Thursday, November 9, 2017

Disconnecting is now "a thing"

I deleted my Facebook account this week. I bragged (somewhere) about doing that before, but I did keep a shadow account so I could maintain a Facebook author page. Finally, after a few years of FB making it harder and harder for anyone to see my posts there, I decided it wasn't worth it. So I deleted my page and I deleted my personal account, which had all of 30 friends on it.

And it feels so good.

A day before that I deleted my Instagram (I'd been on for less than a year), Tumblr, and Pinterest accounts. At some point all of them became primarily vehicles for ads (or sponsored posts), and everything they told us about how to tweak our preferences so we only saw the things we'd be interested in was a lie (at least it was for me). I like visual inspiration as much as the next person, but not enough to tolerate what passes for social media now.

I got rid of my Twitter account a while ago, but in that case it wasn't because they were selling to me as it was that it only wanted to show me the most extreme content that was sure to get more of a reaction (or rise) out of me. You know what the world looks like when you're surrounded by those kinds of posts and opinions? It's a scary place, and darker than I could let my web get.
I'm still on LinkedIn, but frankly I'm not going to need much of an excuse to get off of that, either. Of all of the platforms, it's the most disappointing. That's the place where I should find the most useful information, not memes, inspirational posts, or ads (no matter how business focused they are). I thought it was a problem with the contacts I had, but after culling almost 30% of them I'm still seeing updates that have no relevance to me or anything I'm interested in.

I'm also still on Goodreads, but only because I fell in with a community of local writers I really enjoy who want to use that as our primary forum. But I'm no longer telling Goodreads what books I've read or want to read, and I've whittled my list of contacts there as well. There's sooo many ads there, too, plus they keep trying to send me to Amazon to buy things.

And speaking of Amazon: I'm not posting book reviews there unless someone has a really, really good reason for me to do so. I've been reviewing there for almost two decades, but in the last two years it's become so much more trouble than it's worth. I understand why they felt they needed to privilege the reviewers who bought their items, but I'm not going to buy something I read from a library just to have the pleasure of seeing my review on Amazon's site. Right now, if you want to see my reviews, please check out my profile on the Boston Public Library website. It's not as sexy, but I'm enough of a library geek that I still get a thrill out of having any kind of presence there at all.
I was nervous about writing this because I didn't want to come off as a retrogressive Luddite (again…), but I shouldn't have been. Disconnecting is a thing.

This is what I'm saying!
This is what I'm saying!

The true genesis for me was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It doesn't take much tidying in the real world to force you to realize that you're not deriving nearly as much joy from your time-consuming online life as you should be.

But I started to feel that I needed to take action when I heard about this study earlier this fall. In short, just having your smartphone in the room with you, even if you can't touch it, is distracting enough that it affects your ability to solve problems. Then I saw this video. You don't have to be a millennial in order to be affected by your smartphone (or social media). Since watching this, I started keeping my phone in another room while I sleep--and now I. Sleep. So. Well.

Even at my peak social popularity, I never achieved the kind of fame that exposes so many people to the kind of abuse Jack Monroe describes here. Her solution is perhaps the cleverest still: downgrade the phone so it's impossible to be constantly barraged by social media (and abusive messages). Life goal now: go get a flip phone (if they still sell them).

But it was the last post that confirmed for me that I'm not an outlier. It's not that Nathan Bransford is an authority on lifestyle trends; he's actually an author and publishing professional. I came across his blog as I was going through recommendations from my blog feeder and saw his post on disconnecting.

Serendipity? Universal truth? Something in between? I can't say, but my calendar and my life have opened up as I've pulled back. I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) and I’ve written over 12,000 words so far. My home is cleaner, and I’m reading so much more than I have in months. And I’m excited about things again—like blogging. So expect to hear a lot more from me in the coming months.

I’m not recommending that everyone disconnect to the extent that I have, and as Monroe points out in her post, for some people social media and smartphones are the only way they’re going to have contact with the people. But I am going to say that if you’ve been feeling like everything is just too much, it’s okay to play with letting go of them.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Everett Exorcism by Lincoln Cole (New Release, Occult Thriller/Urban Fantasy, Guest Post) Something strange is happening in the city of Everett, Washington and Father Niccolo Paladina is tasked with investigating possible demonic activity. Nothing is as it seems, however, and things quickly begin spiraling out of his control. 

When his path crosses with that of an old rival, they discover that things are worse in Everett than either of them could ever have imagined. As his world collapses around him, Niccolo will be left with one terrible question: what is my faith worth?


Watch the trailer! 


Guest post by Lincoln Cole

I love anti-heroes. I love reading about someone who struggles against their own internal demons to try and become a better person. I enjoy watching television shows like Supernatural, and my favorite movie is "The Thirteenth Warrior". A lot happens in that movie to bring the main character up to speed with the world he's been thrust into, and it is handled with clarity and simplicity. I enjoy watching the journey that characters go through to become wholly different people. It's fascinating to watch them make mistakes and then learn from them to become better (or worse) characters as their journey progresses.

Many newer movies, sadly, focus more on the effects and visualizations of the movie rather than the substance. In many cases, this will leave them looking pretty but having no heart. One of the most recent movies that came out that focused more on the story than on the visuals was the adaption of Stephen King's "IT". King's books have always focused on characters more than plot (for example, the newest Netflix release, "Gerald's Game", takes place almost exclusively in a single bedroom and focuses solely on the emotion and history of the female protagonist). There is something lacking in big visual movies when the characters are secondary to the experience.

I want to read about Byronic heroes and people who struggle against their own inner demons. This has influenced my story telling, as well, because it also means I enjoy writing about characters who have a lot of problems and can't seem to find their way in life. It reflects real people, too, because no one is all good, and no one is all bad either. There is a central question that my newest book series sort of revolves around, and that is: 'is anyone really beyond redemption?'

The Everett Exorcism is about an anti-hero trying to find a new path in his life that gives him the redemption he so desperately wants. He's lost everything that matters to him and made some rash decisions because of it, but now he's resolved to turn himself into a better person. The question is, though, where does one even begin such a journey? I think this is something we all face in our everyday lives, though not normally with demon possession or occult activity looming!

When I wrote my first horror novel, Raven's Peak, part of it included an introduction to a character known as the Reverend who has detached himself from the world and locked himself in a prison. He knows that he's a danger to everyone around him, so his exile and imprisonment was self-inflicted. That story sort of uses his struggle as a launchpad into something completely different, which was fine for that series, but after I was finished I felt like there was a lot more to this man's story than just what we see in Raven's Peak. So, if you're interested in horror and thriller mashups about heroes with a sordid past trying to figure out who they want to be, you should check out my newest novel, The Everett Exorcism!

Lincoln Cole is a Columbus-based author who enjoys traveling and has visited many different parts of the world, including Australia and Cambodia, but always returns home to his pugamonster and wife. His love for writing was kindled at an early age through the works of Isaac Asimov and Stephen King and he enjoys telling stories to anyone who will listen.

If you would like to sign up for his newsletter and receive news and special offers, then please visit his website.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

New Releases, Pre-Orders, and New Covers

Did you notice the new covers? When I started publishing in 2013, people remarked that my covers 1) were gorgeous (Keri at Alchemy Book Covers is very talented!) and 2) stood out from the crowd. In the last four years, however, that started to turn into a liability: not only are most books in the New Adult Romance category almost all based on photos, they're also a lot racier.

I didn't feel like I could justify selling something with scantily clad models, but I could make the covers fit the current market better. Erin Cawood jumped on the chance to remake my covers and streamline the look of the series. I'm chuffed, and readers who come to my site now will immediately get a sense of what my series is about.

Speaking of which: My short story, The Ghosts of Alex Sheldon, was released last week. Please grab a copy if you haven't already! And the finale (!!!) Justice, Mercy and Other Myths is coming out October 9th and is available now for pre-orders.

I hope you like them!

~~~ tried to take everything away from Alex Sheldon, but they didn't take enough. Someone thought they'd closed all the doors to opportunity, but they didn't see the ones that opened into people's worst impulses. Alex was used to power, and he was done with regret. He opened those doors with his eyes wide open and started to replace what he'd lost. He became the man everyone thought he was capable of being, and he was going to make sure nothing compromised him again.

You can't have a conscience when you casually plan a murder and calculate the profit of another human being's suffering. So why are all of his ghosts visiting him as he makes his way home to put his plan of revenge into motion? Someone might almost say that he's haunted.

Even a man like Alex needs to be wary: sooner or later, we all start to look like the company we keep. one person was ever able to fight Alex Sheldon head on. Is that the same person who finally stopped him?

A man like Alex always has a long list of enemies: Lucy Bartolome, the wealthy socialite he blackmailed for decades; Michael Abbot, Miranda Harel, and Richard Hendrickson, all of whom lost parents because of him; David Hwang, the squeaky clean politician who found himself caught in a deal with the devil; Hilary Sayles, the inept madame Alex kept under his thumb; and Mariela, the young woman who almost died when she was trapped in his web. Detective Robert Teague knows the players all too well, but his gut is telling him that Hannah Bruges, the young woman who's been taking the law into her own hands for a decade, is keeping him from putting it all together. If only she wasn't the most exciting thing to happen to him in years, he might still be able to solve this thing.

Hannah has a piece of information that's not only going to change the course of the murder investigation, it's also going to make him and everyone else question a case he thought he'd closed years ago, one that almost cost him his job. What Robert really needs to see is how he fits in, because as soon as he does, everything else will fall into place.

Everyone needs to be careful what they wish for, because solving the murder is nothing compared to living with the answer.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Bitter Past: An Ellie Matthews Novel by Caroline Fardig (New Release)

While Caroline was snarking about Buddy the Elf last week, she was also plotting bringing out a new mystery series. Cannot wait to dig into this and be absolutely freaked out.

From USA Today bestselling author Caroline Fardig comes a gripping new forensic mystery series.

Three years ago, criminalist Ellie Matthews was blindsided when a grisly homicide case suddenly became personal.  She abandoned the danger and stress of crime scene investigation for a professorship at a posh private college and never looked back.

Now, Ellie’s pleasant world is shattered when she finds the dead body of a female student.  The campus is in chaos, reporters are circling like vultures, and Ellie is trying her best to distance herself from the situation.  Not an easy task when her closest colleague becomes the prime suspect.

After the college community is rocked by another suspicious death, Ellie’s mentor, Sheriff Jayne Walsh, convinces her to consult on the case.  Partnered with quick-witted Detective Nick Baxter, Ellie reluctantly bottles up her personal demons and dives back into the world she left behind, racing to make sense of the evidence before the killer strikes again.

Find it on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bringing Back That Lovin' Feelin', or Rebooting the Seventies

When I was discussing this follow up blog hop with Caroline, what immediately came to mind was James Bond. Because what franchise has been more sensitive to the ebbs and flows of time and favor? In English: Dude, they’ve been making movies for 55 years, so obviously some of them are going to be better than others.

When Bond is good, he’s very good, and Sean Connery was a tough act for everyone after him to follow. When people think of Bond, his is the image that pops into their heads. And well it should.

I’ve already written about how Jack Lord stole the show in Dr. No, but only just barely. I have no problem publicly admitting that teenage me watched that whole movie wide-eyed (and maybe with my mouth slightly open). Connery’s Bond was smart, clever (unless he was up against Felix Leiter), tough, and, well, incredibly easy on the eyes.

Just hanging out
I lusted after the 1962 version of Connery in 1990. There, I said it. But he wasn’t the only thing that made Dr. No a really good movie. The plot was discernible (people, if you’ve seen Bond movies since then, you know what I’m talking about), the opening sequence (both the music and the action) was contemporary and even bordered on suspenseful, and Jamaica, while being both fun and cosmopolitan, made sense as a location for all kinds of nefarious activity in the ex-pat community.

ursula andress.jpg
The Bond Girl by which all others are measured
And...Ursula Andress did not suck as the Good Bond Girl. Yes, yes, yes, her character's name is Honey Ryder (get it???), she’s only half-dressed for the majority of the movie, and she’s one of Bond’s more naive companions. (And, as an aside, I’m probably not the only one who spent a couple of years comparing my body to hers.) But she could also take care of herself, beyond being willing to draw a knife on Bond when she met him. When she told him how she slowly killed her rapist with a poisonous spider, even he was taken aback.

Dr. No was an almost perfect Bond movie, so of course everything that followed suffered a little bit by comparison. And sadly, it must be said that the late Roger Moore changed Bond, and not for the better. His movies made Bond seem a hell of a lot more cerebral than he had been before, but not in the good way. And the camp factor was off the charts; I’m talking Adam West’s Batman campiness, you know? Having seen Moore in The Saint, I continue to scratch my head about the choices the writers and producers made: he had a proven ability to be suave, smart, and scrappy/street fighter tough. He could have been a really great Bond, but instead he’s the one we associate with the cringiness of the franchise.

So much potential
One of the worst Bonds ever made, on so many different levels
My enthusiasm for the two Bonds who followed was hampered as much by low expectations as it was by the times they were made in. Timothy Dalton is another actor who has done a really good job in many other things (if you haven’t already seen him in Hot Fuzz, stop reading this and go watch it right now), but the tone of his Bond was off; it was almost as if he was pushed a little bit to the background of the movies. And while I loved Pierce Brosnan on Remington Steele (when is someone going to revive that?), they also played him a little too campy and sarcastic. The fierce and deadly factor Connery brought to the screen was gone.

We are not screwing around anymore
And then it wasn’t. I have to admit, I didn’t have high hopes when I heard that Daniel Craig was cast as the next Bond, but maybe that’s why I’ve been so happy with him. Let’s agree that while  they got rid of a lot of the camp they might have done it at the expense of the character’s humor; now let’s say that in the times we live in maybe we don’t have the luxury of laughing at messy world relations. Bond and the rest of MI6 are taking their jobs very seriously now, and Craig’s version of the character is deadly, haunted, and ready to pounce at any moment.

She almost can't be called a Bond Girl
This is the first time we’ve gotten a close look at the psyche of Bond, and it’s about as pretty as you’d expect for an assassin. And while this Bond sleeps around about as much as the others, his romantic entanglements are likelier to get under his skin. His affair with the doomed Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) was intense (and convincing) enough that we can understand why it took three more films to exorcise her.

This is also the first time I’ve been enthusiastic about his whole team. M (first Judi Dench, then Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whitshaw), and even Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) are badass on their own, and they put Bond in his place a little more forcefully than their predecessors. Good. And even Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) is bringing more force and complexity to the role than we’ve seen since, well, Jack Lord’s version.

The films haven’t been perfect: there’s something a little too serious and dark about some of the last few, to the point where it feels like they’re trying to be “better” than a Bond film with all of the psychosis. Just be Bond, that’s all we want.

Bond’s an example of something that started strong out of the gate and then lost focus before it got it back. On the other hand, Battlestar Galactica is something that started out in the Seventies with silly written all over it and then found its footing decades later to be the great show we always believed it could be.

One big happy family...
The premise for both the Seventies and Aughts version is the same: a small group of pantheistic human beings have just barely escaped annihilation (dare we say, genocide?) at the hands of the Cylons, a race of robots or cyborgs that humans built but quickly lost control of, assisted by the treacherous Gaius Baltar. The best promise for what’s left of the human race is the mythical planet Earth, and Captain Adama is in charge of finding it while he evades Cylon attempts to finish their job.

The Seventies version made it one season, and it was foolish very quickly. There was a lot of emphasis on cute robots and pets, cameos (e.g., Fred Astaire!), and clunky standalone plots that were reminiscent of the third season of Star Trek: The Original Series. It was an example of something that showed a lot of promise and got a lot of buzz, but by the time it was canceled many viewers were already done.

but they might kill each other before the Cylons can
By contrast, the rebooted BSG was uncomfortable to watch from the first episode on, when newly installed President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) chose to abandon several ships so the rest of the fleet could escape. In this reboot, Gaius Baltar (James Callis) had no idea that he was dealing with the Cylons—in part because his contact was a gorgeous woman, Six (Tricia Helfer). Finding out that the Cylons now looked like humans added an element of suspense throughout the series, especially as we tried to figure out the identities of the last five “models”. Trying to figure out what the Cylons really wanted (“the plan”) was also a big hook, never mind that one of the executive producers recently admitted that they didn’t really have a master plan. The truth was that they wanted many things, and chief among them was to be able to create new models: i.e., have children.

You don’t run a compelling series strictly on the back of protagonist and antagonist. The humans were frequently at cross-purposes with each other, whether it was murky family dynamics (Captain Bill Adama was an absentee father to Commander Lee “Apollo” Adama), personal demons (the only person more screwed up than Colonel Saul Tigh was Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” (!) Thrace), and messy relationships (Callie loves Galen, who loves Sharon, who’s really a Cylon, and one of her copies, Athena, loves Helo; Kara and Lee have been fighting feelings for each other since she was his late brother’s fiancee; Gaius is so obsessed with Six that she comes to him in prophetic visions; Tigh’s wife Ellen frequently carouses with other men, in part because he’s always been more devoted to his job—and Bill—than he is to their marriage; etc.). And then there was the dizzying politics and philosophy: President Roslin and Captain Adama’s (Edward James Olmos) frequent clashes over the best course for their people; Roslin’s decision to fix an election to stop Baltar and then her subsequent confession; terrorist-turned-vice president-turned-terrorist Tom Zarek (the late Richard Hatch, who played Apollo in the original version); the question of whether terrorism was justified when a colony was overrun by Cylons; and whether torture is justified when it’s a matter of life and death (watch the award-nominated episode "Pegasus" before you answer). And that’s just some of it.

It was a show that asked uncomfortable, timely questions, and that’s why so many of us couldn’t stop watching (Portlandia captured perfectly what happened to me and my husband one weekend). There were a lot of complaints about the ending, and maybe it was wrapped in too neat a bow, but it was still something I loved so much that I’ve forgotten how much the original disappointed me.

Thank you for reading! Please let me know in the comments what you think of old and new Bond and BSG in the comments, and then head on over to Jami for the last edition of the Bring Back That Lovin’ Feelin’ blog hop.