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Book Review #4 – The Megarothke

I was six years old when I was inexplicably allowed to watch Alien. I say inexplicably because I grew up in a strict house, where science fiction and fantasy weren’t always allowed. When I ask my mom how I was able to watch this film, and so young, she usually scoffs and says, a bit disdainfully, “Don’t look at me, your father liked that crap.”

Whatever the reason for me getting to watch Alien at such a young age, it sparked a love of science fiction horror in me. While I still watch many movies and short films in this genre, I’ve strayed from reading it. I have to admit, I haven’t picked up a book that wasn’t high/urban fantasy in years and it wasn’t until fellow writer and friend, Robert Ashcroft contacted me asking if I’d like a copy of his first book did I get back into reading sci fi horror.

And damn, after such a long drought from this genre, “The Megarothke” welcomed me home with open, bloody, mechanical arms.

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The Megarothke is set in 2048, seven years after “The Hollow Wars”, and follows Theodore “Theo” Adams as he and the last 50k people claw their way through a war with machines just to stay alive. There’s a beast lurking just below the city of Los Angeles, and the small team set out to search and destroy the Megarothke will do what it takes to save the last of humanity.

Through a series of time jumps and unsettling quotes at the beginning of each chapter, the story of how The Hollow Wars” came to be, how the world has changed and just who or what the Megarothke is, unfolds with every spine tingling chapter.

What did I love about this book?

Ashcroft’s ability to build a solid, believable world, interwoven with a complex timeline is well above par. He doesn’t waste time going into too much depth, or leaving things out, and avoids flowery language to try and get some of his more complex ideas across. Not only does this make the reader fall into the world of The Megarothke, but it makes it easy to relate to Theo. While Theo is intelligent, he’s an average guy and he explains things as such. This trait also creates a great conflict later, when you’re introduced to his wife, and you get an amazing clash between characters.

I also enjoy how believable everything is. It’s not too much of a stretch to see certain aspects of Ashcroft’s world coming to pass, and since I’m a firm believer in “science fiction could one day become science fact”, it’s an unsettling black mirror held up to today’s society. There’s a fine line between too much technology and just the right amount, and Ashcroft makes the reader ask “How far is too far?” And let me be clear to note here, I don’t mean when it comes to a more accepting transworld, as there are several trans characters in this novel, but the use of technology until it swallows everything that makes us human.

Ashcroft’s military and philosophy knowledge also extremely evident. There isn’t one scene that makes me go “Wait a second, how real is that?”. It’s evident he’s a man with a military background, as well as being someone who knows what their talking about when it comes to philosophy.

Lastly, I loved the dark humor salt and peppered in throughout the novel. I even laughed outright at a few parts and scared my dog as I read this into the long hours of the night. And yes. I did in fact stay up past midnight just to read this.

What might not work for other readers?

While I don’t mind a story that starts at one point and then jumps back a few years, I know a few readers who have a problem with this form of storytelling. I think Ashcroft handled his timeline beautifully, and if people who don’t like “7 years earlier” trope can get over this, they’ll have a great time.

Overall Rating?

I would most definitely buy this book in hard back, and go out of my way to get it signed.

 

You’ll like The Megarothke if…

you’re fans Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson, Westworld, Blade Runner/it’s source material Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Black Mirror, or if you enjoy the of the work that comes out of Oats Studios (in fact, I’d be the biggest supporter if they made a film adaptation of this with Ashcroft).

Keep your eye out for this fantastic novel, coming out in February 2018. You’ll be up all night just to try and finish this refreshing addition to the Science Fiction genre.

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Inspired by the Strange

After taking a walk around some museums this week, I realized something. I’m am entirely too inspired by dead birds.

Flightless, for those of you new to my blog, is my work in progress that revolves around people with wings. It’s no secret that I love birds, and I’ve taken a much deeper interest in ornithology since I started my novel in order to build a believable world and a realistic species.

As much as live birds inspired me and my writing, walking around a museum and seeing still life paintings of hanging pheasants, ducks with broken necks, and small song birds laid out on tables, I realized that was more the mood of my novel than the live birds I’d been studying. Heck I was more inspired by those paintings than I was holding an a hawk a couple weeks ago.

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You can always tell when I’m way too happy. I smile so much, I wind up squinting so bad.

After I made this discovery about my sudden love of dead bird imagery, I whipped up a quick banner with a picture of some of these classic oil paintings and decked out my Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and even my Deviantart page.

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Yes. I have a Deviantart page. I know.

It got me wondering though. . . .

What’s something strange that you find yourself inspired by? Comment below and let me know! I love hearing what inspires others.

Favorite Spooky Buys on Etsy

It’s time for Personal Post Weekend! This is where I write non author related things and share what I’m looking at online, or what I’m going through in my everyday life.

I’m particularly excited about this one, as it falls on October first, the start of my favorite month!

I’m the type of person who prefers going to curio shops to get my Halloween decorations, and I can admit, some of them stay up in my art room year round. While my husband doesn’t mind it, for the most part, I keep the creepier items of my wishlists on just that, instead of having my house turn into a natural science museum.

That being said, I’ll be sharing them with you today just to spread some love to Etsy artists and sellers.

As a quick disclaimer, some of the images below can be a little unsettling for the squeamish. Viewer discretion is advised.  Post contains taxidermy art, big leather books, and somewhat occultish curios.

Continue reading Favorite Spooky Buys on Etsy

Why I Loved Fantastic Beasts

I put off watching the latest instalment to the Harry Potter world up till a few days ago for a number of reasons.

Bad reviews, lack of interest, and no time to go to the movies all contributed to the time gap between release and my viewing. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m kicking myself for not jumping on board sooner.

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I mean, Eddie Redmayne was just so perfect, how did I doubt that I’d like this movie?

Now, I’m going to praise this movie and the actors quite a bit, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its flaws (No Mag…I mean…). That being said, you can find plenty of negative reviews on this movie. This one is why I enjoyed it.

First off, Newt. Most reviewers complained about this character. He wasn’t outgoing enough, he didn’t look like a “strong male protagonist” and he lacked the extroversion from previous Harry Potter characters.

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He even admits that most people don’t like him, and are even annoyed by him. 

Now, to interrupt my own blog post, as I so often do, I’m not someone who has a problem with overly masculine protagonists. In fact I like a great deal of “traditional strong men” characters.

That being said, it was refreshing to see the portrayal of an introverted male protagonist, and so well done! Newt is shy, doesn’t like looking people in the eye, and closes up when pressed for personal information. He doesn’t give long winded exposition about his past, or try to be some sort of hero. If anything, he’s just trying to get back to writing a book and when the female lead falls for him, she doesn’t do so because he’s physically strong, instead it’s because of how gentle he is.

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Plus, I feel like there’s a lot to be said when it comes to that romantic sublot. They don’t fall into each other’s arms after only knowing each other for three days, which is definitely refreshing. 

Next off, the creatures. I’m a bit of an American Folklore fan. I’m not nearly as well read as I’d like to be, but I’m working on learning more the older I get. When I first read Rowling’s take on American creatures, I was disappointed. For as much research as she put into European folklore, there seemed to be a disconnect when it came to her American studies. One of my main reasons for being so hesitant to watch the movie was because I wasn’t sure if the creatures would turn out, well under written and cheesy. I’m sure someone might say they weren’t up to par with the creatures in the original Harry Potter books, however, I found them extremely enjoyable.

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In fact, the subplot of chasing down these creatures was one of the more enjoyable ones in the films. 

Lastly, the secondary characters. Newt’s best friend, Jacob, wants to be a baker. Gnarlack stole the show with the fantastic raspy voice of Ron Perlman. Porpentina makes bad decisions, ones she has to atone for, and eventually sees the error of, and her sister Goldie gets to be a hero in her own way, even though she’s a fairly typical feminine side character. They all had a chance to be in the spotlight and with such a big cast it was great to see everyone behave so much differently from one another.

As for the complaints people had against the movie. Was the movie racially diverse? No.  Was the plot line completely cohesive? Not exactly, there were a few holes I noticed. And was Newt an “outgoing protagonist”? No, like I already said, he was pretty introverted. But I’m still a fan of this movie. It was well acted and well made, and I hope they continue to make more movies along this timeline, with Newt as lead.

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What did you think of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”? Were you a fan or were you disappointed? Let me know below!

The Dark Mother in Books and Movies

Just as a warning, this post contains dark imagery and unsettling pictures. Viewer discretion is advised. 

 

I love tropes. I know other people have mixed feelings about this, but I find them fascinating. While diving too far into tropes can become cliche, every writer uses them. Just one look at tvtropes.org, and it’s almost impossible not to.

So to celebrate tropes, I’m picking a few of my favorite to highlight in my Writing Wednesday posts. I’ll do one a month until I get tired of it, maybe more if people have suggestions for tropes they enjoy.

Today’s trope is….

The Dark Mother

With every trope or archetype, there is a dark side, and if there’s one archetype I love the most it’s that of the Dark Mother. She’s a force to be reckoned with and can be any caretaker or mother figure with dark intentions.

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Patron Saint of Last Nights Tears 5×5 oval oil by Jasmine Worth

 

Examples in Literature –

The Other Mother – Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Evil Stepmother/Queen – Every fairy tale ever
Cathy Ames/Kate Trask – East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Norma Bates – Psycho by Robert Bloch
Margaret White – Carrie by Stephen King

Examples in Movies –

Alien Den Mother – Aliens
Stephanie Smith – 8 Mile
Mary Jones – Precious
Queen Bavmorda – Willow

Why do I love this trope so much?

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Mother Catrina by liransz on Deviant Art

Mothers are supposed to be loving and caring. They’re our caretakers, who we learn love from, and when we have nothing, we’re supposed to be able to count on them to be there for us. As someone who’s a fan of flipping tropes on their head, the idea of a Dark Mother, one who gives life, but also takes it, has always been fascinating. She’s strong, but in a wicked way, and is morally compromised at every turn.

I hope to do her justice in some of my future novels, both as an antagonist, and as the powerful female figure she is.

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Aura by Lourdes Saraiva Art https://www.facebook.com/l.saraiva.illustrator

 

Which mother do you prefer in your movies and novels? The Light or Dark? Who’s your favorite example of a Dark Mother?

What’s your favorite “How To” writing book?

I’ve been picky about what “how to” writing books I buy lately. Most of them are less about story structure, and more about the nitty gritty parts of writing.

Here are some of my favorite books on writing, but I’m in the market for more. Have any suggestions that improved your writing in any particular area?

16681583_1300483536656800_6852415959332937314_n1. The Emotion Thesaurus
Good for – writing character feelings through their body language.
Lacking in – For a thesaurus, it doesn’t list off as many emotions as I’d hope.

2. Writer’s Guide to Character Traits 
Good for – Nailing down Character behavior regarding their mental status.
Lacking in – It’s one sided and stereotypical at times.

3. Writing from the Senses
Good for – Writing more expressive and meaningful scenes.
Lacking in – It’s a little “How To” and repeats what I’ve read in other books.

4. Plot Vs. Character
Good for – Helps see things from a plot/character writer’s perspective.
Lacking in – Not sure. I really enjoyed this one.

5. Bullies Bastards and Bitches
Good for – Creating fun, deep, well rounded villains.
Lacking in – Can read a little Creative Writing 101.

6. Word Painting
Good for – Explains writing descriptively better than Writing from the Senses.
Lacking in – Not a whole lot. I really don’t have any complaints about this book.

 

Favorite Movies by Year

I saw a friend of mine on Facebook doing a fun project like this. You list the years since your birth with your favorite movie that came out that year. Since I love movies, I figured hey! Why not?

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1989 – This was a tossup between The Little Mermaid and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
The nostalgic side of me says The Little Mermaid, but the goofball side of me who loves Keanu has to go with Bill and Ted.

1990 – Edward Scissorhands, hands down.

1991 – Terminator 2
As a side note, I did watch Drop Dead Fred all the time when I was a kid. Now that I watch it as an adult, I have to go, wow. I didn’t understand this movie at all.

buffy_movie1992 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

1993 – Robin Hoods Men in Tights or Dazed and Confused
What a great year for movies!

1994 – Leon: The Professional

1995 – Seven or Clueless.
Yeah. I know, two very different movies.

1996 – The Birdcage

1997 – The Fifth Element

1998 – Shakespeare in Love or The Truman Show
Like a lot of the movies on this list, these were two movies I didn’t see until I married my husband and we combined our movie collection. You caught me. I only married him for his choice in movies.

1999 – The Talented Mr. Ripley

2000 – Chocolat
I missed out on a lot of movies that came out this year. I am way behind on these greats.

2001 – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
I love Lord of the Rings. Just assume that if a LotR movie came out, it’s at the top of that year, but I’m choosing to pick another to be fair.

2002 – Treasure Planet
This one was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up and had a special place in my heart. I really think it’s underrated.

2003 – Pirates of the Caribbean

2004 – Shaun of the Dead
I have an irrational fear of zombies,but I loved this movie. Pegg and Frost are my favorite comedy duo.

2005 – Serenity or Sin City
I’m one of those people who didn’t know anything about Firefly until Serenity came out. I saw Serenity at a friend’s sleepover, and it wouldn’t be till 2011 that I saw the first episode of Firefly.

2006 – Pan’s Labyrinth
First movie to kick off my love of del Toro

2007 – Hot Fuzz
I actually really enjoyed The Mist, and a few other less popular movies from this year, but Hot Fuzz is still my favorite 2007 flick.

2008 – The Dark Knight
This was a pretty disappointing year of movie for me. Thankfully I was saved by Heath Ledger’s Joker and Iron Man. Too bad that Indiana Jones movie we were promised never came out. . . yep. Too bad.

2009 – District 9
Now, I know Avatar came out this year, and I enjoyed it the first time I watched it, District 9 aged better with me, and I rewatch it more than any other film this year.

2010 – Robin Hood
What a confusing year for movies! They were either great, or a total bust. I have to admit, Legion is on my guilty pleasure movie list. But again, too bad that Avatar the Last Airbender movie we were promised never came out. . . yep. Too bad.

2011 – Midnight in Paris

2012 – Life of Pi
I’m not going to be stereotypical and say “The book was better”, but the movie had some great parts. I also enjoyed Les Mis and Rise of the Guardians, but I think Life of Pi had the biggest impact on my life.

2013 – Pacific Rim
I wasn’t thrilled with this year movie wise. I know some will say BUT FROZEN! But it didn’t connect with me very well.

2014 – John Wickjohn_wick_teaserposter
I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel and Guardians of the Galaxy, but come on. Keanu revenging the death of a puppy? With action sequences that put every other action movie to shame? John Wick all the way.

2015 – Ex Machina
This movie is fantastic. If you haven’t seen it, go look for it.

2016 – Deadpool

2017 – I haven’t seen any of the new movies this year. I would love to see Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, King Arthur, and Life. There are more than those, but those are off the top of my head!

Disagree with any of my picks? Have a different movie that came out during one of these years that was your favorite? Comment below!

Book Review #2 – Hades

Occasionally, I find myself wandering down the paperback book aisle in the grocery store, just to see what’s there. Often times, I’m met with shirtless cowboys promising to sweep a gal off her feet, burly warriors in kilts with a woman tossed back in his arms, or old novels that sold well in their time that I either already have or didn’t want to read in the first place. I was pleasantly surprised to find something different when I saw Hades. Something that wasn’t a romance. Something darker.

Hades tells the story of Frank Bennett, a detective with more than one skeleton in his closet and his new partner, Eden Archer. Dark haired, big eyed, and mysterious, Frank makes it his goal to figure Eden, and her brother Ethan, out.

When bodies stuffed in boxes turn up on the bottom of the ocean, Frank has to catch a killer while trying to uncover secrets from his partner’s past.

I’m going to tell you right off the bat, if you like Dexter, both as a television show and as a book, and/or anything Hannibal Lecter, this book is for you. For her debut novel, Candice Fox builds crime scenes with the best of them, and for an author’s debut novel, she blew me away.

The novel builds tension beautifully, and you can’t miss Fox’s sense of humor shining through Bennett. She knows when to throw in a dark joke, and captured the way cops act at a crime scene with an authenticity that many miss. Not only that, but Bennett’s a man’s man. Fox wasn’t afraid to make him an alpha male with more than one “meathead” layer. He knew what he was doing, but could rely on his smart, yet occasionally odd partner.

While I enjoyed Bennett, with his cocky attitude and a nose for trouble, I still found myself eager to get to the parts with Hades. An anti-hero with a soft spot for kids, Hades outshone every other character. He and Ethan, Eden’s somewhat unhinged brother, were by far my favorite to read about. And while I know I probably shouldn’t like Ethan, I enjoyed every action he took (even if I don’t condone them).

Eden spent most of the novel silently watching, or ignoring Bennett’s jabs, and I was left feeling like I never got past the surface of her character until the very end. That being said, this was due to the fact that everyone was an unreliable narrator when it came to her. Hades and Bennett both are outsiders to her world, and it wasn’t until the ending did Fox let a side of Eden come out that I was dying to learn more about. And really, I loved the way she slowly showed her hand. It kept me curious, and intrigued me enough to go out and buy the sequel, entitled Eden.

As for the writing itself, Fox knows how to craft a scene by focusing on the small details. When things are crumbling, sometimes quite literally, around the protagonists, Fox doesn’t focus on the blood or the violence. She writes about the flow of the hair as it halos around a young girl’s face or the light catching on something so small, it should’ve been missed. It creates a haunting image on the page that actually had me at one point go, “NO!”.

Overall, I’d buy Hades in a signed hardback edition, if I could track one down. That’s just how much I enjoyed it. While my husband is glad I’m done with this book (I have to admit, I had more than one outburst reading this book, and even forced him to listen to me read passages aloud), I’m not. I can’t wait to start the sequel, and say if you’re looking for a new author who’s been up and coming over the past three years, check out Hades.