June 12, 2013
Tomorrow I leave for New Orleans to attend the World Horror Convention and the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend. And I still haven't packed everything! (Taking a deep breath and a break to post this new blog.)
I hope to see you there for tons of great programming and activities. I'm very excited about the special guests for the convention this year: Amber Benson (actress/writer), Ramsey Campbell (writer), Glenn Chadbourne (artist), Jonathan Maberry (writer), Caitlin R.Kiernan (writer), Robert McCammon (writer), and many more!
Here is the link to the official website: http://www.stokers2013.org/
Also a reminder that my eBook, "The White Death & Other Ghastly Ghost Stories" is still available online at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBook Store, etc.:
I've visited The Big Easy twice before, and it never gets old. The convention will be held at the famously haunted Hotel Monteleone in the heart of the French Quarter. There are many local ghost tours offered of the Quarter and of the unique cemeteries in the area.
The last time I was in New Orleans, I crept over to St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery to visit the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (see photo below). If you plan to attend, don't forget to have beignets at the Café du Monde. And if you run into me, I'll buy you a Hurricane. Laissez les bon temps roulez!!!!
June 01, 2013
Probable spoilers ahead. As far as I'm concerned, director J.J. Abrams has succeeded in making a superior sequel with Star Trek: Into Darkness. I liked it even better than the first film. The action sequences are spectacular and the plot moves along at a breakneck pace that barely gives viewers a chance to take a breath. Seriously, those two hours and ten minutes flew by at warp speed.
One thing that has us Trekkies so excited about this franchise reboot is the fact we don't know exactly what will happen next due to the "time travel fallout" that took place in 2009's Star Trek, when an alternate timeline was created, changing each character's future. Expect to see familiar events from the old movies given new twists and turns.
As this film begins, James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) is back as the young, brash captain of the Enterprise, leading a mission on the class-M planet Nibiru. (The opening scenes in the red jungle are visually stunning.) A volcano is about to erupt and destroy the primitive species, and First Officer Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is hurled into the inferno to neutralize the problem. But when do things ever go as planned for the crew of the Enterprise? Kirk once again violates the Prime Directive in order to save his friend, and must face the consequences back home.
He barely has time to deal with the shock of his severe punishment when all hell breaks loose on Earth: Terrorist John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is determined to destroy Starfleet at any cost. As a result of an attack on Starfleet headquarters, Kirk suffers a terrible loss. It's up to him, Spock and the rest of the crew - Bones/McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) - to go after Harrison when he flees to the Neutral Zone to hide out on the Klingon planet Kronos. Yes, we finally get to spend a little time with the violent Klingons, who are still archenemies of the Federation, at this point. My favorite villain in this flick (there's definitely more than one), is the terrorist John Harrison (an alias, by the way). The brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch, of Sherlock fame, is deliciously menacing as the British Baddie, and not entirely unsympathetic.
Also along on the mission to help capture Harrison is Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve). An early interlude between Kirk and Carol, in her underwear, had some viewers crying foul, saying the scene was gratuitous. I thought it was excusable because 1) it was so brief, 2) Abrams was trying to remind the audience that Kirk is a womanizer, and 3) perhaps the encounter served a purpose by foreshadowing their future involvement (if that's going to happen in this universe).
Even though we're served up plenty of action in this latest installment, that does not mean we don't get to see heartfelt emotion between the main characters as their relationships evolve. Fans will enjoy the familiar humor of Bones' observations and Scotty's lamentations. Spock still has to struggle to control his human side, as his romance with Uhura and his friendship with Kirk become more complex. All of them will be tested, and lessons will be learned when it comes to breaking the rules - defying orders to follow one's heart instead of one's head.
I'm not going to say this was a flawless, perfect film. But I believe Trekkies will be extremely satisfied with it, and science fiction fans, in general, will find it entertaining. If you choose to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, take my advice and don't drink a lot of soda beforehand. You won't want to miss one breathtaking minute. Oh, and if you don't like movies that cause you to leave the theatre with uplifted spirits, then go see Les Misérables.
Live long and prosper.
May 26, 2013
"Any reviewer who expresses rage or loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armour and attacked a hot fudge sundae." - Kurt Vonnegut
I couldn't resist opening with this quote. It's been a long time since I've read a book that's caused such a firestorm among fans and reviewers. Thanks to a German reader who had access to the worldwide web, I (and everyone else) knew the ending of "Dead Ever After" before it was released in the U.S. But I felt I needed to read the entire novel anyway - having devoured the previous twelve books in the series. I had to see for myself if other fans were justified in their shock and disappointment with how this long saga was brought to a close by Charlaine Harris.
There's no way to talk about such a topic without spoilers being involved. This review is primarily for those of us who've been fans since the very beginning - way before True Blood premiered on HBO in 2008. (And by the way, the TV series is much different than the books.) I've read other reviews by unhappy fans, and I've watched them get bashed online by writers, friends of Charlaine, who admitted they have never even read any of the novels. Not one. I hardly think that's fair, and it's not very professional either.
I've tried to look at the issue from two perspectives: as a writer and a reader/fan.
"Dead Ever After" had a different feel to it from the start. In the previous books, the point of view character was always Sookie Stackhouse, the telepathic heroine of the series. In this last installment, the author used multiple viewpoints. No big deal to me. When the book begins, Sookie is now estranged from her vampire lover Eric Northman, and is soon accused of killing her former friend and co-worker, Arlene. To make things more complicated, at least three people are out to get Sookie. However, in my opinion, only one has a proper, believable motivation to end her existence. (The worst motivation: We are expected to believe that her gay fae cousin, Claude, wants to kill Sookie because she never expressed a desire to sleep with him while he was living with her. Huh?)
In the first sections, similar to a prologue, I was bothered by the details involved when a businessman makes a deal with the devil. He sells his soul to Satan, and convinces his associate to do the same. He gets two wishes in return. He wants to be prosperous again - and he wants a fae object that Sookie has, which grants one wish to the owner. What? He wants the "cluviel dor" so he can have influence over his wayward witch of a daughter. Why didn't he just ask the devil to make it so?
Throughout the novel, I kept getting the feeling that another author wrote the book instead of Harris. The narrative flow, the way the characters behaved (contradicting their opinions/attitudes from previous books), all seemed strangely unfamiliar. Having been exposed to Charlaine's forum and having read many interviews with her, perhaps a few things shouldn't have surprised me at all. She has always stated that she never liked Sookie's long-term love interest, Eric. She wanted to end things between them early on, but the publishers told her that the Sookie/Eric partnership was too popular with readers and it increased sales. Apparently, she also wanted to end the series after writing four to six books. But, again, the publishers convinced her to continue on and stretch out the storyline. In the meantime, the author kept promising faithful readers that Sookie would eventually have her "happily ever after." Whatever that meant.
The main criticism I have with "Dead Ever After" is that Charlaine should never have had to write it. She ended this book, and the series, the way she always intended to from the beginning, when she thought there would be half as many novels, and that's why so many readers are upset. Fans don't understand how Sookie could end up having a love affair with her boss and friend (a shape-shifter she'd already known for five years when the series began) when there had been no hint of a romance between them at all since the first book, when a brief kiss didn't go over so well. There were many missed opportunities in previous books to end the Eric affair and start a romance between Sam and Sookie, but Charlaine didn't make that choice - probably because the publisher wouldn't have been pleased.
The ending of this series did not give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Sookie doesn't really get her happily ever after, and neither do any of the other characters as far as I can tell. Eric is turned into a villain and is sent away to be a vampire queen's reluctant husband. Sookie tells Sam they should take it extra slow - and who knows, perhaps their feelings were influenced by the magic of the cluviel dor when she used it to save his life (at the end of the last book, Deadlocked). As for her life - it hasn't changed much at all from the way it was in the very beginning. She's not a virgin anymore and she has a little extra money after becoming Sam's business partner at Merlotte's Bar & Grill, but other than that she's still left hating her telepathic gift and worrying about what everyone in town might think of her. I was hoping she'd finally realize her special ability was a super-power and use it as such.
It doesn't seem right that a character could go through so much over such a long period of time and yet change so little.
May 01, 2013
I have a confession to make: I'm a geeky fangirl and have been for quite a few years. I come by the trait honestly, since my mother is just as big a fan as I am. This summer and fall we'll have plenty to be happy about - five new movies will be released and we've been looking forward to all of them. Some are sequels and a couple are reboots of an old franchise, which we hope will be worth the wait.
1. First up is Iron Man 3, starring Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley. Even though there are references to the events that unfolded in The Avengers (released last spring), I believe this movie is not a direct sequel to that flick. Ben Kingsley plays the villain, "The Mandarin." I hear there are action sequences so elaborate they make the ones in the first two movies seem tame. Of course, we will still get treated to the usual sharp-witted dialogue from the main character Tony Stark. The release date is May 3, but the movie has already premiered overseas and has broken big box office records. I'm sure it will do the same here in the States.
2. Next in line in order of release date is Star Trek Into Darkness, opening May 17, and starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Anton Yelchin. The villain is played by Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock Holmes fame. More explosive action and familiar one-liners, which a true Trekkie can't do without. As a long-time Star Trek fan, I have to say I was extremely pleased with the first film. The casting directors couldn't have done a better job choosing actors to play these "sacred" roles. The chemistry between them all is absolutely perfect. (And unlike some fans, I found the romance between Uhura and Spock to be perfectly logical.)
3. On June 14, a rebooted Superman franchise will kick off with the release of Man of Steel. Henry Cavill takes over the role of Clark Kent. The trailer looks very promising and is noticeably different than all the other versions of Superman I've seen in the past. The film also stars Amy Adams as a not-so-typical Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, and Michael Shannon as the villain, General Zod.
4. Next up, with a release date of July 3, is another franchise reboot, The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as John Reid (Lone Ranger). Depp has been my favorite actor for over a decade and I can't wait to experience his vision of this old familiar western. I hear he's promised the Native American communities that Tonto will be portrayed much differently than in the disrespectful TV version. And before everyone goes, "I can't believe they picked Johnny Depp to play a Native American character," you should be aware that he's actually part Cherokee.
5. Finally, coming in last with a release date of November 8, is a sequel, Thor: The Dark World, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins. I didn't think I'd like the first Thor film, but I'm glad my mother talked me into seeing it. I hope we're not disappointed with this follow up. I still haven't seen a trailer for this flick yet, but I'm sure we won't have too much longer to wait.
If you're interested in reading my reviews of certain upcoming films, check back here every week or two. I'm sure I'll have plenty more to say.
April 22, 2013
I'll be in Indianapolis, Indiana the weekend of May 3 through 5 attending Mo*Con VIII. This is a small convention founded in 2006 by my friend, and writer, Maurice Broaddus. (http://mauricebroaddus.com). Mo will tell you it's become more like a 'family reunion' to those of us who attend the event every year. I wouldn't miss it for the world. Whether you're a writer, an artist, or simply a person who enjoys reading speculative fiction, this convention has something for everyone and never fails to entertain. (Not to mention, the wonderful food provided to attendees all through the weekend is included in your entrance fee.)
Special guests this year are Jim C. Hines, Saladin Ahmed, and Gary Braunbeck. Below is an excerpt from Maurice Broaddus' blog with more details about the event:
Mo*Con 8: The Mind and Spirit of the Artist
Mo*Con has always been about the “intersection of art, faith, and social justice” and this year is no different. There’s no easy way to describe the Mo*Con experience, except as perhaps as a convention room party extended for a whole weekend, except held in a church. Its aim has always been to be fairly small and intimate, yet retaining the feel of a family reunion.
Part of what makes Mo*Con a different sort of convention is that it revolves around a series of conversations (and food and art). Mo*Con has a two part vision. The first, inspired by many a late night at conventions, is to provide a forum for publishing professionals to get together and discuss some of the larger issues which affect their writing and their social conscience. Discussions can be had in a spirit of respect. The second is that too often the artist is underappreciated and here they are spoiled.
This year’s theme is “The Mind and Spirit of the Artist,” revolving around a discussion on Saturday the 4th about the struggles many writers have with mental health issues and what that means for their craft, their lives, and their community. The featured writer guests of honor have all written publicly about their struggles with issues from depression to anxiety to other issues. As the countdown for Mo*Con begins, several will be posting part of their stories.
This is the first year the event will be held at Broad Ripple United Methodist Church. The convention has expanded to include a First Friday event featuring the art of Steve Gilberts and Kristin Fuller. There will also be a spoken word performance from prominent poets: DDE the Slammer, Devon Ginn, Pope Adrian, Bless, Theon Lee Jones, Dizz, Reheema McNeil, ParaLectra, and Mr. Kinetik, hosted by Ill Holiday. These events will be open to the public. The spoken word event will be a fundraiser event for the local non-profit group, Second Story.
We’ll be debuting a few projects at this year’s Mo*Con. Seventh Star Press is the featured publisher this year.
The event is expected to draw over 100 writers, artists, editors, and publishers and many networking sessions. A half dozen workshops will be offered ranging from topics like privacy issues for writers to post-apocalyptic fiction to hands on demonstrations.