Thursday, November 28, 2013

Feature & Follow (11/30/2013).

Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  Click on the links to visit their blogs and find out more about this great meme.

This week's question:  What's your favorite Thanksgiving food?  If you're not American or Canadian what is your favorite holiday food?

Are you kidding me?  I have to pick a favorite?  I love food to begin with.  I love to eat!  So Thanksgiving is just heaven for me.  This was our feast today.  Yummmm.

I also saw this cute picture going around on Facebook of a "vegetable" turkey.  So I tried it and here is the result.

How about you?  What is your favorite dish to make and/or eat on Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Authors After Dark Savannah - 2013 (Friday).

I love the ribbon scavenger hunt that occurs at AAD.  Several authors have ribbons printed out with fun slogans pertaining to their books.  The object is to try to collect them all.  Here is one attendee who was quite successful.

Friday morning the first panel I attended was Witches (Joey Hill, Heather Long, Rebecca Zanetti, Sasha White.)

Is there a market for witches? Publishers are thinking a few years ahead.  What is popular now, may not be in a few years.  The panelists advised to market yourself and your name.  (If you're a writer that is.) Independent publishers are more flexible.  Sasha said that she writes what she wants to presently write.  Heather added that people want to read good books.  Whether it's vampires, witches, etc.  The market is a good story.

The authors then talked about why they wrote about witches.  Heather stated that a female witch is empowered.  Rebecca writes what she wants to read.  Witches are fun and she wanted to explore on the fringe of what's possible.  Joey uses knowledge from her Wiccan training.  Her witches are instructional, down to earth.  Her character is a teacher. Heather is also Wiccan and grew up watching Bewitched.  She found a book called, The Changeover by Margaret Mahy and wanted to write *that* book.   When Sasha was a kid, she wanted to be psychic.  However, if she wasn't she could create someone who was.

For all the fun in magic however, Steph stated that magic has to have a cost or it's hard to believe.  Rebecca's magic obeys the law of physics.  For example in her world, you can't change a person into a frog, it doesn't make sense, they're not the same size.  Also, their witches don't always win a fight.  In some of their worlds, the more you rely on your magic, the more it corrupts.

So do the authors believe in magic?  Joey said absolutely.  "Wicca is my Faith.  It's prayer and energy.  Magic is a science not yet explained."  Rebecca also believes in magic and reminded us that we only use about 12% of our brain and pointed out that there is a lot out there we don't see and understand.  Heather also said yes and told us the beautiful memory of the first moments of holding her daughter.  It was so touching and difficult to dispute that it indeed was magic.

Laura from Little Read Riding Hood talks to the authors.
Next I went to Kick Ass, Take Names (Amanda Carlson, Dianna Love, Kendall Grey, Kait Ballenger,  Jeri Smith-Ready, moderated by Amanda Bonilla.)

How do these authors craft a good fight? Jeri's heroine Ciara from her WVMP Series fights more with her brain.  However, in the last book she picks up a weapon.  Jeri does research and puts herself in the shoes of the character. She takes it moment by moment and uses all the senses in her writing.  Kendall's heroine is a biologist, so she uses her brain as well.  Kait states that the key to fight scenes is tension.  She is concise and doesn't use a lot of description.  She also relies on her martial arts background.  Amanda loves writing action scenes and told us that they play out in her mind.  Amanda B. can write a fight scene in a matter of minutes.  "YouTube is my best friend.  I pay a lot of attention to movement."

"Being kick ass doesn't always mean a punch in the face."

Jeri further discussed Ciara, who is a former con artist and understands how to manipulate people.  Her way of kicking ass is to come up with schemes to save lives.  Kendall's character's strength comes from her heart.  She is a regular person and doesn't have to have magic to do that.  Kait's female characters struggle with how physically strong they are and how mentally strong they are.  Amanda's heroine is new to her powers and her strength is how she's figuring it out.  Diana's character is always tested and that is how she grows emotionally.

Similar to the Villains panel the question of whether there is a threshold was asked.  Do the authors draw a line?  Cait's books havent had a violence threshold.  They are pretty violent.  Amanda C. told us that her books are not dark.  "I like happy."  Dianna writes dark.  Her action scenes switch as to who gets the upper hand.  It's part of the plot.  However, her torture scenes happen off the page.  Jeri has a  different threshold when writing YA.  But in her adult books she delves into the repercussions.  One thing with violence is to show the effects.  Kendall doesn't have a threshold but her editor does.

Jen (Twimom) from That's What I'm Talking About brought up the topic of torture off scene vs. active participation and the differences in writing torture vs. fight scenes.

"Action propels the story.  Torture lends itself to emotional growth."

Jeri treats torture very seriously.  She explained there is a lot of forms of torture.  She talked about how isolation can be a form of torture and that is why solitary confinement is considered such a severe punishment.  Kendall hasn't written a lot of physical torture, but does use emotional torture.  Kait thinks a torture scene is harder to write than a fight scene.  It's difficult when a character is incapable of standing up for themself.  In her Romance books, Dianna only uses torture off scene, but in her UF she utilizes it a bit more.

How much do they pay attention to societal tropes?  Dianna explained that when you're writing a strong woman, you need to make her believable and relatable.  Strong women are not necessarily ballbusters.  Amanda doesn't pay attention, she just writes the character as does Kendall.  Amanda B. says that women are more judgemental.  She has to ask herself why the character is behaving this way?  She writes bitchy females, but there is a reason.  Jeri feels that any character that is not a straight white male is judged on how they represent their group.  Characters who are female or a minority are not judged by as a person but as a group.

Other panels I attended were Spontaneously Paranormal, Post Apocalyptic and You and The Unlikely Hero.   After the panels there was a Blogger Gathering and a Steampunk Tea.  (I went back and forth to both rooms.)

Steampunk  Tea

Annie from Booked and Loaded.
Leanna Renee Hieber.

The Vampire Ball was one of the highlights of the weekend for me.  I loved seeing everyone's costumes and creativity.

Joey Hill.
Winner of the costume contest. 

Someone's cool purse.  I wants it!
I didn't sign up for an author table, but I ended up sitting with Kat Mancos.  She had an awesome gift basket for one lucky winner seated with us and she also had other prizes for everyone at the table.  

Chelsea from Vampire Book Club & Laura from Little Read Riding Hood.  

Jess Haines, (unknown), Lia Haber, Kristen Painter. 

I was sorry not to have gotten more pictures of the awesome bloggers I met.  Things were so busy! I had to leave Saturday morning so I missed the author signing and the party. However, I was able to pack in a lot of activities and fun during the time I was there.  If anyone reading this is wondering whether Authors After Dark is worth it, I can tell you that it is!  Especially if you are a fan of even one or two of the authors who attend, enjoy interesting panels, fun events and meeting great people.

Don't forget to sign up for the 2014 Authors After Dark Challenge hosted by me and Bookswagger!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Authors After Dark Savannah - 2013 (Thursday.)

I'm a terrible, horrible, lazy, naughty blogger.  The blogger police won't have to come after me because I am just going to turn myself in to them.  Yes, finally, after months of procrastinating and avoiding questions of where my pictures are, here is my recap of Authors After Dark Savannah.

The event took place at the Savannah Marriott Riverfront.  The hotel was right next to the Savannah River and the back patio looked out on the water and the riverfront, with shops, stores and tour companies was within walking distance.

The first panel I went to on Thursday Morning was Tying Up Loose Ends (Jeri Smith-Ready, Pip Ballantine, Lynn Rush, Kate Douglas, Bianca D'Arc, Rebecca Zanetti), which was a discussion of completing a story or series without leaving the readers (or the authors) frustrated from unanswered questions.  An attendee stated that she gets upset when there is a book one and two and then no book three.  The panelists explained that it's not always the author's fault, since sometimes the publishers don't buy or publish a third book.

One way that authors can combat this and stay in their created world is to write spin offs or self publish. "A spin off is a way to stay in the world.  I worked on this world and I didn't want to give it up." Kate Douglas told us.

Zanetti stated that readers may be comfortable with a familiar world so it's important to include something new in spinoff.  She personally likes to turn it on it's head and surprise readers so they don't get too comfortable.

One attendee asked if any of the authors are influenced by readers.  Do they see if they're ready for a certain kind of ending.  The authors do look at feedback and newsletters that asked what questions did you want answered.  Sometimes it can be a lighbulb moment.

Rebecca revealed that she already knows how the story will be resolved but sometimes you have to be careful so you don't write yourself in a corner.

The authors also pointed out that as a writer it is good to have a re-bound book right after a series, maybe a stand-alone.
The next panel I attended was Gothic Romance (Clare Ashgrove, Erin Quinn, Erin Kellison.) A Gothic tale usually includes a ghostly element, they are dark and moody and hinge on horror. They also almost always include secrets.

The heroine in a Gothic tale is usually a virginal kind of maiden and are not like an Urban Fantasy heroine, who is usually a bad-ass.  Setting is also important, but if you are writing a modern story, it's more of a feeling.  Gothic stories have moddy elements that hinge on horror and evocative descriptions and emotions.

The authors discussed their books and what makes their works Gothic in nature.  Clare writes about Azazel, a demon, as the main guy in her books.  Erin Kellison's Shadow Kissed series sounds very interesting.  Magic is slowly creeping back into this world. It's a new Dark Age, not be confused with the Dark Ages.  She stated that there are no monsters, but it is dark and creepy.

The weirdest thing they've ever done for research?  Clare Ashgrove called a male friend at 2 a.m. to ask him to explain what sex felt like from a male point of view.  Clare also said she spent three months with a fire department.  Erin sat in a gas chamber at a penitentiary. (Yipes!)

Of course, I had to attend Vamps (Joey Hill, CJ Ellison, Jess Haines, Rebecca Zanetti, Mary Janice Davidson) and as the panel title reveals the authors discussed how they utilize vampires in their novels.

Joey discussed that in her books there is a vampire/servant relationship and she compared it to the same dynamic as in the movie Fright Night and went on to gush about the dance scene in that movie.  (Which is awesome by the way.)  Jess Haines writes Urban Fantasy and ever since she saw Blade (which we all know is awesome), she needed a vampire hunter of her own.  Her main character, however, is phobic of vamps.  Jess told us that people get annoyed with her heroine, but Shiarra makes her laugh.  Mary Janice Davidson also mentioned Fright Night, specifically the love song from the movie.  (Which is awesome by the way.)  She wrote her book because she kept running into the same vampire in the bookstores.  She couldn't relate to the rich, young hot vampires.  She wondered where the secretary vampires were.  That's how Betsy was born.

The panel discussed the blood drinking habits of their particular characters and questions were raised, such as "If vampires never truly die, do they lose their soul?"  Hmmm.

Rebecca sat down to write a romantic suspense and her hero kept wanting to bite.  Her vampires  are born, not made and her witches use Quantum Physics. She feels that magic is science we haven't been able to explain...yet.

Why vampires?  Joey Hill repeated she was inspired by Fright Night (Remember when I said it was awesome?), and Anita Blake.  Her publisher wanted something supernatural so Joey came up with her Vampire Queen series.

CJ loved reading about vampires, but got tired of the tropes and the angst and wanted to read about a real couple.  She feels that you can make the vampire legend anything you want, as long as you stick to some tradition.  She also likes vampires because they have more flexibility. 

Jess had been writing a "bad trilogy" and wasn't having fun.  Then she started writing for herself and Hunted by Others was born.

How long did it take for their worlds to come into being?  Mary Janice said that sometimes as she's writing she thinks of a better ending or villain.  She also didn't plan for 13 books.  Jessica doesn't outline and because of that can sometimes write herself into a corner. She admitted she is very OCD and uses spreadsheets that she doesn't deviate too much from.

Joey hates the world building.  She just wants to focus on the relationships.  Sometimes she'll ask her fans because they are like a search engine.  CJ keeps a notebook by her bed.  Jess uses the notes app on her phone and has been known to write on things with eyeliner.  Rebecca uses sticky notes and sometimes asks her husband at inappropriate times what he is feeling at that exact moment.

Next up was Horror in Romance
(CJ Ellison, Saranna De Wylde, Isabella Drake).  Horror is my favorite genre, but Romance is kind of far down on my list, so I was very interested in this panel. The authors started with a discussion of why they wrote Horror.

CJ simply loved the dark aspects of books.  From violence to themes of how characters were portrayed.  She didn't know she was writing Horror. Her main character, Viv, is a dark creature.  Her husband pulls her back from the edge. CJ enjoys writing the scarier scenes, but she feels readers need to connect with the characters and their human side.  Isabelle is not sure why her writing went this way, but her books are quite dark and not the kind of thing she thought she would write.  Saranna uses horror as a transformative tool.  Her character is a serial killer.  Isabella described her books as a Faustian bargain.

I thought Saranna's reason for writing Horror was interesting.  She saw The Exorcist and wanted to make people "feel this."  She also expressed that love just doesn't solve everything.  Although the movies and television and many books give us this message, it's not necessarily true in real life.  I haven't been able to read Saranna's books yet, but I'm interested in how this view translates to her stories.

The last panel I attended was The Big Bad Villains (Jennifer Estep, Claire Ashgrove, Dianna Love Jean Joachim, Kristen Painter). This was a very spirited session. Maybe because it was the end of the day or maybe it was just the fun subject matter.

The panelists discussed what kind of villains they liked to write.  Jennifer Estep prefers to write a typical villain, the moustache twirling kind.  But she likes them to be as appealing as her heroes.  Clare prefers her villains to be morally ambiguous.  She doesn't want her readers to like them.  Dianna likes her villains to be evil, but human so that the reader can connect to them.  Because, she clarified, that is scary. Jean feels villains need to have a backstory so readers understand them.  Kristen told us that the big bad in her House of Commare series gives her great joy.  "She is a crazy, fun chick to write." Painter says.  She feels that women have a deviousness that lends itself to good villainy.

The topic then progressed to Male vs. Female villains. Kristen feels that female villains are more dimensional.   She explained, "I guess you don't expect a female to be that bad."  Jean has two female villains and explained she uses whatever fits the stories.  Jennifer goes back and forth.  She feels that  female villains have a different dynamic.  They are more devious as well as fun to write.  She likes to alternate but if it's over a series, more tend to write a female.

A great question came up:  Have you ever fallen in love with a villain and let them live? Clare said no, because they have a role they must fill.  Dianna stated that if her villains cross a line they must pay.  You're going to want them get their come-uppance.  However, Jean's answer was yes!  And, she named Gunther Quill.  As he went on in her stories he became more than what was in her mind.  He charmed her (the FMC) and he charmed me."

Since Kristen is not a plotter, a lot of things are a surprise to her.  "I write to see what is going to happen next." (How cool is that?).  She explained that a character can get redeemed because of what you show in their past.  She likes to give them a glimpse of humanity to make reader's question. 

A discussion followed of whether they have their villains cross "that line."  Kristen stated that she is willing to cross it, but the character has to pay.  Dianna also said her villains will cross a line.  She also warned that your hero has to be as big as your villain.  Clare said there is a line but she writes dark so the line is pretty far and there's no coming back.  Jennifer's villains are already over the line.  So then, there's no eddying up to the line.  The important element is that it's not really about the villain, it's how the hero/heroine reacts to the villain.

Favorite villains?  Estep said that Batman has great villains and she especially likes the Joker because he is chaos.  "Someone real." Clare said.  She went on to explain that she meant the kind of people who didn't mean to screw up your life, but they did and they don't regret it.  Dianna's favorite villain: Hannibal Lechter.  They screw with your mind. Jean named Catherine du Bourg (Pride and Prejudice) or the father from Persuasion because they try to hurt the heroine and they are very real.  They are the people who are supposed to love you, but belittle you bit by bit.

To keep their villains from being cliched, Kristen says that they need to show motivation and background.  Jean expanded on that idea by stating you have to understand where the villain is coming from.  You may not agree, but you understand.  Sometimes people are driven to actions by circumstances.   Dianne keeps her villains real by giving him or her goals, motivations and by surprising the reader.  Clare gives her villains a strong goal and also gives them a characteristic people can identify with.

Then there was an audience discussion of whether readers want to see the villains get it in the end.  There were mixed reactions.  Jennifer stated that death is sometimes too easy.  She is always surprised to see who readers like or don't like.

That evening there was a carnival in the hotel with authors holding booths to win prizes. The Erotic ring toss was popular (I took pictures, but I won't post for fear Blogger will banish my blog) and there was also a slide, roulette, face painting, temporary tattoos, and cotton candy (yum).

Later that night, I did a Savannah Ghost Tour and was regaled by awesome cool ghost tales including, yep, you guessed it, the famous fountain from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Don't forget to sign up for the 2014 Authors After Dark Challenge hosted by me and Bookswagger!

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Dark Matter.

Title/Author: A Dark Matter by Peter Straub 

Narrator: Robertson Dean. 

Publisher: Random House Audio. 

Source: Library. 

Synopsis:  The charismatic and cunning Spenser Mallon is a campus guru in the 1960s, attracting the devotion and demanding sexual favors of his young acolytes.  After he invites his most fervent followers to attend a secret ritual in a local meadow, the only thing that remains is a gruesomly dismembered body - and the shattered souls of all who were present.

Years later, one man attempts to understand what happened to his wife and friends by writing a book about this horrible night, and it's through this process that they begin to examine the unspeakable events that have bound them in ways they cannot fathom, but that have haunted every one of them through their lives.  As each of the old friends tries to come to grips with the darkness of the past, they find themselves face-to-face with the evil triggered so many years earlier.  Unfolding through the individual stories of the fated group's members, A Dark Matter is an electric, chilling, and unpredictable novel that will satisfy Peter Straub's many ardent fans, and win him legions more.
My Thoughts: A Dark Matter is a very imaginative and beautifully written book. Straub is a master at writing and he is able to give a lot of attention to detail.

This story is told in a roundabout way from the point of view of the aged characters about what happened to them during a mysterious summer when they were teenagers. Most of them, with the exception of the narrator and main character, Lee Harwell, fell under the influence of a “hippie-New Age” guru named Spencer Mallon. One night this group, led by Mallon, performed a ritual and when it was over everyone was changed irrevocably and one of the initiates was dead and mutilated.

Because he was not present and because he was not interested in being one of Mallon’s groupies, Lee feels he is the best person to write this story. One of the acolytes is his own wife, also named Leigh, and through the course of the book he finds his old friends and they tell him their experiences of that night and what happened to them in their lives after.

A Dark Matter is an intriguing book.  I wanted to know what was so strange and bizarre about the ritual and that part followed through in a way, but it was a lot of existential thoughts to follow as was the whole book. The theme delves into the realms of good versus evil and how the group encountered the concepts, manifestations and consequences of evil, chaos and other realms. However, I think I would have liked it to have included more of a paranormal aspect. From the synopsis, I thought it was going to be a gruesome tale that focused on the teenager that was killed.  A kind of supernatural whodunnit.  But the dead body almost wasn't the main focus.

Yes, the ritual changed everyone, but the characters went on with their lives. It was kind of like they experienced this alternate reality and then either went insane, went to jail or went on with their lives. I kind of felt the ritual and what happened didn’t live up to the suspense about the secretive nature of it.

The characters were interesting, but I feel that a lot of them were very similar to each other. I can’t say I found myself attached to any of them.

Narration: The narration wasn’t bad, but it reminded me of a science teacher speaking. Dean did the female voices well which I appreciate in a male speaker.

Wrap Up:  I love Peter Straub. I really do. I met him a few years ago and he is the kindest gentleman you ever want to meet. I love some of his other works, but A Dark Matter was a difficult book to wrap my head around. Maybe I’m not deep enough or ascended enough. However, I still have more Straub books to read and A Dark Matter has not put me off this wonderful author.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...