Friday, November 16, 2012

Fun Friday: (Spoiler-free) review of "Breaking Dawn Part 2"

I'm taking a break today from my usual Q&A to do something a little different, okay, maybe a little bit wacky, but it won't surprise anyone who really knows me. First of all, I love movies. No, not love. I LOVE movies with all caps and < 3 symbols and anything else you can toss in there. I go all the time. It's neck and neck with reading for my favorite past-time. Second, (takes deep breath and steels nerves), I'm a Twi-hard. Yep. One of "those people." And today is a bittersweet day for me as "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2" opens in theaters and closes the book on this movie franchise...or does it?

I'll get to my review of "Breaking Dawn Part 2" in a few. First, let me reminisce a little. Shut up. It's my blog. I can do what I want.

Four years ago, I walked into a movie I had heard started as a YA book (which my then-teenage niece's BFF had already told me I had to read because it was soooooo good) without knowing anything about it except it had Kristen Stewart in it and I thought she was a good up-and-coming young indie actress. And one of my good friends had already seen it...seen it again...seen it again...and was going back to see it AGAIN that weekend — all within its first week of opening. I walked out of the movie theater a fan, cheesy camera angles and over-dramatic angst and all. So I read the book. I read all four books within a month. I don't know how it happened, but suddenly I was among a legion of fans being called Twi-hards. I even went to a Twilight convention with my niece where I met Ashley Greene (Alice), Kellan Lutz (Emmett), Peter Facinelli (Carlisle) and Billy Burke (Charlie) and a bunch of minor players too. I've been to every midnight opening since "New Moon." Bought the t-shirts, magazines and even have a mini Edward poster hanging in my cubicle at work. Me, a 30-something woman with no kids. Yes, I know. Embarrassing.

I've gone from being the "cool aunt who likes Twilight" to being "that lame aunt who still likes Twilight." Weathered the Harry Potter-Twilight battles online. Been ridiculed by my best friend who just doesn't get it. I can relate to everything author Jeffe Kennedy wrote in a blog post earlier this year about why she hates to admit she likes that book — and it's not for the reasons you'd think. Preach, Jeffe. Preach!

Through it all, I continued to wave my freak flag proud and say, yes, I am and probably always will be a Twi-hard.

Which brings me to my review of the last movie in this series.

I was fortunate to get a press invite to a preview screening for Wednesday before it came out in theaters. Oh, yes, I was beside myself. Pretending professionalism that day was difficult for me. "Breaking Dawn" was probably my favorite book in the entire series because it was full of all kinds of weirdness, and weirdness is my forte. Half-vampire babies. An excess of vampire clans with superhero-like powers. I ate it up, even when many fans said, whoa, even that stuff is too weird for me.

"Breaking Dawn Part 2" picks up where "Breaking Dawn Part 1" leaves off. Bella opens her eyes and is a vampire. No shocker there for fans of the book. And really, the rest of the story is surprisingly faithful to the source material. Director Bill Condon did a great job in that regard and is probably my favorite director of this series by far. The Voltorri learns of Renesme's existence, mistakes her for an immortal child, and head for Forks to destroy the entire Cullen clan. Carlisle calls upon his many vampire friends to come and witness the confrontation in hopes it will cause The Voltorri to hear them out.

What I liked most about this movie was that it intentionally seemed to poke fun at itself more than once, and the rabid fans I saw it with were amused by that. Kristen Stewart — and I know a lot of people don’t like the girl, especially now — does her best job in this one by far. She actually smiles. She kicks ass as a vampire, y’all. She really does. I hope fans will at least give her props for that.

The cons: The special effects have not improved. Despite billions in profit, the filmmakers skimped on special effects again, and yes, even I groaned — a lot — in this one. Especially with the baby. You’d think they would have just used a real baby, but nope, Renesme was a creepy CGI-robot-baby-real-baby hybrid. C-R-E-E-P-Y. I could hardly stand to look at her in some scenes.

And finally, let’s talk about the “shocking” ending the cast has hinted at for weeks. Yes, it has been changed from the book. Yes, I was in complete and utter shock when I saw it. And not in a good way either. I was sitting there thinking, "I did NOT expect them to go there. At all. Ever. Wow!" But it was a genius move (in my opinion) because no one in the theater I saw it with — all fans, I'm sure — expected that ending if the loud reaction was any indication. I won’t tell you what happens — sorry if you’ve already heard what it is, because seriously, being surprised by a Twilight movie like I was in those moments is a bit of a novelty, I will admit.

Can I give a quick shout-out to Bill Condon who gave us some amazing closing credits that caused this fan to tear up as he paid tribute to the book by overlaying pages and passages from it over the credits and scenes from the movies — all five of them.

Is this the best Twilight movie? I think it might be, but I'm weird, so you'll have to see it and make your own decision. I’m still partial to the first one, as cheesy as it might sound. The first one started it all for me.

I’ll miss you Twilight. But I won’t miss the ridicule I get from haters who don’t respect that everyone has their something. Twilight just happens to be mine.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fun Friday Q&A with sci-fi author J.L. Hilton

I've never made a secret of what a geek I am, so it should be no surprise I'm giddy over my guest today - sc-fi author J.L. Hilton! In case you don't know (and why don't you?!), J.L. Hilton is the author of the Stellarnet Series published by Carina Press, including Stellarnet Rebel (January 2012) and Stellarnet Prince (November 2012), and a regular contributor to the Contact-Infinite Futures SF/SFR blog. Her artwork is featured in the books Steampunk Style Jewelry and 1000 Steampunk Creations.

Her alien lovers call her J’ni, the sacred flower of their world. The Glin call her Truth Teller, one of the magical human travelers from beyond the sky ocean. But humanity calls her Genevieve O’Riordan, interstellar blogger, Net celebrity and sometimes “unnatural whore.” 
When J’ni brings her husband Belloc and her soulmate — rebel gunrunner turned ambassador — Duin from Asteria Colony to Earth, they are met with millions of adoring followers and vicious anti-alien attacks. Meanwhile, thieves, kidnappers, sex traffickers and the U.S. military rush to exploit their home world. Without weapons or communications technology, the Glin cannot defend themselves. 
Duin discovers the real reason behind the Tikati invasion, but he can’t tell anyone, not even those he loves most. Belloc’s true identity threatens to fracture the Freedom Council and propel Glin into civil war. And J’ni must deal with the high cost of fame and loyalty in STELLARNET PRINCE by J.L. Hilton, the second book in the Stellarnet Series published by Carina Press.

J.L.'s newest book in the Stellarnet series, Stellarnet Prince, releases Monday, so I invited J.L. to chat with me about her series, Firefly (yes, the Joss-Whedon-Nathan-Fillion-treasure Firefly!) and jewelry.

Welcome to my blog, J.L.! I'm a big sci-fi geek and loved Stellarnet Rebel — it was so unique and more emotional and, dare I say it, political than I expected. The world-building you did in it was quite incredible. Book 2 in the series is out next week, and I can't wait to read it. Where did the idea for this series come from?

J.L.: Thank you, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. This series began when I had a dream of Genny and Duin meeting in the middle of the Asteria Colony market. I woke up, wrote the scene, and the rest just seemed to exist, fully formed in my brain meat. Exactly how that happened is still a mystery to me. At the time, there were several things stewing in my subconscious. I was (re)watching Babylon 5, discovering North and South, listening to Les Miserables and Irish folk music, viewing the first season of the BBC's Robin Hood, spending a lot of time in Playstation Home and playing video games. That same year, 2009, I was also a global sponsor of Can't Stop the Serenity for which I designed and donated 60 handmade pairs of Browncoat earrings, to help raise money for Equality Now and other charities. So, Firefly was on my mind, too.

: (Squeals) Firefly! oh my gosh, I love Firefly! And Capt. Mal. Mmm. Yummy Capt. Mal. (Composes self). I'm sorry, What were we talking about? Oh, right. I love that your subconscious  drew inspiration from so many different and varied sources. For those who haven't read Stellarnet Rebel, can they read Stellarnet Prince as a standalone, or will they be completely lost without knowledge of the first book?

J.L: I think Stellarnet Prince could be enjoyed alone. I tried to provide enough context that there wouldn't be any “huh?” moments for first-time readers. But I recommend both, for the best experience. There are several twists and turns in the first book. If they were read out of order, you'd have all the spoilers.

Plus, the characters grow and change, and I think that process is interesting to watch. The story grows and changes, too. Stellarnet Rebel is about a few people in a space colony who are caught up in circumstances larger than themselves. Stellarnet Prince introduces several new characters and expands in scope. Though the heart of the story is still Genny, Duin and Belloc, and how love and friendship survive through difficult circumstances, they are no longer powerless but have to deal with the power they have as celebrities and political figures.

Angela: The first book dealt with a — I don't know how to describe it without giving too many details away other than to say it's a sort of complicated love triangle between Genny, Duin and Belloc. Does that continue in Stellarnet Prince? (For the record, I liked Duin, but I'm Team Belloc all the way).

J.L.: The complicated love triangle continues, and it's an important aspect of the sequel. I'm trying to think of things to say about that without being spoilery... The two males in the story are aliens, so they have a different outlook on love and relationships than we do. They come from a different cultural and religious background than anything on Earth. Which is what makes it interesting. But given their individual histories (which you know from reading Rebel), there's a lot of personal conflict between them.

Angela: I should point out that while your first book does have a romantic element, it's mostly a sci-fi read. There was also some humor that I loved. Is that true of Stellarnet Prince?

J.L.: What were some of your favorite moments from Stellarnet Rebel? I'm always curious.

Angela: Without being spoilery, I loved the avatars for Ginny's friends in the beginning, especially Nik (or Neek), Hax (one of your characters) was fun to read, and I thought some of the Asteria regulations were a bit humorous (and a little terrifying) as well as some of the information Genny looked up on the Asternet.

J.L.: There are moments that made me laugh (and cry) while writing, but rarely are they the same moments that readers find funny (or sad).

I aimed for a similar balance of action/adventure, technology, character development and humor in Prince, and it's a combination I will attempt to carry through the third and any subsequent books. “World building” is the term I often hear from reviewers, and there's even more of it this time around. We're not just on Asteria, we're on Earth in the year 2062 (and Mars, for a chapter), and we spend more time on Glin, Duin and Belloc's home world. There are also several glimpses into Tikati culture and physiology.

Hax and his other Haxes are still their crazy selves. Blaze spouts his weird colonel-isms. Duin is... Duin. Genny has her sarcasm and Belloc his wry, subtle wit. You will meet some new folks who are a hoot. Stellarnet Prince is funny, but the plot thickens and I think it overshadows the humor. A little bit. You'll have to let me know what you think, when you read it.

Angela: I'm a pretty big fan of your heroine, Genny, because she's kind of the futuristic equivalent of Nellie Bly. Did you draw inspiration for her from anyone in particular?

J.L.: As I mentioned, there were a lot of things in my subconscious when I first dreamed of Genny and Duin. I think Genny was a bit of Margaret Hale/Daniela Denby-Ashe from North and South, and a bit of Marion/Lucy Griffiths in the early episodes of Robin Hood. Marion was a brave defender of the downtrodden and a kickass heroine – just don't get me started on what a lame tart she turned into later in the series. She didn't deserve the black guyliner tears Gisborne cried for her, but I digress...

This might sound weird, but I also think Genny comes a bit from Natalie on the TV show Monk. I've always loved Natalie – she has a way of being assertive, sassy, capable and intelligent but also loving, compassionate, balanced and kind. She's a gentle soul, but not a pushover. Strong, but not obnoxious. Like Genny.

I think she's a little bit like Rose (and Duin is like the Ninth Doctor), but I didn't watch that season of Doctor Who until after I'd written most of Rebel, so they weren't really based on those characters. They're just coincidentally a lot like.

Angela: Are there any more books planned in this series?

J.L.: I'm working on Book Three right now. I've thought about doing prequel novellas. I could tell the story of Genny's stay on the space station Perspective, when she met Seth. Or how the people of Duin's river captured the Tikati ship, and how Duin learned to fly it and to speak English before coming to Asteria. Or Belloc's childhood, and how he and his mother ended up on the Tikati prison ship. I'd love to tell the story of how Hax became the head of the Tech Center and built his leet lair. I could write a whole other series about Hax.

Angela: Let’s get to know J.L. Hilton, the person. Are you a member of any TV show/movie/book fandoms?

J.L.: I have a pile of stuff I love, like IT Crowd, Babylon 5, LOTR, John Dies at the End, Sherlock (original books and new BBC series) and Star Trek TNG and DS9. But I identify myself as a Browncoat and a Yognau(gh)t – I'm a huge fan of Firefly and Yogscast. I'm also a big supporter of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment and Glitch, Journeyquest and the Gamers series.

Angela: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

J.L.: It might not be much of a surprise after my current blog tour, but I'm also a jewelry designer and a tarot card reader. And I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue. For some reason, that seems to surprise people. lol

Angela: I'd like to thank J.L. for taking time out to chat with me today. She's also giving away some goodies I'd encourage you to enter to win at the following link or link below:

You can also visit her at or follow her on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and deviantART.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Revise. Revise again. Hmm. I wonder if I should change that too?

All right. All right, already! You've twisted my arm. I’ll come clean and admit my romantic suspense manuscript, tentatively titled On The Scent, was rejected by Carina Press. Such is the life of a writer. And while I'm disappointed Carina won't be publishing the book (because I love Carina — I really, really do), I'm very fortunate that I received some invaluable feedback from the incredibly kind editor to whom I submitted. We all know that NEVER happens in the land of form rejection letters.

So I've been letting the book and the revision suggestions settle while I decide how to proceed. Should I go buy a bottle of hard liquor, drink half of it to drown my sorrows and use the other half to start a bonfire with the pages in a sort of farewell-to-this-manuscript-forever cremation service? Tempting, but I don't drink. And, okay, I don't really know how to safely start a bonfire either. I did give serious consideration to shredding the manuscript and using it as kitty litter for Dusti. Perhaps it would be fitting to do so (because a cat is a character in the book), but nah. I've decided the best option is to go back to the darn thing and see what I can do with it, because the truth is, I know it's missing something in the story to make it special. And I'm also a stubborn sonofagun who refuses to accept defeat. And for all of its minor faults, I also love the story!

Mainly, I know I don't want to abandon the story because I'm 10 chapters into its sequel, The Psychic Detectives Book 2, and I really, really love Book 2's story, too. Problem is, Book 2 depends heavily on a plot point set up in the rejected The Psychic Detectives Book 1. And I've decided I'm too lazy to rework Book 2 to make it a standalone. I understand now why people say not to write Book 2 until you know the publisher wants Book 1 in a series. Meh. So what? Did I mention how much I'm loving Book 2?

I've put Book 2 on hold for a while and have started revising Book 1 in earnest. In some ways, I'm embarrassed I sent the thing out to begin with. I think I fell victim to wanting to be published again before my first book gets pulled from cyber shelves. Okay, okay, I'll come clean and admit something else. I've actually written two full books since Cry Wolf was published one year ago. But I never sent the first one, tentatively titled The Hybrid, to Carina Press because my gut told me it wasn't right for that publisher. That book did get rejected by another publisher (in my defense, I ambitiously sent it to a biggie), so I set it aside, too. I plan to dig into it in the near future and whip that sucker into shape, but first, I'm concentrating on the rejected The Psychic Detectives Book 1 so I can get back to and finish Book 2.

Book 1. Book 2. Other Book 1. I just realized I sound like a crazy person, don't I? Kudos to you if you made sense of that jumble!

To motivate myself, I even announced to the universe the basic synopsis for all my works in progress on my website. Universe, please don't steal my ideas before I can publish them. That would make me cry. Seriously. Thank you.

Now I'd better run. I've got some plot points to revise. And revise again.

I need to stop procrastinating.

Wish me luck.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fun Friday Q&A: author Susanna Fraser

Feel that November chill in the air? Love historical romances? Good news. My guest today can help warm you up with a hot read this weekend. Today I'd like to welcome author Susanna Fraser to chat about her books, England, and (because I can't help myself) superpowers!

But first, a little about Susanna's newest release, An Infamous Marriage from Carina Press:
Northumberland, 1815

At long last, Britain is at peace, and General Jack Armstrong is coming home to the wife he barely knows. Wed for mutual convenience, their union unconsummated, the couple has exchanged only cold, dutiful letters. With no more wars to fight, Jack is ready to attempt a peace treaty of his own.

Elizabeth Armstrong is on the warpath. She never expected fidelity from the husband she knew for only a week, but his scandalous exploits have made her the object of pity for years. Now that he's back, she has no intention of sharing her bed with him—or providing him with an heir—unless he can earn her forgiveness. No matter what feelings he ignites within her…

Jack is not expecting a spirited, confident woman in place of the meek girl he left behind. As his desire intensifies, he wants much more than a marriage in name only. But winning his wife's love may be the greatest battle he's faced yet.
Susanna Fraser

Angela: Welcome to my blog, Susanna! I have to admit, I don’t read a lot of historicals, so A Marriage of Inconvenience was the first I’ve read in a very long time, and I absolutely loved it! I’ve got The Sergeant’s Lady in my TBR pile, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading An Infamous Marriage soon. (I mean, wow, check out that cover!) For those of us who are just discovering your work, is there any relation between these books, or is it OK to read them individually?

Susanna: Thanks for having me here, Angela! This is my first stop on a month-long blog tour, and I’m excited that An Infamous Marriage is finally about to be released.

I’m so glad you enjoyed A Marriage of Inconvenience. It’s a prequel to my first release, The Sergeant’s Lady. James, the hero of AMOI, is the brother of Anna, the heroine of TSL. I think they can be read in either order. Technically the books “spoil” each other--AMOI has an epilogue years after both books, and James and Lucy appear in TSL--but to me, in a romance the surprise isn’t that the couple gets a happy ending, but what happens on the journey.

An Infamous Marriage doesn’t have any significant links with the two previous books, though the Major Matheson whom Elizabeth meets in the Waterloo section of the story is the same man as Captain Matheson from The Sergeant’s Lady. I want to give him a leading role eventually, but I don’t know what his story is yet.

Angela: Tell us about An Infamous Marriage: Where did the idea for it come from?

Susanna: I’d never written a rakish hero before, so it was something of a challenge I set for myself to write not just a womanizing hero but an adulterous one, and then try to redeem him in a way that I, the heroine, and hopefully readers would find believable. (The adultery takes place during a long separation and before the marriage is consummated, so the heroine’s anger isn’t so much over the fact of it, but more that it was flagrant and led to gossip that made her an object of pity and mockery.)

Angela: I see from your bio that you worked in England for a year. Yes, I’m jealous, and yes, I want details. What great discoveries did you make in your research while there that has made its way into your books? What’s your favorite memory of England?

Susanna: I wasn’t yet writing seriously then, so I didn’t do any Regency-specific research, unfortunately. That said, I think living in another country gave me a broader perspective on the world and a greater ability to put myself in others’ shoes that I hope comes through in my books.

I have two favorite memories of England. The first was spending a day in Avebury, the village that’s inside a stone circle. There are no barriers between you and the stones--you can walk all around them and touch them as much as you want, and you’re standing there in the middle of 5000 years, all that history, all in one spot. In the village itself there’s a mostly Norman church that still shows remnants of the original Saxon structure. It’s a beautiful space, ancient and sacred...but then you walk back out into the circle and remember it’s four or five times older than the oldest part of the church!

My other favorite memory is of a date with my now-husband. He’s American, too, but we met in England, since we were part of the same volunteer program. We used to go spend the day in London whenever we could. Being young and in love and roaming London was heaven all by itself, but our best date was when we got tickets to the reconstruction of the Globe Theatre to see The Merchant of Venice as “groundlings” in the standing room only section. In a very different way from my day in Avebury, it was a chance to stretch out my hand and touch the past.

Angela: Let’s get to know Susanna, the person. Are you a member of any TV show/movie/book fandoms?

Susanna: I never miss an episode of Legend of Korra, Castle or Chopped, though these days I’m not a huge participant in online fandom. In the past I’ve been active in Buffy/Jossverse fandom, and going really far back I used to be active on a Lois & Clark USENET group.

Angela: We could totally be BFFs with that list of fandoms. :) Hobbies?

Susanna: I love to cook, and to keep myself challenged I randomly select one of my cookbooks each week and try a new recipe. I also love to sing, and though currently the day job and my writing commitments keep me too busy to be in a choir, during the holidays I try to track down at least one sing-along of Handel’s Messiah to join.

Angela: If you could be any fictional character for a day, who would it be and why?

Susanna: Harriet Vane from Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, albeit only from Gaudy Night onward. Lord Peter always comes out somewhere in the top five on my fictional character free pass list (I also have a time travel free pass list, because you never know), so naturally I’d leap at the chance to have his devotion and wit focused on me.

Angela: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Susanna: Despite living in Seattle, I never drink coffee--can’t stand the bitter taste.

Angela: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Susanna: I think I’d be a powerful waterbender, like Katara on Avatar: the Last Airbender.

Angela: You also mentioned you have a treat for readers?

Susanna: I’ll be giving one copy of An Infamous Marriage to a commenter on this post in your choice of e-book format, and at the end of my blog tour, I'll be giving away a grand prize of a $50 gift certificate to their choice of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powell's Books to one commenter on my blog tour as a whole. You get one entry per blog tour stop you comment upon, so check out my blog for the whole schedule! If you wish to be entered in the drawing, include your email address formatted as yourname AT yourhost DOT com.

I’ll also stop by and try to respond to all comments, but since I live on the West Coast and have an 8-5 day job, I won’t be able to check in till my evening.

Angela: You heard the woman. Start commenting! Thank you, Susanna, for being my guest today and for the generous giveaway. An Infamous Marriage releases Monday, so be sure to buy your copy!


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