Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Monday, February 29, 2016

Fairy Tale Retellings: Five Enchanted Roses

I really like "Beauty and the Beast" and I'm always up for new versions. (The gorgeous movie version by French director Christophe Gans is available on YouTube. You should check it out here.)
This is a book that's on my TBR list. Five different retellings of the classic story.


One of the things I do for a living is work as a "reader." This is the best job ever and reading great books before they're published is one of the perks. I've just read a debut novel by James Hannibal. It's terrific. It will remind you of everything from Suzanne Collins' Gregor the Underlander to Time Bandits. The young hero has a great talent/power and his adventure is filled with twists and turns and dollops of really intriguing history and magical artifacts. The characters are nicely drawn, especially the hero's pesky little sister. The book is available for pre-order now, for publication in November. Mark your calendars and mark my words--this is a terrific book and, I suspect, the start of a terrific new series.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

In honor of Oscar night: Poster reveal ONE UNDER THE SUN

I wrote a science fiction movie last summer called One Under the Sun. Directed by Vincent Tran, it stars an international, multi-cultural cast headed by actress Pooja Batra. the movie is in post-production now and being shopped around to film festivals and markets. I cannot wait to see it. And in the meantime, here's the poster.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Most Interesting Book I'll Probably Never Be Able to Afford

I love libraries. I've had a library card since I was in first grade and I support them with my patronage and my donations. But I now live in a small town with a limited library budget, so often, I don't even bother to check if they have more obscure titles, I just go looking for them on the Internet. You can even find used books on Etsy now, which is kind of off brand, but I love Etsy almost as much as I love libraries, so I'm not going to complain.
I found this book, Designing Sacred Spaces by Sherin Wing while searching for something completely different. And I found myself fascinated by it. I am interested in architecture and in the design of sacred spaces and by the time I'd finished reading the sales copy, I was ready to hit "buy with one click." Except...the Kindle is $90 and the hard copies range from $67-$75.  I spend more than I probably should on books but even I balk at spending that kind of money. Sigh.

The book comes with a slew of glowing reviews and sounds like a provocative and thoughtful examination of architecture as an expression of culture. So it's on the pile and maybe one day I'll run across a copy while scouring a used book store. 

TBR: Jeannie Lin's classic steampunkfairy tale retelling 'The Warlord and the Nightingale"

I love fairy tales and love reading modern versions and re-imagined versions. I especially enjoy it when writers work with material that's not as well known. (I love "Beauty and the Beast" and "Cinderella," but they're not the only fairy tales out there, you know?)
Jeanie Lin writes beautifully and this lush story is set in the universe of her "Gunpowder Chronicles," steapunk tales set during the Opium Wars. It is a retelling of "The Emperor and the Nightingale," and you will enjoy it.

Learn more about Jeannie Lin here.

Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

I read Ken Liu's "Paper Menagerie" for Brian Lindemuth's "Short Story a Day" challenge a few years ago. The story made me cry. I was putting together the Nightfalls anthology at the time and I wrote to Liu and asked if he'd be interested in writing a story for it. He sent me the most gracious "no" I've ever received and I would love him for that even if I hadn't read this lovely, lovely story.

"Paper Menagerie" won pretty much every award out there and it's no wonder at all. it's readily available online, so if you haven't read it, go do so now here. And then go out and buy this collection. You owe it to yourself if you love good writing.

Parabormal Sisters Under the Skin

I'm watching Lucifer, which I'm enjoying despite the in-your-face, on-the-nose soundtrack--it's Castle with the devil!--and I can't help noticing how much series star Lauren German looks like Yancy Butler, star of another of my  guilty pleasures, Witchblade. They even have the same sexy, smoky voice.
See what I mean?

It's interesting to me that both series are based on comic books/graphic novels. Lucifer has been teasing viewers with the possibility that German's character (a cop) has some sort of super-power, but we don't yet know what it is.

I like that Lucifer is set in L.A. The  show gives it a candy-neon gloss that makes it look like a glittery wonderland at night.It looks like they also do some shooting in Vancouver, and you can always tell when they switch from L.A. to Pacific Northwest exteriors because of all the green. Witchblade was set in New York and my favorite scene in the whole show was one filmed in a snow-drifted cemetery with stone angels. I like shows that are based in real places and not in some anonymous "Metro" that's clearly Toronto (like the setting for Forever Knight.)

Anyway, I like that these two shows offered something different in paranormal.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Vampires in the Church

What if there were a vampire pope? What if there wer vampire priests? I googled "vampire priest" and got a lot of hits for the Paul Bettany movie Priest, which has a plotline about "vampire wars" and "priests." As far as I'm concerned, the more Paul Bettqany movies the better, but I've seen this one and it's a dark, comic book-y sort of fantasy and not what I was thinking about.

Untapped in Urban Fantasy

Now that I've started thinking about urban fantasy and how it's not really being exploited beyond the shifter tropes, I can't seem to turn it off. I once wanted to write a story about the OSS interacting with a vampire in Eastern Europe, and I may have to pull out those notes (yes, they predated my computer) and play with them. Because it occurred to me that if you were a werewolf or a vampire, you would make a most excellent spy.

Googling around with "vampire spy" led me to the Nathaniel Cade series by Christopher Farnsworth. The first book in the series, Blood Oath, sprang from the seed of a story that Farnsworth heard about President Andrew Johnson pardoning a man who was accused of being a vampire. There are apparently three books in the series to date and producer Lucas Foster has plans to turn the "President's Vampire" series into a movie. Sounds good to me.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Paranormal Politics

So, I'm watching the smackdown that has become our political process and thinking to myself, you couldn't make this up. And then i found myself wondering if there are any urban fantasies about politicians. I've seen books with vampire Mafia and the like, but what about vampire politicians? Or other paranormal creatures. Has anyone written such a book and if they have, why haven't I heard of it?

So I went a-Googling and let me tell you--there's not much out there. First hit was a definition of "poltical fantasy" that basically sounded like it was describing Brave New World or Animal Farm, which is not what i had in mind. I also got a link to PG's Ramblings, a really cool blog that talks about books (especially SF and fantasy) and movies and tech. (The author works at CERN, which is as cutting edge as cutting edge science goes. He seems to have really eclectic tastes and I look forward to reading it regularly. But still not what I was looking for.

How hard is it to find a paranormal politician in a book??? If you type in the search term "vampire politician," it takes you to a Wikipedia page about Jonathan Sharkey, a professional wrestler with politial aspriations, and a story about another candidate who likes to LARP who accused his opponent of being too liberal. Sigh.

I clicked around for quite a while--a most excellent distraction from what I was supposed to be doing and I never found what I was looking for. Which makes me ponder the eternal chicken/egg question. Are there no political paranormals because no one's interested in them or would readers read them if they were there? Inquiring minds want to know. And the wheels of my imagination are turning. Because what a spectacular game of chess it would be if there were paranormals in the political arena.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

L.A. Nocturne Collection--Urban Fantasy short stories set in Los Angeles

One of the first short stories I ever wrote for Dark Valentine Magazine was "Tired Blood," a tale of a vampire so old he'd developed dementia and forgotten he was a vampire. I liked the setting of the story so much that for the next few years, I kept writing stories set in my version of Los Angeles where the normal and paranormal co-exist. This fall, the novel based on that story, Misbegotten, will be published. (Better late than never.0 And as a run-up to that publication, I have released this colleciton of the "Misbegotten" short stories.

Some of these stories originally appeared in the collections L.A. Nocturne and L.A. Nocturne II, others have never been collected; a few were written just for this volume. I'm happy because the stories run the gamut. There are ghosts, shapeshifters (and not the usual kind), djinn, mermaids, sorcerers, demons, angels, and a were-bear. Also fairies. And unicorns and a centaur.

There are also vampires. Lots and lots of vampires. And a werewolf or two.  But not, I hope, your standard issue alpha wolf guys.  I hope you'll check out the collection. I had a great time writing these stories.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Pondering the paranormal

I write urban fiction and am about to release my L.A. Nocturne Collection of stories set in a paranormal-infested Los Angeles (with a handful of stories set in the Middle East.) Looking through them I see a ghosts, djinm, a succubus, a couple of mermaids, more than a couple of vampires, some fairies, but only a couple of werewolves (and one werebear and a couple of shapeshifters.) I even have some zombies. But I was thinking about werewolves. They're not my favorite and yet, suddenly they're everywhere. Especially billionaire shifters and step-brother shifters and seal shifters. (I find myself thinking how interesting it might be if a SEAL was actually a mer-man.) I was thinking about the werewolf books I've liked and only a few come to mind. They are:

Wolf's Hour by Robert McCammon. I'm a huge McCammon fan anyway, and I started reading his work when you could buy his paperback originals (like this one) for something like five bucks at the supermarket. (Remember those days when paperbacks were cheap enough you could chuck two or three in with the frozen vegetables and the ground turkey and never think twice?) This one features a spy who's also a werewolf during WWII and it's a treat.

Lycanthia by Tanith Lee. I so miss Tanith Lee. I have read almost all of her books, some of them so long ago that I could probably enjoy reading them again. This one was great with its decadent, Gothic deatails--old mansions and secrets. 

Those two books are the ONLY two werewolf novels I can think of off the top of my head. So I did a little Googling around to refresh my memory.
I like Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville stories but I put those in a different category from "real" werewolf stories. Ditto Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series (which I loved, loved, loved, when i first started reading them). I've never read Patricia Briggs' popular Mercy Thompson series, although Moon Called has been on my Kindle for forever.

I saw the movie Blood and Chocolate, which is based on a novel by Annette Curtis Klause, and it made me curious to read the original. I looked up a list of werewolf novels on Good Reads and out of the first 50 of 725, I hadn't read ANY.

But i have an idea for a series that might work with werewolves and I'm wondering if I can bring something fresh to the "canon," something beyond silver bullets and full moon madness. It's going to be interesting to see. Because it's clear that readers want more shifters!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Another Boxed Set! Be Witched

Lately I've been sampling boxed sets and as often is the case, once you go looking, you discover they're all over the place. This one caught my eye because the cover of one of the stories included uses the same image as one of my covers. (Yes, we all use the same five stock photo places.) I like my cover better because Indie Author Services did an awesome job of combining images, but still...

This one looks really interesting to me because as much as I like vampires and weres, I am ready for different kinds of magic. Looks like this collection delivers that. It's 99 cents and available for all ereading devicdes. You can find it on Amazon here. (I'm Kindle-centric, what can I say?)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Whimsical Pet Mugs for Your Favorite Dog Lover

I'm not always a fan of "whimsical," but artist Stephen Brandt's amusing dog breed illustrations make me happy. And now they can make you happy too. Check out his store on Cafe Press here.

Review: 7 Against the Dark: Urban fantasy boxed set

Seven Against the Dark: Seven Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance Series StartersSeven Against the Dark: Seven Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance Series Starters by Annie Bellet

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My very favorite thing in this book—which is full of delightful details—is in Kate Danley’s book “Maggie for Hire” about a “magical tracker in L.A. who carries a silver stake her sister had engraved for her at Things Remembered. I loved that detail and I very much enjoyed the story with its magical objects and deep dark secrets.

Danley’s book is only one of seven novels in this bundle and every single one of the books is a lot of fun to read. Annie Bellet’s “Justice Calling” gives a star-making entrance to its sexy tiger-shifter Aleksei Kirov “Justice of the Council of Nine” but it’s the author’s setting—Wyld, Idaho—that elevates the book from its genre. The small town where the heroine runs a comic book and tabletop gaming store is “the shape-shifter capital of the west,” and we can visualize exactly the kind of town it might be. The heroine, jade Crow, has a sense of humor and her reaction to Aleksei is a deadpan, “So, you know, not your average comic book or tabletop gaming enthusiast.”

There’s another heroine named Jade in the book, Jade Calhoun, the empath at the heart of “Haunted on Bourbon Street.” Her description of a “craft shop” run by Bea puts us right in the center of magical New Orleans, and Deanna Chase, like the other writers in the bundle, gives a lot of weight to sense of place.

This is true even when the “place” is one the author made us, as Anthea Sharp did in “Feyland.” Her writing is drop-dead gorgeous, near poetry at times, and lines like, “She smelled of stars and roses,” convey the magical quality of the Dark Queen of the Faeries.

Christine Pope’s “Darkangel” is also firmly rooted in its sense of place, and provides a practical look at the issue of a witch finding her consort. (Let’s just say Angela McAllister has to kiss a lot of frogs before she finds the literal man of her dreams.) One of the hallmarks of this book—like the others in the collection—is the strong sense that there’s a whole world contained in the pages of the book. Angela’s witch clan has rules and taboos and allies and enemies, and all of this is worked out beautifully.

Ditto for Helen Harper’s “Bloodfire” with its casual scattering of paranormal creatures into the mix. (A group of shape-shifters avoids admonishment because there are “water-wights terrorizing pleasure boats on the Thames.”)

I also enjoyed Colleen Gleason’s vampire hunter historical urban fantasy “The Rest Falls Away” with its Jane Austen world (so much better than “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”) The book gave us not just a sense of place but also a sense of time.

Boxed sets are great introductions to writers and series. I’d only read one of these writers before, but now that I’ve read the others, I’ll be back for more.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 12, 2016

Yay! A new book from Terry McMillan!

I Almost Forgot About You is coming out on June 7. Can't wait.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Love Paranormal and Urban Fantasy? Here's something JUST FOR YOU!

For some reason, it seems to be the season of the boxed sets. This one, featuring the first books in seven paranormal and urban fantasy series is free wright now. Free. Who doesn't love free reads? Get it on Amazon here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Valentine Witch for Valentne's Day

I'm a big fan of the novelette-sized story--I've written a whole series of novelette-sized fairy tale retellings--and I've been enjoying the paranormal romance novelettes from writer Shay Roberts. This one is set in North Carolina, where I went to college, and he totally nailed the perculiar vernacular of the local barrier islands. (Ocracoke Island was always one of my favorite places, but the local accent is hard to decipher. It's said to be very close to what Elizabethan English sounded like.)

I reviewed Valentine Witch (see my review here), and hope that the writer will come back to the setting and the characters later.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Interview with Jolie Du Pré

Author/editor/blogger Jolie Du Pré  is the creative force behind For Love of the Vampire, a boxed set of paranormal romances launching today with novellas from eight writers including herself. She stopped by Kattomic Energy to talk about vampires, books in general, and the challenges of the writing life

Welcome Jolie!

Who’s your favorite on-screen vampire?
Damon Salvatore of the The Vampire Diaries!
If you could be any paranormal creature, what would you be?
I would be a vampire!  They’re strong, sexy, and they live forever!
Do you have a writing ritual? For example: Do you have a set page/word goal of writing a day? Do you write on your birthday? Do you ever work on two or more projects at once?
I write with a set number of words per day.  Plus, I always give myself a deadline. 
Do you have a favorite among the books you’ve written?
My favorite of the Pierce series is book 4.  I love the sex scene I created.  LOL!
What are you working on now?
Actually, I’m working on books for a new pen name.  They are not paranormal related.
What’s the last good book you read? Or:  What’s on your TBR pile?
Prosperity for Writers: A Writer's Guide to Creating Abundance by Honoree Corder. She gives simple, yet effective solutions for getting you back on the right track, mentally, for achieving your goals as a writer.

Interview with paranormal author Olivia Leighton

 FOR LOVE OF THE VAMPIRE, a boxed set of paranormal romance novellas will be published tomorrow and  author Olivia Leighton, whose work is featured in the set, dropped by to talk about vampires, and books and writing. Welcome Olivia!

Whos your favorite on-screen vampire?
Hands down Elijah from the Originals.
If you could be any paranormal creature, what would you be?
I like a lot of characteristics of a wolf shifter, but nothing beats the draw of being a vampire to me.  They are cat-like in a way - sexy, stalk the night, can move silently, etc.
Do you have a writing ritual? For example: Do you have a set page/word goal of writing a day? Do you write on your birthday? Do you ever work on two or more projects at once?
When I sit down, I try to write as much as I can in two to four hours, then Ill go back and edit/add to/take away from.  Since I have a full-time job and a boyfriend who works odd hours, I try to fit my writing in around those two things.  If that means I write on my birthday, so be it.  I enjoy writing anyway, so it would be a good way to spend my birthday!  And yes, I have several projects, but its normally in the form of working on book covers.  (Im also a professional graphic designer.)
Do you have a favorite among the books youve written?
Honestly, I think the Vampire and the Owl is my favorite.  I like the thought of being a snowy owl shifter, and Im quite fond of the town of Gilmer, TX which the story is set in.
What are you working on now?
Im working on a spin-off tale from Unbroken.  This one will focus on Daniel Collins (the vampire) and the woman seeking revenge on him from changing her back in the 70s.
Whats the last good book you read? Or:  Whats on your TBR pile?
- The last good book It would have to be Champion by Mary Lou.  Funny thing I read mainly YA dystopian tales even though I write PNR.  I have a shelf full of books, one side contains books I read and the other books I need to read.  The read stack features books like Champion and Angel Fall.  The TBR stack includes Young World and Hemlock.
The usual vampire in PNR seems to be a pale white straight male (whether sparkly or not) and a lot of readers seem to like it that way. Do you venture outside the paranormal norm with your characters?
 I dont like to make my paranorms stray too far from their cookie-cutters, but I do like to put my own twist on things.  For example, my vampires can be killed with steaks, but they need to be steaks crafted from petrified wood.  UV rays can still burn them, but if they have a special tattoo, it protects them and they can be out during the day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Interview with Christine Pope

Best-selling author Christine Pope has new book out in her paranormal romance series "The Sedona Files."  I thought this would be a good time to ask her a few questions.

Falling Angels is the next-to-last book (oh no!) in your “Sedona Files” series. When you wrote the first, Bad Vibrations, did you know you were going to chronicle the second generation of your characters?

Frankly, I didn’t even know it was going to be a series. Back then, I really didn’t know what I was doing, and thought writing standalone books was the way to go (hint: it isn’t, at least in the vast majority of cases). But then I began to think how about how I could expand that one book into a series, and started working out the bigger-picture arc of the alien conspiracy/invasion that’s always going on in the background (and sometimes the foreground) of the books. As for the second generation, after I was done writing Angel Fire, I realized I really wanted to tell Grace’s story once she was an adult, and it sort of fell into place that I’d create a second trilogy that takes place approximately twenty-five years after the end of Angel Fire. So that’s why I wrote books for the daughters of the heroines of the first trilogy: Grace (Kara from Desert Hearts’ daughter), Callista (Kirsten from Falling Angels’ daughter), and Taryn, the daughter of Persephone from Bad Vibrations

Check out the trailer for The Sedona Files:

You’ve got several established series out there—the Witches of Cleopatra Hill, the Latter Kingdom books, the Gaian Consortium stories—but it seems like you’re always coming up with something new for your readers. What’s next?

The Gaian series has been ended (although there’s a prequel short story coming out in an anthology in February 2016), and I’ll be wrapping up the Sedona Files and the Latter Kingdoms books this year as well. I do plan to write more Witches of Cleopatra Hill books, and more books in my Djinn Wars series. There are also plans in the works for a post-apocalyptic zombie trilogy to launch in late 2016. That one will still be romance, just darker and grittier than some of my other books (and no, the romance is NOT with the zombies). After that…I’ll have to see. I have concepts for several new paranormal romance series (and possibly another science fiction romance series), but none of those would launch until 2017 sometime.

In your PNR, you’ve had witches, ghosts, demons, and now zombies. Have you ever been tempted to write a vampire or werewolf story? 

Well…in a word, no. I know they’re popular, but I like writing about paranormal characters that haven’t been used as much. That said, the newest Latter Kingdoms book (which I’m writing at the moment) does actually include a version of one of those paranormal characters, but I don’t want to say much more about it than that.