Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Friday, July 31, 2015

Sean Haldane: The Devil's Making, a review

Darwin and the edge of the Empire

Amateur naturalist Chad Hobbes—the atheist son of a preacher—has come to the colony of British Columbia to learn a bit about life before he settles down to a life as a lawyer. Unfortunately for Chad, he’s just missed the Gold Rush, which means that nobody in Vancouver or nearby Victoria really needs a lawyer. But what they do need is a policeman. The wilderness settlement has several police officers but none with Hobbes’ particular set of skills. The idea of being a “peeler” appeals to Hobbes and he’s soon thrust into the heart of a murder mystery that has racial and colonial implications.

Hobbes is fascinated by his duties and dutifully records everything he observes in a leather-bound journal his mother gave him before he left home. There’s plenty to observe. Elections are pending and one of the questions is whether B.C. will become part of America. Passions run high on both sides of the question but not as high as when an American “alienist” is found dead and the most likely suspect is a medicine man.
Sean Haldane’s novel transcends genre here with its literate (but never ponderously literary) style and the sharp observations on everything from class to vegetation. (Hobbes is fascinated by the quality of blue in the sky, so different from the English sky back home.)
Fans of historical mysteries are in for a treat with this book.

Friday, July 17, 2015

the horror! the horror!

I am in the process of planning out the rest of the year's writing. I have a couple of short stories I want to finish, one for Gerri Leen's anthology of dark goddess stories, a couple that have been in the works for a year or so. I will also finish up a bunch of the novella-length stories in preparation for finally (FINALLY!!!) getting Misbegotten done. but as the seasons turn and i start looking toward autumn, i start thinking about horror. (See post below)
I used to read a LOT of horror. When I first started writing I wrote a lot of horror. I haven't gotten a lot of traction with that genre though, and I find myself wondering if it's simply not commercial any more. Most of the time I write what I want to write and devil take the consequences, but as a full-time freelancer, I don't just write to amuse myself. So I need to figure out if there's some fiction/fusion formula that will work. Horror/spuspense maybe? Haven't seen that for a while. Maybe something with voodoo? I havne't read a good voodoo story in a long time.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Ppicture is Worth a Thousand Words

I like writing short horror stories. I have a couple available on Amazon and I have a couple of others ready to go. To be honest, no one really buys my horror shorts--I don't know if it's that the genre isn't as commercial as the fantasy romance fairy tales I write or if I'm just not writing what horror fans want to read. I write a lot of stories about spiders...I'm not sure why. I do know that in my household I am the designated spider killer. Yes, to spiders, I am as deadly as Furiosa.
One of the things I've noticed about writing horror is that I'm inspired by visuals more than anything else. And while trolling through Bigstock this month, looking for images to illustrate two proposals I was creating, I found this image.
And it spoke to me. I think it's genuinely creepy. The black stone somehow makes it even creepier than it might be in white marble. It's the texture. It almost looks volcanic to me. Expect a short story to go with this picture soon. I'm still thinking about what it might be but in the meantime...ponder the picture.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

the Warrior's Wife

This book caught my attention because the book blurb mentioned ROMEO & JULIET and I'm always on the lookout for things Shakespearean. It doesn't really have that much of a connection, but one of the things the reviewers really liked is that the writer got the details of the medieval world right. Since writers who fake it make me crazy, I look forward to reading this. If you're interested too, it's free today for the Kindle.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Durable Fairy Tales--Beauty and the Beast

I don't know when I first read Beauty and the Beast, but the first filmed version I saw was Jean Cocteau's dreamy, surreal version of the fairy tale. I remember the disembodied candelabra lighting the Beaast's home. And I remember thinking that the Beast was much more interesting than the bland man he transformed into.
Since then I've read a lot of variations on the theme, and seen a lot of the movies too--from Disney's rollicking musical version to Beastly, with Mary-Kate Olsen as the witch who curses pretty-boy Alex Pettyfer. 

Today, when I got my daily slew of newsletters offering free and almost free books for the kindle, I noticed one called The Beast of Bath, a Regency Fairytale. I thought it looked interesting and I started thinking about how many versions of the B&B I've read in the last few years, wtih their widely diverse settings. Christine Pope, for example, kicked off her popular Gaia Consortium series with a novella called Breath of Life, her version of the story.
Why is Beauty and the Beast so popular?
I think one of the reasons is that the heroine is really likable in any of the versions you read. Unlike her sisters, she isn't selfish and vain or greedy.
She is not a shallow person. One of the things I remember most about Robin McKinley's lovely version of the story (Beauty) is that she delights in the Beast's library, which has all the books ever written, as well as those that have yet to be written.  I thought that was a most wonderful thing the first time I read it and I still do.
But the Beauty is also someone who makes a moral choice. I'm not a fairy tale scholar, but I remember when I read the tale of Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady" that it was a Beauty and the Beast story with a gender change. My favorite moment in the story comes when the Lady asks the Knight which he would prefer--being able to see her as the beauty she is at night, when it's just them, or during the day, when the court can see he didn't marry a "beast." And he tells her to choose for herself, thus breaking the spell. This story is one of the subplots of a truly godawful movie called Merlin and the Sword (Candice Bergen as Morgan le Fay, Rupert Everett as Lancelot and a young Liam Neeson playing a character called Grak), and Patrick Ryecart (currently in Poldark) as Gawain. Ryecart was terrific (you might have seen him in the BBC Romeo & Juliet), and I wish the movie as a whole had been even a little better because who doesn't like King Arthur movies?
But I digress.
I was trolling through looking for other Beauty and the Beast stories and I found a ton of tales that looked interesting. The one that intrigued me most of all was Depravity by M.J. Haag.
It's the first in a trilogy, and it's got a 4.8 rating. It sounds like it's got a darker edge to it and that works completely because at its heart, B&B is a psychologically complex tale. I can't wait to read it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Steampunk fairy tales

Every year or so when I have a little discretionary income, I like to download images for use on my covers and in my blog and for personal projects that need to be jazzed up with graphics and illustrations and photos. I use various different places, but this month I'm taking advantage of a sale on Bigstock. One of the projects on my "to do" list is to put together a collection of fairy tales filtered through a steampunk aesthetic. I've never really written in steampunk but I enjoy it when I run across a well-done story in the genre.
Bigstock has a selection of great steampunk fonts and I'm slowly downloading them 10 images per day. I still don't make my own covers--Joy Sillesen of Indie Author Services does that--but I really like playing around with images and font and typefaces and graphics. And I love having these images to play with.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Are SEALS the new Vikings?

I don't write contemporary romance, so I'm only vaguely aware of the elements that are trending these days. (I didn't know New Adult was an actual thing until a client asked me to edit her NA novel.) I am aware that shifters of all shapes and sizes (particularly BEARS, particularly with BBW) seem to be dominating (some would say "cluttering up") the best-seller lists in paranormal romance, and I've recently been made aware of hot alien tentacle sex. (There are some things that can never be UNREAD.) There are also about a bazillion "billionaire bondage" knockoffs of E.L. James' books. Lately though, I've noticed that the go-to alpha male figure is not the cowboy or the cop or the biker bad boy but a Navy SEAL.
I get it. When I think of Navy SEALs, the picture that comes to mind is that scene from Top Gun where all the young, hot, shirtless naval aviators play volleyball. What's not to like? But the new SEAL love is interestung to me for two reasons. One, I've read a ton of thrillers with SEALS at the center, including those by Richard Marcinko, one of the original membes of Seal Team Six. And in those books, there usually isn't even a woman character, much less a romance.  So it's interesting to see the difference in how a male writer and a female writer view the characters.
When a female writers uses a "Highlander' as her protagonist, the result is Outlander; when a male does, it's more likely to be Rob Roy or Braveheart. Love versus war. (And I am not saying here that I don't think a woman can write war stories or that a man can't write romances--I'm talking gender generalities.)
But the other reason I find the SEAL heroes intriguing is that I actually know a SEAL. And he's an impressive guy. But if you lined him up against a wall with say, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, and Chris Hemsworth and said, "pick the Navy SEAL, he'd be the one you picked last.
Which is, I guess, why they call it fiction and not fact.