Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Book of Life, by Deborah Harkness

This is the third and final installment of the All Souls trilogy. Witch Diana Bishop meets Vampire Matthew Clairmont while doing research in a library. Diana calls out a book, Ashmole 782, unaware that the book is really a volume known as the Book of Life, a text that details the origins of the Creature communities; Witches, Daemons, Vampires, and Humans.

Matthew Clairmont has been doing research into Creature genetics in an attempt to cure his blood rage, a Vampire genetic disorder involving uncontrolled feeding and killing. Diana and Matthew meet after she finds the book, only to have it disappear back into the library. They fall in love and travel back using Diana's time traveler powers to attempt to find the book in the past. They don't find the book, but they do find one of the three missing pages from the book, along with the fact that Diana who's always been all thumbs with magic, is a weaver and that her parent's blocked her powers on purpose.

The Book of Life picks up with Diana and Matthew returning to their proper time. They've been married and are expecting twins, despite a covenant agreed to by the Creature community that the blood lines won't mix. Now everyone is after them.

Book three is all about disclosures. Where as in book one and two Diana and Matthew hid everything, their research, their knowledge, their relationship, in book three it all comes out. They enlist old friends and new, crossing lines in the Creature communities in ways that hasn't happened since before the covenant. It's everything or nothing in book three as the second missing page of three from the Book of Life is found and they are hot on the trail of the third. If they can put the book together, it can be read, and the origins of the species will finally be answered.

*Spoiler Alert*

If you haven't read the book yet and you like surprises, don't read the rest of this. I loved the first two books. I was lukewarm about this one. The number of characters was overwhelming at times. Everyone and literally their dog are in book three. Unlike the first two books, book three contains POV changes that I wasn't crazy about. The action gets crazy, with Diana and Matthew doing an abrupt about face and instead of hiding what they're doing, everything is put out on the table for all to see, including all the humans in Diana's and Matthew's lives.

With babies on the way and living together, they wouldn't be able to hide forever, but it felt like there weren't even discussions taking place about it, they just start talking. They turn their genetics research over to a group of graduate students and then Diana and Matthew split up; Matthew heading off to form his own Scion so they can get away from Baldwin, and Diana heading off to search for the missing page so they can expose the origins and break the covenant.

That said, the amount of research Harkness did to write this book was impressive. It was very well written (POV changes aside). I did like the way it ended. I do have closure, and that's always nice.

If you did finish this book and feel like heading to the future for a change of pace pick up Girl Found, available at Amazon and wherever ebooks are sold.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Writing: Deja vu

Welcome to a peek inside my head. You've been told repeatedly not to ask a writer where the ideas come from, and you do it anyway. It's inevitable, so let's talk deja vu. As a writer I spend my days making up stuff with the intent of convincing people it's all real. This has the potential to get confusing, one might think, but as far as I can tell, I'm not crazy yet. True, I sometimes have to double check that I really did take out the trash instead of having just thought about doing it. I know how vivid my imagination is and I've learned to adapt. Most of the time I remember I'm supposed to take out the trash today and then promptly forget about it only to remember that I didn't do it the next day.

The human mind and memory is a funny thing. I experience deja vu from time to time and the first thing that runs through my mind when it happens is every story I've every written. After a lifetime of reading, writing, and movies a lot of things that never really happened are familiar to me, and I blame most of my perceived deja vu moments on one of those three sources, because there's a comfort to be found in believing your own head's not making stuff up just to mess with you.

The concept of deja vu is older than the proliferation of media in the lives of man. There are several schools of thought concerning the deja vu sensation, some more plausible than others. I write paranormal stories, so ESP and past lives come to my mind. Trying to pass off deja vu at the opening of a newly built restaurant as a past life experience is a bit of a stretch, unless it's a retro d├ęcor designed by a reincarnated star crossed lover.

Who doesn't remember him. He can't stop the burning of his heart and he kills her husband to possess her once again - only to commit suicide when he finds out she never really loved him. Arranged marriages of the eighteenth century weren't all they were cracked up to be.

No HEA's in my worlds. Maybe I should stick to reading romance and leave the writing of to someone who likes to explore their warm fuzzy side.  

We can consider the physiological way the brain works. If I combine the idea of deja vu with the tons of information coming into our minds to be processed and tucked away for future use, I might have something. Amidst all this incoming information are the hints that something isn't right, and your subconscious mind, the heavy processing unit behind that quick wit of yours, wants you to know this, but its busy working and hasn't gotten all the details properly filed into a coherent thought yet.

So your subconscious mind works out a quick and dirty solution. It tosses out the equivalent of mental indigestion. Your conscious mind, the one looking at the heavy velvet drapes that remind you of Aunt Veda's house as it tallies up how much the monstrosities must have cost, mixes it with your thoughts and interprets the warning as a weird feeling of familiarity.

Your protagonists mind is telling her to pay attention to her surroundings. She's seen these people before and tonight something's off kilter. All the information coming into her head knows this. It's the job of putting it into the right context that pulls her out of a deep sleep a week later, suddenly knowing who poisoned the punch - and there's the story.

One of the more plausible deja vu theories postulates that deja vu is the brain mistaking the present for the past. Not past as in past lives, but specifically your past. Your brain meant to file the input under ten p.m. but it slipped into the ten a.m. file instead. Meanwhile the rest of your brain knows it's past your bedtime and acts accordingly. No wonder I keep forgetting the trash.

Don't be the only one who hasn't read Girl Found.

Also available on Scribd and Oyster and wherever ebooks can be purchased.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Allie's War, J.C. Andrijeski

After catching her boyfriend with another woman, Allie Taylor goes after the woman - typical female reaction - with a bottle. Not so typical, but then neither is Allie. This isn’t the first time her temper has been a problem in strange ways that freaked her adoptive family out.
But she’s not an alien. She’s not one of those weird Seers, she’s been tested. There’s an H on her shoulder to prove it.
So why does strange stuff keep happening to her? Like the stalker she picked up at the parole office, a place she has to visit courtesy of the bottle incident. Tall, dark, and strange is the last thing Allie needs. When stalker man turns up at the diner where Allie works, her brother Jon goes into protection mode. But it’s the stalker who saves Allie from the authorities when her eyes begin to glow and Jon goes flying across the room.

The alternate world in Allie’s War is new and imaginative. The Seers are a telepathic people who are discovered by humans and virtually enslaved. Forced to register and wear a collar that neutralizes their abilities, they stage an uprising that fails. Humans live in fear of a second, similar event, many of them not realizing that not all Seers are on the collar end of the leash.
This is the first installment of a series. The social and political contexts evolving in the story are complex and fascinating. The abilities, culture, and history of the Seers is deep and developed. The plane of consciousness and reality the Seers can access is very detailed and well thought out.

This series is well underway, so no worries that you'll have to wait for future books to continue on with the story. You can pick these up one episode at a time or in bundles, and an episode isn't a chapter, it's a full book. More than enough material to get your read on.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Origins - Girl Found

My first novel, Girl Found has been loosed on the public. It's been quite a process. Originally way back in 2006 when the first draft met the keyboard it was a contemporary drama centered on the events surrounding a missing girl who turned up using another girl's name. Think switched at birth, sort of.

Because switched at birth wasn't what started my mind churning on the subject. It was my mother. One day when I was twelve or thirteen she was sitting at the kitchen table in Dad's spot, which she never did, staring out the window. I must have walked by her six or seven times trying to see what had her so occupied. I looked out the window, but didn't see anything. I walked by a couple more times thinking she'd notice me hovering and say something, relieving me of the need to interrupt what was for my mother, strange behavior.

When she didn't notice my pacing, curiosity got the better of me and I asked what she was looking at. I will never forget this moment.

"I think there's a dead woman buried under the shrubs."

Not what I was expecting to hear. The shrubs had been there when we moved into the house. They'd probably been there for twenty or thirty years at the time. When the shrubs were eventually dug up four years later I asked Dad if he'd found any bones. He shot me a look of impatient annoyance, asked "What the hell is wrong with you?" and went back to digging.

There was no body, but the idea had been planted in my mind. Why wouldn't anyone have missed this woman? Had they missed her? And of course being a child I had to consider what happens when children go missing. Surely someone notices. But what if they didn't? Why wouldn't they notice?

When I started writing these questions returned and became a little story about a girl who'd been taken after her parents had been killed. The perpetrator, a hit man, couldn't stomach killing a small child and called a cousin for help. The cousin happened to have a friend who's daughter had died under suspicious circumstances and didn't know what to do. Too coincidental, I agree, but that was the original premise.

Several rewrites later and Ellen Morris is a girl with a paranormal talent trying to survive in the 23rd century. Be careful what you tell your children.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cobra Alliance by Timothy Zahn

 I moved my book reviews from Friday to Saturday. I know you were all wondering what was going on when it wasn't there as expected. Is she sick? Did she die? I hate considering that last option when people drop out of view suddenly, but it is an option, isn't it? Yes it is. 
Relax, I'm not dead, just rescheduling. Everyone breathe easier and stop stocking up on those green tree deodorizers from the twenty-four hour corner market. We won't be needing those hung on any fences around the neighborhood. Do you ever wonder exactly how bad a house has to smell before the neighbors call the police?No? Okay then. You must not be a writer. On to Cobra Alliance.

The Moreau family are the most famous of the Cobra’s, an elite fighting force implanted with deadly weapons that once allowed them to keep Troft invaders at bay. With the threat to humanity diminished, the necessity of the Cobra program is brought into question.

Jasmine Jin Moreau receives an anonymous message that draws her back to her original home world of Qasama, a place where Cobras, the demon fighters, are not welcome. She thinks the message is from an old friend, one now in need of her help, and she cannot, will not, turn away from an obligation. What she finds on Qasama is more than she counted on.

This is military sci-fi. The Qasama people are poorly disguised Arabic peoples from gender roles to names and speech patterns. I might understand more of this aspect if I had read the first set of books centered on the Cobras, although I have to say, it didn’t read like I stepped into the middle of a story. This is my first Zahn novel. It didn’t leave me chomping at the bit to continue on with the series, the characters were two dimensional and the detailing of the Qasaman culture I found a bit drawn out and boring, but all things considered it was a good read. I found the plot twist at the end intriguing in that it was a little on the abnormal side.
I'd read another Zahn book. Maybe not from the Cobra series.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book to Movie: Practical Magic

So there's this post flitting around on facebook where by you're challenged to list fifteen movies that have left their mark on you without thinking about it or researching. On any list involving movies I like, Practical Magic has a fixed position. I'm on my second DVD copy, having totally destroyed the first one I watched the movie so often.

It was inevitable that I read the book. Some of you might want to take a deep breath before reading on.

Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic was well written, and boring as hell. The book and the movie had little in common. There are two sisters, one enjoying normal in suburbia while the other parties her way through life until accidentally killing her boyfriend and showing up at her sister's house hoping someone else will deal with her problem.

What magic there is in the book is so subtle you almost don't even notice. What amazes me the most is how anyone reading this book was able to come up with such a great story for the movie, and if they were capable of doing that, which they were, why they just didn't change the characters names and replace the dead boyfriend. There was nothing else in the movie that had anything in common with the book.

Even the book blurb, which is entirely enticing and superbly written, over promises on what the story delivers. Yes, the Owens women have been blamed for everything - and then they moved away to go on with their lives, to think only of it as an interesting bit of history no longer impacting them.

I have to say it. The movie version wins this one.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Writing: Monkey Brain

I've been working on short stories between breathing new life into an old draft, getting some kinks worked out, likely creating twice as many, but it felt great. I've got over five thousand words in and boy do I feel productive. I do. I really do.

Then I realize it's midnight. My bedtime is ten. When I don't get to sleep at ten, I still wake up at five. I stay awake all day, and I feel like crap. I find myself googling the five signs of stroke and embolisms and recipes containing my yearly allowed sugar intake.

I've got Monkey Brain.

While the logical front section of my head tells the deeper, darker part of my brain goodnight, go to sleep, the computer isn't going anywhere, it'll still be here tomorrow and so will you. Don't worry about it, the story is in your head. Barring wild attacks by roaming zombie hunters who mistake you for the walking dead, chances are, your head will be here tomorrow too, and don't we both know how much better the head works after eight hours of sleep?

Yes we do. But do I fall asleep? No. The monkey brain is churning. It starts off with, "You don't need no stinking bedtime," and never really ends. The story keeps rolling on in my head like a flip silent movie, the sound's there, but the images are dark. I know that if I were copying it all down it would be the perfect novel, but monkey brain has no interest in the practical. No, it does not.

So I lay there staring at a ceiling I can't see, trying not to think about anything. The TV's off. I put the laptop down. I'm in a sensory free zone. This is what you're supposed to do to get to sleep.

Who the hell are these people kidding? I'm a writer, a person for whom meditation is nothing but a way to get the creative juices flowing. I thrive on monkey brain. After three seconds of no sound or light, I decide my cyber fighter's new guy could have a motorcycle...that flies, because cars fly...and, no, bad idea. Flying motorcycle equals some kind of weird pussy mobile. Flash Gordon like even. Oh, hell, men in tights. What was the name of that cartoon cat? Not Robin Hood, that was an animated fox, and he didn't have tights. He was naked from the waist down.

Maybe Wendy doesn't give a rat's fluff about international espionage and finds a hot boyfriend instead. She's at his house baking turtle brownies when his brother comes over and finds out she hacked his servers, and then he takes all the brownies. Mmm, brownies sound good, and that guy's brother is really selfish. Wendy vows to make hash of his servers, right after she makes more brownies, because turtle brownies.

I really want brownies, but I think the milk expired, and I'd have to make caramel. It's too late for that. I'm already in bed, and I don't have any pecans. I should go to the store tomorrow. No, go Thursday. That one thing is coming in the mail and you have to be out anyway. Never leave the house twice if you can do it once. Will they even have mail in the future? They have to have something. 3D printers that accept file downloads, like faxes, except you get stuff?

Stuff like sushi or chicken curry, extra spicy. What kind of diseases would you get from printed food? Especially if you had bio implants of some kind. Anyone, anywhere could be killed ordering take out that comes with a virus that downloads and disrupts all your systems as you eat. One minute you're swilling a fine wine and the next you shit that new kidney you got last year. Think of the inconvenience, and the mess. Nobody would order take out. Food would be the only thing they would need to leave the house for...and they would all forage in government farms that robots take care of because they can't trust restaurants either, or processors -- an entire world of bio implanted, genetically modified, Bordeaux drinking, hunter gatherers. 

Definitely can't have leotard-wearing men flying motorcycles as they steal from the rich mixing with that. And did I seriously create a world without sushi and turtle brownies? I don't think I can deal. Reboot!