This isn’t a new explosion, but this week it blew up big time. In summary: Authors writing for Ellora’s Cave, a publisher of Romance and Erotica books, have accused Ellora’s Cave of not paying them royalties. Dear Author, a popular romance book review site, blogged about Ellora’s Cave’s financial difficulties. EC is now suing Dear Author for defamation and demanding that Dear Author take down the blog post and turn over the names of all anonymous commenters on this blog post.
That last part of the last sentence is what should concern all writers and bloggers, not just those involved in the romance or erotica genres. Ellora’s Cave isn’t the first small press to pull this type of stunt. Anyone remember Triskelion? Let this be another reminder: don’t just read your contracts – understand them. If you don’t understand what each clause means, find someone who can explain it to you.
So my previous entry on this show outlined my disappointment in season one. I gave up after episode three out of sheer boredom. This past summer a friend of mine insisted that the show did get better, so I watched the last five episodes. Yes, it did get better but not by much. Let me put it to you this way: Deus ex machina is never how you want to end your story, but if your Deus is Samuel L. Jackson I’ll give you a pass – once.
I will give the writers props for making Ward more interesting and Skye less annoying. The introduction of Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos gives me hope that the Agent Carter series won’t suffer from the problems Agents of SHIELD is having. Creel makes for a better supervillain than – oh, hell, I can’t even remember the name of the villain from the premiere S1 ep because he was so bland. No whiney kid hanging in the background for Creel. He’s out to absorb and destroy and loves every second of it.
I actually liked Izzy, but it doesn’t appear we’ll be seeing her again, which is too bad because her dynamic relationship with Hunter made them stand out against the rest of the forgettable new cast. Best play so far: the reveal that Simmons is now a figment of Fitz’s imagination. His brain damage is real and serious and not easily fixed. I hope he stays damaged for a while. I want to see where the show will take Fitz and Simmons when she returns.
I’ll give Agents of SHIELD a another chance, but they’re going to have to step up their game to keep me interested.
It’s never a good sign when the villains are more interesting than your heroes, at least for me. Gotham introduced us to a new twist on the Batman story, but in the end, it’s little more than a police procedural wrapped in a mob story. I like police procedurals when I care about the cops, when they’re the good guys, but I hate mob stories. I can’t root for characters who don’t have the courage or intelligence to get the hell out from under the influence of the “family” and/or do the right thing.
So there’s my conundrum: a well-written show with interesting villains I can’t root for. I mean who would have thought that Jada Pinkett Smith could act, much less make me sit up and take notice of a slimy Fish Mooney. I liked the introduction of Batman’s future Rogue’s Gallery (and my jaw dropped at Camren Bicondova, the spitting image of a young Michelle Pfeiffer). Unfortunately, because we are dealing with well-known characters, I knew how the scene with Gordon, Bullock, and Penguin was going to end. No shocker, no surprise twist.
I’m not giving up on Gotham yet, but like Agents of SHIELD they need to give me more before I’ll commit to a season.
This show hasn’t lost its sense of crazy, silly, outrageous fun. I mean the Headless Horseman wields a hand grenade for crying out loud! And he’s not even the big bad anymore, though he’s still formidable. No, this year the big bad is Henry, or rather Jeremy, Ichabod and Katrina’s son. He’s got a massive chip on his shoulder and bows his head only to Moloch. I’m eager to see what sort of havoc he’ll wreck in his quest for vengeance on his parents. It won’t be easy with Abbie’s escape from purgatory and and Moloch locked inside, though I suspect he won’t stay there long.
The only weak link here is Katrina. Now that she too has escaped purgatory, I need a reason to care about her, to see her as worthy of Ichabod’s love and sacrifices for her over the years. So far, my concern for her is tenuous. In the hands of the Abraham (nice touch giving the Headless Horsemen a head) she has a chance to show us she’s more than just a pretty face with progressive ideas and a touch of magic.
Missing from this episode was Captain Irving. I like him well enough, but I became more interested in him after he showed an interest in Jenny. I’m a huge fan of Jenny and though I think she could do better than Irving, I don’t dislike the two of them together either. I hope there’s a way to deal quickly with the murders at the cabin and get Irving back to Sleepy Hollow.
1. I’m all registered for the Paradise Lost Writers Workshop. This is a sequel to the Viable Paradise Writers Workshop I attended two (gasp!) years ago. (has it already been two years?). It was started by my friend and fellow VP grad Sean Patrick Kelley, who I interviewed a few months ago. This years professional staff includes: Chuck Wendig, Delilah S. Dawson, and Robert Jackson Bennett. My heart is filled with so much squee about this.
2. I also finished proofreading my assigned sections of Lightspeed Magazine’s “Women Destroy Fantasy” special issue. Another amazing issue chock full of great stories all written by women authors.
3. I’ve finished another story for the Tales from Thunder City short story collection and started a new one. All of these stories take place in the Bloodsurfer universe. I hope to have these published at the same time as Bloodsurfer. We’ll see what happens there.
If you remember, I first introduced Mary Behre back in February for the debut of Spirited, the first book in her Tidewater Series. What struck me the most about her interview was how she described herself as a planster. What’s a planster, you ask? Well, lucky for you, Mary is here to explain:
Hi Debra! Thank you for inviting me onto the Starlight Presents blog. I’m excited to be here. I’m Mary Behre, author of Guarded, book two in the Tidewater Series. It might seem crazy, but I’m a plantser. I’m not quite a plotter and a little too organized to be a pantser. I write stories based on a scene, a character or two, and some vague idea of whodunit.
The way it happens is that I picture a scene in my head. For Guarded, it was the scene in the zoo at end of the book. I saw all these animals doing things that were distinctly unnatural. There were snakes, tortoises, raccoons, mice, and even a couple of monkeys all heading in the same direction. Like they were working together toward a common goal. I wondered what could make animals that normally had nothing to do with one another cooperate. And the story grew from there.
Since I write paranormal romantic suspense, I knew there would be a mystery to solve, a murder, and of course, a romance. When I sat down to write, the first two people that sprang to mind were the heroine—a veterinarian and the hero—a police detective. Two old friends who could have been so much more if circumstances had been different. Then came the first victim and the villain. From there, I simply started to write the book.
Because Guarded is the second in the Tidewater series, it was necessary to bring back characters from the first book. That made the plantsing process a bit more plot-like. There were certain elements that needed to be incorporated into the story, such as the overreaching arc about the three sisters in the books reuniting. I suppose the closest I came to true plotting was my file card box.
I keep a little black box on my desk. Inside, there are index cards, arranged alphabetically. Each one is dedicated to a specific character. There are physical descriptions, habits, quirks, and even the character’s favorite go-to exclamation noted down.
Other than that, the rest of my process is pure find out as I write the story. It may not be the best process for everyone, but it works for me. What about you reader? Are you a pantser, a plotter, or plantser?
A psychic veterinarian who can talk to everything from naked mole rats to ferrets, stumbles onto an exotic animal kidnapping ring. When a zoo owner is murdered and all signs point to the vet as the killer, she enlists the aid of her super sexy cop friend. Will he be able to help her clear her name before he’s forced to arrest her?
AUTHOR BOOK BIO
Mary Behre is the author of The Tidewater Series. Stories with humor, suspense, and a psychic love-connection. Her debut novel, SPIRITED (Tidewater Novel #1) was an award-winning manuscript before it sold to Berkley Sensation. GUARDED (Tidewater Novel #2), is already receiving praise from reviewers and readers.
The Tidewater Series features three sisters separated years before in the foster care system. They search for love, each other, and a way to live with their psychic abilities. In each book, they’re tossed into the middle of mysteries that only their unique gifts can help solve.
Excerpt from Guarded (A Tidewater Novel #2)
“Dev, the last time Jules and I saw each other—”
“You were both children.” Dev scooted closer to her on the couch and took her hands in his.
“I don’t know everything about what went on with you two, but I remember enough to know the last time you saw her was hard. On both of you. Shells, give her a chance. I’ve gotten to know her. She’s a great person. A lot like you. And I know she misses you.”
“She does?” There was no missing the doubt and confusion in her eyes.
“She does.” He nodded. “Give yourself a chance. You deserve to know your family. Take it from someone who will never get an opportunity like this. What you have here is a gift. Grab it with both hands, Shells.”
The touch of her cool, delicate hands between his much larger ones sent a jolt of awareness through his body. From the way her eyes widened, she must have felt it too.
Shelley sucked in the right corner of her bottom lip. The sight of it thundered straight to his tightening groin. “All right. I’ll go with you to Tidewater, tomorrow. But that ocean view had better be spectacular,” she joked.
“Thanks, Dev.” She beamed at him, then cleared her throat and pulled free from his touch.
“Your girlfriend is one lucky woman.”
“Shelley, that relationship ended a long time ago. I . . . uh, don’t have a girlfriend.”
“You broke up? I’m sorry to hear that.” But the smile on her face and the dilation of herpupils belied that statement. She licked her lips and leaned closer to him. Her soft fingers entwined with his rougher ones again. “Really sorry.”
Awareness rocketed through him.
“Don’t be. I’m not.” And, oh God, her lips were right there. The scent of Shells, vanilla and sugar, teased his senses. His mouth watered for just a taste. Dev craved a taste of her, just a sample. Slowly, giving her time to pull back, he lowered his head.
I love Groot, so let’s just get that out of the way first and foremost. For a big CGI brute, he had me falling in love with him as if he were a kitten playing with a ball of yarn. I knew nothing of the GotG characters or the storyline before going to the movies last night and expected nothing more than a campy romp through the galaxy with a thick dollop of schmalz spread on top for good measure.
My God, it’s full of spoilers!
What amazes me is the quality of the camp and schmaltz. I mean this movie hits all the tropes I love: a group of misfits coming together to save the galaxy, hardened hearts softening under the pressure of reliance of others, evil for the sake of evil with no ironic twists or sympathy for the devil, pretty space battles with lasers and explosions. Oh, yeah, this is my kind of space opera enhanced with a seventies music soundtrack.
What made it all work is script delivered just the right amount of ingredients. Too much camp and the humor would come across as tacky and dated, too much sentiment and the characters would have been reduced to wusses with anger management issues. Rocket could have gone so wrong, but I love that his anger is neither over the top nor overbearing. His sense of humor offsets the anger is a very twisted way. When Drax pets him and he doesn’t react with rage, it’s such a perfect moment. Even the “thing” between Quill and Gamora had just the right balance. For all of her kick-ass assassin training, she doesn’t rebuff his clumsy attempt at romance the way you might expect of someone less confident in her right to deserve better than what she’s gotten from her “father” and from Quill.
Its also worth noting that this movie passes both the Bechdel Test and the Mako Mori Test, just in case anyone is keeping score: Both Gamora and Nebula talk to each other about something other than a man. They both have their own character arcs (though I do wish those arcs had been more fully realized). I don’t recall if GotG passes the Bechdel test for people of color. I’m not familiar with all of the actors and with all of the blue, green, and magenta aliens running around, it was hard to tell. I’ll have to see the movie again, but if anyone wants to chime in below, they are welcome to.
As for me, my current project is Tales from Thunder City: A Bloodsurfer Anthology. This will be a collection of short stories about the adventures of the superheroes who appear in my novel, Bloodsurfer.
If you’ve ever spent time with an infant then you’ve probably played peekaboo, the near-universal game of “If I can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist” or “if I close my eyes long enough, then it’ll disappear”. That’s Dave Truesdale’s reaction to Lightspeed’s Women Destroy Science Fiction issue. In his “closing thoughts” after a slap dash review, he just can’t understand why such a special issue is necessary. The whole idea of women needing their own issue is ludicrous because he has never, not even once, witnessed anything that could be construed as sexism or misogyny in science fiction. Therefore, it doesn’t exist.
Oh, wait, no– there was that one time when he was asked to leave a “women’s only” panel at a science fiction convention. That was clearly sexism and he noticed it because it happened to him. HIM, not to someone else. He was escorted out of the room by a woman who was NOT his girlfriend at the time. He indicates that he was firmly, but gently shown the door, indicating that this woman touched him without his consent, and therefore he took notice of the sexism occurring and it was wrong. WRONG, he tells us, because it happened to him. A long time ago. He has said nothing about it until now because it’s important to demonstrate how to correctly handle situations that involve someone touching you without your consent: you put up and shut up, just like Dave Truesdale did. That’s the only right and proper way to handle sexism in general, not just in science fiction.
Having gotten that out of my system, please, folks, ignore the Tangent review all together and go to Lightspeed to read the stories or buy the issue. It’s an amazing collection. I had the privilege of reading it as a member of the proofreading team (fellow proofreader Rachel K. Jones refers to us as Team “Women Destroy Typos!”). The issue isn’t just about the fiction. Illustrators are included, personal essays, interviews, and editorials. 109 women took over Lightspeed for this one issue and did a fantastic job. This is a must have for any science fiction collection.
This is getting to be a regular “thing” for me. I don’t have a lot of time to go to the movies, so when I do, I see two or three movies back-to-back.
Spoilers, baby, spoilers ahead.
Angelina Jolie is powerful, beautiful, and dangerous. Her performance overshadows everyone else in the movie. Maleficent tells her side of the tired Sleeping Beauty tale. In her version, she’s both the victim, the heroine, and the villain, all gift-wrapped for a generation fed up with the same-old, same-old fairy tales. Of course, this is still a Disney production, so the darkness is more murky gray, the humor fall on the wrong side of annoying, and the youngsters are cloyingly sweet. However, instead of making Maleficent’s curse an act of jealousy, it’s an act of revenge for King Stefan’s allegorical rape. Karma had other plans for Maleficent after she bestowed the curse, because against her will, she finds herself charmed by the child of her rapist, Aurora. Aurora in turn adopts Maleficent has her fairy godmother, a far more competent parent than King Stefan or the other three fairies who watch over her. Aurora eventually meets Prince Philip, but he’s found wanting in the charisma department. The ending, though telegraphed, still makes you want to cheer when Aurora wakes and the battle begins.
X-Men: Days of Future Past:
Disclaimer: I’m not a huge fan of the X-Men and I haven’t seen First Class or either of the Wolverine movies. I knew walking into the theater I was missing a lot of background, but that didn’t bother me. I was assured by a close friend that Hugh Jackman’s backside is well worth the ten dollar ticket (she was right).
Yet, even without Hugh’s backside or backstory, I still would have enjoyed this movie. It has all of the tropes I love. A battle to save man (and mutant) kind, people coming together to fight the good fight, good and evil working together to stop an even worse evil, battling robots, clear and present motivation for all of the characters…so, yeah, this is my type of movie. You have the mutants of the future making a last stand and they send one of their own back in time to stop the apocalyptic future from ever happening. Charles and Erik’s intense showdown on the airplane sums up everything I needed to know about their conflict. And seriously, Quicksilver running around to “Time In A Bottle”? Best use of pop music in a movie ever.
Another Disclaimer: I’ve only ever seen clips of previous Godzilla movies. I watched this one only out of curiosity. What is it about Godzilla that makes him so fascinating? I’m still wondering.
To quote a friend of mine: Godzilla (2014) is a good Godzilla movie, but it’s not a good movie. Despite some really nice moments and excellent acting by the cast, there’s no overriding story arc for a viewer to hang their hat on. Bryan Cranston’s and Juliette Binoche are sweet and heartbreaking together, but they’re both dead before the middle of the movie. Aaron Taylor-Johnson tries to carry the film, but he mostly stumbles around from one hair-raising situation to the next without a clear goal. He’s an explosive ordnance disposal expert for the Navy. You’d think they’d at least let him disarm the nuke, but no – he has just enough time to send it off to sea. The scientists have even less material to work with: they go from looking stunned, to looking more stunned, to looking even more stunned.
And then there’s Godzilla, who does little more than Hulk smash but without the cute, quippy one-liners. I think the director tried to go for a Jaws-esque version of Godzilla: the monster you can’t see is scarier than the monster staring you in the face, but he couldn’t quite commit. So Godzilla wakes, stalks the Mutos, attacks the Mutos, kills them, and then stops. He’s hunting because he’s ::mumble, mumble, alpha hunter, something something:: I mean, the Mutos had more motivation than Godzilla. They’re hungry! They want to mate! That’s where the movie falls on its face. If you want to make statement about how Man can’t control Nature, you have to at least make Nature act natural. Godzilla as Savior of the city? More like Godzilla as a tired old beastie who needs his meds before he lies down and takes a nap.
I will concede using Ligeti’s Requiem as background music is the best use of classical music since 2001: A Space Odyssey.
This one comes courtesy of a writer’s tag from my Viable Paradise classmate Nicole Lisa. She really knows her stuff when it comes to the writing life. Go check out her post before you read mine. I’ll wait.
::tap, tap, tap::
And off we go to the races:
What am I working on?
I’m so excited right now because I’m proofreading the print version of Lightspeed Magazine‘s Women Destroy Science Fictionspecial issue. I’m about half done right now and OMG…the stories…I don’t even…I gotta stop here ‘cuz, ya’ know…spoilers. But seriously, all of you (YES, I MEAN YOU) have to get a copy of this issue when it’s published. It’ll blow you away.
Also, after attending a workshop called Dazzle ‘em with Description with the fabulous C.L. Wilson, I’m repolishing my short stories before I submit them again. I’ve got Second Contact and Slow Burn finished. Next on the block is Matchmaker.
I’m also playing around with GMC charts for the next Bloodsurfer book. I’ve decided it’s not going to be a sequel. Bloodsurfer is Scott and Hannah’s story and their story will continue in the official sequel. This story is Derek’s story, Scott’s oldest brother. The heroine I mentioned in my previous blog hop post is still pestering me. What I know about her past is becoming more solid, which makes her even more intriguing than she was before.
I’m also grinding away on my epic space opera, but it’s not a priority for me at the moment.
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
In my previous blog hop, I talked about how my heroines aren’t what you would call strong/kick-ass heroines – at least, not at first. This time, I want to talk more about worldbuilding. I love surprising my audience with a world they don’t expect. For example, in Bloodsurfer, my superhero fantsy, I wanted to create a city where super powered humans could operate without having to hide their identities. So much of the superhero/comic book mythology revolves around superheroes having to use masks and elaborate costumes to hide not only from the villains, but from the community they protect. You’ve read those types of stories, where the superheroes have to fear the members of their community just as much as they do the villains because the community fears/distrusts those with superpowers. I decided to play with that idea and create one community where superheroes have been driven underground, if not out of the city altogether, and another where the non-superpowered citizens are downright protective of their superheroes. I wanted a city where supers and non-supers worked and lived together without all of the hidden identities to see if I could make it work. So far, it has.
Why do I write what I do?
What I said in my previous post. It’s fun. It’s also a learning experience. I do my research and I always manage to uncover some interesting nugget of information I didn’t know about. Sometimes my research doesn’t support my vision for the story, so I have to wrestle with the plot and take a few detours, but nothing beats the exciting moment when you jump up and yell “AH-HA! I’ve figured it out!”. Snoopy!dancing and Kermit!flailing ensue.
Finally, how does my writing process work?
Yeah, I’m still not hip to this whole process thing. If it’s working, I roll with it. If it’s not working, I try something different.
Now, I will tag my critique partner and chief cheerleader, Jan Jackson. Have at it, Jan.
Update: My Viable Paradise classmate A.T. Greenblatt has joined the party. Go read her post!
Starlight Presents is a semi-regular feature where I invite authors to share their latest book release with my audience. In this case I’m making an exception. I’ve invited author Sean Patrick Kelley, co-founder of Paradise Lost to talk about his inspiration for this writers workshop.
1. What made you decide to start your own workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy writers?
It’s not an easy undertaking.
After a decade long hiatus of not writing, I decided I wanted to get back in the saddle in my late 30s. I started by attending David Farland’s 2 day “Write that Novel,” class and then went to his “Nanowrimo Death March” camp in November of 2009. When I was mostly finished with that novel, at the urging of some other writers friends, I applied to Viable Paradise. I was lucky to receive an invitation to attended Viable Paradise 14.
After VP, I was very a trifle overwhelmed, but processed through all the new learning and skills and started to apply what I had learned, but I wasn’t selling yet. I was good enough of a writer to see that I had improved, and to see that my work was still flawed as well. What I couldn’t see was how to fix it myself, and so I started looking for ways to continue my education. There were many writing programs for the early writer, and there were exclusive writing groups that met for those who had professional credentials, but for those writers working at a journey persons skill level, there wasn’t a lot of options to continue your education.
I guess this is where I should say while I play an extrovert on TV, I am prone to being an introvert as much as the rest of my writer brethren. I am also, ah, not much of a joiner. If I want something, I am more likely to just make it for myself rather than ask for help, but in this case I was pretty well stuck. I felt like I had to talk through this frustration. I was lucky that a friend from college, Stephanie Leary, was also a VP grad. I reached out to her and we caught up in Dallas one week when we were both there for business event.
She shared the similar frustrations in the lack of continuing education and the perceived absence of genre writing community continuity for support in Texas. We talked about how cool it would be to host something that suited both of those needs, and in a moment of insanity I said, “We could call it Paradise Lost.” We were hooked.
We did our homework. We poled writing groups, and conducted surveys online to under what writers wanted. We talked to friends, trying to determine if people would show up. We talked to a few professional writers asking them if they could come teach. In October of 2011 we had the first Paradise Lost in Texas, here in Austin.
2. What is Paradise Lost’s mission? We’re both graduates of Viable Paradise and know what an incredible experience it was. Are you trying to recreate that experience, or do you have a different goals for PL?
We started out trying to be a place for Viable Paradise graduates to come and experience that magic again. We figured out pretty early that isn’t possible, but what’s more important was we quickly developed our own feel and culture. Now Paradise Lost is open to anyone who qualifies for the Codex writers group, and alumnus of either Taos Toolbox of Viable Paradise. We did that because we feared being too insular would limit the development of a diverse writing community, and because we realized that what we were doing was of value to more than just VP grads. That being said, we are huge fans of Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox. Those programs are in our DNA and we’ve share staff with both of them.
3. Right now you only accept applicants who have already attendedViable Paradise, Taos Toolbox, or who are members of Codex. Why did you decide to limit your attendees to just those workshops and that one forum?
I’m glad you ask this, because we receive a few impassioned pleas each year for early writers who want to attend, and it is really disheartening to have to explain this each time. It comes down to two things. The first is consistency of skill. When you’re paying to go to a professional event, where you receive critiques of your writing, you want to know that the persons sitting across from you bring as much to the table, or more, than you. The only way to guarantee that consistency, short of moving to a writing sample submission system, is to create standards which set a bar for participants abilities.
The second is that are cruel heartless writing over lords who want to crush the dreams of spunky writers who are just getting their start. Sorry, I kid. The second reason is that our professional staff are not coming to teach you how to get started writing. We structure out lectures for writers who already know how to write, and in fact are already selling their stories to paying, professional markets. The lectures they deliver are not going to be as help or relevant to a person who is just getting started. There are lots of good programs for writers out there at that level, I’ve mentioned several here. Go attend them first so that you’ve got the foundational elements of writing craft in place. Then come to Paradise Lost, and learn and challenge us to learn from you as well.
4. Do you see Paradise Lost expanding to include graduates of other workshops?
I don’t think so, because if you look at Codex membership requirements, it covers most of the other workshops we could add. I want to move away from targeting specific workshops and focus more on broad prerequisites so we hit a bigger audience. Paradise Lost has always been a genre event, but we’ve focused on Sci-fi and fantasy. As we grow I want to see us bring in others elements of genre like romance, westerns, and horror.
5. You have a very impressive line-up of guest lecturers (including Chuck Wendig and Delilah S. Dawson next year). They must be beating down your door to attend. How do you fend them off?
There has been a tremendous amount of interest in next year’s event, and the third professional staff member we are seeking is equally amazing. I suspect we will book up very fast this year. We’re a small event, and we plan to stay small because class size is important to creating the right learning environment. (Did I just say that? Good grief, those education classes from college really did sink in.)
6. Are there any success stories you can brag about? Workshopped stories that are now published?
We don’t track what stories have sold, because many of our students are already selling stories and thus we don’t feel like we should take credit for that success. We are about continuing education for early professional writers. That being said, in the years we’ve had editors on our pro staff, we have almost always placed one of the stories from the critiques. I won’t lie. That is a source of pride for me to see a student bring a story and walk away with a sell.