5.21.2019

#BookReview Maggie For Hire #SpeculativeFiction #paranormal #vampires

Maggie for Hire
by 
Kate Danley

When monsters appear on Earth, Maggie MacKay is on the job. No one is better at hauling the creepy crawlies back where they belong. No one, that is, except Maggie's dad, who vanished in the middle of an assignment.Now, an elf named Killian has shown up with a gig. Seems Maggie's uncle teamed up with the forces of dark to turn Earth into a vampire convenience store, serving bottomless refills on humans. Ah, family...

The only hope for survival lies in tracking down two magical artifacts and a secret that disappeared with Maggie's dad.

WARNING: This book contains cussing, brawling, and unladylike behavior. Proceed with caution.


Cathrina's Review:

I was hooked in the first chapter. Read that warning. It holds true. Maggie cracked me up. Sarcasm and snark spews from her mouth and thoughts throughout the story. 


At the onset I was enamored with Killian, whom I thought would become something more. But he was basically just there, and I didn't quite understand his role. 


This is the first book in a whole line of Maggie for Hire's. Fast-paced, unique, and had me chuckling a couple of times. If you don't like cussing and snarky talk, then this book isn't for you. 


As I ventured toward the end of the story, I have to admit the cliches and sarcasm were somewhat over the top, and I felt like I was drowning in them. But, all in all, a fun read. 

5.10.2019

Writers, Stop Killing Pets

I recently finished the second of a six-volume epic fantasy series. I'm not going to tell you the name of the series in case you haven't read it. And no, it's not about games and thrones. One of the protagonists of the series is a young mystic whose companion is a wolf. The two are inseparable. I like the wolf. It's my favorite character. As I read toward the climax of the first volume, I had the sense the writer was setting up the story for the wolf's death. I considered putting the book away if the wolf died. But, surprise, surprise, the wolf survives.

After finishing volume one, I wrote to the author on Goodreads to tell him how much I enjoyed the story. The wolf is my favorite character, I wrote, and I was impressed that he avoided the temptation to kill it. The author thought it was interesting I experienced such a strong connection to the wolf's character. He asked me to write again after finishing volume two. I should have seen what was coming.

In volume two, the wolf dies. Twice! Yes, twice the loyal, faithful wolf with its fighting and sniffing skills is sacrificed. In the first instance, the party is trapped deep in the bowels of a mountain and under attack from a demon. The mystic might be able to defeat it but needs a massive surge of power. The mystic's mentor offers herself as a sacrifice to create the power. The mentor at this point is three-quarters dead already. The idea is the mystic has to kill someone close and dear to her. The mystic decides she cannot kill her mentor, so she kills her wolf instead and transforms the wolf's spirit into a sort of dragon which battles the demon until they figure out how to dispatch it.

It's kind of neat that the wolf has upgraded to a wolf-dragon who is still intensely loyal to the mystic. And yes, I understand the need for the sacrifice. But, the wolf's character lives on in a new form and won't it be neat for the mystic to have a wolf-dragon as a companion? Think of the damage a wolf-dragon could do to a horde of enemies? As they are leaving the bowels of the mountain, the mystic is abducted by a nasty creature. The other members of the party are powerless to save her until the wolf-dragon shows up and puts an end to the creature.

At this point the wolf-dragon has prevented the demon from killing all of them and single-handedly saved the mystic. The mentor is now comatose and nine-tenths dead. None of the humans in the party have died. Due to some restrictions in the spell used to create the wolf-dragon, it cannot leave the mountain. Bummer! But, it could still live on as a friendly force for good inside the mountain. There are still many nasty creatures living down there. The mystic refuses to leave the wolf-dragon. The pair settle on the floor together like she and her wolf used to do.

Meanwhile, the party of humans struggle to negotiate an exit from the city. The ungrateful mayor won't allow them to leave even though the demon has been destroyed. What does the leader of the party do? Yes, you guessed it. She offers to kill the wolf-dragon in exchange for free passage home. Really? This is how you reward loyal service? The poor mystic must again kill her friend to save the party's sorry butts. There appears to be no coming back this time, which is probably a good thing. They would just kill it again.

Seriously, can't writers think of something better to do than killing off pets? We've all seen Old Yeller. We've been there, done that.

Image Attribution: Detail from an image by Stéfan [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

4.23.2019

Speculative Fiction Worth Reading - The Circuit by Rhett C. Bruno #review #scifi

Looking for your next great space adventure?


Earth is a dying planet. To survive, humanity founds the Circuit, a string of colonies across the solar system, dedicated to mining resources vital to preserving what remains of mankind. Here there are no heroes or villains, only those willing to do what's necessary to survive.

The New Earth Tribunal, a powerful religious faction, has risen to rule the Circuit. They believe a Spirit within the Earth will one day appear and welcome humanity back home. Following a string of seemingly random attacks, the Tribunal suspects its mortal enemy, the Ceresians, have again rallied to challenge their absolute rule. But a new, sinister threat has arisen--and it plans to bring down the Tribunal once and for all.

Join an unlikely band of would-be saviors--the Tribunal's best spy, a roguish Ceresian mercenary, a subservient android and a disgraced general--as they are drawn into a conspiracy destined to change the Circuit forever.


Rhett C. Bruno made me a fan with his first novel, Titanborn. He has a way of creating complex, flawed characters who I always end up rooting for. That's a great talent. I enjoy every adventure he takes me on, and The Circuit was no exception. 

Like all good science fiction, this story makes one think about oneself and humanity in general. I always hope I'd rise to the challenge as the characters do to overcome obstacles and make our humanity better. That's what I love about space opera, the discovery inside and out.

You can get the series here: http://rhettbruno.com/the-complete-circuit-trilogy/  Also find out more about Rhett and his other books.

Have you read anything good lately?


4.09.2019

Franny's Mashup of Victorian and Modern Vernacular

One of the fun things about writing my characters is that they say the darndest things. I almost wrote that I can make them say anything I want, but that’s not strictly true. The story-line must fit their character, or they’d never let me get away with putting words in their mouths. They really do have minds of their own, especially my secondary character Franny!

First, a little about Franny. The sleuthing sidekick of reluctant ghost-whisperer, Indigo Eady, Franny Bishop also happens to be the ghost of a former Victorian madam of some repute. Walking with a foot in both worlds, she’s still “living” the high life in modern day Sabrina Shores. The old English market town is a haven for the dearly departed, and Franny leads quite the active afterlife. Indigo is not far off when she says that Franny exists in the modern world better than she does.

Existing as she does, Franny has become quite the unintentional logophile—a lover of words. And except for a few instances which you’ll see further down, she’s quite the colorful speaker.

And she has reason!

Sleuthing is tough work. Everyone needs an outlet when frustration strikes, right? Here are some of Franny’s favorite Victorian expletives (the corresponding definitions are mine):

Balderdash = B.S.
Blast a Spaniard = Dang it!
Doolally = Crazy
Numbskull = Dumb@ss
Cockamamie = Ridiculous
Pshaw = Surely you jest

And then there’s the telly. How many ghosties do you know who watch television? Franny does. She is addicted to late-night black and white crime shows, featuring tough-guy private dicks such as Mike Hammer, Sam Spade—and even Charlie Chan.

Franny loves to use the slang she picks up...

Clocked = Assaulted

Rozzer = Policeman

Gam = Sexy leg


“Oh dear,” Franny said. “You’ve done it now. Gone and clocked a rozzer.” 

Rob stood—if you counted stooping at the waist as standing, and I did. Franny lifted her skirts and floated around him tsking at his rumpled condition. 

Rob raised his pant leg to assess the damage and Franny stopped and bent to check out his knee. “A bit of a lump, but all in all, a nice gam, don’t you think, Indigo? Placed higher and you’d have made a clean getaway. You’re out of practice, dear.” She shook her head.


Franny doesn’t always get it right. Sometimes she's a bit confused, like in this scene where she tries a bit of matchmaking... 


“Life is too short, don’t waste it on boredom. You need to follow your dreams. And speaking of dreams, that Badger is a real dream ship. Have you spoken to him yet?” 

“You mean dream boat and Badger is ancient history, Franny. We were kids. Besides, we’ve both moved on. He has a girlfriend.” 

“Pshaw,” she snorted, in a most unladylike manner. 


Or in this scene, where she mixes up the term, "coming out"...

“If an event or anniversary woke him from the ether, he might only now be coming out,” Franny said. 

I snorted. Franny’s interpretation of modern slang tickled my funny bone. We’d recently discussed gay people ‘coming out’ after my break-up with Francois. I never expected to hear the term used in connection to a haunting.  

Franny continued, “You may laugh, but he could be a newborn.”

I laughed again. “You mean newbie.” As in newly departed. 


And what self-respecting ghost isn't concerned with how she looks?...

“...Do I look warm?” She patted her ebony hair. Her teal skirts flared from a waist so tiny that Barbie would be green with envy, and her bright white gossamer blouse hugged her ample bosom in flawless perfection.

As if she ever looked anything less than perfect. “You mean hot. And yes, you’ll do.” 


But seriously, can a ghost be faulted for using "cobblestones" instead of "road"?...

“Good thinking, Indigo,” Franny said, as if she were my conscience sitting on my left shoulder giving her approval. “Plenty of time down the cobblestones to spill the beans.”

“You mean down the road…” I corrected Franny automatically. 


I love Franny’s character. She makes me laugh all the time. I hope you enjoyed learning about her as well.

What do you think?

Is Franny a true logophile?

Or one forgetful ghost?

_______________________________________

If you enjoyed reading about Franny, these snippets are from my upcoming cozy paranormal mystery novella, 
A Scandal in Boohemia.




Indigo Eady can’t live on ramen noodles forever…

She jumps on the first job offered. All she has to do is work undercover at Sabrina Shores Theatre, find a ghost thief, and cross him over. Easy peasy, right? Until an actor is murdered and Indigo’s fingerprints are all over the pistol like ink on a Rorschach test.

Forced to dust off her rusty sleuthing skills to clear herself, Indigo enlists the help of her ghost friend Franny and her hunky ex-boyfriend Badger to help solve the crime. Now, how to keep her investigation from the handsome inspector?

***


Indigo Eady is a reluctant ghost whisperer, but she’s grown quite attached to Franny Bishop, a former Victorian ghost madam of some repute. Franny’s afterlife makes Indigo’s life look like she has one foot in the grave. Much to Indigo’s chagrin, Franny is determined to find her a man. After all, there are plenty of handsome men around ripe for the picking, and Franny’s an expert. In the meantime, Indigo and Franny have murders to solve. 


3.19.2019

Speculative Fiction Worth Reading - #Review of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut


Celebrating the 50th anniversary of this masterpiece!

Blurb: Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

Christine's review: Billy Pilgrim was not made for war. Later in life, as he sits down to write his experiences in a book, the reader follows his life before, during, and after the bombing of Dresden in World War II. Not in that order due to the fluid nature of time!

I read this book many, many years ago. When I picked it up to read again, what I remembered most was that Billy had been abducted by aliens and they displayed him in a zoo. That is just a very small part of this story. This time around, it was the horror and devastation of war that struck me, and left me feeling heavy and depressed. The grisly details and horrible reality of what it was like; the sights, smells, and sounds. The repetitive imagery of the frozen ivory and blue feet. Billy was already broken by the time he was sent overseas to fight, but the war shattered him further. He was truly a tragic character. There is a bit about aliens and living in a zoo, and the fourth dimension of time. It's weird and zany, but the novel carries a great weight which makes it truly one of the greatest novels I've ever read.

The Kurt Vonnegut Library is celebrating by working with the publisher to get a new 50th anniversary cover for the book. Check out the article here.

3.05.2019

A Writer's Inspiration #shortstories #fantasy #alternatehistory

Writers are often asked where do they get their inspiration. The answer a lot of us give is either "I don't know" or "Everywhere." Vague, I know. We don't mean to be, but sometimes it's hard to nail down the moment inspiration strikes and a character steps forward to begin a story.

I recently have been working on a four-story collection to publish this year titled Folds in Life and Death. The stories take place in an alternate history where some people have the ability to bring origami to life (i.e. paper magics). The unique thing about these stories is I know what inspired them, and I have four anthology calls to thank for the creative spark.

Though I always wanted to write something involving paper magics, I didn't necessarily have a story in mind. We Untethered Realms' people were using the original four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) to create anthologies. The first anthology, Twisted Earths, had been released, and I was considering what to write for Mayhem in the Air. All I knew is I wanted it to involve paper magics. I saw a piece of paper floating in the air. Then, Mayor Alfred Merry stepped out from the shadows. The mayor hated paper magics and wanted to ban them, not because Paperists (paper magic practitioners) could be dangerous, but because his wife, a Paperist, had cheated on him with a man Alfred had trusted. His wife had not only abandoned Alfred, but also their little girl who eventually passed away from cancer. Alfred promised his daughter only her mother would release her soul to the sky, which is the key task for Paperists. This story also brought up a deadly sect of Paperists known as the Ritualists. Alfred created the Futurists, those against paper magics. The players in this new world were set in "Paper Lanterns."

In 2015, the Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) put out a request for alternate history/parallel universe stories, which was titled Parallels: Felix Was Here. I knew I wanted to revisit my paper magics' world, but what story to write? I thought about our history, and I remembered something I read as a child about the Curse of Tippecanoe, which stated every President elected in a "---0" year would die. In our universe, Reagan survived the curse, but in my paper magics' world, he wasn't so lucky. So what would that mean for the President elected in 2000? Allyson Moore, a Paperist and the President's sister, is just about to find out in "Folds in Life and Death."

I wrote "Folds in Life and Death" for the IWSG anthology, but if it hadn't been selected, I was going to use it for UR's Spirits in the Water. So I still had a new story idea to discover for our fourth Elements of Untethered Realms' anthologies. I wanted to revisit the paper magics' world. In "Paper Lanterns," I wrote from the point of view of a Futurist. From "Folds in Life and Death," Allyson is a Paperist. Now, I wanted to write from the point of view from a budding Ritualist. What would inspire a person to join what most of the world thinks of as a terrorist organization? Aimee Washington helped me understand in "The Folding Point."

Last year, IWSG had a call for YA Romance with a masquerade theme. I wanted to write from the point of view of an autistic, like me. Willow bloomed before me, but I unfortunately didn't complete her story in time for the anthology. I wasn't willing to give up on her, so I inserted her into my paper magics' world. She is a regular ol' human who hasn't yet taken sides when it comes to Futurists, Paperists, and Ritualists. She's just a girl in love with her best male friend. A girl who obsesses over theater and history and admires the paper magics' her love interest can create. Willow's story is "Paper Faces," and it rounds out the collection Folds in Life and Death.

I'd hoped to have published Folds in Life and Death by now, but I'm still writing "Paper Faces." The collection will be published soon, though. March or April. *crosses fingers*

If you're a writer, where has inspiration led you? Readers, I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse behind the scenes.

2.19.2019

#Review #PolarNight #mystery #supernatural #suspense #ebook


Julie Flanders is superb, a definite flare for writing suspenseful mystery. She pulls her readers to the edge of their seats, and thoroughly involves you with Danny Fitzpatrick, a police detective you automatically fall for. After the tragic, homicidal death of his wife, Danny fleas to the snow-ridden terrain of Alaska to drown his sorrows. 

The novel, Polar Night is set in Alaska and Julie's research on the Alaskan territory is phenomenal. You can almost feel the frigidness surrounding the story. As the reader, your throat clogs along with the main character as he breathes in ice fog. That's when Alaskan temps reach a mere 40 below and it's full of icy particles. Years prior it was called appropriately, 'white death.' 


Polar Night has a supernatural premise which I wasn't expecting. In fact-- there are spoilers ahead... but they won't deter you from reading...
What makes Julie such an excellent writer is her believable plot-line. Danny Fitzpatrick's investigation into the premise of scavenging Vampires located in Russia back in the 1800's and beyond is astute, I still have shivers. Do I believe in vampires? Now I do! And has me jangling in my boots, and I tend to sleep with the covers rucked under my chin, just in case.

I recommend Polar Night as an excellent read. For murder mystery, supernatural, detective, suspense and thriller fans alike.