’s Captain was an unapologetically drawn bigot who did a lot of fist-waving and kowtow-demanding of Mariko...still.  It just got old with him shrieking at her, and no amount of head-bowing could save Mariko or my patience.  Also, I know I just said that I was happy to see more Mariko, but even she suffered from moments of overdrawn-ness.  She karate chopped and sprung her way through some scenes where she didn’t appear threatened or in immediate danger.  So yes, there were times when I wished she would chill out for a second on the Zero Woman act.  

There were also moments where action scenes were muffled and scrambled with disorienting choreography. A bad guy leaping from a hail storm of bullets manages to hide undetected behind the leg of a pool table inside of a bar, meanwhile Mariko and her partner are underneath that pool table unaware of him. And when they finally notice said bad guy, he jumps up and leaps out of the window.  You can only wonder if the bullets stopped raining over the place enough for him to take the risk. Or still, how and when did he get behind that pool table’s leg undetected?  Lots of scenes came across like this.  Those hazy, semi-teleporting characters and scene transitions that aren't quite clear.

All in all, I highly recommend the Fated Blade series. Especially for those interested in Japan, Japanese culture, crime fiction, and historical fantasies.  Additionally, if you're like me and have mostly given up on the urban fantasy genre, this may be your ticket back in.  Give this series a greenlight.  

Lastly, if this is the last book, I can say I'll miss the series.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Simple Understanding of Short Fiction

I was talking to a relative during lunch about Kindle singles, flash fiction, and novellas. She shared how she loved following these itty-bitty stories provided by Amazon for .99. She loved them so much that she wanted to try her hand at creating a series of short pieces of fiction dished out in the same bite-size manner. My idea was to encourage her to write one, seeing that she had a story inside of her that she obviously felt needed telling. I urged her to give herself a chance, and starting small was a good move. Just write something, hire a decent editor, if at all possible, and just throw it out there and see what happens. But she still chewed her lip in concerns to how long her story should be. So our discussion turned into the differences between novellas and such. It was interesting trying to decipher the differences.  Eventually, we settled with the fact that we needed to do a little more research. And that’s what I'm bringing here to this post.

So let’s start with the shortest form then work our way up. I learned that the differences in all these short forms of fiction appears mostly in their word count (though that seems apparent, I prefer focusing on page count). Following that notion comes brevity of style, as you probably don't want to get so caught up in prose and details within a limited amount of space.

Flash fiction are stories under 1,000-2,000 words. I guess this would be difficult for someone like me, as I love every scenic detail and morsel of character development available in fiction. Nonetheless, with flash fiction it’s obvious that you have to get to the point of your narrative. These are the kind of stories that provide little to no build up, as the reader is instantly thrown into what may be considered a narrative conflict. I think of it as throwing readers at the emotional peck, or climax, of a story and let their imagination fill in whatever holes lay available. Or something to that extent. Nevertheless, all overtures are tossed aside. It’s sort of like the proverbial knife gone right into the gut. How do you respond? Flash fiction may show you how.

Length wise, short stories are probably a step up from flash fiction. They're somewhere in the realm of 1,000 and 6,000 words. (But seriously, who keeps up with that mess?)  I think short stories differ than flash fiction because it gives you the tiniest of room to present the majors: character, setting, narrative, and conflict. Each wrapped in a handy theme.  I kind of get the feeling that short stories take on a far more thematic approach than flash fiction. Actually, I would guess that short stories line its bases in a theme of some sort. Immediate to mind I think about the Chinese superstition that you shouldn't sweep your floor on New Year’s Day because you may sweep away bad luck. You can take that uncomplicated concept, decorate it with the "majors," and give a nice consequential conclusion as to why you have to honor that superstition. All in a simple, quick story.

The novelette just boggles me. describes a novelette as “a brief novel or long short story.” I never even considered such a thing; I probably would've touted a novelette as a short story. Nevertheless, it’s really a middle child in all of this. The Jan Brady in the mix. A novelette gives itself probably a stretch or two more narrative room unavailable in a short story; however, it doesn't jump completely into the involvedness that makes up a novel or novella. So I would assume a novelette’s word count (should it matter) would arrive somewhere between 8,000 and 20,000 words. Just guessing of course. So in essences, it’s a touch longer than a short story while not considering it a short story. I guess…. And I say “I guess” because I’ve probably heard of a novelette in passing, but never gave it a thought until I actually looked up the subject of fiction short forms. It’s a cute word, if anything else.

Last–but not last–we have the novella. This is the one everyone is familiar with. It’s a novel that’s not a novel... exactly. It’s a short form fiction far more intricate than its common comparison, the short story. It’s a short novel, or it has just about everything that makes a novel except for a lower word count. Even that sounds unrehearsed and superficial. But I digress. Everyone knows what a novella is.

And that’s basically my understanding, guys.  A touch self-deprecating, but most certainly told in my own words. Nonetheless, a less than thorough understanding of the different forms of fiction. Don't quote me on any of this! Just pray that I take the time to produce some kind of work out of either of them–along with that relative I spoke of.

Add any ideas or thoughts about these fiction short forms in the comments below.  Expand our understanding.  And share whether you have a healthy appreciation for any one form.

Carry on.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Guest Post: Jean Fournier Johnson on A Fearful Lie

A Fearful Lie by Jean Fournier Johnson

Title: A Fearful Lie
Author: Jean Fournier Johnson
Genre: Literary Fiction/Mystery
Length: 346 pages
Release Date: April 25, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1508674542

SYNOPSIS: By the time Gloria sees the little boy step out from between the parked cars it is too late. She hears the sickening thud as her vehicle strikes his body. She remembers that third drink at the bar, her husband's career as a police officer. Fearful that if she stays she will ruin the lives of those she loves, Gloria drives away. She leaves the child on the sidewalk for his mother to find.

Having convinced herself she can live with this decision, Gloria is surprised to find her guilt beginning to take a toll on her family. Turning away from her marriage as it falls apart, she decides to atone for her crime by devoting her life to helping others.

What better place to start than with Marisa, the mother of the boy she killed?

Jean Fournier Johnson on Writing A Fearful Lie

My first hope when I began writing A Fearful Lie was, of course, to create a book that people would enjoy reading. I especially had women’s book clubs in mind. Having been a member of several such clubs over the years I learned that the works that engendered the most discussion and debate were those that had a moral dilemma at their heart. So I decided to create a story about a tragic mistake, a silence kept and a life lived trying to atone.

I imagined that those who read A Fearful Lie would be inspired to think about their own ideas of what is right and what is wrong and to ask what they might have done in the Gloria’s place. Most people have strong convictions about morality. Some believe that there is an ultimate morality; others argue that what is moral can depend on the circumstances. But I think that many of us want to believe that we would always do the “right” thing, no matter how hard. I wonder about that. I wonder if given the right circumstances any one of us might not do the “wrong” thing in a moment of panic. 

I also wanted to explore the idea of atonement. Western culture teaches that when we do something wrong we must find a way to put it right. But again I wonder if that’s ever possible. Can anything Gloria does for others make up for the fact that she killed Joshua and drove away? Certainly she spends fifteen years of her life trying. I will leave it for the reader to decide if she is successful or not.


Jean Fournier Johnson was born in Nova Scotia, educated in Quebec and lives with her husband in Ontario, Canada. She has two children and three grandchildren. A FEARFUL LIE is her first novel.

Currently Available at:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Boy I Tried To PNG (Test Run)

This post/drawing came with a technical purpose. It’s my attempt to create a PNG image (portable network graphic or transferable images with no accountable backdrop) out of one of my drawings. I came up with this idea because I wanted to make T-shirts featuring my characters–after some previous failed-looking attempts. The thing is that it looked weird sporting an entire drawing onto a shirt. It almost looked plopped on, with a hefty “there.” It just didn't look right having an entire portrait drawing on a shirt, though outside of Zazzle's digital design tool it may appear differently. Needless to say, I couldn't do anything with all of that.

So I had this random, unfinished sketch hanging around. I decided to get modest (is that safe to say?), sloppy and hurried in my attempt to flesh this bald guy out and transfer him into a simple PNG file to test myself. And it worked; rough and rocky, but I managed. Added to that, I decided to double this into another drawing post/video tutorial. Though I cringe at the actual drawing.  But like I said, he had a purpose.  I made sure his expression revealed such.

At the end of the post comes the video version...

Simple and clean.  Nothing fancy.  Including no hair.

For darker complexion, I'd normally add a second layer.  Not this time.  On to its purpose.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Guest Post: Chad T. Douglas on Earthshine

Earthshine by Chad T. Douglas

Title: Earthshine
Author: Chad T. Douglas
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Length: 306 pages
Release Date: January 30, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1507540152

SYNOPSIS: Benni Dublanc is exemplary, which, in the year 2622 CE, is entirely ordinary. She’s young, she’s pretty, she’s in love, and she attends Academy Aeraea, a center of fashion, thought and modern style built on the pulse of the greatest city ever imagined—Genesia, Mars. Like all Genesians, Benni has never seen a blue sky, she can summon any and all knowledge into view with nothing more than a thought, makes her daily two-hundred kilometer commute in two minutes, and was sculpted into a model citizen beginning from the day she was born. Benni will never know famine, she will never know war, and after a horrific accident on the night of her twenty-second birthday, she will never be human again.

Earthshine: Why It Isn't Dystopia

I think that anyone who’s read anything since Orwell’s 1984 might be tempted into believing that it’s science fiction’s unofficial job to tell us why, as a species, we're going to fail, and why we're going to do a bang-up job of it particularly right before the end. 1984 is one of my favorite novels of all time, and though it cast a soul-crushingly grim forecast of humanity’s potential future, it was one of those books that needed to be written, because it was full of dangers that humankind doesn't need to forget about anytime soon, particularly in regard to the power we afford our governments and the people in charge of mass media and information.

Not all science fiction, or speculative fiction, draws an apparently ugly vision of days to come. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World demonstrated that a world of perfect comfort can be just as much a nightmare as one where Big Brother makes you disappear for getting out of line. There is no perfect future to speculate about, because perfection is irreconcilably subjective, and so ‘utopia’ and ‘dystopia’ are often two words that science fiction tells us both mean ‘doom’.

This is to say, prior to writing Earthshine, I'd already had a number of dystopian futures fully illustrated for me and I'd tucked them away in my head. The thing about the future is that it’s always changing, because the present is always changing. Orwell and Huxley wrote their dystopias for the world they currently lived in.

The particular world I live in now is very similar to the one I lived in when I began Earthshine. I was in college when I first sat down to try my hand at social fortunetelling, and that was only a few years ago. The news then, just as it often is now, was full of worries about housing market stagnation, crippling student debt, never-ending crises in the Middle East, oil prices, global warming, marriage inequality, unemployment, and it seemed like a school or a shopping mall became the victim of a mass shooting every other month or week. While the news reminded me of all these things on a daily basis, my own, immediate world was handing me several hard lessons to boot. Most prominently, I was accruing debt to further an education that held zero guarantees of success, and that public school and honor roll mentality I’d been raised on weren't necessarily going to get me anywhere in real-world America, 2012. Anyone would think an author with all these less-than-cheery revelations in mind would write about dystopia, but I didn’t.

Earthshine is a story about a city on Mars in 2622 CE, and it’s also a story about the place and time we live now. It’s about the human beings we are trying to become, and it’s about the human beings we tend to revert to out of habit. It’s a story about the things we ought to think about before we take our next big steps, and the things that could happen if we don't plan carefully enough. It’s about consequences, good and bad. What’s most important, though, is that Earthshine isn't about utopia or dystopia. Earthshine is a reflection on human dreams and human nature. It asks us to take responsibility for who we are and what we see in ourselves, and asks us not to divorce our species from the ability to be honest with itself. Simply put, it’s not a story about how a bad society is going to ruin us. It’s a story about how to avoid letting our own bad judgment and passive complacency ruin a good society.

Author Information & Links

Chad T. Douglas was born in Wilkesboro, North Carolina in 1989. In 2002, he moved to Florida with his family and in December 2009, as a sophomore attending the University of Florida, Douglas published A Pirate’s Charm, the first novel of the Lore trilogy. One year later, he released his second novel, East and Eight. Around that time, Douglas became a staff writer for the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History. When he wasn’t working on his novels, Douglas traveled with and wrote for the McGuire Center. Since 2010, he has visited Honduras,

Kenya, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Mexico as a travel writer.

Douglas’s first novel, A Pirate's Charm, came to mind when he was a junior in high school. He began writing the Lore series for fun, and originally did not plan on publishing it. When he started college in 2008, he entered as an Architectural Design major, leaving the program in less than two weeks and immediately becoming an English major. One year later, in love with English and writing, Douglas began work on self-publishing the first installment of his historical fiction and fantasy trilogy. His first book signing took place at Books Inc, Gainesville, in February 2010, two months after publication. That same year, he published the second novel in the Lore trilogy, titled East and Eight. The third installment in the Lore trilogy, The Old World, was released in fall 2011. The Lore series has received honors in the 2011 New York Book Festival Book Contest, the 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival Book Contest, and the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.

Since 2009, Douglas has traveled to and appeared at book festivals in Florida, including the 1st, 2nd and 3rd annual UCF Book Festival in Orlando, the Ft. Myers Book Festival and the Miami International Book Festival. His first novel A Pirate’s Charm was a hit in two festivals in Georgia, including the AJC Decatur Book Festival and the Tybee Island Pirate Festival. In 2010, Douglas was the keynote speaker for the Marion County Library’s CREATE program. There, he signed books and shared personal stories of travel and self-publishing with 150 young writers who all received copies of A Pirate’s Charm courtesy of the library. In 2014, he made his first international appearance as an undiscovered American author at the Paris Book Fair at Salon du Livre. Douglas has since begun work on several new projects. His most recent novel, Earthshine (2015), is a work of science fiction.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Resident Evil Revelations 2 ~ Episode 3 Gameplay

I finally started Episode 3 of Resident Evil Revelations 2.  The mystery surrounding the island Claire and company are stuck on is slowly unveiling.  In this episode, Claire and Moria are re-routed from the Tower (where they believe their answers lie), and are instead diverted deeper into the island via a note from Neil.  This, in turns, find the ladies trapped inside a training facility, butcher shop, and eventually into the sewer system underneath the island.  And, naturally, the Afflicted spring to block their path.  And finally, betrayal comes about...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Guest Post: Linda M. Crate | Blood & Magic


Title: Blood & Magic
Author: Linda M. Crate
Genre: Fantasy/Supernatural/Paranormal
Length: 500 pages
Release Date: March 20, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1508572961

Synopsis: A monster slayer is in for the adventure of her life.  Does she decide to follow her heart of does she kill the monster she loves to stay in favor with the counsel she serves?  Not to mention all these broken memories are confusing–are they things that really happened or is it all in her head?  Lucille Roddingale is in pursuit of the truth and she's not going to like everything that she finds in her journey.

Linda M. Crate On Her Characters

How did I come up with the characters? Well, that's an interesting question. I developed the characters from a roleplay I was having with my friend Rory. We were on a Marauder's Era HP based rp and had two characters a part vampire named Lorcan d'Eath and his human lover Petula Rosier.

These characters were crazy and had a really twisted, complicated history which I pretty much came up with but Rory helped me develop into something more substantial and helped iron out the details.

I wanted to find a way to immortalize the characters.

So I decided that I'd take them from their HP universe and throw them into a completely new world—one that had magic but was completely different from Rowling's world. I wanted not only to develop them and flesh them out more than our roleplays did but to turn them int slightly different alter egos altogether so they could thrive and survive in their own world which I later named Atriel.

I have always loved vampire and monster slayer novels and so it was only natural for me to turn my "Petty" into Lucille the monster slayer whose heart would soon belong to the part-vampire Florian. I've also had a fascination with part-vampires and vampires ever since I was a little girl. I once wrote a short story about a part-vampire named Charlotte who Florian closely resembles in some mannerisms but he's completely different in others.

Florian and Lucille will forever be my favorites because they were based off my two favorite characters. Although there are several differences—for instance Florian is a lot braver than Lorcan and Lucille is a lot more outspoken and fiery than Petula. Not to mention there was no Solomon in our story, but I threw him into the tale because I figured Lucille could use a father figure.

After all, Florian had Clorian, which I so named to amuse myself. Florry and Clorry I call them much to their annoyance.

I had actually intended Solomon to be a minor character, but he soon took on a mind of his own (as my characters often do), and decided he needed a larger role in the story along with his wife Deborah.

Evan just came to me. He's a combination of several people in my life that rubbed me the wrong way and people who were rude to my character Petula in the roleplay. He took shape on his own and quickly became quite a troubling, vexing character in his own right.

Veronique is one of my favorites, too. I figured that Evan needed a reason to be against half-breeds and having a half-sister who was a part-elf seemed the perfect idea. I have always loved the idea of half-breeds because I believe you cannot choose whom you fall in love with and why couldn't humans and other species breed? I also liked the conflict within her between darkness and light, wanting to do the right thing and not knowing how. She's not quite an anti-hero but she's not a villain, either. Just somewhere juxtaposed between the two.

Petula and Petro were two characters that really intrigued me when they popped into my mind because I always knew they were vampires. I wanted to know why Evan was a hypocrite and would employ people like that in his counsel and soon became apparent to me that he would use any means possible to carry out his aims. What his aims are, however, I will not say. I can't give away the entire story, after all. 

All the other characters just sprang up as I needed them or as they needed me to introduce them as they always remind me (my characters are quite forceful, I've noticed, some more so than others). 

I always wanted to experiment with the idea of an ensemble piece which is quite frankly what Blood & Magic is. A myriad of personalities and situations meshed together to describe what happened in Atriel. I really enjoyed the way it turned out and I'm quite glad that it got a chance to breathe life on its own.

I think it will always be one of my favorite stories and I really do hope that everyone enjoys not only the first novel but all the subsequent novels because these characters get into a lot of misadventures—but what could one expect from a part-vampire and part-fae? Especially ones as mischievous as Florian and his love?

On Her Protagonist, Lucille 

Well, I was going to leave her human, at first. Because I thought it would be cool to have a non-magical person that was actually powerful in a magical realm. However, I also realized that it put Lucille at a great disadvantage. She was fighting all these magical creatures that could easily overpower her with their magic and she needed an ability of some sort.

That's how the idea of making her a part-fae came into being. I thought that a love affair between her mother and a faerie noble would satisfy the why of how she was a faerie.

I didn't want her to be a part vampire like Florian because I figured one blood sucker in the relationship was more than enough and she definitely wasn't a dwarf and she vetoed being an elf. I did ask her. She wrinkled her nose. Clearly Lucille has a thing against elves. She hasn't told me why. I'm sure we'll find out as the Magic series progresses. 

However, I didn't want it to be contrived. Like, oh look, she has a magical ability and now she can take on everyone all at once! So I put limitations on the magic. You can't use more magic than you have the energy for or it will kill you, and disguising your looks to become "human" seriously stunts the amount of years you have in your life. 

Veronique is also a victim of losing years of her life because Evan made her appear as a human so his hypocrisy would not be revealed. 

The only reason Lucille can live as long as her part-vampire lover is because her father sacrificed his own life so that she might live. It's not a gift she asks for, but one he freely gives her because he feels guilty for abandoning her as a child. Her parents and younger half-brother were killed and still he let the counsel raise her. 

The very same counsel that made her feel trapped and the very counsel that betrayed her and killed her friend Mary.
The Writing Process 

People have asked me all my life how I write. I always find that an interesting question because I don't really have a process. I just turn on my music and have at it. Sometimes sad songs conjure up the most beautiful love scenes and angry music gives life to tragedy and the happy songs lead to battles. I'm not quite sure how it works, but I know music has always moved me and I love having an intimate relationship with words.

To me it's natural as breathing. It's just something I have to do, need to do. 

I didn't choose writing, it chose me. I'm glad it did. I always find it fascinating where my imagination takes me and all these characters that jump into my mind are always worth the journey I embark on when I start writing their stories. Sometimes I discover more about them but I always discover more about myself and I always strive to make sure there's truth because to me there has always been more honesty in fiction than nonfiction.

Characterization has always been important for me. Plot is important, but you can't have weak characters. To me that just collapses everything and it will be the one reason I walk away from a book. I usually struggle through even if I don't particularly like a book just to see what happens to the characters, but if I can't relate or don't like any of your characters there's just no reason for me to read it. So I try to to flesh out my characters and make them like people. Because if they're like your best friend or your mother or your uncle then maybe your interest will remain piqued through the entire novel.

Author Information & Links 

Linda M. Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh yet raised in the rural town of Conneautville.  She currently resides in Meadville.  Her poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print.  

Recently, her two chapbooks, A Mermaid Crashing into Dawn (Fowlpox Press - June 2013) and Less Than a Man (The Camel Saloon - January 2014) were published.

Blood & Magic Currently Available at:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spring Cleaning ~ Unhaul Some Books!

It’s April, and you know what that means? SPRING CLEANING. That’s right! Time to get some of these dusty books off my damn shelves, especially considering it’s income tax season and I have just enough left over to go ham ‘n’ cheese at Barnes and Nobles (speaking of which, I have an extra 20% off coupon I need to redeem soon).  I've come up with several books I need to unhaul and send packing to my local public library’s used bookstore. Some are books I bought as recently as last summer, and some I bought earlier this year. Some I've read and just kind of held on to just in case. And some I've barely cracked the spine, but for whatever reason decided to pass. So let me share them with you before I send them packing, along with just a little tidbit concerning why I'm passing on these books.  If you've read any, let me know whether or not it's a mistake for me to pass them up.

(1) Touch the Dark by Karen Chance. This is the first book in Chance's Cassandra Palmer series. Oh yeah, and it’s urban fantasy. Anyway, Cassandra Palmer is a clairvoyant and clairaudient. Or simply put, she can see the future and communicate with spirits. Naturally, the dead and undead are drawn to her. And that, considering this is urban fantasy, would include vampires.

I started reading this series long ago–back in my Atlanta days. It came during a period where I was starting to get into urban fantasy. Unfortunately, this series didn't make the grade, and I decided to pass on it until recently. A fellow Booktube friend suggested I give the series another go. Sadly, the book has been sitting on my shelf for almost a year now. Yikes!

(2) On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee. Those who keep up with me know that I was in a Chang-Rae Lee phase earlier this year. After reading The Surrendered my interest in Lee revived, years after I was initially introduced to him via his novel Native Speaker. And while I was drawn deep into the bleakness of The Surrendered, I was sucked completely out of On Such a Full Sea. And when I say out–I mean out.

On Such a Full Sea had two running problems that conflicted me. One, it’s told through the first-person plural; two, the main protagonist was about as boring, emotionless and stale as… well… you think of something creative to add there. Nonetheless, it’s just not that necessary for me to try to trudge my way through it. The concept alone would’ve probably saved it, as it’s a dystopian novel with an interesting set up concerning Chinese labor in the far future.  Still, that just wasn't enough without a strong protagonist present to carry me through.

(3) Control by Kang. I'll link my review from last year HERE. Nonetheless, in essences, I’m really not that good with YA novels. While I kinda-sorta wanted to see what happens in Kang's second book, had it came out closer to my completing Control, I probably would've stuck around. However, this is one of those cases where it’s just not that deep to keep up with.  Then again, a small part of me wants to give the second book a go just to see what happens.

(4) Object of Desire by William J. MannNow this is a good one. I could make an entire blog post about it, but I won’t. To keep it simple, William J. Mann is a gay contemporary fiction writer. I read one of his books years ago called Where the Boys Are. And to keep my reading fresh and interesting, I picked up Object of Desire at that used library bookstore I keep talking about. I was a little wishy-washy after reading the synopsis, but decided I needed to mix things up. Nonetheless, after a year of it sitting on my shelf, I kind of came to the conclusion that I didn't necessarily want to read about a male go-go dancer drinking and carrying on in West Hollywood. I'll have to pass. No judgment. I just don't think that’s my cup of tea and, like I stated, I'll need an entire blog post to tell you why. Oh yeah. It’s pretty deep.

(5) The China Lover by Ian Buruma. Now y'all know I love my Eastern stories. Well, except for this one. China Lover has been on my shelf for over four years and haven’t been cracked pass page 19. However, it seems like an interesting read, should I force myself to actually read it. It takes place in Shanghai before and during World War II.  It follows a Japanese girl born in the Manchuria region of China.  She has to keep her identity a secret, considering she dreams of becoming a singer and movie star. 

Now my problem is that if I haven’t got into it by now, it’s probably the writing style. And, well, I just don't feel like being patient with it any longer. Unfortunately. The thing is that there are many more books out there that have grabbed me in the past four years. So either I'm in or I’m not at this point. And, evidently, I'm not.

(6) Deadline by Sandra Brown. I really don't want to talk about this book again, but this is the book that made me skip Brown’s latest release, Mean Streak. Now, while I do want to go back and read Mean Streak, I have to be honest about how Deadline exhausted me of Brown’s formulaic romance thrillers. I spoke more about the book HERE.

Now as for books that just barely escaped the chopping block:

(7) The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova 

(8) The Passage by Justin Cronin

So that’s it, guys! Say goodbye to these books as I usher in new titles for the spring. Speaking of which, I need to get my reading back into gear. March only saw me through two books. How pitiful!

What are you cleaning out this spring?  And should I give some of these books a proper chance before I get rid of them?

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