Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Recommended Read: THE DARKEST NIGHT


Gena Showalter has a new series on the shelves tomorrow and, so far, this is my favorite Showalter world!

The first book, THE DARKEST NIGHT (to be followed in June and July by other "Darkest" novels), introduces us to a group of bad-boy, brooding warriors who live in isolation in a castle just outside Budapest. But there's a clever twist in chapter one involving these warriors' backstory, and it involves Pandora's Box. I'll let you discover it for yourself, but when I read it, I knew I was in for a different, deeply rendered paranormal world. Suffice to say that each of these warriors has been cursed with a specific demon, and THE DARKEST NIGHT's hero suffers from Violence.

He believes that the heroine--who's feisty and interesting in her own ways--has been sent to entice and ensnare him into a trap. (Like most terrible forces, the warriors are hunted.) And if you've read any of Gena's books before, you know that you're going to get really hot tension and sex, and she doesn't disappoint here.

I love the exotic/gothic setting. Loved the dark warriors. Loved the set up and premise.

Grab this one at the bookstore, you all, even if you're not necessarily into "demon" paranormals!

Monday, April 28, 2008

FIRST BLOOD Hintage!


I just received the cover flat for FIRST BLOOD, and the packaging is exquisite. I especially love the back blurbs for the four novellas. (Like I need more to read!) I thought I'd post the text, just to whet your appetites for September....

Once You Acquire a Taste for It...

Susan Sizemore returns to the universe she created in her Laws of Blood novels--with a sizzling story of the initmate relationship between a vampire Enforcer and a werewolf in "Cave Canem."

In "Russian Roulette" by Erin McCarthy, fledgling vampire Sasha Checkikov flees the bright lights and dangerous slayers of Vegas for New Orleans, where she is saved by a vampire haunted by his past--and hungry for passion.

Set in the Vampire Babylon world, "Double the Bite" by Chris Marie Green puts the bond between twin female vampires to the test when one of them falls for her prey...and must choose between love and family.

And in Meljean Brook's "Thicker Than Blood," vampire Annie Gallagher needs help to save a young human girl named Cricket, but she doesn't expect the help to come from the FBI agent she loved--and had to give up--when she was transformed.

These all-new darkly sensual tales will pull you into worlds that are as seductive as they are strange, where passion comes with a price...and longing is eternal.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

iPod Bookshelf: EAT, PRAY, LOVE

I confess: before I sat down to write my impressions of this work, I took a peek at the Internet to see what everyone was saying about it, mainly because EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert has been such a Big Deal (It was featured on Oprah, right?). Hence, I knew many people have loved it and have found comfort and inspiration within its pages. I just wanted to see if there were any readers who disagreed with that stance.

To put it mildly, yes.

This seems to be a polarizing work, mainly because a lot of people see the author as “self-absorbed.” And, truly, to critique this book is to directly critique the author, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, so I’m going to keep to the superficial, if you don’t mind.

To put it succinctly, this is a memoir that details the spiritual journey of a woman who has decided that she wasn’t made for her marriage. After divorcing her husband, she spirals into a deep depression and tries to find a way out. Then, at her lowest point, she hears a voice in her head, and she’s inspired to find herself through travel—both worldly and self. (Fortunately, she gets a book deal to subsidize her journey.)

I really liked the book’s structure: it’s divided into three parts to reflect each country she visits. (There’s a spiritual angle to the structure, as well, but she explains it at length at the beginning.) Consequently, each section seems like its own book, and comparisons are inevitable, I think.

From my conversations with friends who’ve also read EAT, PRAY, LOVE, Italy seems to be the favorite section, and I wholeheartedly agree, mainly because the reason I picked up this book in the first place is because I’m a sucker for travelogues and the Italian part satisfied that appetite the most. I’m not into self-help books—I think this might’ve been the first one I’ve ever read, as a matter of fact—so when I tell you that I wasn’t looking for a personal “awakening” as much as a vicarious way to explore Italy, India, and Indonesia, you might understand the reason I was more in to the sensual delights of the Italy section and not so much in to the India part, where Gilbert stays in an ashram the entire time and details her adventures in meditation.

Gilbert does offer insightful stories and thoughts, and she does make her search for enlightenment accessible with her chatty, flowing narrative and commentary. I listened to the audio version, with the author herself reading the text, and it felt very conversational.

So if you’re looking for a travelogue, you’ll get a bit of that. But if you’re in the market for a more personal experience, this is the book for you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

We Have the Power to Build Him

Have you guys heard about this bionic eye thing? I guess my head's been buried in the sand, but according to this article, there have been operations in which "bionic" pieces have been inserted in the eye, and experts are saying that this might help the blind to see.

Before you read on, I do think this is a wonderful development.

However, I'm also a creator of fiction, so I can't help getting a little weird about it, too.

Now, I know this isn't the bad-ass bionic hyper-vision tool of Sci Fi just yet; this is more to help people see instead of making someone like Jamie Sommers into a superbeing. But how long will it be before we're hearing about bionic implants being used to create everyday versions of superpeople? SCARY! And, clearly, I have no life, because I'm also wondering if this is how Skynet came about--you know, like, in THE TERMINATOR. Just how did those robots get to look so human-like? Besides developing computers to be self-sufficient thinkers, did it also start off with implanting stuff like bionic eyes in actual humans until there was more computer than human?

Don't even get me started on how this could've influenced the Cylons in the latest version of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, either.

Dude.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Summer Movies, 2008

In the comment section of my last entry, Celise said that she's probably going to be at the movies every single weekend this summer. Who knows how often I'll make it, but here are some of the more noteworthy releases, IMHO:

5/2 IRON MAN: I want to be excited about this one, but deep down, I'm not. It looks very cool and it seems to have all the right stuff, but for some reason, it's not translating into a feverish need for me to go to the theater....

5/9 SPEED RACER: Totally. This one is going to merit a theater trip. I'm just afraid that I might feel grossed out and sick after watching all those crazy colors flash by for two hours.

5/16 PRINCE CASPIAN (NARNIA): I love-love-loved these books when I was younger, but I have to say I wasn't overwhelmed by the LION... movie. Maybe it suffered from comparison to the LORD OF THE RINGS experience, feeling more like an anti-climax than a fresh adventure. I might be doing the DVD thing for this one.

5/22 INDY: Take a wild guess. :)

6/13 THE INCREDIBLE HULK: I'm majorly intrigued by the casting of Edward Norton. He is so weirdly hot to me. But...I'm not sure, you guys. Didn't feel excitement after seeing the trailer. Not feeling it now.

7/18 THE DARK KNIGHT: So there. And not just because paying my respects to Heath Ledger seems like the right thing to do. I've been waiting for this one ever since BATMAN BEGINS ended.

7/18 MAMA MIA: I'm sort of embarrassed to admit that I'm very much looking forward to this. I saw it on stage, and it was a good time, but the trailer really brings out the fun factor.

7/25 X-FILES: There's no doubt in my mind that this one will be better than the first X-FILES movie, although I'm not sure it'll wash away the aftertaste of how the series ended.

Am I missing anything?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Excited? Me?

What could I possibly be excited about next month...?


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Movie "Review": THE RUINS

I told you all that I was going to make an effort to see THE RUINS on the screen, and I did it. Yup, I conquered my growing fear of going to see a movie in a cell phone-saturated theater and actually saw a flick as it was meant to be seen.

Now, I wouldn’t exactly call what I’m about to write a review—I was in a very analytical frame of mind, having just finished the book—but I’m not sure the film worked as well as I thought it would. However, for me, viewing it was probably more of an exercise in deconstructing what happens when a novel is made into a movie than a pure entertainment event.

First, I will say this: THE RUINS movie is a definite roller coaster ride that bangs from one terrible plot twist to the next as those four early-twenties tourists and a couple of friends venture to a cryptic Mayan temple that isn’t published on any map (and for good reason). It won’t be spoiler if I told you that they become trapped there, and what made this story so compelling and awful for me in the first place was what happens to the characters while they await rescue…or maybe even death. It’s both a horror and survival tale, and I think something that worked really well in the book was the slow march of time—the worry about where the survivors were going to get water, the fear of medical traumas, the onset of despair and what that does to a psyche.

In the movie, all of the action is condensed, as it has to be if you’re going to package a horror film in ninety minutes. When you’re writing a book, you do what’s best for the book; when you’re constructing a movie, you do what’s best to tell the story visually. I have no problems with changes that need to be made from page to screen at all. Yet as a result of the time factor in this case, the action in THE RUINS is almost manic. The loss of the time it takes to really tell this story robs the film of something vital—dread.

Also, it was interesting to see how the screenwriter—who just happens to be Scott Smith, the author of the book—chooses to switch around the characterization. In the movie, there’s an obvious attempt to whittle down the number of characters right off the bat, so some character attributes are assigned to different people. This worked for me, especially since the two heroines are far more active in the movie. (That was something I was struck by with the book—the girls are either whiny or totally inept.) I thought that change was particularly interesting. Do movie audiences demand more out of their heroines or something? Did Smith feel that the females’ characterization would be far more glaring when presented visually and that’s the reason changes were made? Or were the alterations just the result of consolidating those characters and a nice accident resulted?

THE RUINS does do a great job with CGI—I didn’t register the use of it until I started thinking about the film afterward. And it really is a cut above most horror movies—it actually even takes a “monster” that would sound silly if I pitched it outright to you and does a whole lot more with it, making it a psychological beast rather than mainly a physical one.

BTW, if you can’t deal with gore, you won’t want to see this. The squickiest scenes from the book are intact. Quite ucky yet effective….

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bookshelf: THE RUINS

It’s been a while since I’ve read a pure horror book—a story that sucks the hope right out of you by the time you reach the end. As you might know, Stephen King thought THE RUINS by Scott Smith was one of the scariest novels of 2006, and based on his recommendation, I bought the book, even before I knew it was going to be a movie. Of course, it’s taken me a couple of years to get to it, but that’s another blog entry.

What I’m here to tell you now is that this book was just as horrific as King promised.

Without giving anything away, this starts as a pretty simple story of two post-college couples who go to Mexico for a vacation. They meet a German tourist who persuades them to come with him to an archeological dig to find his brother—a guy who followed a female archeologist to the remote site because he thinks he’s in lurve. But what they find at these “ruins” isn’t exactly the dig they’re hoping for. It’s something much, much worse. In fact, let’s even say that this isn’t merely a story about an external monster so much as what happens internally to these characters as they’re tested to their limits after they’re forced to stay at these ruins. (Hence, the title, which refers to the characters as well as the setting.)

This book is partly an exercise in suspense and partly an exploration of humanity. It faces the fact that not every character is a hero. In fact, sometimes the characters are downright disgusting and frustrating in their cowardice, but I think that’s real. THE RUINS also points out the arrogance of tourists, the feeling that we somehow have immunity from danger in a foreign place and nothing can touch us because we’re tourists, by God.

Yet that perception is shattered here, as unthinkable things happen. In fact, if you’ve got a weak stomach, this isn’t the book for you. The gore isn’t just graphic—it’s described with gritty and sometimes repetitive detail. But you all know that this doesn’t bother me, especially since I was too hooked into the what’s-going-to-happen-next domino effect of a great narrative. Best of all (in a horror-lover’s opinion), I dragged the weighty finale around with me for the rest of the day, trying to shake it off.

I couldn’t, and that’s what made this story so effective, IMHO.

I’m going to try to see the movie soon, and I hear that the script takes some liberties with the storyline and characters, which is fine with me since it’ll give me a few surprises. But I’m really curious to see just how gory this film will get and how “Hollywood” they make the book’s ending.
I’ll let you know….

Friday, April 11, 2008

Another STAR WARS Funny

I guess I've had my head buried under the ground, because I've never seen this video before. But when I heard that there was a record of some cute little three year old girl giving the run down of A NEW HOPE's plot, I was there.




The signy guy always worries. Heh.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Filling the Well

I've got a little time between projects right now, so I'm doing what most writers do on their days off.

Filling that well.

You know what I mean--I'm watching lots of DVDs, reading all the books that have piled up at the side of my bed, taking some trips, and generally "getting out of the cave" so I can re-energize. Among my TV activities: I caught up on all my DVR programs (DANCING WITH THE STARS [I'm becoming a big Shannon and Derek fan], AMERICAN IDOL [Yay, Jason Castro! He won't win, but yay him!], NEW AMSTERDAM, ELI STONE, MISS GUIDED, etc.). I've been attacking my columns of comic books (BUFFY S/8, WITCHBLADE and COUNTDOWN are among them). And I've been reading books, books, books!

Ah, yes, reading!!! It's hard for me to do while working on a manuscript, because the old eyes get strained during the day while looking at the computer screen. But right now, I'm in the happy midst of TWILIGHT, which I've always meant to pick up, and THE RUINS. I'd meant to finish THE RUINS a long time ago, way before the movie came out, but, oh, well. I hear the flick is pretty good, but I'm pretty compelled by the book, I must say, even though the action is just getting started.... I'm also listening to the spiritual journey of EAT, PRAY, LOVE on my iPod, and I just passed the Italy part and am dredging my way through India. I'll blog when I finish the audio, but right now, let's just say I adored the scrumptious and decadent descriptions of Italy and am struggling to make it through all the comparatively unscrumptious stretches of yoga meditation. Clearly, I am shallow, but I'm okay with the realization. :)

And just to make you all laugh as hard as I did this morning, I'm posting this link to a STAR WARS rap video that a friend sent to me. It's got some beyond-PG-13 language, but it's a desk slapper. Click to go to aintitcool.com:

http://www.aintitcool.com/node/36328

Monday, April 07, 2008

Contest Update

An announcement about last month's contest winners: Congratulations to Joanne Drapeau and Ron Miller! They'll be receiving eleven "warmhearted" titles from my backlist.

This month, there'll be two more winners, but these fantastically lucky people will be receiving titles from my Blaze backlist....

Saturday, April 05, 2008

ONE FOR THE ROAD

Well, I've been so busy announcing other books that I've neglected to tell you that my new Blaze, ONE FOR THE ROAD, is on shelves now!

There's something to enjoy about each story I work on, but with this one, there were a couple things I particularly loved. First, there were the two main characters. You guys know by now that I am a sucker for using subplots in my Blazes. I like to provide that "mirror" for the main love story--a parallel narrative that reflects and supports a theme. For instance, in my second Blaze, BORN TO BE BAD, the main hero and heroine were engaged in a battle of wills and hot sex while the secondary couple exemplified the power of a simple kiss (which was echoed at the end of the main characters' story after they'd learned enough to fall in love).

The same goes for ONE FOR THE ROAD, where one of the themes is "What exactly is a 'stranger'?"

See, the primary heroine, Lucy Christie, is bored with her life, and she decides to travel Route 66 with her best friend, Carmen, who's a bit wilder, in order to sort things out. And, when Carmen suggests that having sex with a stranger would be the most freeing thing that they both could ever do to get out of their dull grooves, Lucy takes Carmen's comment literally, surrendering to a night of passion with a cowboy on the condition that they don't trade names--that they remain strangers. However, when Carmen attempts the same thing with her own "stranger," she discovers that she can't carry through with her own suggestion--that she needs to know who this mysterious man is before getting physical with him. As Lucy and Carmen both discover more about themselves through more intimate situations, the two of them actually drift apart--best friends who are turning into strangers.

But, don't worry--there'll be happy endings on all fronts. :)

The second thing I loved doing in this book was using Route 66 as a backdrop. I've talked about this before, but a few years ago, Sheri WhiteFeather and I traveled part of the Mother Road, and I used my research from this trip for ONE FOR THE ROAD. If you all have ever wanted to explore Route 66, I highly suggest it because it really is liberating. Go with a good friend, because you'll have hours of conversation and illumination. You'll also get in touch with remnants of an idealized, faded America that's been stranded on the sides of the road.
(And if you want to see a few pictures of that, click here.)

I can see myself writing another Route 66 book someday because it's so inspirational. Do you guys have your own "Route 66" that inspired you to write?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Outoftheblogosphere Tour: LADY AND THE VAMP


LADY AND THE VAMP
by Michelle Rowen
April 2008 – Forever, an Imprint of Grand Central Publishing

She fights.Janie Parker’s a supernatural assassin—not by choice, but what’s a girl gonna do? The only thing standing between her and decapitation at the hands of her hellish boss is a magical artifact called The Eye. To get it, all Janie has to do is find a dark, broody vampire named Michael Quinn and take it. Easy, right? Except if Quinn keeps kissing her that way, she just might lose her head...in more ways than one.

He bites. Former vampire hunter Michael Quinn is determined to become human again. If he grabs hold of The Eye and makes a wish—then boom, everything’s good with the world. But now Quinn has a sassy tagalong with a long, delectable neck and orders to stake him on sight. He just hopes his first bite won’t be Janie’s last moment on earth...

Cover: http://www.michellerowen.com/images/

Excerpt: http://www.michellerowen.com/latv_chap1.htm


ABOUT MICHELLE ROWEN

Waldenbooks bestselling author Michelle Rowen is a self-confessed bibliophile, reality TV junkie, and is well known for making a mean pot of Kraft Dinner. Her novels for Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books) include the Immortality Bites series: BITTEN & SMITTEN (2007 Holt Medallion winner for Best First Book), FANGED & FABULOUS, and LADY & THE VAMP, as well as the standalone paranormal romance, ANGEL WITH ATTITUDE. Under the pseudonym Michelle Maddox she has written COUNTDOWN (August ’08) for Dorchester Publishing's new and exciting SHOMI line of "speculative" romance novels. Michelle lives in Southern Ontario, and is currently hard at work on her next fantastical novel.

REVIEWS

“I loved Lady & the Vamp! Michelle Rowen has again successfully written a funny and highly entertaining vampire story...I can’t wait for book four of this series!” – Armchair Interviews
“Lady & The Vamp is a fast paced and entertaining read. Its light comic style effortlessly pulls the reader along for a ride...dishing up romance and laughs along the way.” – LoveVampires.com
“This book was great fun. Janie and (Quinn) are a breath of fresh air...you'll be laughing and rooting for them both from the very beginning.” – Fresh Fiction

"Excitement, a strong, character driven, intense plot, and wicked humor keep this story racing... As usual, Ms. Rowen delivers a winning story. Enjoy it. No fooling." – Huntress Romance Reviews

"4 stars! Fans will appreciate the light tone, the smooth and swift narration... throughout the third book of Rowen's Immortality Bites series." – Romantic Times BOOKreviews

Website: http://www.michellerowen.com

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Judy Duarte Talks About How A Story Came To Be


“Oh! You’re a writer!”

When people learn that I’m multi-published, most of them ask where I get my ideas. Some even want to offer suggestions for stories they don’t have the time or the confidence to write.

But truthfully? I’m not in need of ideas. I’m bombarded with more than my share every day.

Sometimes a song on the radio will spark an idea. Or an article in the newspaper will catch my eye. Even a nearly forgotten memory will do the trick.

In fact, that’s how MULBERRY PARK, the book of my heart, came to be.

Do you remember those notes we used to write in school?

Dear Jimmy,
Do you love me? Mark the one .
Yes____ or No____


Well, that’s the kind of letter I’m talking about. But the one that actually tickled my imagination and sparked the inciting incident in MULBERRY PARK wasn’t written to a boy I had a crush on.

It was written to God.

When I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer to my question through ordinary measures, like asking the adults around me, I sat down and wrote a letter to God, tucked it between the mattresses of my bed, and went to sleep, knowing I’d have the answer by morning.

Of course, God didn’t respond in the way in which I’d expected-- with the pen I’d included in my letter and a big X in the Yes or No boxes I’d drawn. So, needless to say, I was disappointed.

In retrospect, and with a few years behind me-- I won’t tell you how many-- I now realize that I’d had His answer all along.

You see, my mother had already given it to me. I just hadn’t agreed. So I went around her—and over her head. I’d planned for God to clarify things and set her straight.

Two years ago, during an RWA conference, I was sitting in a hotel room, resting for a moment between workshops. I was a long way from home and waxing nostalgic. Memories are often linked, and as one flipped to the next, that letter to God came to mind, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if I wrote a story in which a child wrote a letter to God?”

Oh, wow. And wouldn’t it be cool if someone found that letter and wrote back, as if he or she were God?

Ooh. And what if the child began peppering that poor person with more notes…?

And there you have it--the start of MULBERRY PARK, my first women’s fiction novel.

God didn’t answer my question that night--nor did He eat the red licorice I left him. But He answered me indirectly, which is what He does in MULBERRY PARK.

When Analisa Dawson, a seven-year-old orphan, can’t find the answers she seeks, she takes a felt-tip marker and addresses God. Then she places her note in a flamingo pink envelope, decorated with globs of glue and glitter, and sets it high in a large Mulberry tree in the center of the park, believing the branches reach all the way to Heaven.

Claire Harper, a jogger whose faith was shattered by the loss of her son, finds the heartfelt plea and feels compelled to respond. That simple act sets motion to a miracle that touches the lives of nine different people, all strangers to each other, all lonely and hurting in their own way.

In the pages of MULBERRY PARK, the characters learn, as I have over the years, that sometimes God’s voice is a whisper in the wind, a peace within the storm. And that some of His biggest miracles occur when the heart listens and obeys.

Judy
www.JudyDuarte.com
MULBERRY PARK, April 2008