You gotta see IT on the big screen

When a child’s arm gets bitten off early in a movie, you need to be prepared. Granted, in horror films, the opening sequence can be the most terrifying (see Jaws). In the case of the modern IT revamp, nope, things just get progressively worse.

We all know the Stephen King story: a bunch of loser kids in the 80s are terrorized by a weird clown. Something is wrong with the sewers, and their lives are haunted forever.

Although the original miniseries was pretty dang good, the movie surpasses it in fear factor. This is probably due to the cutting edge special effects. It’s also due, largely, to the style. The creators of this film utilized slow build suspense that escalated and escalated. (There’s a particular scene in a library basement that had me crying inside.) The technique of slow build was what made each and every moment so horrific and unforgettable.

Of course, I have to talk about Pennywise. I watched Bill Skarsgard in Hemlock Grove and despite some pretty despicable behaviors on that show, I still fell for the guy. He’s hot, okay? But here’s how things went while watching IT …

Prior to IT: Oh, hey, Bill. Mm, yeah, can’t wait to see you on big screen, baby.

At the beginning of IT: You’re pretty scary, but I can still see that sexy mouth.

Halfway through IT: Oh, but, Bill, you … uh … no! Bill, no, you … But …

Toward the end of IT: BILL, I NEVER WANT TO TALK TO YOU AGAIN, YOU MONSTER!

I am seriously not one to overlook the brilliance of original Pennywise, Tim Curry, but the handsome Mr. Skarsgard has stolen the trophy for most effed-up clown of all time. Apparently the director kept Bill away from the kids during filming so they wouldn’t get friendly. The kids didn’t even see Bill as Pennywise until they were all in a scene together, so their terror is real.

Speaking of great acting, the little kids were perfect, including one troublemaker from Stranger Things. The writer gave each character interesting back stories, although evidently parents are all totally evil. Young actress Sophia Lillis really stole the show as the only female lead. Comedy was interspersed throughout, but even the moments of levity couldn’t compare to the bone-shaking horror.

IT is a film that should be viewed on the big screen, even if you do have to hide behind your hands half the time. It’s as beautiful as it is gross. Sitting next to my husband, trying not to choke on my Sour Patch Kids, I was frankly too scared to scream. I just sat there, clawing his forearm for two and a half hours.

How did IT end? Ha, I’m not going to tell you that. We’ve all been making fun of the miniseries ending for decades, but I will say this: I’m happy with the conclusion. I mean, I didn’t sleep at all the night after we saw the movie and I won’t go in my basement anymore, but, you know, totally worth it.

Got witches? Enchanted: Magic Spark Cover Reveal and Giveaway

It may come as no surprise to you that I love witches. I’m a Halloween fanatic who adores Harry Potter and actually owns a magic wand. When Pen and Kink Publishing editor Cori Vidae asked if I wanted to be part of a series about witches, I was like, YES.

The Enchanted series is three parts:
Magic Spark
Magic Ember
Magic Flame

The first part, Magic Spark, comes out January 9, 2018.
(Enter the giveaway for a free copy on Goodreads HERE.)

My story is called “Destiny’s Dark Light,” separated into three segments. Read all about its witchy wonder …

In modern day Charleston, lonely white witch Cyan Burroughs has waited her whole life to lead the battle against dark witches and eventually meet the man she is fated to love. A tragic trolley accident brings Liam Cody into her life. He is her destiny, but he’s also in love with someone else. Now, Cyan and her magic family must find the dark witch who caused the accident while Cyan fights her feelings for Liam—a charming Irishman with secrets of his own.

So have I teased you enough? Urg, okay. Here’s the cover for Enchanted: Magic Spark!

I’m lucky to be joined in the Enchanted series by Wendy Sparrow and Em Shotwell, two women whose work I greatly admire (and whose Magic Spark stories are fantastic).

It’s too soon for me to give you an excerpt from “Destiny’s Dark Light,” but I will say it’s funny, sexy, and angsty. It features a witchy girl with blonde dreadlocks and a sweet boy with an Irish accent. In Charleston. It doesn’t get more magical than that.

For now, be sure to add Enchanted: Magic Spark to your Goodreads list by clicking HERE.  (You can read about Wendy and Em’s stories, there, as well.) Pre-order links coming in November, but you can enter this giveaway for a free copy. Blessed be!

“Destiny’s Dark Light” aesthetic.

Author Lyssa Dering made me love monsters

I’ve been on a huge paranormal M/M romance kick. For those of you who don’t know, M/M refers to love stories between men. During my newfound reading frenzy, I stumbled upon Lyssa Dering, among many others. (Shout outs to Dessa Lux, KJ Charles, and Jordan Hawk).

Something about Lyssa’s work really stood out to me, though, especially her new release HOW TO LOVE A MONSTER. Her lead character, Fiend, is a monster, okay? He eats brains … and yet, I loved him. I rooted for the monster. Yes, I adored the romantic interest: innocent, beautiful Seraphim. But Fiend! How did she make me love a brain-eating murderer?

I had to pick her brain … Oh, that was a bad joke. Braaaaaaains. Seriously, I had to know more about my newest author crush, Lyssa Dering.

SDB: You’ve written love stories about vampires, demons, and now, brain-eating figments of imagination. What inspired your love for the paranormal? Any literary influences?

I first and foremost have a fascination with vampires. It all started with Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ books when I was in middle school. I read In the Forests of the NightDemon in My ViewShattered Glass, etc. Most of those stories were also love stories. Plus, Atwater-Rhodes got published as a young teen, and that really inspired me to be a writer.

In high school, I became obsessed with the movie Underworld, which features vampires and werewolves. I think my love of other paranormal elements naturally evolved from there. When I was seventeen, I discovered internet roleplaying on Xanga with the help of my high school best friend, and the first group RP I joined featured characters with superpowers. RPing was a great way for me to escape up until my first year after college, and I explored all kinds of paranormal elements weaved into sex and romance that way.

SDB: Why do you write M/M romance? What’s your fave thing about two dudes in love?

I’ve been drawn to M/M pairings since I first discovered fanfiction. My first fandom was Harry Potter, and though I also shipped some M/F pairings, I was a huge Harry/Draco shipper. I’ve come to the conclusion recently, after trying to understand why I’m not as drawn to F/F pairings, that M/M allows me to escape in ways other pairings don’t.

I’m nonbinary, but I am also AFAB (assigned female at birth), so reading and writing about characters assigned male at birth allows me to escape my female body and all the societal pressures I’m under as a result of it. Of course, M/M can feature trans and nonbinary characters, as well, but though I’ve written a male-bodied genderqueer character, I’m not in a place currently where I want to explore female-to-male trans characters in my work.

SDB: Your newest book, HOW TO LOVE A MONSTER, features a very strange creature. Tell us a bit about Fiend and the idea behind his “world.”

The idea for How to Love a Monster started a few years ago while I was browsing through the Superpower Wiki, trying to get inspired. I came upon the power of Absolute Will and tried to come up with a character from there. So Wish, the creator of Fiend’s world, came first. He has the power to create or destroy anything, but I put limits on his power to make the story more interesting.

The world Wish created is called Wish City because he’s a bit of a narcissist, and it’s a city because he grew up in one, so it’s easiest for him to create what he knows, just like for most writers. As I brainstormed, I came up with Fiend, who is Wish’s childhood monster or bogeyman who slips into Wish City unbeknownst to Wish.

I originally planned an angsty love story between Wish and Fiend, but it didn’t quite work out that way. When I came back to the story after much writing practice and education about structure, I came up with Seraphim and gave Wish a different role.

SDB: Your romantic interest in MONSTER is Seraphim. He lessens the darkness with some comic asides. Do you think comedy (and/or snark) is an important part of literature? Why?

Absolutely, especially in stories of a darker nature with a lot of angst, which is what I tend to write. If the story is all angst/suffering with nothing light in it at all, it can make it not worth it for the reader. Comedy/snark makes the reading experience more pleasant and can keep the reader from discarding your book out of frustration.

SDB: Tips for writing great sex scenes?

Remember that character comes first. Everything in every story should filter through character, and sex scenes are no different. There’s nothing more boring or frustrating to me as a reader than when a sex scene could basically be taken out of one book and plopped into another and still make sense.

Also, at least for me and especially in a romance, sex scenes should strengthen the connection between the main characters (or do something else to that connection depending on the scene’s purpose and each individual story). This means it can’t just be physical but must have an emotional aspect.

SDB: What are you working on right now?

I’m in the planning stages for my next book. I don’t have anything concrete to share yet as I’m busy hunting for that special kind of inspiration that can carry a full-length novel.

SDB: If you had to create a fantasy movie cast for MONSTER, who would you cast as Fiend and Sera?

Anthony Carrigan was my inspiration for Fiend’s appearance. Carrigan plays Victor Zsasz in Gotham. He has spoken publicly about his alopecia, which contributes to his hair loss, and I was fascinated with how villainous he appears in Gotham but how adorable and lovable he looks in photos when he’s just being himself. So I’d definitely cast him as Fiend. For Sera, I’d go with Max Thieriot.

Buy your copy of HOW TO LOVE A MONSTER today by clicking HERE!

About: Lyssa Dering is an author of erotic M/M fiction. Her work is often romantic, always emotional, and features shifters, vampires, and regular old humans in whatever subgenres inspire her. She seeks to share the kind of fiction she loves to read: intense and addictive with engaging characters and situations.

Lyssa is nonbinary and demisexual and often draws upon her time in the BDSM community when writing intimate scenes. She resides in the Midwestern United States with an aggressively affectionate tabby cat. When not writing, she enjoys livetweeting about the books she’s reading and dicking around in Photoshop.

Follow Lyssa via her website or on Twitter.

When your mental health takes a nosedive

Photo by Chris Loomis.

The past month has been a special version of Hell. I seriously injured a rib while helping my neighbor move a heavy chair. I knew the moment it happened that I was in trouble. When you feel something inside you go *pop*, reassess all your life decisions.

The pain spread from my rib to my back to my neck. I no longer slept through the night. I woke up at 2 AM and cussed at my TV for hours. I wandered through my days like an angry zombie … but I didn’t eat human brains. I didn’t eat anything, because OH, HELLO DEPRESSION! I WAS WONDERING WHEN YOU’D SHOW UP AGAIN!

As most of you know, I’ve suffered from depression since I was fourteen. This is nothing new. It reached its climax … valley … I don’t know which metaphor to use … when I lived in Phoenix and took some pills and drank some vodka and, oops, emergency trip home to stay with my parents.

Ohio has been a revelation for my mental health, possibly because I’ve come to realize I actually dislike sunshine and love rain and snow. I also love the small town lifestyle. I signed my first book deal here for the Bite Somebody series, and I have  my family nearby. All these things put depression in the rearview mirror. But now, thanks to some unfortunate life circumstances and a rib injury, it’s back.

What do I do when my mental health takes a nosedive?
1. Hide in my house.
2. Drink gin.
3. Read Sherlock fan fiction.
4. Stop writing.
5. Stop eating.
6. Stop smiling.
7. Reconsider medication.

I haven’t been on antidepressants in over three years, and weaning off of them last time scared the bejeezus out of me. Am I at the point where it’s time to revisit medication? Well, that’s still up for debate, but as my friend put it last week, “At least you can acknowledge when you need help.” Many people with mental illness seem incapable of reaching out for help. They wander through life in a sort of denial haze telling themselves they’ll get better, they’ll get better, when they actually need support.

Photo by Chris Loomis.

Medication isn’t the only answer, of course. There’s therapy and exercise and dietary changes and getting rid of alcohol (a HUGE depressant). There are any number of treatments for mental illness, but so many people don’t even want to admit they have a problem in the first place.

It’s been a long time since I had a “problem,” but that doesn’t mean I’m depression free. Whenever I speak about depression, I make it damn clear that there is no cure. You don’t just get kicked in the head by a horse and feel all better. Depression is a lifelong battle with peaks and valleys (see, I can use metaphors). I’ve been lucky to be on a peak for a long time, but now, I’m visiting the valley … and that’s what this is, a visit. I won’t be building a house here anytime soon.

It has been a month since my unfortunate *popping* incident. Two weeks ago, I wanted to cut for the first time in years. I saw my doctor and promised not to cut myself and spent a week on Effexor before its side effects freaked me out. I went to the gym today for the first time since my injury. I stared at Benedict Cumberbatch giggle gifs on Tumblr and watched the entirety of Yuri On Ice all over again. I’ve been talking again, too, smiling again, and I’m working on eating. Oh, I’m even sleeping again, and nightmares notwithstanding, it’s good. It’s all good.

I’m climbing out of the valley, slowly, but this has been an important and eye-opening reminder that mental illness is indeed the monster under your bed. It waits and it waits, until it grabs you by the ankle one morning and says, “You didn’t think I’d gone, did you?”

We need to take care of ourselves, mental illness or not. We also need to admit when we need help. See doctors. See friends. See God. When your mental health takes a nosedive, know that you are not alone. We all have bad days, weeks, months … Please don’t fight the fight by yourself. When you’re depressed, find the thing that makes you happy and surround yourself with that thing, even if it’s a good book. Even if it’s the sound of rain. Even if it’s ice cream. I’m clawing my way out of the pit. So can you.

Author Beth Cato on Writing Her First Sex Scene

Author Beth Cato and I have been friends since before either of us had a book set free upon the world. I first fell in love with her Clockwork Dagger series, but I’m now obsessed with Breath of Fire, especially book two, Call of Fire, which just came out yesterday. If you like brave women in a steampunk world, check out all her books.

Aware that writing sex is one of my favorite things to do (and arguably one of my biggest literary strengths), when Beth had to write her first sex scene in Call of Fire, she texted me to tell me all about it. I figured I’d embarrass her further by making her write a blog post about the experience …

Writing My First Sex Scene
by Beth Cato

When my heroine Ingrid Carmichael decided she needed to get it on in my next book, I debated her. “What about tearing apart another building? Or slapping down another misogynistic jerk? I can write those things. Those are destructive fun.”

Ingrid was not to be swayed. My book needed a sex scene. Oh boy.

I have nothing against sex scenes. Goodness knows, I snuck into my mom’s romance book stash often enough in my teens to find out what was really hidden beneath kilts. I just don’t usually write the kinds of stories and books that escalate romance to that level. But Ingrid is a demanding lady. From the start of my first book, Breath of Earth, it’s clear that she’s twenty-five, a woman of color, and enraged at how society constrains and judges her. When she meets bookishly handsome Cy Jennings, she is awed at how he treats her with genuine respect. Talk about a major turn-on!

By the time the second book, Call of Fire, starts, they’ve endured hell together and fallen in love. Some seriously bad people are after Ingrid. Capture or death may come at any time. Ingrid wants to live life to the fullest in the time she has left–and that includes sex.

I skimmed over my bookshelves and examined other writers’ sex scenes on a technical level. Seriously, do this. There’s a science to this stuff, and I don’t just mean the biological aspects. I mean the flow. Rhythm means everything. Romance writers get sneered at a lot, but here’s a fact: sex scenes take some serious skill, and a lot of writers (me included) find them to be very intimidating. It’s an intimate act for the characters, and for the author, too.

My characters already had the chemistry, so really, it came down to finding the right pace to move things along through their nervous chatter and the physical seduction. My editor offered some additional comments to help me smooth out the flow, too.

In the scene, Cy lets Ingrid take charge; I let Ingrid take charge, too. She’s a woman who knows what she wants. I’m not going to get in her way, even if I’d rather write about knocking down buildings instead of stripping off clothes.


Excerpt from Call of Fire:

Ingrid dried herself and tucked the towel around her body as she stepped to the door. “Are you still out there?”

“Yes.” His voice was a low rumble right on the other side. “Did you get out of the tub already?”

“Can you help me?”

Hesitant pressure on the door handle made it twitch, but it didn’t open. “What do you need?”

She leaned on the handle and took a deep breath to steel her resolve. “You.” She opened the door a crack.

“Me, Ingrid?” He peered through the opening.

“You. I’m wondering if you can distract me in a pleasant way for a while.”

Through the gap, she saw Cy blink rapidly, his throat bobbing as he swallowed. “Oh.”

At that encouragement, she pushed the door open. Cy stepped back. He wore an expression of calm rapture as he took in the full sight of her in a mere towel.

Ingrid looked down at herself and wondered what he really saw in her, what he’d seen from the first time they met on the Cordilleran Auxiliary steps. She adjusted the towel over the generous curve of her breasts. Naughty pulp novels made seduction look so easy. A kiss here, a moan there, and next thing the couple knew, suspenders and stays were undone and passion occurred in sly euphemisms.

Truth was, her anxious heart thrummed like a Porterman engine at full power. She was desperately, horribly afraid that he still might balk and refuse her in a gentlemanly way, and leave her ashamed to face him for the rest of forever. Or even worse, that something might happen in the building across the way while they dared to take this respite. That’s how their luck had worked over the past week, like a leprechaun’s curse.

“You mentioned that you’ve thought about this,” Ingrid said. “I hope that it wasn’t just in terms of honor, but about especially pleasant things.” She shakily giggled. “Good grief, I can barely talk.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t speak, then.”

With a single long stride, Cy cupped her jaw and brought her lips to his. His touch sent a spiral of heat straight through her core. The rough skin of his thumb stroked her cheek as he tucked a stray tendril of hair behind her ear. She pulled back enough to gaze into his eyes, her breath rapid.

“I’d like to think I know what I’m doing here, but I’m relying on a score of purple novels that no proper lady should’ve ever read and my own rather active imagination.”


Read all about Ingrid and the delicious Cy (I really have a thing for Cy) in Beth’s newest novel, Call of Fire, now available everywhere!

About the book:

When an earthquake devastates San Francisco in an alternate 1906, the influx of geomantic energy nearly consumes Ingrid Carmichael. Bruised but alive, the young geomancer flees the city with her friends, Cy, Lee, and Fenris. She is desperate to escape Ambassador Blum, the cunning and dangerous bureaucrat who wants to use Ingrid’s formidable powers to help the Unified Pacific—the confederation of the United States and Japan—achieve world domination. To stop them, Ingrid must learn more about the god-like magic she inherited from her estranged father—the man who set off the quake that obliterated San Francisco.

When Lee and Fenris are kidnapped in Portland, Ingrid and Cy are forced to ally themselves with another Ambassador from the Unified Pacific: the powerful and mysterious Theodore Roosevelt. But even his influence may not be enough to save them when they reach Seattle, where the magnificent peak of Mount Rainier looms. Discovering more about herself and her abilities, Ingrid is all too aware that she may prove to be the fuse to light the long-dormant volcano . . . and a war that will sweep the world.

BUY CALL OF FIRE HERE.

Author Randi Perrin talks angels, hot dudes, and the end of an era

Author Randi Perrin and I have been through some stuff together. We have worked, played, and bashed our heads on desks together. It seems meaningful that her trilogy would come to a close so soon after my two-book Bite Somebody series. We’ve both given birth (metaphorically), but what do you do once you’ve sent your baby out into the world?

The Earthbound Angels trilogy follows a family with divine powers. Three different couples must fight three different battles while trying to live long enough to love each other. Randi might have had to deal with some emotional lashing from me as I made her promise not to kill off certain favorite characters of mine because that would be just MEAN. Now, with the release of Virtue and Honor, I’ve read all three, and I’m sad to see the angels go. These are must-read romantic adventure novels with super hot male and female leads that offer a little something for everyone.

Despite her insanely busy schedule, Randi agreed to do an interview with me. So read on and learn a bit about sex, angels, and the mysterious writers’ life.

SDB: With the release of Virtue and Honor, you’ve completed the Earthbound Angels trilogy. How do you feel? 

Relieved. A little empty. A whole lot nervous.

One, I’m relieved to have finally completed it. This final trilogy ender remained elusive for so long to me, that there were times I thought I was going to wind up leaving the angels as a duology.

Empty because, well, my angels have been my life, my blood, sweat, and tears since November 2015. This world and these characters are so real to me, that I almost feel as if I’ve lost a friend. A piece of me. You just ended your own duology. Didn’t you feel a little bit of sadness to leave Imogene behind? God knows I’ll miss Cheryl something fierce.

SDB: Imogene goes with me everywhere, as you well know …

Nervous because, well, I’m always nervous with a new release. But this one took me places I didn’t intend to go, and I’m scared as to how it will be received. Inevitably, here comes the question: where’d you end up? In left field. Virtue and Honor is darker than the other two, the stakes are higher, the villain more diabolical and determined.

In Virtue of Death, the conflict was between the two sides of Sera. Angel and human, which will win? In Promises of Virtue, the conflict was Cheryl struggling to find her place in the world, but also an external force trying to right wrongs from the past. In Virtue and Honor, essentially all of those come into play for poor Angela. She struggles with being an angel, legacy, love, and an external force that is hell-bent on taking her down. She’s got to figure out who she is, how to love, and comprehend the legacy she didn’t ask to be a part of, in order to take on that external force. It’s a lot to handle for anyone, but especially a young and naïve twenty-one-year-old.

SDB: Did you have the whole trilogy outlined when you started, or did you make things up as you went along?

God, no. I don’t outline anything. I tried to outline Virtue of Death and Sera and Cheryl gave me the middle finger (they can’t swear, but flipping the bird is all right, apparently) and took the story in their own direction. I ran out of steam at 37,000 words and began to think it would just be a novella, and I’d need a novella about Cheryl to make them publishable length.

Luckily, I regained momentum and that wasn’t necessary. Which was really good because the original novella idea involved Cheryl being a flight attendant because she missed flying so much. Let’s be honest, can you see that happening? I mean, dear Lord, she’d get fired after her first flight. “Yeah, okay, you know how a seat belt works, right? Just stick the pointed end into the hole, much like everything else in life. Oh, oxygen, it’ll be there if you need it, cover your mouth with the thing and inhale, exhale. Not that hard, right? Okay, good. Don’t mess with the smoke detectors, that’s illegal and it’s just bad form. Look for your closest exit, but it doesn’t matter because if we’re going down you’re not going to remember where it is anyway.”

SDB: She and Imogene should hang out. Within the bounds of your trilogy, you made three couples fall in love. Do you have a favorite couple? Was one couple easier to write than the others?

Sera and Destin gave me fits, but they were the victims… I mean subjects… of my first novel. We were bound to have hiccups. Cheryl and Luc, though, they were the easy ones. Their story flew together easier and faster than the other two, despite the fact I was about halfway through it when I decided to change Luke to Luc, thereby changing his nationality and backstory. I think, however, it all turned out for the best.

SDB: Fantasy cast!!! Who would play the romantic leads: Destin, Luc, and Mason?

Destin: I’ve cast him for you before, and I stand by my original casting of Derek Theler. I can totally see perfectly-timed snark coming out of his mouth, followed by a scorching kiss. Yeah, that can happen.

Luc: I can totally see Randy Wayne pulling him off, don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

SDB: Yes to this man. Yes.

Mason: He was based on Luke Bryan, so definitely him. He’s got the southern drawl and some hellacious dance moves already.

SDB: Sex scenes: easy to write or difficult? Tips for writing a good sex scene? Tips for writing a bad sex scene haha?

Sex scenes are the hardest things ever! (Pun not intended… or was it?) I am so nervous when it comes to sex scenes. Did I make it believable? Do body parts bend that way? Just where is that line between swoon-worthy and “this dude cannot be real.”

In Virtue and Honor, we’ve got two characters who come at sex from experience versus inexperience. Angela’s a virgin, so there’s going to be some awkwardness. But it’s also so damn hot to see how Mason guides her through it. He genuinely cares for her, and it shows in that moment.

SDB: Of all the men in the Earthbound Angels trilogy, who would YOU most likely end up with and why?

Me? Most likely Destin. Because of his smart-ass mouth. Takes one to know one, and to put up with one.

SDB: … Which is why we’re friends. Favorite Benedict Cumberbatch picture? Because I’m shameless and I like the pretty.

I do love slightly scruffy and floofy-haired Sherlock Ben, so I almost said this one… I mean, look at that eye crinkle. JUST LOOK AT IT!

SDB: He has a fantastic eye crinkle.

But then I ran across this one with glasses, dimples, and a mischievous little smile that just did me in. Geeky Ben, for the win. (See, and *that* is also why I’d end up with Destin.)


Buy your copies of the Earthbound Angels Trilogy by Randi Perrin!

VIRTUE OF DEATH (EARTHBOUND ANGELS BOOK ONE)

Hot Tree Publishing | Amazon US | Amazon CAAmazon AU | Amazon UK | Nook | iTunes | Kobo

PROMISES OF VIRTUE (EARTHBOUND ANGELS BOOK TWO)

Hot Tree Publishing | Amazon US  |  Amazon CA  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon AU  |  iTunes  |  Nook  |  Kobo

 VIRTUE AND HONOR (EARTHBOUND ANGELS BOOK THREE)

Amazon  |  iTunes  |  Nook   | Kobo

STALK RANDI

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Dunkirk is the last war movie I will ever see

Jake made a compelling argument. Not only was Dunkirk killing it on Rotten Tomatoes, but it was a Christopher Nolan movie. I’ve been in love with Nolan films since Memento. Yes, Dunkirk was a war movie, and I generally avoid war movies. But Jake said, “It’s rated PG-13. It can’t be that bad!” Plus, two of the stars were Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy, and I want to have a hundred of Cillian Murphy’s babies (metaphorically).

Saturday, I agreed to spend a rainy afternoon watching a critically acclaimed war movie from one of my favorite directors starring a two men who take my breath away. Sure, why not?

Oh, what a mistake.

I was okay for a while. Sitting in the darkened theater, eating my popcorn, I didn’t start freaking out until about halfway through. There was a very claustrophobic scene involving a bunch of young men trapped underwater, and I lost my shit. I think I hid it well. I cried silently and covered my eyes. Nobody noticed the woman falling apart at the Willoughby Regal Cinema.

It got worse. Popcorn forgotten, I watched the rest of the movie while hiding behind my hands. Then, things escalated. Following an abrupt ending, the credits rolled. Jake, eyes alight with Nolan’s brilliance, turned to ask, “What did you think?”

I started sobbing. I hate crying in public. Hate it. Jake grabbed my hand and guided me back to the parking lot. I hid behind my sunglasses. Once in the passenger seat, in the privacy of my own car, I really let go until I was a sniveling, hiccuping mess. I said it over and over: “I can’t do war movies. I just can’t. I can’t.”

Saturday was destroyed. No matter that we went shopping and ate wings at my favorite dive bar, I was still trapped underwater, struggling for breath. I drank enough beer to surface, but I still feel Dunkirk today and its lingering effects. I woke up sad.

I recently read a brilliant novella by Em Shotwell called “Forget Me Not” that really messed me up. In a good way. Follow me on this.

One of the lead characters in “Forget Me Not,” Rex, has the ability to never forget anything. When he’s sent off to Vietnam, it’s horrible because every death, every terror, is burned onto his brain. The horror of war is with him forever. In “Forget Me Not,” watching a lovable character crash and burn is painful. Watching what war does to a beautiful, innocent man like Rex made me want to curl into a little ball.

Shotwell does an excellent job of bringing Rex back from the edge, but many soldiers aren’t so lucky. As is the case in Dunkirk, many soldiers don’t even come home. Many of the ones who did (see Cillian Murphy’s character), came back totally messed up.

Nolan did a brilliant job in Dunkirk of using the minimum dialogue to address huge issues. For example, Cillian Murphy’s character, who escaped what we presume was a sunken battleship, won’t go below deck on the ship that rescues him. Shell shock forces him to sit outside, covering his ears. Much of the communication between actors is done through eye contact and nothing more. The cinematography makes me suspect Nolan is actually a wizard, because how else did he get some of those shots? The score is like a constant time bomb, ticking away as one young man after another is killed. (Tick-tock-tick …)

Dunkirk was a fantastic movie, and it’s the last war movie I will ever see because I can’t do this to myself anymore. There were beautiful moments of hope, bravery, and friendship, but those moments weren’t enough to make me feel glad I spent my Saturday afternoon crying.

Jake made a good point: it’s important to know history, especially for younger generations. My counter argument: an internet search won’t have such long-lasting effects on me. Like Rex in “Forget Me Not,” flashes of the film still scream through my head. I still see the dead bodies and the wild, panicked look in Cillian Murphy’s eyes. (I joked with my mom this morning that if my beloved Benedict Cumberbatch had played the same role, I would probably still be crying. Like, forever.)

I don’t understand war. I know it must be fought, but I don’t understand how young men can so easily kill other young men just because some general tells them to. Dunkirk portrayed how quickly we turn on each other in the name of survival. It showed the honor of battle but also its fruitlessness. The movie busted a bigger hole in my chest: a hole that’s been growing for years the more I watch the news. Dunkirk was brilliant, but I know when enough is enough. I wish I could say the same about the world.

Author JL Gribble lists her fave urban fantasy authors

(JL Gribble is one of my girl crushes. We met at a book nerd convention and were basically friends in, um, five seconds. Eventually, we had drinks with Severus Snape. No big deal. Her new urban fantasy novel, Steel Blood, came out Wednesday, so I asked her to tell me about her must-read urban fantasy authors … not counting herself, of course. Oh, and all gif choices are mine because I just had to. Take it away, JL!)

When celebrating the new release of an urban fantasy novel with very nontraditional vampires, the best place to go is the online home of other authors with nontraditional vampires! If Celia, Imogene, and Victory walked into a bar together, I imagine Victory would travel the following emotional journey: shock, amusement, confusion, possibly more shock, and then acceptance of her fate (preferably with beer).

Grab your own beer, blood bag, or other drink of choice and join in the party as we celebrate Victory’s newest adventure in Steel Empires Book 3: Steel Blood. Since I write more on the urban fantasy side of the speculative fiction spectrum, Sara asked me to talk about my top 5 favorite and/or most influential urban fantasy authors.

I first fell in love with Mercedes Lackey when I was introduced to her epic fantasy Valdemar books in middle school. Once I ran out of those, I started in on the rest of her novels and found that she also wrote some crazy adventures in “our” world, too. While I enjoyed the books with elves and Guardians, what really piqued my interest was her retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in early 20th century San Francisco. The Fire Rose introduced me to a world of elemental magic that didn’t exist in a medieval allegory. The rest of her Elemental Masters books showed me that urban fantasy doesn’t need the trappings of an immediately identifiable modern society to be successful.

In the His Dark Materials trilogy, which I also discovered while still in school, Philip Pullman solidified my love for alternate universes. As he dragged his characters through epic adventures, I was more than happy to go along for the ride. To this day, I find myself considering what sort of invisible animal companion a person might have, whether for characters in my own books or a person I know in real life, as a metaphor for characterization and personality. For the record, mine is a blue-point Siamese cat. (His name is Alex.)

I have a ton of respect for the modern Young Adult genre and the barriers it is breaking in the speculative fiction world, but I’m kind of glad that it wasn’t as much of a thing when I was younger. Instead, back in high school, authors like Laurell K. Hamilton were on my go-to list for strong female characters kicking supernatural ass and saving the world. Though I no longer follow the Anita Blake series or this author, I’m glad that part of my early urban fantasy education involved a world that mashed together every paranormal creature (and the kitchen sink), letting me know that I shouldn’t be afraid to do the same.

For a while, it seemed like every urban fantasy series involved a strong female character kicking supernatural ass and saving the world. But as in all things, the mold gets more fractured with every use. These days, I thoroughly enjoy authors such as Carrie Vaughn. Even though her Kitty the Werewolf series still embodies some traditional elements of how urban fantasy “should” be done, it quickly did away with the tortured love triangle and presented characters in committed relationships who supported each other through their adventures. This was a refreshing find in a world that seemed Twilight-mad.

These days, the books that immediately get bumped to the top of the to-be-read pile are those by Ilona Andrews. I especially enjoy the Kate Daniels series, with it’s incredibly unique urban fantasy setting, but even the books marketed as paranormal romance still feature well-crafted world-building and dramatic characters, despite the half-naked men on the covers. In homage to this favorite author, the books in my series all start with the word “Steel,” just as the novels in the Kate Daniels series all start with “Magic.” I may have picked up the first book on a whim because the author shares a first name with my mother, but I was immediately sucked in—pun not intended.

I hope this list has helped you revisit some old friends or learn about potential new favorites! In the meantime, I hope you consider checking out the Steel Empires urban fantasy/alternate history series as I celebrate the release of the third book in the series.

ABOUT STEEL BLOOD:

As her children begin lives of their own, Victory struggles with the loneliness of an empty nest. Just when the city of Limani could not seem smaller, an old friend requests that she come out of retirement for one final mercenary contract—to bodyguard his granddaughter, a princess of the Qin Empire.

For the first time in a century, the Qin and British Empires are reopening diplomatic relations. Alongside the British delegation, Victory and her daywalker Mikelos arrive in the Qin colony city of Jiang Yi Yue. As the Qin weredragons and British werewolves take careful steps toward a lasting peace between their people, a connection between the Qin princess and a British nobleman throw everyone’s plans in disarray.

Meanwhile, a third faction stalks the city under the cover of darkness. This is not a typical romance. It’s a good thing Victory is not a typical vampire.

BUY STEEL BLOOD NOW!!!

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Raw Dog Screaming Press

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Check out her website or find her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

The Best Part of Being a Writer

I’ve spent the past month (longer) preparing for the release of Bite Somebody Else. Last year, it was the same story for my debut, Bite Somebody. I can now say I have successfully launched two novels into the world with the help of my publishing house World Weaver Press and my editor Trysh Thompson. What have I learned?

Launching the book is literally the hardest part of the authoring process.

Sure, it’s fun doing interviews because we all like talking about ourselves (or, in my case, expounding over why Benedict Cumberbatch is my muse). It’s fun doing book signings, especially when you get to rub elbows with author friends and people who’ve known you since you were a fetus. The positive reviews are fabulous. The social media explosion is, frankly, alarming. It’s all very magical, and yet, it’s the most draining, terrifying, and stressful experience of my life because I am a writer and all I want to do most days is write.

You see the conundrum.

In order to be a successful writer, one must take part in book signings (in public AHHH), guest blogs, retweets, advertising campaigns, interviews (on video AHHH), and more and more until you think you’re going to go quite mad. As a population, most of us writer folks are introverts, so this is daunting as hell. But we do it because promotion is one of the biggest parts of being a writer—and the most difficult.

The week of my final Bite Somebody Else signing, I realized I hadn’t written anything creative in a very long time. I was losing my mind. I saw some romance publishers were looking for erotic novellas, so I started writing. I wrote, and I felt sane again. In fact, I felt amazing. I realized writing is the best part of being a writer. Sounds obvious, right? It wasn’t until now.

See, I’ve been writing for years. I always figured the best part of being a writer would be the ego boost of a book launch and the excitement of meeting fans face to face (which is great, don’t get me wrong). I thought that publishing a book would bring me all sorts of joy—and it has—but not the kind of joy I feel when I’m hunched over my computer all alone, laughing at my own jokes.

Writing is a solitary thing. Writers are solitary people. Expecting us to be promoters and social butterflies is ludicrous, but we do it because we have to. The world we live in requires writers to not just craft sentences but craft personas. We need to be out there on social media and at conventions, and we do it—because we must. However, at the end of the day, the thing that brings me the most joy is writing words that become sentences that become paragraphs.

Having now launched two novels, I’ve come to realize the things I always thought would make me happy—fortune and fame—won’t make me happy. Am I rich and famous right now? No, but I’ve had a taste of both at book signings and on release day. It feels good to be appreciated, but compliments sometimes make me want to hide. Ask my editor Trysh: the only thing that keeps me standing and smiling at book conventions is beer. Once I’m allowed to stop smiling, I hide in my hotel room.

I just want to write. I want to sit on my ass every day and tell stories—even if those stories never get published. There is something so fulfilling about creation. (In fact, I’m pretty sure creation feels a lot better than birth.) Writing is the best part of being a writer. What a relief to remember.

Intelligent erotica that’s both hot and heavy

The first time I heard the name Anais Nin, it was in Jewel’s “Morning Song:”
“You can be Henry Miller and I’ll be Anais Nin.
Except this time it’ll be even better,
We’ll stay together in the end.”

As a teenager, I had no idea Nin would have a huge effect on my life, but eventually, I found an aged copy of Delta of Venus. I found Anais Nin, and I fell in love.

Some would consider her the mother of modern erotica. Her work is gritty, dark, depressing, and lovely. In real life, she paired up romantically with author Henry Miller (and his wife). She and Miller inspired each other … and me. I even went to the Henry Miller Memorial Library when I was out in Big Sur.

What does this have to do with Mofo Pubs’ newest anthology, HOTEL? Editor Megan Lewis mentions both Nin and Miller in her introduction. For the collection, she sought out “authors who weren’t afraid to explore human sexuality while still maintaining a standard of literary excellence.”

When friends first read my HOTEL story, “Breathing Underwater,” they looked at me kind of funny and asked if I was feeling all right. I had fun stepping outside the playful banter that usually characterizes my work, and I went to a dark, angry place.

I am truly honored to be part of the HOTEL anthology. I’m among authors who amaze me with their prose. Although most of the stories are quite short, each writer manages to create complex characters who not only leap off the page but also writhe, scream, and claw your eyes. Are there happy endings? Several. (Bad joke.) There actually aren’t many happy endings in the emotional sense, but that’s what makes the stories feel so real. I think Anais Nin would approve.

Below, read an excerpt from my HOTEL story, “Breathing Underwater,” then buy the anthology. Not only is it an erotic adventure, but it’s a lesson in great literature.

“Breathing Underwater” (Excerpt)
By Sara Dobie Bauer
Featured in Mofo Pubs’ HOTEL anthology

We skipped the elevator and took the outside stairs all the way down to the pool. Middle of the week, the hotel was kind of deserted, except for the boys at the other end, splashing each other in their tiny trunks. I took off my shoes, sat on the edge of the pool, and stuck my calves in cold water. Amused me to no end when David Francis knelt down, untied his wingtips, pulled off his socks, and rolled up his trousers. His bare feet hit the water with a quick plunk as he took a cigarette from me and we wallowed in a silence of mistakes.

“How the hell did you knock a woman up? Half the country is hungry for your sperm.”

He exhaled a cloud of white that floated on a wave of classic Beach Boys. And we’ll have fun, fun, fun … “We used a condom. I don’t know.”

“She probably poked holes in it.”

His tall brow furrowed. “But it was my condom.”

I rolled smoke around my mouth—a cancerous jawbreaker. “Maybe the baby isn’t yours.”

“Maybe. So what kind of man cheats on a woman who looks like you?”

“It’s not all about looks, dude. I can be a real bitch.” I tossed ash right into the crystal clear water. Death to imaginary fishes.

He chuckled, but the sound came out through his nose, so it was half hiss, half deep rumble. I didn’t like seeing him that way. I don’t mean his pale calves in the water; he had nice calves. I mean shoulders slumped with pathetic face. In a movie, David once squeezed a guy’s head until his eyes popped out. Now, some crazy wench had him trapped via crotch fruit?

Oh, Jesus, but what did he see in me? Jaded, washed up thirty-year-old in a slutty dress. I probably had pathetic face on, too.

You know that moment when everything seems so clear? Like when you’re really drunk and you suddenly realize no amount of water is gonna sober you up? Water. We needed water.

I grabbed the front of his navy blue suit and leaned back. I had just enough time to watch him flail before my head went under, which was the first time I learned they played Little Mermaid ballads beneath the surface of the Clarendon hotel pool. I opened my eyes, holding onto him for dear life, and shit, David even looked hot under water. Pathetic face was gone, replaced by something like glee. Glee or horror, I suppose. Depended on how expensive that suit was.

We came up for air, both sputtering, laughing. I looked past six stories of balconies and the edges of white umbrellas on the roof to that cheerful cerulean sky and wished for a big strike of lightning. Bring it, God. Go ahead.

But then his hands were on my waist, and those lips of his were good for more than just talking—they were good for kissing. Naw, they were fantastic for kissing. We both tasted like chlorine-soaked ashtrays, and yet, our tongues shoved, lips sucked, and teeth nibbled, nibbled. My hands latched onto his ears like handlebars and tugged him underwater again. I’d never done much underwater kissing, but I give it two thumbs up—big thumbs—especially when his hand made it up my dress.

(Read the rest of “Breathing Underwater” and the HOTEL anthology in all its gorgeous glory. Buy your copy HERE.)

The Clarendon Hotel pool in Phoenix.