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Marissa Doyle, Author of SKIN DEEP, on the Magic of Cape Cod (#selkie #fantasy #GoodreadsGiveaway)

My guest blogger today is Marissa Doyle, author of the YA paranormal historical series the Leland Sisters. She writes “stories with heroines finding out who they are, their strengths and purposes, and where they belong in the world.” Her latest release is SKIN DEEP, a fantasy for adults. She’s here to share more about the book and its setting, beautiful Cape Cod. Welcome, Marissa!

Thank you for letting me be a guest on your blog, Jill—it’s a pleasure to be here!

I grew up reading books where the setting was almost a character in its own right. Books like The Secret Garden and A Little Princess are probably what turned me into an Anglophile at age 9, because they painted such vivid pictures in my mind of what it was like to see a garden come alive in Yorkshire, or to live in London as both a privileged and then a poor child. So of course, now as I write my own stories, setting remains extremely important to me: I want readers to experience that same “you are there” feeling that I once had when I opened those books. Which is why I set my newest book, Skin Deep, in a place I know and love deeply: Cape Cod.

Cape Cod, beaches, selkies, fantasy, books, Marissa Doyle, Skin Deep

Cape Cod – Ostervile Wianno Regatta

Skin Deep is a paranormal romance featuring a selkie (seal shape-shifter) hero and a heroine who discovers that she somehow imbues the quilts she sews with magic…and an evil entity bent on destroying the selkies and claiming my heroine’s abilities—and her very identity. Obviously with a selkie hero my story needed a sea-side setting, but it also needed a setting where magic would somehow be more believable, more real.

So what’s so magical about Cape Cod?

For one thing, it’s very much a place between worlds–a long, slender, curving peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic, a land that is constantly shaped and changed by the sea. In geological terms it is a “terminal moraine”– more or less just a very large pile of sand and gravel marking the southernmost edge of the last glacier to scrape down from the north—which means that it is, geologically, ephemeral—it came to be just 16-20,000 years ago, and in a few thousand years, it will no longer exist.  In terms of written history, though, it’s old. Some enthusiasts like to claim it was first settled by Vikings and was Leif Ericsson’s Vinland (probably not); but it was visited by many explorers before the Pilgrims made their first landfall in America here before choosing to move on to Plymouth. It was a fishing and whaling center for centuries before it became what it is today—a summer resort area whose population swells dramatically in the summer months with visitors from all over the world.

But what I think creates Cape Cod’s magic are its contrasts.

Think of beautiful white sand beaches that can be lapped by gentle wavelets in the morning and pounded by furious storm waves that night. Or clear golden sunlight (there’s a very distinctive soft golden tinge to Cape sunlight—it was a popular place for late 19th century American Impressionist artists to visit) that can be drowned within minutes by the thickest, grayest, wettest fog you can possibly imagine. Think of acre upon acre of salt marsh that looks dead and brown until you walk across it and see the hundreds of birds, the strange plants like sea lavender and horsetails, and the fish and crustaceans lurking in the threaded channels cutting through the marsh that ebb and flow with the tide. Think of enormous dunes looming above endless tidal flats, towns that teem with people in July and are nearly deserted in January, quaint 17th century saltbox houses one street away from modern palaces of glass and steel. Contrasts all…

and what is contrast but a subtle form of conflict, the engine that drives all stories?

I tried to make use of these contrasts when creating my semi-fictional Cape Cod setting for Skin Deep and use them to highlight my characters’ struggles, both internal and external…and had a lot of fun in the process. Cape Cod can be a magical place indeed…but magic can be light and dark.

Cape Cod, beaches, selkies, fantasy, books, Marissa Doyle, Skin Deep

More about Skin Deep

After a painful divorce, Garland Durrell looks forward to settling into her home on Cape Cod to make the quilts that are her passion. On the first morning of her new life she finds a man and a small boy washed up on the beach, both badly wounded. Since the town chief of police is strangely reluctant to help, Garland takes on the care of the mysterious pair who don’t seem to remember what happened to them–and feels her own heart begin to heal.

Alasdair does remember. He and his son Conn are the last of the ruling family of selkies from the waters around the Cape, locked in a decades-long struggle with an evil that threatens all, selkie and human. He’s not sure if he can trust the lovely, blue-eyed woman who takes them in until he touches one of her quilts and feels the magic she’s sewn into it…and the emotions that he never thought he’d feel again.

But the evil entity that stole Alasdair’s sealskin and left him for dead quickly senses both his presence and Garland’s magic, and is determined to destroy one and possess the other. Only Garland and her quilts, made with a power she barely believes she has, can save them all from destruction—if she can avoid being destroyed first.

More about Marissa

Marissa Doyle graduated from Bryn Mawr College and went on to graduate school intending to be an archaeologist but somehow got distracted.  Eventually she figured out what it was she was really supposed to be doing and started writing.  She’s channeled her inner history geekiness into young adult fiction: her award-winning books Bewitching Season, Betraying Season, and Courtship and Curses (all from Henry Holt Books for Young Readers/Macmillan) blend history with magic and romance. She also writes contemporary and historical fantasy for grownups, including By Jove (Entangled Publishing) and now Skin Deep. She lives in her native Massachusetts with her family, including a pair of bossy but adorable litterbox-trained pet rabbits, and loves quilting, gardening, and collecting antique fashion prints. Oh, and coffee.

Goodreads Giveaway

Marissa is currently giving away ten copies of SKIN DEEP through Goodreads. For more details and to enter, click here. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Thank you for guest blogging today, Marissa!


Science Fiction Romance: The African Queen in Outer Space?

Today’s guest blogger is former teacher, principal, and symphonic oboist Edward Hoornaert, who’s here to discuss how The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn inspired his latest science fiction romance novel. Welcome, Ed!

Set on an inhospitable moon…

My upcoming science fiction romance, Escapee, is coming out in early 2016 from MuseItUp Publishing out of Montreal. What inspired me to write the book?

The 1951 movie, The African Queen. My version is set on an inhospitable moon, rather than the African Jungle, but in both tales the hero and heroine battle nature and, ultimately, the invading enemy.

How did I transform a movie into a science fiction romance? So glad you asked.

Analyzing the movie

I rented the movie and looked for two things:

  • Stages — Charley and Rosie’s relationship go through a number of stages.
  • Turning points — The events that caused their relationship to change from one stage to another.

I then devised analogous — but subtly different — stages and turning points for Escapee. Here are a few of them, so you get the feel for how the analysis worked.

Stage 1:  Polite disconnect between hero and heroine.

  • AQ — Rosie, a missionary in German East Africa, disapproves of Charley, a crude freighter captain who brings supplies, but treats him with chilly politeness.
  • Escapee — Hector, a stuffy career army officer, disapproves of the freewheeling, lower-class airship pilot, Cattaroon who supplies his base.

Turning point:  The enemy invades. In AQ, it’s the Germans, who leave Rosie alone and stranded — until Charley comes by and saves her.

In Escapee, it’s humans from the Proxima system. While Hector’s on leave, they destroy his entire command, leaving him stranded and alone — until Catt lands, looking for survivors.

Stage 2:  Rosie devises a near-impossible goal that he doesn’t agree with.

  • AQ — Rosie wants to attack a German warship. Charley agrees, knowing she’ll give up when she learns how dangerous the river is.
  • Escapee — Hector wants to attack enemy headquarters. Catt agrees only because she’s certain he’ll give up when he realizes how dangerous a flight across the moon is.

So far the two stories are similar. Now they start to diverge, though the skeleton remains the same.

Turning point:  When mild danger fails to deter her from her purpose, his true feelings come out explosively.

  • In AQ, after shooting rapids doesn’t deter Rosie, Charley gets drunk and insults Rosie. She dumps out all his rum.
  • In Escapee, after getting caught in a volcano’s updraft doesn’t deter Hector, Catt sabotages a cannon stored in the airship’s hold.

Stage 3:  Futile attempts to rebuild a civil relationship.

  • AQ — Charley apologizes for insulting her, but she won’t accept his apology unless he agrees to take her to the Germans’ ship.
  • Escapee — With the cannon gone, Hector realizes how futile his quest is. Feeling guilty, Catt tries to be nice, but he’s too depressed to talk about it.

Turning point:  He agrees to share her goal.

In AQ, Charley’s (deeply buried!) chivalry makes him give in.

In Escapee, Catt remembers all the friends whom the enemy has killed. Hearing her cry during the night, Hector finally talks, voicing his idealistic reasons for wanting to fight. Inspired by his idealism, Catt agrees to make the dangerous voyage to the other side of the moon.

Stage 4:  Falling in love

Etc, etc.

“Inspired By”, Not a Ripoff

This post is getting long, so I won’t bore you with all six stages, but hopefully you get the general idea. Analyzing the movie turned out to be a huge help in developing my plot. You ought to try it some time.

I’d like to emphasize that Escapee ended up having a very different feel than the movie. If I didn’t tell you it was based on the African Queen, you wouldn’t notice. If addition to being science fiction rather than historical drama, here are some of the key differences:

  • Although both environments are hostile, they’re different — river rapids vs. hurricanes and volcanoes.
  • The characters’ genders are reversed. Their wounds are very different, as are the lessons they need to learn.
  • I added secondary characters. They capture an enemy who tries to sabotage the airship. Hector has an alien pet that is ugly/lovable. Finally, Catt’s android co-pilot provides comic relief as well as the book’s most poignant scene, when he dies.
  • The ending is more believable, IMHO. AQ‘s ending requires an act of God (a rainstorm that floats their grounded boat) and a wild coincidence (their sunken boat nonetheless sinks the German ship). Escapee has a logical ending.

What’s It to You?

If you have a favorite movie you love, you might want to turn it into a book of your own. If so, consider analyzing it for stages and turning points.

What movie would you like to turn into an “inspired by” novel? Tell us about it in the comments.

[Jill: Many of you know that Noon Onyx was loosely inspired by Evy Carnahan from The Mummy. None of the plot points are the same though. Want to read about my lunchtime light bulb moment when the idea of the character first came to me? See my FAQ page.]

Guardian Angel of Far Flung StationSuggested Reading

Escapee is the second book in my space opera series featuring the Dukelsky family. The first book is The Guardian Angel of Farflung Station.

Sandrina, a lonely, waif-like genius, conceals more secrets—and power—than anyone on Farflung Space Station. One secret is her hopeless crush on Duke Dukelsky, the handsome head of the station’s security.

But when invaders take over Farflung, Duke needs Sandrina’s help to repel them and rescue the reformed space pirate who cut out her tongue when she was eight. Can she earn Duke’s love even though it means stripping herself of all secrets and forgiving the man who maimed her?

Edward Hoornaert

Edward Hoornaert

About Edward Hoornaert

What kind of man writes romance? A man who married his high school sweetheart a week after graduation and is still living the HEA decades later. A man who is a certifiable Harlequin hero in his own right — Ed inspired Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Rita Award finalist Mr. Valentine, which is dedicated to him.

Ed started out writing romances for Silhouette Books, but these days he concentrates on science fiction romance. In addition to novelist, he’s been a teacher, principal, technical writer, salesman, janitor, and symphonic oboist. He and wife Judi live in Tucson, Arizona. They have three sons, a daughter, a mutt, and the world’s most adorable grandson. Visit him at http://eahoornaert.com.

Ed’s still waiting on the cover and buy links for Escapee. In the meantime, you can check out all of his books here. Thanks for guest blogging today, Ed!


STILL stuck inside? Sign up for my newsletter! (#read #darkfantasy)

We are slowly digging out from under snow storm Jonas, i.e. Snowzilla. Almost two and a half feet here! How about you? How much snow did you get? Are you still trapped?

If you’re still stuck inside and looking for something to do, you can sign up for my quarterly author newsletter.

What will my newsletter offer?

Newsletter

Quarterly newsletters will be sent every September, December, March, and June. Content will vary but will likely be some combination of:

  • Snippets from old or new work
  • Quizzes
  • Fun quotes and tweets
  • Recipes related to the books
  • Random Facts (background info on characters, etc.)
  • First look at Extras I’ll be adding to my website
  • Interesting stuff I’m researching
  • Meet the Team (bios of people who help me behind the scenes)
  • Be an Ambassador (ways readers can help me spread the word about my books)
  • Contests/Giveaways

Newsletters will also be sent out for each NEW RELEASE!

How will the newsletter differ from the blog?

The newsletter is mostly for readers who like my books and want to hear more about them. Some content, including occasional giveaways, will be exclusive to newsletter subscribers.

This blog will continue to be what it always has been – an inconsistently scheduled mashup of all the things I’m interested in: books, movies/TV shows, writing, day tripping, guest posts, etc.

Feel free to share my newsletter sign up link: http://eepurl.com/bAzF7n

Thanks, everyone! Hope you’re all doing well!


#MindMeld: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed… #SFF #Books #Reading #Recommendation

SF Signal’s Andrea Johnson asked if I’d do another Mind Meld and, of course, I said yes because I love the Mind Melds. Yesterday’s question was:

Something old, something new, something borrowed. . .

Recommend three books to our readers out of your list of favorites: An older title, a newer title, and a title you discovered because you borrowed it from a friend or a library.

After reading the other responses, I realize I should have read the question better. I read the “and” as an “or” so I submitted two books I bought and one that was given to me, which doesn’t exactly count as “borrowed.” And my “old” book was from way back in 2012. Lol.

But, to be honest, I’ve talked a lot online here and elsewhere about my old, old favorites and I hadn’t ever talked about the 2012 book I loved. I also think that, though panelists should try to be responsive to the questions they are asked, one of the best things about the SF Signal posts is that they are mostly about having fun while promoting SF and related genres. I can’t say I read every post (they post a lot) but I try to keep up. I’ve loved the tone, depth, and breadth of the posts I’ve read.

So click here to read my recommendations (the other two are recent releases) and click here to check out some of the other SF Signal posts and subscribe or follow them.


POLL — Fantasy Fans: What’s your “Gateway” Book?

Months ago, I was at an event with my husband. We were sitting at a table with some people we knew through others. In other words, it was a friendly environment but we didn’t really know anyone. At some point my husband mentioned that I was a writer and that I wrote “adult fantasy,” which, of course, is true, but…

that label evokes different associations depending on who hears it. Sure enough I was then immediately asked, “Oh, so your books are like Fifty Shades of Grey”?

Um, no. Not really. Yes, there’s romance in them. And, no, I don’t always close the bedroom door. But the world within which my stories are written is very different from Christian and Anastasia’s. Without thinking, I blurted out:

“No, more like Lord of the Rings.”

But then I thought about it, and realized that comparison wasn’t any more appropriate than the Fifty Shades one. My writing is as similar to Tolkien’s as it is to E.L. James’. (In other words, it isn’t. And that’s a good thing. Every writer should try to develop their own style.)

The people we were talking to were genuinely curious about what I wrote. They weren’t avid readers and they were simply trying to relate to the type of stories I write. And when people do that, they tend to make references to people, places, and things that EVERYONE has heard of. Otherwise, there’s no bridge, no connection. There’s no jumping off point, no basis for discussion. It’s just people talking at each other, instead of to each other.

But the experience made me think. And even after all this time, I haven’t really answered the question it raised, which is basically:

What’s my gateway book?

So I’m curious if anyone else struggles with this.

Writers – when you are talking to someone who isn’t a fantasy fan (or who may not even be a reader at all), which book do you compare your work to?

Readers – when you meet someone who isn’t a fantasy fan (or who may not even be a reader at all), which book do you use as a well-known example of the genre?

Before we get to the fun part, an acknowledgement:

Yes, I know fantasy is replete with subgenres and endless iterations. I’m aware that your answer to this question is highly dependent on your own reading preferences. But that’s why you must choose something that has a 90% chance of being known by someone who is NOT ALREADY A FANTASY FAN AND POSSIBLY NOT EVEN A READER AT ALL. (In other words, this is not a post about all of the stories people should have heard of because they are great examples of the genre, but rather it’s a post about the books we use to start a discussion in the first place.)

So, here are some choices. But I’m also very interested in hearing from you. I can’t possibly have listed all the options…


Egg Timer Reviews: 20 Stories! (Books, Movies, TV & Broadway Shows)

I was supposed to post an author interview yesterday, but I never received it. If I do, I’ll reschedule because I think her Q&A would be interesting and fun to read. In the meantime, however, I was in a bind bc I had nothing of my own ready to post. What to do?

Egg timer reviews.

What the heck are those? Well, it’s where I take a look at my bookshelf, Kindle, movie queue, etc. and see what I’ve watched and read lately (or eons ago) that I can talk about in three minutes or less. So these aren’t really reviews. They’re more like stream of consciousness goo. (I filled in some of the names via internet search later – my memory’s not that good.😉 )

Are there spoilers? Is it still miserably cold outside!? Yes, there are some spoilers!

BOOKS

Stolen Songbird

Trolls! Trolls! TROLLS!! I always wanted to do a romance featuring a leprechaun but could never figure out how to make a leprechaun sexy. Well, Danielle Jensen found a way to make trolls sexy. When I read the back cover copy, I knew I had to read it just to see how she did it. The first part of the book is the best: the dynamic tension between Cecile and Tristan, the descriptions of Trollus and its inhabitants… good stuff. There was a bit too much coming and going in the end (it felt a little “fillerish” to me) and I worry that the trolls might really be “e—” (maybe not…? since that would take away from the Big Accomplishment here). But, if you love YA fantasy, pick this one up. You’ll love it. (Worth noting: Jensen started out with Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot’s now defunct YA imprint. I think Angry Robot picked this series up, but it’s still nice to support authors who end up in this situation).

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

I loved this character’s transformation. You all know I love big character growth arcs and Elisa has one! At the start of the book she is clueless, overweight, and timid. By the end of the novel, she has sought forbidden knowledge, grown physically stronger, and become much more confident and assertive. The only thing that gave me pause was the almost over emphasis on the character’s weight. I’m a big “love your own body” kind of person. And yet, I can also get behind a person’s wanting to change themselves. (My own work reflects my ideological tug of war between “learn to love yourself” versus “pursue your dream to change,” especially my first novel). The bigger question is always, why does a person want to change? Is it society telling them (perhaps subtly and evilly) that they should or is their desire to change truly coming from within? – But rest assured, genre fans, Girl of Fire and Thorns is mostly an adventure story with some magic and romance.

Throne of Glass

I think I read this in a day or two. (I’m a big DNF’er so that, in and of itself, is a rec to read). Hmm… what else can I say? Cool cover. She looks really bad ass. I think there’s a love triangle, but I don’t mind them. (Ahem😀 ) Who would like this? Fans of YA female assassin characters and YA fantasy with equal emphasis on both romance and action. It’s been a long time since I read it, but this reminded me of Maria Snyder’s Poison Study.

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

It was the cover that drew me to this book. A historical romance heroine in pants! As with Jensen’s troll hero, I had to check it out. What was the story behind this heroine? I read quite a bit of historical romance. And many times the heroines run together. That doesn’t mean the books aren’t well written. They are. They’re doing exactly what they’ve promised their readers they will do: deliver a hot, sometimes witty, romance. So why egg time review this one? Well, the heroine backs up the cover and the title’s promise. There was a lot more going on with the plot than I expected. The heroine had not just one cover (aliases), but two. That’s three different personas for the author to keep track of. Sarah MacLean did a great job! (Worth noting: MacLean wrote Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. I haven’t read it, but may now. MacLean was on an RWA panel last summer and discussed how hard it was to come up with titles, especially when you lock yourself into a format. She was funny. (I buy some of the recorded sessions). I’m currently trying to title Noon Onyx B4. It’s tough. Blank Blank of Blank. Left Hand of Darkness? Oops. Taken.😉 Little Shop of Horrors? Dagnabbit. Nabbed too.😀 In any case, I thought the title to Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover was extra awesome bc it fits MacLean’s “Rules of Scoundrels” series title format, it references the heroine’s aliases, and it’s a nod to the book’s unusual genre cover.)

MOVIES

Belle

A period romance with a great hero and heroine, Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy officer who was raised by her rich great-uncle. The film divides its time between the romance and the hero’s quest for social justice (he’s an aspiring lawyer attempting to change the law on slavery, albeit through a fairly narrow ruling). Gugu Mbatha-Raw was excellent.

Begin Again

I actually thought this would be awful. Like some sort of weird Juno [aging music aficionado has unrequited feelings for someone who’s totally inappropriate for him… am I remembering that movie right?] meets Love Actually [clichéd romance]. But it was better than that. My worst case scenario plot prediction did not come true. Instead this was a cool, little story about a down-on-his-luck music exec with zippo money who helps a talented, young up-and-comer. The story’s take on how imagination can be used to see a person’s potential and creatively solve funding problems was fun. I liked that the exec fixed his unhealthy family dynamics (he has a teenage daughter and estranged wife) instead of having a romance with his music mentee.

Chef

The shame of this movie is that it’s rated R but the best part about it was the story of how the character reconnected with his son. Minus a few parts, I’d love to watch this with my kids. What’s it about? A chef (duh) who is fired from his job bc he wants to create exotic dishes versus tried-and-true. When he gets panned by a food critic for his boring menu, he lashes out at his boss and gets the pink slip. After some soul searching, he decides to take it on the road. He gets a food truck and goes cross country. With the help of his social media savvy son, he draws crowds wherever he goes. It ends well. For foodie movie fans, road trip movie fans, Jon Favreau fans, food truck fans, fans of movies where characters reinvent themselves, tell their boss to shove it, and/or tell a critic to shove it (and then make up w them later).

Annie

Saw this over the holidays with my daughters. They loved it. And I did too. It was cute. Quvenzhane Wallis was wonderful. I was less taken with Jamie Foxx. Cameron Diaz as a reimagined Ms. Hannigan was ok, as was Rose Byrne. Who should see this? Quvenzhane Wallis fans and anyone who liked any of the other eighteen million Annies.

Box Trolls

We actually bought this, which meant we were able to watch the extras. And they were pretty neat. There was a featurette on how the filmmakers created characters that live in boxes and the world they inhabit and some cast member interviews, but my favorite was the one where Dee Bradley Baker and Steve Blum talk about how they came up with the Box Troll language. Oh, and I loved Winnie and Eggs!:-)

Magic in the Moonlight

My recollection is that this was not a huge success but I enjoyed it. I like Emma Stone and Colin Firth. I’m not familiar with Woody Allen’s work (although I liked Midnight in Paris). Magic in the Moonlight is for anyone who likes the idea of a stage magician and would-be clairvoyant falling in love against the backdrop of the 1920s French Riviera.

Maze Runner

I had heard so much about this, and it had been hyped so much, before I watched it, that I’m amazed I wasn’t disappointed. That said, it didn’t make me think very much (not like Into the Woods or Predestination did) and that’s the main reason why it’s getting an egg timer review. I thought it was good. Definitely worth two hours of your time. None of the actors really wowed me, but I’d happily watch them again. The sets were visually interesting but not stunning. In fairness, maybe part of my mehness is bc I didn’t read the book so watching this didn’t give me the pleasure of seeing a favorite novel successfully adapted.

Lucy

Finally!! I had been wanting to watch this since the summer when I’d mistakenly assumed it was based on Laurence Gonzales’ book. It isn’t, but (as I’d suspected; it’s not like the reference was subtle) it is based on Lucy, the Australopithecus, and a “what if” evolution scenario. Bottom line: Scarlett Johansson is a good action heroine. I’d watch her in a similar role again. As for Lucy? Read Gonzales’ book instead. I didn’t love everything about it, but it was better.

Showrunners (documentary)

Featuring J.J. Abrams, Steven DeKnight, Jane Espenson, Michelle King, Damon Lindelhof, Janet Tamaro, Joss Whedon, and a gazillion other people, this is a full length documentary on showrunners – the head writers/creators of a show. If you’ve ever wanted a peek inside a writer’s room, or if you’d enjoy hearing behind-the-scenes interviews of some of the most well-known and/or interesting TV show wranglers, this doc is for you.

World without End (miniseries)

I’ve read the book (and read and watched Pillars of the Earth) so when I saw this was available for streaming, I had to see it. I loved the books (although Pillars was my favorite; I liked Aliena and Jack better than Caris and Merthin). Even though I utterly despised her (I was supposed to), the best part of World was Cynthia Nixon’s Petranilla. Conniving, deceitful, murderous, immoral… she was just Jaw Droppingly Awful. Which made the scene where Caris forgives her sins just before her death that much more powerful. If you’ve read the book, like TV miniseries set in the Middle Ages, or just want to see Nixon’s range, rent it.

TV

Finding a TV show that I love enough to watch every single episode is extremely rare. Ones I’ve enjoyed start to finish in the past: Alias, Lost, and Battlestar Gallactica. Shows I’m currently addicted to: Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge’s, and Outlander. So I wanted to find a new addiction. Below, my candidates.

Reign

I streamed 10 episodes of this before I couldn’t do it anymore. At first, it was amazingly addictive. Definitely a guilty pleasure type of show. Beautiful kids playing monarchs-to-be with friends who have names like Kenna. (Is that historically accurate? Do I care? Does anyone who watches a show like Reign? No!😀 ) BUT the problem was exactly that. History. I know where this story is going. There wasn’t enough tension in the story questions. Will Mary wed Francis? Will Mary become Queen of France? Will Mary live happily ever after? I know the answers to those questions already.

Vikings

I watched 2 episodes before moving on, but may return. I like Lagertha. And kudos to the writer/director/showrunners/whoever for moving the story along at breakneck speed! I remember saying to my husband, “Wow! They’re already going to England.” I thought it would take Ragnar all season to gear up, find men, etc. And then – in that same episode – saying: “WOW! They’re going back home!” After they’d landed in England, I’d just assumed they’d spend all season there. And I liked that it’s based on real Norse mythological characters. But… it didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped.

Arrow

I wanted to like it. The pilot opened well. It captured my attention… but couldn’t hold it. (My husband hated it, although we often differ on TV shows.) As with Vikings, I’m hard pressed to say exactly why. I might return to this. But would choose Vikings over Arrow.

House of Cards

Streamed 2 episodes so far and am very much looking forward to the next one. I had to talk my husband into this one (he watched Vikings and Arrow with me, not Reign; lol). He’s in DC a lot for work and I think he thought the show would be one big cerebral snooze fest. And the opening credits! Geesh, sorry, but horrible. They’d make anyone who works in DC feel like they’re commuting in instead of lounging on their couch getting ready to watch an entertaining show. (Although maybe that’s the feeling the credits hope to evoke…?) But the show itself – terrific! We’re hooked. Kevin Spacey! Robin Wright! My only worry is that the show may end up like The Newsroom, which I stopped watching midway through the first season.

SHOWS

Matilda at the Shubert

Saw this just this past weekend. Fantastic! If you are looking for an entertaining, funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately happy, family show – see Matilda. The whimsical, bright, colorful sets seemed custom-designed for book lovers. The letter tiles surrounding the proscenium and incorporated into the many sets were decidedly Scrabble-esque. Bookshelves, libraries, classrooms… not to mention swings, scooters, lasers, confetti, strobe lights, helium balloons, a story-in-story told partially through a vintage paper doll/shadow puppet-like presentation. But the best part (as it should be with live shows) was the singing and acting: Brooklyn Shuck as Matilda! So expressive, sweet, sympathetic, and adorable… So confident, bold, and fearless. Also loved Mrs. Wormwood and Rudolpho. And Christopher Sieber as Miss Trunchbull!! (10.0 for the vault number.😀 )

The Illusionists at the Marquis

Saw this a few months ago. Seven magicians, each with completely different acts. There’s an escape artist, an archer, an inventor, a Vegas style comedian “trickster,” a truly phenomenal card manipulator, an Edward Scissorhands type “anti-conjuror,” and a dance performer “futurist.” It was fun trying to figure out the magicians’ tricks. (I’m no magician and lots of their acts stumped me). Watching audience members (who may have been pre-selected?) become part of the act was hilarious (glad it wasn’t me!). Who should see this? Anyone who likes top-notch stage magic and illusionists who can put on a diverse, spellbinding show.

So, please, go forth and purchase, rent, stream, read, or watch. Support creativity… and stories… and egg timer reviews!

What have you read or watched lately that’s worth mentioning? Come on, sharing only takes three minutes or less…


Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance Is Out!

A new Mammoth Book of… anthology released yesterday — the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance. It’s full of all sorts of chilling, romantic tales. My own short story “Dream, Interrupted” is in there. At nearly 13,500 words, it’s a meaty tale, really more of a novelette with lots of story elements that I adore: creepy settings, interesting backstory, a dark mystery, a singularly unique heroine, and a hero who takes the heroine’s breath away. It’s also written in a slightly different style than I used for the Noon Onyx novels. I fused myriad inspirational seeds to create one darkly fun story. If you want to check it out, I’m giving away one print copy (international so long as Book Depository ships to your address). Details on the giveaway are below. Along with my super-long-short story, you also get a bunch of stories from 15 other fantastic authors.

gothic romance, dark fantasy

Set in a lush, steamy world of ceaseless rain, swamps, alligators, overgrown cemeteries, and home-grown magic, these are dark and scary, yet pleasurably thrilling stories that unfold sinister secrets at every turn. These paranormal, suspenseful Southern Gothic romances are by both bestselling authors and bright up-and-coming talents, including Erin Kellison; Jessa Slade; Laurie London; Shelli Stevens; Coreene Callahan; Bec McMaster; Jill Archer; Elle Jasper; Angie Fox; Kait Ballenger; Tiffany Trent; Michele Bardsley; Sonya Bateman; Shiloh Walker/JC Daniels; JD Horn; Dianne Sylvan.

Available for purchase here.

A U.S. print version with this awesome cover…

gothic romance, dark fantasy

will release is the U.S. on January 6, 2015. If you want to wait for that cover, pre-order here.

Add to your Goodreads shelf by clicking here.

More About Dream, Interrupted

What if your snoring really did wake up the dead?

When Corelei Neverest ends up at a sleep disorder clinic, she’s searching for a cure for Apnea Anima, a rare sleep condition that occurs when a person’s snoring wakes the dead. But after countless therapy-filled days and terror-filled nights, Corelei’s almost ready to call it quits when an old crush shows up.

Alluring, irresistible, and beguiling, Caradoc Ambrose has had his eye on Corelei for years. When he hears Corelei is a resident at the Oneiroi Institute, he can’t resist meeting her at breakfast one morning. They’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship that feels like one big dream, interrupted to Caradoc. He wants a chance to convince Corelei to stay with him, forever.

Corelei Neverest, Jill Archer, Dream Interrupted, gothic romance, dark fantasy

CORELEI NEVEREST:
“My goal at Oneiroi since I’d arrived was based on a simple strategy. Act like the white rabbit.
Hide, evade, run.”

The Playlist

During my Bitten By Books release day party for White Heart of Justice, I mentioned I would post the playlist for “Dream, Interrupted.” If you read it, you’ll see that music was a big inspiration of mine for this story. In particular, the songs listed below. I couldn’t reproduce lyrics in the story, of course, but for those of you that want a fantastic immersive reading experience, download these songs and listen to them along with the story:

  1. “She Talks To Angels” by The Black Crowes
  2. Oh, My Darling, Clementine” (American folk song)
  3. “Like the Weather” by 10,000 Maniacs
  4. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot
  5. “Edge of the Ocean” by Ivy
  6. “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd
  7. “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure
  8. “Breathless” by The Corrs
  9. “How Do You Talk To An Angel” by Jamie Walters
  10. “My Immortal” by Evanescence

The Giveaway

I’m giving away one print copy of the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance. The giveaway is open to international so long as Book Depository ships to your address. To enter to win, comment below, use my contact page to send me a message saying you are interested in winning the book, OR tweet one of these tweets (one entry per person):

I love gothic romance! Win copy of Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance: http://wp.me/p1G39m-22b @archer_jill #gothic #romance

I love dark fantasy! Win copy of Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance: http://wp.me/p1G39m-22b @archer_jill #fantasy #anthology

Does Corelei Neverest really suffer from Apnea Anima? Win Mammoth Book of SoGoRom: http://wp.me/p1G39m-22b @archer_jill #shortstory #mystery

Will Caradoc convince Corelei to stay? Win Mammoth Book of SoGoRom: http://wp.me/p1G39m-22b @archer_jill #fantasy #romance #mystery

The giveaway will be open until midnight EST on November 30, 2014. I’ll announce the winner here by December 8th.

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Open to international participants 18 and over. For my official rules for website giveaways, click here.

If you read “Dream, Interrupted” be sure to let me now what you think! One of the best things about writing a short story for an anthology was the opportunity to work with new characters, new beasties, and a new world. This small project allowed me to experiment a little bit. I love how it turned out and I hope you do too!


Sabina Bundgaard: Denmark Postwoman Who Loves Baubles, Beads, and Books

My next guest in my “Writers Who Create Other Things” guest blog series is Sabina Bundgaard. She’s a book blogger/reviewer, writer, and jewelry maker. I first connected with Sabina around the time of Dark Light of Day‘s release. At the time, she was reviewing books for a romance website but soon after she started her own blog. We’ve stayed in touch through Facebook. When I saw that (in addition to her bookish adventures) she also makes jewelry, I asked if she wanted to come blog about it. Happily, she agreed. Welcome, Sabina!

jewelry making, bracelets, writers, creativity

“It all started with me looking for something ‘blingy’ to pep up my daughter’s Fastelavn costume.”

Hi! *waves*

My name is Sabina Bundgaard, I live in Denmark, and I’m an author, postwoman, wife, mother to two wonderful kids, I’m a blogger and I make jewelry. My day is full. *grins*

I don’t make book related jewelry though. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they certainly can be used for giveaways. In fact they frequently are, but I make it to be used for everyday use.

So how did I get started? Well…. as an outlet to tell you the truth. See, I used to be a vet student, and as much as I loved it, it really didn’t give me the time to do what I loved to. Books have always been a huge part of my life, so not being able to sit down anymore to read for fun was actually killing me. Trouble is… I can’t stop with just one chapter. It’s the same when I start writing. Once I get into a funk, I just keep going. Let me tell you it’s a baaaad combination when you have finals coming up – which we had every second month. Making my jewelry fit better into my schedule and it was something I could easy finish up before getting back to my studying.

jewelry making, earrings, writers, creativity

For fun, I started kumihimo braiding – making key chains. It was fun, relaxing and took virtually no time at all to make a few. I started donating them for giveaways, release parties, and such, especially for my fellow authors in Crushing Heart and Black Butterfly Publishing. People seemed to like them and it gave me the boost to try something else – bracelets.

It all started with me looking for something “blingy” to pep up my daughter’s Fastelavn costume. I found a bracelet, shambala style, but was a bit floored about the price. When we got home, I started to investigate and finally found out how to make them. My first true victim was my very good friend (and pub sis from CHBB) Sarah J Carr. I made some neon colored shambala inspired bracelet, braided bookmarks and key chains for her release – Starring Evans. It all went downhill (or uphill, depending on your view) from there.

Sabina Multi-Color Bracelets

Today I have my own page on Facebook. It’s called Sabina’s Baubles and Beads and I am making everything from a variety of bracelets, necklaces and earrings. My inspiration? Everywhere. Sometimes it’s seeing a bracelet made in a specific way. I think, “If I change that, or use this… Hmmm”. Sometimes I see something online, but don’t have the same materials on hand. Instead, I try using what I have and wing it from there. More often than not, I browse different websites (because heavens know we could use more physical stores that sell bulk in Denmark), and see something that I like and try to cooperate it into something that will work. Do I fail? Hell yes. I’ve made stuff that just isn’t working. AT ALL. I’ve made stuff that literally falls apart shortly after because I didn’t tie the knot properly, or used a wrong thread. *shrugs* It happens to us all. I learn from it and do it better next time.

Ultimately, I love wearing all my creativity hats, and making jewelry is just one of them, but an important one for me. It is a part of me, just like being an author, blogger, and mother is.

Before leaving, I would like to give Jill an enormous hug for inviting me as a guest blogger. Thank you!!

Sabina Bundgaard

Sabina Bundgaard

More about Sabina

Sabina Bundgaard lives in Denmark with her husband and their two children. By day she races around the countryside, delivering mail and packages to people. By night…. Well, that’s a different story.

While drinking one of her many flavors of tea, she delves into the mysterious realms of her imagination. Writing about everything from Elves and Dragons to Romance and Erotica, she tries her wings to see where they will take her.

Her favorite past time when not writing is reading, making jewelry and speaking to her friends all over the world, celebrating their victories and happy times.

You can find Sabina online here:

Hugs to you too, Sabina! Thank you for guest blogging today. I enjoyed hearing more about how you started making jewelry. Good luck and best wishes with all of your creative endeavors!

Hope everyone had a great weekend and a fun Halloween. Ours was terrific! Loved that it was on a Friday this year. Spent Sunday at a field hockey tournament. Winds were so gusty we were nearly swept off the field and into the sky (if only I’d had an umbrella I could have blown home a la Mary Poppins).

Then I had a couple of monstrous tech glitches. Dropped my cell phone in my garage. Done for. But the iCloud and the fact that I was overdue for an upgrade saved me. Now have a new phone and a pink Lifeproof case (my kids love it). 48 hours later my laptop was under attack. Thankfully, one of the guys from Norton helped me purge my system of ickiness. Fingers crossed that Tech Glitches do not occur in threes!

Kids are back in school after an almost five-day weekend (a weird effect of Halloween, Election Day, and end of quarter occurring at the same time) so (now that my laptop has been given clean bill of health) it’s back to full productivity.

Anyone doing NaNo? I’m not, but good luck to those of you who are. I love all the NaNo news/posts/tips in November bc it reminds all writers how much we can accomplish when we hunker down and WRITE!

Did you have a nice Halloween? What did YOU do this weekend? Anyone else dealing with dropped phones, computer viruses, or other tech glitches?

What’s your favorite type of jewelry? Earrings? Bracelets? Necklaces?

Wishing all of you high word counts and/or lots of time to read today!


BALTIMORE BOOK FEST: My Take (+ pics from my engagement party and rehearsal dinner: remember I said it was my anniversary?)

Two weekends ago, I went to the Baltimore Book Fest. Mostly as an attendee, but also as a panelist. It was a wonderful weekend!

The event was held at the Inner Harbor. In years past, it’s been held in Mount Vernon but the Washington Monument is under construction so the event coordinators thought the harbor would be a better venue.

I think current plans call for the festival’s return to Mount Vernon, a historic neighborhood that is home to the Walters Art Museum, the Peabody Conservatory, and the George Peabody Library (if you haven’t seen pictures, click here! it’s a beautiful library!), but I have to admit that I enjoyed attending the festival at the harbor and wouldn’t mind if future festivals were held there. While the harbor lacks the cultural feel of Mount Vernon, the Inner Harbor offers waterfront views and room to spread out.

There were tons of tents, most of them with books and authors in them. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers and Maryland Romance Writers had a tent. Individual authors had tents. Barnes & Noble, indie bookstores, local museums, small presses, and library groups all had tents. It was fun seeing writers I’ve known for years as well as meeting many new ones.

Craig took this pic from Federal Hill.  I'm standing beside MRW's tent with a friend.  Can't you see me waving? ;-)

Craig took this pic from Federal Hill.
I’m standing beside MRW’s tent with a friend.
Can’t you see me waving?😉

One of my favorite things was walking around the book festival with my family. My younger daughter was away but my husband and older daughter spent time checking out all the tents and exhibits.

Jack Clemons, a former engineer and team leader of NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs, did a “Flags on the Moon” presentation at SFWA’s tent. He talked about each of the missions he was involved with from a perspective neither my husband nor I had heard before, focusing on the U.S. flags that were left behind by the astronauts. It’s hard to overstate how much we enjoyed this talk. Jack mixed in video clips, photographs, and his own personal anecdotes and memories. Watching a History Channel documentary is not at all the same as seeing a live presentation by someone who was actually involved in these missions.

My daughter loved meeting Marissa Meyer. She’s currently reading Cinder for her outside reading assignment. I gave her a stack of YA books to choose from and she read the first few paragraphs of each and choose Meyer’s book about a cyborg Cinderella in part because Meyer establishes immediate sympathy for her protagonist. My daughter had her sign Cinder and Scarlet and even got to play Taboo with her, Charles Gannon, Sarah Pinkster, and Michael Underwood as part of SFWA’s Dangerous Voices Variety Hour.

Marissa Meyer's Cinder

The Dark Fantasy panel was great – a much more intimate setting than NYCC’s genre-benders panel in 2012! We opened by discussing “dark fantasy” and what the heck that term really means. I’m not sure a consensus was reached but it was interesting hearing everyone’s take. I shared my thoughts: basically, that the term dark fantasy can be used as a catchall category for works that otherwise defy categorization. When I hear the term I assume the story will have at least one element that is disturbing, unsettling, provocative, or even violent, and that it may not end happily. Other writers shared their view that dark fantasy, including horror, can be cathartic for both writer and reader. Overall, however, I think the biggest takeaway from the panel was this:

Write for yourself. Yes, genre writers want to be commercial and should pay attention to the market. But chasing trends won’t make you a success. Instead, it will almost always guarantee you fail. Why? Because you’ll never get the timing right for one thing (by the time your work is finished, submitted, bought, and published, the trend will be stale). What’s worse though is that your work won’t be genuine.

Jill Archer, dark fantasy panel, Noon Onyx, Baltimore Book Festival, SFWA

Jill Archer
DARK FANTASY PANEL
Baltimore Book Fest 2014

We didn’t spend a lot of time discussing the market, preferring instead to answer questions about our work or share tips for other writers in the audience, but it’s worth noting here that I’ve been hearing various behind-the-scenes chatter about a decreased interest in urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because if UF and/or PNR is your love, then write it. Read it. Trends come and go. If I’ve learned nothing else from my time as a writer, it’s that the most important thing is to be disciplined and stick to your own goals. For writers, it’s not the early bird who wins, it’s the one who hunts for the worms they think are perfect, from sunup to sundown… and then on through the night and into the next day… and so on and so forth.

It was also nice just getting down to the harbor. I used to work there and now I rarely get down there. So it was great having lunch with friends – and going to dinner! I mentioned before that it was our 17th wedding anniversary. (17 years?! Jeez, how did I get to be so old?!😀 )

Saturday night after the Author Meet & Greet, Craig and I cabbed it to Jack’s Bistro in Canton, a waterfront neighborhood to the east of the Inner Harbor. It was tiny and packed but absolutely terrific and just what we were in the mood for. Our waitress was super friendly with all sorts of helpful suggestions. We splurged: apps, wine, ridiculously large entrees, and a dessert.

Since I shared a wedding picture of us for our 15th anniversary, I’ll share two other vintage pics with you for this year: one from our engagement party and one from our rehearsal dinner. Enjoy!

Our engagement party circa 1995. I'm rocking the "young lawyer" look, huh? And some seriously curly hair!

Our engagement party circa 1995. I’m rocking the “young lawyer” look, huh? And some seriously curly hair!

Craig and Jill Rehearsal Dinner 1997

Craig and Jill Rehearsal Dinner 1997

Hope everyone’s week is going well! Tomorrow, I have another guest blogger. (She says she doesn’t like to dress up for Halloween! But we’ll forgive her. It’s a great post!:-) )


Baltimore Book Festival: I’m going; are you?

Baltimore Book Festival, fantasy author, Jill Archer, Noon Onyx

I’ll be at the Baltimore Book Fest this weekend. Details on my scheduled events are below. The rest of the time, I’ll likely be wandering around, checking out everyone else’s events. If you’re going, it would be great to meet you! Stop by my Friday night panel and/or Saturday’s Meet & Greet. Tell me whether you’re a writer, reader, or both. Let me know if you’re a Noon Onyx fan. Or wish me and my husband (who will be there too) a Happy Anniversary (it’s our 17th!). There will be a limited number of all three Noon Onyx books for sale at the festival — and I’m offering special pricing! If you haven’t yet purchased a Noon Onyx novel, now’s your chance to buy one at a discount and have me sign it.😀 Come on, don’t make me lug my books home from the festival! If you live in the Baltimore/Washington area, help me sell out! (I’m also happy to sign books you’ve previously purchased if you want to bring them.) Hope to see you there!

Friday 9/26/14 6:00-7:00

Writing Dark Fantasy

So you’d like to write dark fantasy, horror fiction, or paranormals, or demons, angels, post-apocalyptic, and genre-bending fiction that puts you on the edge of your seat. Meet with writers of these genres to talk about what’s trending, what publishers are doing, and what tips our panel of authors has to offer.

Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jill Archer, Em Garner, John Maclay, Sunny Moraine

Where is it?

This event is at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stage (SFWA’s tent), which is on the Key Highway side of the harbor between the Science Center and the Visionary Art Museum. Click here for a map of exhibits at the Baltimore Book Fest.

Saturday 9/27/14 5:30 -7:00

Reception and Meet & Greet

(Authors, Music, and Food!)

Join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at our reception, autographing session, and Meet and Greet with our program participants at the Baltimore Book Festival.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeanne Adams, Jill Archer, Catherine Asaro, Jack Clemons, Brenda Clough, Scott Edelman, Charles Gannon, Ronald Garner, Em Garner, Herb Gilliland, Anne K Gray, Elektra Hammond, Justina Ireland, Jim Johnson, Alma Katsu, Cheryl Klam, L. Jagi Lamplighter, John Maclay, Marrisa Meyer, Sunny Moraine, Christine Norris, Ellen Oh, Sarah Pinsker, Caroline Richmond, Don Sakers, Karen Sandler, Peggy Rae Sapienza, Rori Shay, Alex Shvartsman, Dawnyell Snyder, Bud Sparhawk, John Tilden, Mike Underwood, Jean Marie Ward, Fran Wilde, Ilene Wong, Karlo Yeager

Where is it?

This event is at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stage (SFWA’s tent), which is on the Key Highway side of the harbor between the Science Center and the Visionary Art Museum. Click here for a map of exhibits at the Baltimore Book Fest.


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