All posts by DebraJess

A Connecticut Yankee transplanted to Central Florida, Debra Jess writes science fiction, romance, urban fantasy, and superheroes. She began writing in 2006, combining her love of fairy tales and Star Wars to craft original stories of ordinary people in extraordinary adventures and fantastical creatures in out-of-this world escapades. Her first published novel, Blood Surfer, has won the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award for Best Paranormal and Futuristic. Debra is a graduate of Viable Paradise and is a member of Codex. She's also a member of the Romance Writers of America and RWA's Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal chapter and the First Coast Romance Writers.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the BeastI’m at Walt Disney World this week for one of the runDisney events. I’ve been trying to write this review for about a week now, but it’s hard when you’re feeling so wishy-washy about a movie. I thought being at WDW would make me feel more warmly toward B&tB, but…

Spoiler Alert – you’ve been warned.

Overall reaction: Meh. It’s one of those movies that so perfectly made that all the life was sucked out of it. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with any of it – the acting, the music, the choreography – all perfect, but there was nothing extra special, nothing to blow me away. I did see the animated feature when it first came out and it made me want to stand up and sing. This one didn’t even though I still can’t really find a flaw with any particular piece of it.

My one real gripe is Gaston. He’s supposed to be “roughly the size of a barge.” Luke Evans – not so much. With all the CGI happening, they couldn’t give Luke a couple of extra muscles? I’m not saying he can’t act or sing, but his intimidation factor was sub-bottom.

The extra touches were nice, especially the scene in Paris with Belle’s mother. Kevin Kline was hardly recognizable as Maurice (not that any of the supporting characters were recognizable until the end – but Maurice was human and stayed that way).

The yellow dress, however, was glorious! Kudos to the costume department. They really outdid themselves with the gown and the jewelry.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Last JediI’ve been trying to keep up with Star Wars: Celebration. It’s hard knowing the con is so close and yet, I still couldn’t make it down there this year. Next year, I’m going to try again.

Spoilers for the trailer and some speculation.

The trailer. I’ve watched it and I’m still absorbing. Rey is manipulating the Force? Using a lightsaber – awesome! Is that Leia’s silhouette she see? Finn is still unconscious, poor guy, but not to worry – Poe is racing to pull him out of danger – YES, HE IS DO NOT DENY IT! And, Luke – my man Luke. You are NOT the last Jedi. You can’t be. Look, I know there are issues with The Force Awakens. I’ve tried my hardest to separate my love for the new characters (Rey, Finn, & Poe) with my disappointment in how they ended the relationships of the original trinity, but if Luke is the end of the Jedi, if the writers can’t promise us the Jedi will endure through Rey, then what was the whole point of Star Wars? I want more Jedi, I want Rey to lead them. I want at least Luke to survive, to remember, pass along the history of the original movies. At least give me that much, please.

I have a bad feeling though. My gut is telling me Luke is going to go the way of Obi-Wan. He’s going to battle Kylo, and then lift his saber while Rey watches and let Kylo cut him down. His force ghost will then continue to guide Rey through Ep IX.

Surprise Cover Reveal

Fragments of Darkness is the second anthology I’ll be a part of this year. Look at this cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Fragments Front Cover

From between the cracks of imagination, among the splinters of the unknown, and upon the winds of mystery, lurk the Fragments of Darkness.

With legends of killer mermaids to tales of Civil War era ghosts, ten passionate story-tellers come together to bring you yarns of fantasy, paranormal, and chills and thrills that will entertain, intrigue, and enchant young adult and new adult readers.

My new short story, Blood & Armor was written specifically for this YA Horror collection, which also features Pat Esden (The Dark Hart Series), Dorothy Dreyer (Reaper’s Rite Series), Melanie McFarlane (Laws of Summoning Series), and many others. Follow us on Twitter using  #FODanthology. Don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads shelf as well. This box set will debut on September 13th. Mark your calendars!

Trying to read now

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