Friday, June 28, 2013

Top Five Paranormal Countdown - #2


 Hey, folks. I’m sharing with you my all-time favorite paranormal fantasy series, and I am having so much fun with this! This week I'm sure many of you will agree with me that number two should at least be on the list, but first let's review the countdown so far...
#5  The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer
#4 The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs
       #3 The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead

 
This week, let's take a look at the series that came in at number two, Charlaine Harris's popular Sookie Stackhouse novels, the inspiration for the smash HBO hit, True Blood.

 

What I liked…

Vampires coming out of the closet
I don’t know where this idea originated, but the Sookie Stackhouse series was the first place I encountered it, and I think it is a brilliant concept, changing the human/supernatural dynamic in intriguing ways and opening up an array of possible story lines.

The heroine…
I love Sookie. I loooooove Sookie. She is the best Southern heroine I’ve ever run across in literature. Southern Hospitality has nothing to do with goodwill, you know. It’s a code to live by, and woe to any who don’t abide by it. In Sookie’s case, that goes for vampires, shifters, fae, and the occasional foolish human who crosses her. And throughout whatever’s going on, she means well… really.

The titles…
… are very clever. The series may have finally ended when  Ms. Harris ran out of puns with the word ‘Dead.’


Sookie is part Fae…
… and we don’t even know through the first few books. I love the struggle she has initially with her mind-reading powers.

The sex…
Sookie’s a bit of a slut, but who can blame her? All the men she sleeps with, dead and alive, have their admirable qualities. You go, girl.

Lots of action…
These books go at a breakneck pace. Sookie is on the run most of the time. She doesn’t get enough sleep, and neither do I when I’m reading one of these books!

True Blood…
I actually watched the HBO show through half of the first season before I picked out Charlaine Harris’ name buried in the credits, at which point I went out and bought the books as fast as I could. I think the show is great. After season two, HBO got removed from my cable package and I wasn’t willing to pay the outrageous fee required for an upgrade. As far as I could tell, the series was pretty true to the first two books. The most notable exception to me was the retention of Lafayette’s character, killed off in the first book, but which was just too-well played by Nelsan Ellis to get rid of in the show.

What I didn’t like…

True Blood…
Am I wishy-washy, or what? I know I just praised the series. The problem is, I can’t read about Sookie now without picturing Anna Paquin. Not that I would ever object to a picture of Anna Paquin in my mind, and I think she makes a great Sookie, but there is a subtle difference between the Sookie of True Blood and the Sookie of Charlaine Harris. It is likewise with most of the other characters. Strangely enough, this is the first time that I’ve "seen the movie" before "reading the book." I’m not sure I like it this way. I think it has restricted my imagination.
 
The series is too long…
I’ve not read any interviews with Ms. Harris where she may have shared her thoughts on the matter, but I can imagine there might have been myriad pressures to continue the series past its prime. The thirteenth, and final, Sookie novel came out in May, and reviews have been lackluster. In fact, the last two books are still on my TBR list, and I notice the customer reviews on Amazon are averaging around three out of five stars, a far cry from the initial magic of the first five or six.

What I stole…

Nothing, except…
… maybe the fact that I tried to capture some of the Louisiana charm with the character of Cajun, Cynthia Lamelle, Heather Felton’s BFF? There will also be the issue of both the vampires and werewolves “coming out” to the general population in Red Wolf Rising, which is a major theme in Harris’ books, but will only be touched on in mine… I think. *winks*

----------------

So, there you have it, number two. What do y'all think? Leave me a comment if you agree or disagree. And come back next week for… my number one, all-time favorite paranormal series. Any guesses?
Until then... Happy Reading!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Top Five Paranormal Countdown - #3


 Hey, folks. Here in the northern hemisphere, it's the first day of summer! It's a beautiful day in Charlotte, North Carolina. I hope it's nice where you are. 
 But, enough chit-chat. I’m in the middle of sharing with you my all-time favorite paranormal fantasy book series. Here’s where we stand so far in the top-five countdown…

#5  The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer
#4 The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs

And today, coming in at number three, is Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series for Young Adults. The series follows the teenage, half-vampire, Rose Hathaway, as she finishes high school, comes of age as a Guardian, saves the world (at least her corner of it), and gets her sexy soul mate in the end.

I’d been a fan of Mead’s adult books for a while, resisting her YA offerings, until the buzz created by this series finally began to get to me and I took the plunge. There was a reason for all the hype. The series has crossed over from its genre to the general YA audience, and there is a movie in the works.
I’ve yet to be disappointed with any of Ms. Mead’s books. This chick can write!

What I liked…

The whole cast of characters…
Well, most of them anyway. Rose Hathaway is a classic YA heroine, and her BFF relationship with Lissa, which involves a bond way beyond friendship, is enough to drive the series in itself. Mead is a master (mistress?) at drawing you into the world of a character and making you fall in love with them.

The forbidden love…
The sexual chemistry between the underage (in the beginning of the series) Rose and her older instructor, Dimitri, is the best of any series I’ve read. The scenes where they are fighting or working out together, trying not to tear each other’s clothes off, are classic.

The Academy…
A school for vampires and dhampirs… need I say more? This is high school for the supernatural. There’s no need to hide what you are. The cliques, the angst, and all the dysfunctional hierarchy within such an institution that makes a YA story what it is, it’s all here.

The action…
Lots of it. I mean, lots. Rose Hathaway is relentless in getting herself into and out of physical danger without too many pages intervening.

The series ends…
     Richelle Mead knows when to call it quits with a series, while she’s on top. She drew the story out over six novels and left us wanting more, knowing she could easily have sold scads more books on the strength of what she’d already written. And she cleverly kept most of the characters we love in the background of a spinoff series that promises to be every bit as good as the original.

What I didn’t like…

Good vampires / Bad Vampires…
The Moroi are the good vampires. They only feed from volunteers and never kill them. The Strigoi are savage and blood-thirsty and kill to feed. It works for the story, but I can’t help but regard all vampires as a necessary evil. Guess I’d make a good Alchemist, huh? (One of the secret society that protects humans from knowing vampires exist, like Sydney in Mead’s Bloodlines spinoff series.)

Adrian…
Why, oh why, do girls find this kind of guy attractive and sexy, I will never understand. Unfortunately, Mead tries to redeem him by making him Sydney’s love interest in the Bloodlines spinoff. Yuck.
 


What I stole…

Nothing…
… consciously. The bond that starts to develop between Clifford and Nicole towards the end of The Dragon of Doughton Park has similar elements to Rose and Lissa’s, but I didn’t even think of the parallels until now. So, it wasn’t a conscious theft on my part. Still, I’m a huge Richelle Mead fan, and I’m sure I try to emulate her writing way more than I’m willing to admit.

----------------

Next time… number two in my top five.

Nobody guessed any of my top three last week. I even left a hint, that two of the top three were by the same author.
Soooo…
I issue the challenge again! Anyone who can guess either of my top two wins a prize. Leave a comment what you think it might be.

Until then… happy reading!


 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Top Five Paranormal Countdown - #4


 Hey, folks. I’m sharing with you my all-time favorite paranormal fantasy series, along with what I like and don't like about them and how they, ah, er, influenced my own writing (okay, what I stole from them). I'm counting down, and this week I’m up to number four. I hope you paranormal fans are following this, because I’ve really gotten into it. I hope you’ll comment if you agree or disagree, and if you have some other suggestions. If you aren’t a paranormal fantasy fan, don’t leave yet. You might find something you like. This is the good stuff.

Here’s where we stand so far…

#5 – The Twilight Saga, by Stephenie Meyer
 
    Now, for number four, let me introduce you to Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson. Mercy is a shape-shifting coyote, raised by werewolves, who is still kicking ass after seven traditional books and one graphic novel. She comes highly recommended, by me.


What I liked…
The heroine…
The tattooed, kick-ass Volkswagon mechanic named Mercedes is simply to die for, and characters often do. An extraordinary woman engaged in the never-ending struggle to make ends meet, while dealing with any number of extraordinary situations, Mercy insists on doing it all on her own terms. If she likes you, she’ll risk life and limb to help you out. If she doesn’t like you, you’re just plain up shit creek without a paddle.

The werewolves…
They are part of Mercy’s past and present. I love the pack magic and the structure of the global werewolf hierarchy. Some of the characters also appear in another series by Briggs, the Alpha and Omega stories.

The Fae…
There are some great allies and villains from the Faerie world in most of these novels, including Mercy’s former boss, who appears more than once.

Mercy’s cloudy past…
… is slowly revealed as the series progresses. I’m hoping there’s more to come.

The action…
These books are fast-paced. It’s hard to find a place to turn off the light and go to bed.

The sexual tension…
In the first three or four books, Mercy is being courted by two powerful werewolves, and the sexual tension is perfectly balanced with the action.

 

What I didn’t like…
The sexual tension fades…
Mercy chooses a mate by the fourth or fifth book, and the series shows a marked decline for me at that point. I’m still struggling to get through River Marked, mainly for that reason. I’m hoping Frost Burned, which just came out in March, will re-kindle my flame.

 
What I stole…
The omega werewolves…
Okay, technically, the omega wolves are in Briggs’ Alpha and Omega stories, but I found those while looking for more Mercy Thompson. The idea of a type of werewolf who has a calming effect on the dominant wolves and is not so much affected by the dominance of others is essential to the Red Wolf story. And it was the “what if” question, "What would a male omega wolf be like?", that was the original impetus for my own series.

----------------

 So, what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Leave me a comment.
 
  Next time… number three in my top five. Can you guess? Hey, anyone who can guess even one of the top three gets a prize. And I’ll give you a hint: two of the top three are by the same author!
    What is your all-time favorite paranormal book series? Maybe you can introduce me to one of my next top five.

   And it's just possible, you might find your next favorite in the series below. The Red Wolf novels currently enjoy an average reader rating on Amazon of 4.45 out of 5 stars!

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Top Five Paranormal Countdown - #5

         Hi, folks. Welcome to my top five paranormal series countdown!

 Ah! This is my genre, the fantasy world of the paranormal. Purists will divide it up into sub-genres of paranormal fantasy, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance, but to me the lines are blurred. Whatever you want to call it, it’s where vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, witches, and fae folk cavort. It’s where humans fall in love with supernatural beings and vice versa. It is where ordinary mortals discover the immortal within. It’s… I could go on and on.

For the last decade, I’ve immersed myself in these kinds of books. And there is no more magical moment than finding one that I like and discovering there is a series! My Kindle is currently loaded with present and future favorites, and for the next several weeks, I’m going to share with you what I consider to be my top five favorites of all time. I’ll tell you what I liked about them, what I didn’t like, and what I stole for my own paranormal series, The Red Wolf Novels.

Coming in at number five is Stephenie Meyer’s cross-over smash, The Twilight Saga. Oh, I can see some of you squirming at this pick already! The series is often maligned by paranormal purists, and I agree with many of their complaints. But I have to admit, I devoured each and every one of the four tomes (the books average over six hundred pages), and I sat through all four, uh, five movies (that’s right, they made the last one in two parts).
Why?
        I’m glad you asked.
What I liked…
The local ambience…
I love it when authors incorporate the color of the locality into their works. Forks, WA, the rainiest and gloomiest of small towns, is a perfect place for vampires to hide out, even the real kind of vampires that die in the sun. Forks is a real place, and the Twilight Saga has turned it into a major tourist destination. The true beauty of the area doesn’t come out so much in the books as it does in the movies.
 
The werewolves…
They are heroic in their purpose and purport. If there was any rightness in Meyer’s world, Bella would have ended up with Jacob.
 
Bella comes into her own…
Thank God, Bella comes out of her shell and becomes the true heroine she deserves to be in the last book.
 
The romance…
It’s really what the story is all about. Without it, the paranormal tale takes its place far back in the pack of also-rans.
 
The influence…
… this series has had on the genre is immeasurable. How many YA readers, or adults for that matter, discovered paranormal fantasy by way of Meyer’s books? Many of us authors owe her a begrudging nod of thanks for that.
 
What I didn’t like…
The romance…
Wait, didn’t I just say I liked it? Not exactly. Bella and Edward have one of the sickest, most dysfunctional relationships since Romeo and Juliet, but without as good a supporting story around it. There were times I wished I could reach into the pages and shake Bella.
 
The vampires…
Glittering in the sun? Please! I did kind of develop a thing for Alice, though. *blushes*
 
Edward…
       I… I… I… No, I just don’t get it.
What I stole…
Some of the werewolf elements…
I already told you I liked them, right? I admit this is where I lifted the idea of the lycanthropic gene existing in the human population and getting triggered by environmental factors. In the Red Wolf Novels, the gene occurs in about a hundredth of a percent of the population and can be triggered by the presence of vampires, other werewolves, or a bite. And the main reason werewolves exist is to protect humans from vampires.
 
The romance…
Just kidding. If you see any similarity between Bella and Edward and any of Clifford Crane’s dalliances, just please come and shoot me.
----------------
 
Next time… number four in my top five.
What is your all-time favorite paranormal book series? I’d love to hear your comments. Maybe you can introduce me to one of my next top five.
 
    And you might just find your next favorite paranormal series below. Check out the Red Wolf Novels, currently with an average reader rating on Amazon of 4.45 out of 5 stars!

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Quest For Coffee – The Final Countdown


 Hi, folks. Time for another blog post. Several weeks ago, I told you the sad story of my favorite coffee shop closing and how I’d begun a quest to find a replacement. I believe I’ve reached the end of this long, sad journey. It’s time to share the results and … move on.
 
      First, a last homage to the now-defunct Caribou where I wrote the bulk of my first two novels and to the pleasant, ever-smiling baristas who came to know me by name and consistently served up the best white chocolate mochas around. Like that one great love you will always compare the others to, I will miss you and forever hold you in my heart.


You can’t get there from here…

Part of my dilemma involves the fact that I don’t drive, so when the corporate fat cats at Caribou closed the shop in my neighborhood it meant I had to do some traveling to find another. I use my bicycle and public transportation to get around. Charlotte is spread out, not a bike-friendly town, and our transit system just doesn’t go everywhere. I started my search with coffee shops along my regular bus routes, to and from work.
 
The only Caribou Coffee I could get to is a small franchise in the hospital I walk past every morning between the #27 and #15 bus routes. The staff is friendly, the coffee is great, and I can always find a seat, but… jeez, it’s in a hospital! The clientele is all patients recouping from a surgery, or folks visiting sick and dying loved ones, or staff trying to keep awake on a twenty hour shift. Not a very cheery or inspiring lot. I tried writing for a few hours there one time. The vibe was way off.
 
Starbucks, of course, is everywhere. Three of them are easily accessible along my regular route. They’re all crowded or dark and gloomy and the seats are designed to make your ass go numb within the hour.

I found a wonderful Starbucks overlooking the entrance to a greenway on the other side of town. It’s an hour-and-a-half bike ride and the only bus that goes that way is a rush hour express. Basically, you can’t get there from here.

The coffee I make at home sucks…

I wasn’t a coffee drinker until recently, so I never mastered the art. Someone had pity on me last Christmas and bought me a French press, so I’ve been working on it. But, I reiterate…

The coffee I make at home sucks.

Plus, there are too many distractions at home for me to write. One of them is leaning against the shelf next to my writing table as we speak.
 
God doesn’t want me caffeinated (or to have fun ever again)…

I think I’ve fallen victim to state dependent learning. It’s a problem lots of folks recovering from alcohol and drug addictions have. When they’ve learned a skill while under the influence of some substance, they forget how to do it when they’re not high. Could it be I’ve become dependent on the combination of caffeine and coffee-shop atmosphere in order to write? My production has fallen off markedly since my Caribou closed. Yikes!

I believe there’s a higher power out there somewhere that has my best interests at heart. Could it be that this struggle of mine is God’s way of letting me know it’s time to give up caffeine? *he writes as he takes another sip* Humph. Naaaah.

But, I’ll tell you this much. I’m giving up on the search for another coffee shop. You cannot find that which you seek, Grasshopper, yet you must seek it or you will not find it. What? Who you jivin’ with that Cosmik Debris?
       I guess I’ll just have to choke down my own home brew and keep banging at the keyboard for now in hopes that this, too, shall pass.
                                              __________________________

     Next time…
     What is your all-time favorite paranormal book series? I’m going to share my favorites with you and tell you what I love and don’t love about them (and what I stole for my own paranormal books) in a top-five countdown, starting next post!

   Your next favorite paranormal series could be the Red Wolf Novels. Click on one of the links below to try 'em out.

   Until next time, Happy Reading!

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords