TabletI ran into my very first ebook glitch. I just started reading Catalyst, the pre-Rogue One Star Wars. I got to the 11% mark when I flipped the page and jumped from exposition to the middle of dialogue. The location had changed and so had the point of view. Very annoying. Now I’m stuck. I’d put off reading this book until I had finished reading some RWA contest  books and got my scores submitted. I have two more contests on the horizon that I’m going to judge. This was the first book I was able to read just for fun (not that my contest books weren’t fun, but I do have to put some thought into how I’m going to score them – not fun). Now, I’m stuck because I can’t continue until I know how much of the story I’ve missed. I reported the issue the old fashioned way because i’m on an older Kindle Fire and the mechanism for reporting the problem from the Kindle doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to as far as I can tell. Darn it, I want to know what I’m missing and Amazon isn’t responding. Grrrrrr.

On Running

runningI don’t break vows easily, but this year I had to do it! Back in elementary school after running (more or less) the 800 yard dash for the Presidential Physical Fitness Test for the last time, I swore up, down, and sideways,  I would never voluntarily run again. I hated running with the passion of a thousand supernovas. I hated the sick, twisted feeling in my guts after the first fifty yards, I hated the dry gasping breaths soon to follow. I hated trying to get my body to stop shaking afterward. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one. Luckily, my junior high and high schools were small enough that we didn’t have a gym class, so it never became an issue again. The one, mercifully brief gym requirement in college was fulfilled by a pathetic attempt to hit a tennis ball over a net. Not much running involved.

This year, after double checking the scale, I decided enough was enough. Even though I go to the gym 3 times a week and walk 5.5 miles on the weekends,, I had to do something to lose the weight that has stubbornly increased over the past few years. After I mentioned my dilemma to a friend of mine, she challenged me to join her in training for a 10K next year.

I hate backing down from a challenge, so, I downloaded one of those free running apps on my phone..

The first weeks were a revelation!. I had never been taught to run in intervals. Running always involved the gym teacher screaming from the sidelines to keep going even if I wanted to puke. Intervals work for me. I managed the first three weeks just fine until I picked up a case of hotel head that knocked me down. Since that was followed by a trip home, I decided when I got back to reboot.

Second time around,  the intervals are still working pretty well. I’ve made to the fourth week without too much difficulty. I’ve even run on the beach, which I enjoyed more than I should have. Definitely going to do that again. The 3 minute intervals are still a challenge, but I can feel my stamina increasing. Since the weather has been iffy, I’ve used the treadmill at the gym more than running outside, but I increase the incline to make up for it.

I haven’t suddenly fallen in love with running, but I’m hating it less than I used to. It’s also no longer about my weight. I haven’t stepped on a scale since I started. Lose the weight or not, I’m on a track that’s working for me. I might even make it to the 10K mark next year.

TV Round-Up

I’m not watching as much television has I have in the past. I just don’t have the time this year. I have more projects due than I can count. I still try to squeeze in some solid TV time when I can, but it’s getting harder and harder.

Form blazing spoilers!

Chopping block:

Legends of Tomorrow. Legends actually fell off my radar halfway through season one, right after the crew got stranded during the 1950s. By that point, Vandal Savage became a boring bully and nothing else. His motives didn’t ramp up the tension for the team. Ray Palmer had turned into a socially inept idiot, and Rip Hunter had become a whiny, sniveling asshole. I still liked Sarah Lance and Leonard Snart, but even they weren’t enough to keep the show interesting.

The Flash. Season three threw this show under the bus with yet another revamping of Harrison Wells. I liked H1, and H2 was okay, but H3 – nope, nope, nope. He’s annoying and predictable. Time to let the character go. Also, enough with messing up history. I get the whole giving Barry some angst with watching his mother die for the third time, but the constant erasing of his relationship with Iris has become repetitive. It doesn’t help that Iris is such a milquetoast character. I liked Earth 2 Iris much better (which means it’s the writing, not the actress.)

Still Watching:

Arrow: Now that they’ve killed Olicity, I can watch the show again without cringing. Felicity is acting like badass Felicity instead of whiny Felicity.  I also like the new crew, though casting Evelyn as the traitor was unexpected, but not disappointing. Of all of the newbies, she was the one who didn’t seem to fit. Love Ragman and Wild Dog, but their story arcs ended too soon. Ragman forgave Felicity a little too quickly for the death of his father. Both Ragman and Wild Dog forgave Oliver for lying to them too quickly. I hope Evelyn comes back and messes with them again. Also, unless they find a way to bring John Diggle back into the fold, they should either kill him or lose him. I like the character, but right now he’s just hanging out there with nothing to bring to the story.

Supernatural: Yep, still hanging on. The show improved tremendously during Season 11, and l like bringing Mary into the mix for Season 12. If only they’d kill the angel storyline already. Castiel and Crowley have played out their story arc. Killing Billie was stupid. She was interesting and I wanted to see her square off with Dean & Sam again. It’s time to get rid of the angels and demons and bring the focus back to monster of the week. I liked the Canadian hunters, and would not object to seeing more of them. Hate the British Men of Letters, but then you’re supposed to. As much as Lady Toni needed a punch to the face, having her disappear and not return is not helping the story arc. We need closure with her. We need to see Sam dish out some justice for what was done to him.

Voltron LDVoltron: Legendary Defender. YES! They did it! The writers made the the second season just as yummy delicious as the first. Keith is Galra! What? No! Yes? Oy. Shiro – they better bring him back! I mean it. If they’re going to kill of anyone, it better be Coran. However, while Keith and Shiro got the bulk of the story arc, Lance, Hunk, and Pidge were left out to dry as comedy relief. This does a tremendous disservice to all of them. We didn’t even get a decent reunion between Hunk and Shay. I’m disappointed that Zarkon is still alive, but OMG Hagar’s calling for Prince Lotor. Squee! I’m counting down to season 3!

Will Watch Soon:

Iron Fist

Legion

Emerald City

Emerald City

I probably won’t be able to watch any of these until this summer. Time is not on my side. Not if I want to get Blood Hunter finished 🙂

Two of My Favorite Things

I’ve registered for RWA Nationals this summer in Orlando. Woot! I’ll be participating in the Literacy Book Signing event and the Indie Book Signing events.

RWA 2017

This year the conference is taking place at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort.

If you’re like me, you’ve built in time before and/or after the conference to go play in the theme parks. I’m a former WDW cast member and annual passholder. There are a lot of blogs out there with opinions about how to make the most out of your trip at WDW. There are even several RWA authors who are blogging about what to do at WDW. Instead of repeating what they’re telling you (which is all good advice), I’m going to focus instead on what not to do.

Mickey Mouse

  1. Do not skimp on your homework. WDW is huge: There are 4 theme parks, 1 shopping district, and 27 resorts all on WDW property alone – each and every one packed with things to do and see. You cannot just wing-it unless you’re really familiar with the area.

  2. Do not try to do and see everything. Pick three or four things per day that are  important to you or your family and plan to do just that. If you’re bringing kids, keep their ages in mind.

  3. Don’t forget your dining reservations. See above about homework. Decide where you’re going on each day and make your reservations now. Summer is a madhouse. You don’t want to be stuck in a fast food line when everyone is overheated, overtired, overhungry, and there are no seats available.

  4. Don’t undervalue the resort restaurants, even the ones not at the Swan & Dolphin. Some of the best/fun restaurants are not in the parks.

  5. Don’t stay all day in the parks. See above about overheated, overtired, and overhungry. Have fun in the morning, then have lunch, and go back to the hotel to cool off, or go to the pool or take a nap. You can still return to the parks in the evening when everyone is rested and the sun isn’t broiling you from above.

  6. Don’t forget your rain slickers/ponchos/umbrellas. Florida advertises itself as the Sunshine State, but it rains almost every day during the summer, usually in the afternoon (see above about afternoon naps).

  7. Don’t forget about Fast Passes. Since you will have a plan and know where you’re going when, if the rides you choose have Fast Passes, get them. This is especially important for rides such as Splash Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, It’s a Small World, Space Mountain, and Soarin’ Around the World.

  8. Don’t leave at the last minute, especially if you have reservations. I once took the WDW bus system from the Contemporary Resort to Disney Springs. The entire trip was one hour for a ride that would have taken maybe half that in my car — assuming I didn’t get lost or get stuck in traffic or behind an accident. Traffic and accidents happen, so plan for it before you rush out the door.

There are a lot of free resources out there where you can get accurate information and advice. I recommend AllEars.net, the forums at Passporter.com, and The Disney Food Blog.  With a little planning, you can have all of the fun in The World.

Hidden Figures

Hidden FiguresI did see this opening weekend, but I’ve been so caught up with preparing for Coastal Magic Con that, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and really process what this movie is about. Story wise, this is one of the most perfect movies I’ve seen in a long time. Everything fit just right. It’s both inspiring and demoralizing at the same time. It’s about Math and Space, but it’s also about Privilege and what women of color had to endure to get white men into space. You don’t walk away from this movie without thinking of Katherine Johnson calculating all of those launching and landing, but also having to run a half mile just to get to the “colored” bathroom in the rain. The math alone made me dizzy with pride watching her show all those men how to get the math done to get John Glenn into space. John Glenn even says flat out, he won’t fly until “the girl” confirms the mechanical computer’s calculations.  The same computer no one could get to work properly until Dorothy Vaughn showed them how. Heck, the men couldn’t even get the computer through the door because no one bothered to measure IBM’s machine.

It took me a little while to figure out what it was that bothered me about this movie, though. It’s a small thing, almost not noticeable until Kevin Costner sticks a piece of gum in his mouth. In Virginia, 1961, most folks, especially the men, would have been smoking and ash trays would have have littered that office. Heck, there would have ash trays right next to the coffee pots Katherine Johnson wasn’t allowed to use.

Beyond that, I do wish that this movie had been nominated for more Academy Awards. It’s a crime that only Octavia Spencer got a supporting actress nomination, when all three leads should have been nominated for Best Actress. Hidden Figures should win all of the awards.

Valentine’s Day

My annual post about the wonders of chocolate. I’m traveling this week, so I’ll be indulging in chocolate from afar. If you haven’t heard yet, I’ll be attending WorldCon in August. I did a little research to see what sort of chocolate was available in Finland. I know from my visit to Norway a while back that there’s a Norwegian chocolate bar called Stratos. This upset me mightily, because I had just finished my first manuscript – a space opera – and one of the planets I named in the manuscript was Stratos. To this day, I will swear that Norway stole my planet. This chocolate bar had a porous nougat in the center, which was very different from the more creamy fillings I’m accustomed to.

royalchocolate1

As for Finland, it looks like I’ll have nothing to worry about. There’s plenty of chocolate in Finland for me to sample. I’ll be keeping an eye out for these two: Leaf Royal Samettinen Maitosuklaa and Panda Maitosuklaa

pandamaitosuklaa1

Sherlock BBC

sherlockI finally got to see the first episode of Sherlock S4. I don’t have cable at home, but the friends I was staying with over the weekend do and they wanted to watch it too.

(I’m not a high-functioning sociopath, so I’m going to leave a big ole SPOILER warning right here).

I’m not sure how I feel about the new episode. On one hand I like that they’ve finally matured Sherlock so he’s not a complete asshole to everyone. This is a Sherlock I want to watch solve mysteries and puzzles.

On the other hand, as much as I liked Mary before this, I’m not sure I wanted to see another episode about her. She’s a cool character, but I can see why they had to kill her off because otherwise, she’d be the more interesting than Watson, who just bumbled along doing his sidekick thing.

I also think the writers mucked up the ending by having Mary save Sherlock instead of John. The only reason I could see for Mary dying for Sherlock is that she knew her past would keep returning to put her daughter in danger. Sherlock made a vow and by dying she’ll ensure that he will be held to that vow forever. Which makes me think that Mary knew of John’s infidelity and she didn’t trust him to protect their daughter.

Leia, Jyn, and Rey

I posted this to my Tumblr, but didn’t have the heart to post it here so soon after Carrie Fisher’s death. The shock of her sudden passing still hurts, but I’m coping by watching a lot of her interviews with her over the years and reading her books. Here’s what I posted:

(I’m issuing a SPOILER warning because the Captain said I had to)

I’ve been reading a lot of criticism of the new Star Wars movies, especially criticism directed against Rey and Jyn. Frankly, it’s pissing me off because it’s hypocritical in the worst misogynistic way.

(And before anyone jumps down my throat, I’m not dissing the OT. Luke, Leia, and Han ARE my Star Wars. They always will be. It’s the hypocritical nature of some of the criticisms against the female characters of the new SW films that’s upsetting me).

rey1. The whole Rey is just a mary sue because she knows how to fly anything, so why didn’t she just leave Jakku?

Where would she go? What would she do when she got there? Luke stayed on Tatooine for no other reason than loyalty to the Lars family who raised him. He would only leave if he had their permission. Once he got their permission he would go to the Academy. Think about it: Luke Skywalker, soon to become savior of the rebellion against the Empire was willing to apply to an Imperial Academy just to get off of Tatooine because he was bored with farming. If the droids hadn’t dropped into his life, would Ben Kenobi have let Luke join the Imperials? What would be the repercussions of letting Darth Vader’s Force sensitive son join the Imperial Fleet without at least warning him of who his father really is?

Luke had a plan. He had support, (though it was not completely unconditional from Owen, I suspect Beru would have been sending him care packages and asking him to come home for a holiday or two).

Rey chose to stay on Jakku because she had NO support system in place. No one would help her get into an Academy off-world even if they still existed under the First Order. She gained useful skills to stay alive, surviving on nothing but the hope that some day her family would return. Learning to fly spacecraft does her no good if she has nowhere to go and no idea where to begin looking for a support system. Leaving Jakku only wind up in an Imperial prison (or worse) and no hope of finding her family defeats the purpose of leaving in the first place. She learned a skill in hopes she could put it to good use later, but she was smart enough not to squander that skill on a reckless and ill-thought out mission.

jyn2. Where does Jyn get off leading seasoned rebels into battle? They don’t know her. The rebels might need her to lead them to Saw and eventually to Galen, but why would Cassian, his men, Baze, and all the others suddenly break with the rebellion and follow her?

This is so typical of Star Wars and I love it. It’s no different than Luke suddenly flying with Red Squadron in ANH even though he was just a farm boy who dropped onto Yavin from nowhere. I mean, I’m sure Leia and Biggs vouched for him, but what squadron commander would let a newbie from the wrong side of galaxy fly with his crack team of pilots before he could even so much as fly with them in a simulator? (And spare me the T-16 Skyhopper argument. You can put guns on a Cessna,  that doesn’t mean you can pilot an F-35). Even if they are flying against the Death Star, Luke could have caused just as much damage to the rebel fleet as he did to the Imperials from Red Squadron’s point of view (we, as viewers, of course know better – Luke can fly anything better than seasoned pilots).

The same thing with Han suddenly becoming a General. Think of it this way: how long did Princess Leia Organa have to work for the rebels before she earned the title of General? Why wasn’t she made General in ROTJ instead of her boyfriend? Wasn’t it Leia who gave Rogue Squadron their evac orders on Hoth? Yes, we as viewers we know that if anyone could deactivate the shield on Endor, it would be Han Solo, but did Leia really not feel the sting of the rebels not trusting her to lead the mission as a General after all of her loyalty and hard work and escapades that may or may not have involved Han? Did they even ask her?

So, don’t hand me this bullshit about Jyn not having the experience to lead men into battle. She was trained to be a child soldier by a man who just as crazy as Han Solo when it came to battle tactics. She knew what she’s doing and she had the charisma to get Cassian and his men to follow her. She’s no different than Han or Luke: When desperate times call for desperate actions, you work with what you have, not matter how rediculous or impossible it may seem.

3. The reshoots cut out a lot of Jyn’s dialog. She was supposed to be angrier, snarkier. She would have been more interesting if Hollywood allowed her to be angry and snarky.

I don’t know what did or did not end up on the cutting room floor. If Jyn really was supposed to be an angry, snarky young woman then I’m glad it all got cut. I’m tired of Hollywood mistaking “angry, snarky” for “strong”. There are plenty of angry, snarky heroines out there. Snark doesn’t make you a leader. Anger doesn’t make you strong. Luke proved that in his final battle with Vader.

Jyn never was a young woman. She went from witnessing her mother’s assassination to a child soldier to an imperial prison. She gets rescued by the rebels, but her life still isn’t her own because they want to use her to get to her father. She would have every right to be angry and snarky, but I’m glad she had the maturity to see beyond that, to act on her own motivation. To look at the people around her, and take advantage of what they offered to craft her own goals.

And, yeah, I’m shipping Jyn with Cassian because he disobeyed orders from the organization that raised him to be a spy and an assassin, for no other reason than what Jyn says to him makes sense. She got to him and he finally realizes what type of man the rebels made him and he wants to change too, even if that change is only following a woman into battle instead of hiding in the shadows.

princess-leiaBesides which, we already have the Queen of snark: General/Princess Leia Organa. You don’t do snark better than her, but the difference between Leia and many other angry/snarky Hollywood heroines is that Leia knew when to dial it back. She knew Luke was hurting after Obi-Wan’s death, but instead of snarking at him about how she didn’t have time for his moping, she put a hand on his shoulder and offered words of comfort even as she mourned her own losses.

Jyn and Rey are following in Leia’s footsteps, but that doesn’t mean they have to be identical to her. Jyn followed her own path right to the end. I’m confident Rey will do the same.

And, that is the end of my rant (for now).

What’s Up with Blood Hunter?

3D renderIf you’re reading this blog, it’s probably not a surprise that I’m in the middle of writing a series about a superhero who can heal people. Break a bone? Hannah can fix it. Have a head cold? Not with Hannah around. Want a facelift, but don’t have the cash? Yeah, Hannah can handle that too. These questions formed the backbone of Blood Surfer. I call Blood Surfer a superhero romance, but it has thriller elements. Hannah is on the run throughout the entire book. There’s no time for her to stop and contemplate what her powers mean to the non-superhero community. She has to stay alive, first, and remain free, second.

I’m halfway through writing the sequel, Blood Hunter. Hannah is confronted by bigger questions. She’s not on the run this time, but the citizens of Thunder City want answers to questions Hannah has never had to think about before. Questions about when she can or should use her powers. Who should have access to her? Should she ever not heal someone?

I’m thinking about these questions, though. That’s the exciting part about writing superheroes. You can tackle all sorts of topics. In Blood Surfer, you have the tale of two cities: one that welcomes superheroes, and one that’s been manipulated through politics and demagoguery into hating superheroes. You also have a coming of age story of a young woman who’s stretching the boundaries of her abilities and not necessarily liking what she finds on the other side. She also discovers love, but soon realizes sacrifices have to be made to keep her love alive.

Blood Hunter takes these topics and goes deeper. I can’t say too much because I’m not at the end of the story yet. I know how I want this story to end, but I’m a panster not a plotter. The story unfolds as I write. I’ve tried outlines, but inevitably my story deviates so far off the outline track, that I feel making an outline wastes my time.

What I can say is that the elements you all love in Blood Surfer, A Secret Rose, and the short stories are still there. There’s lots of action, lots of love, and a love scene that will make you weep. Scott, Nik, and all the Blackwoods are present, standing with Hannah, but there’s lots of danger and new villains.

We’ll all celebrate when I write The End.

Debra Jess, Science Fiction Romance Author