31 August 2013

Book Release - Falling to Pieces

Falling to Pieces went live on Amazon yesterday, and is free today for five days. I wrote this on Thursday as part of Joe Konrath's 8 Hour eBook Challenge.

A man tries to deal with the horror of a zombie outbreak.

"Jerome held his breath, pressing up against the side of the deserted building, praying to whoever or whatever might be listening that he wouldn’t be seen, wouldn’t be heard. Groaning and shuffling reached his ears, heralding the approach of the hordes of undead."

I've never written a zombie story before, so I'd love to hear if I've done the genre justice.

23 August 2013

Review of Rescuing Lacey by Rebecca Heflin

Rescuing LaceyRescuing Lacey by Rebecca Heflin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Why are the main leads in a romantic novel always "irresistible" to each other? I understand that there is a formula, and I can live with that, but sometimes it just makes me groan. Too much predictability bores me.

The very first word of this book is "f***ing." The very first word! Nothing in the summary warned me of this, and I don't like foul language, so it really bothered me. I almost put the book down right there. I probably should have. Strangely, f*** is the only swear I noticed, and it was used a few more times, but not as often as I expected after that opening. Did Rebecca Heflin think this was a good way to hook readers? Well, it just made me angry.

When Luke and Lacey meet, they feel an immediate sexual attraction to each other. Now, I guess this happens sometimes in real life, but it just seems unrealistic to me that it would happen so often as it does in fiction. When I met my husband, I didn't feel an instant connection; the attraction slowly developed over time.

Luke is described from Lacey's POV as "├╝ber masculine." Lacey is described from Luke's POV as "almost boyish." This is another trope I see a lot in romantic fiction that really bothers me. Why is every female lead slim and small-breasted? Where are the curvy, voluptuous, plus-size women? Why don't we get to be romantic leads? And why is every male lead tall, muscular, and, well, an alpha male? Where are the geeks? Where are the non-athletes?

Speaking of POV, there's a lot of head-jumping in this book. I don't mind changing POVs, but there's no warning here. It often happens in the middle of a paragraph. And then, near the end of the book, after I got used to jumping back and forth between Luke and Lacey, suddenly we're in Luke's friend Tony's head. That really threw me for a loop.

Another thing that threw me for a loop was the overuse of obscure words. Now, I'm the first one to love a cool word. I've been accused of using too many big words myself. But when I have to stop every couple of pages to look up the definition, that's a little much. Thank God Kindle has a built-in dictionary. But then, I came across this little gem: proprioception." Kindle says "No definition found." I had to close the book and look it up on Dictionary.com. Not cool.

My final beef with this book includes spoilers:
(view spoiler)[When Lacey tries to seduce Luke, he refuses her because he wants her to tell him about her past. He thinks she doesn't trust him, and he doesn't want just a fling. He wants her to be open and honest with him, and she won't do that. She won't let down her guard and tell him about her experiences in war zones. Then, just a day or two later, he forgets all about this and beds her anyway when she hasn't told him anything yet. This really bothers me, because it ruins his character, making him compromise his morals just for a little sex. Oh, wait. I forgot. She's irresistible. Gag me. (hide spoiler)]

To be fair, it isn't all bad. The sentences were mostly well-crafted, with few grammar and spelling errors. Ms. Heflin is a competent writer. I just wanted something more than competence.

View all my reviews

19 August 2013

My Review of Man of Steel

I've mentioned before that I have a thing for nice guys. One of my earliest geeky crushes was Clark Kent, who is one of the nicest guys (if not the nicest guy) in comic books. From a very young age, I wanted to be Lois Lane. Although, she can drive me crazy with the blind stupidity some writers give her. (Seriously, she’s an investigative reporter who is trying to find out who Superman really is, and Clark Kent works with her, and they end up dating even. How she doesn't figure it out has made for some really convoluted atrocities of plots.)

This past Saturday, I watched the new Man of Steel movie. I love this Lois Lane. The writers haven’t handicapped her with the unreasoning blindness I hate so much. I want to be this Lois Lane. And I have a new favourite Superman movie.

Before this past weekend, there was one movie on the list of “Movies That Made Me Cry Within the First 10 Minutes:” Up. Now, there are 2 movies on the list. The opening sequence of Man of Steel gives us Kal El’s birth, and follows the events leading up to when his parents, Jor El and Lara, send him to the stars. Lara’s pain at being separated from her newborn son was so real, so raw, I couldn't hold back the tears.

It is very difficult to write a character like Clark Kent, and do it well. Not only is he a completely good person, he is invulnerable. Most enemies can’t come close to being a real threat. Bullets bounce off him, he can walk through fire untouched, and he can fly. The only real weakness he has is to kryptonite radiation.

Smallville does a really good job of humanizing Clark, and giving him some non-physical weaknesses, but the movies have to create a bigger spectacle, give him an enemy that threatens him physically. One movie I watched a few years ago (I think it was Quest For Peace), created an enemy who wore a suit that essentially stole Superman’s powers. The stronger Superman was, the stronger the bad guy was. I seem to remember Lois and Jimmy placing a piece of kryptonite on Superman’s chest so the bad guy would be weak enough for the police or the army or something to capture. It wasn't a very good movie.

Man of Steel, however, has an excellent villain. General Zod isn't evil for the sake of being evil. He doesn't want power for the sake of power. He is that rare and wonderful antagonist who believes that he is right, that what he is doing is the best thing he can do. And what he is trying to do isn't completely wrong; it is his methods that bring him into conflict with Clark. And the conflict isn't merely Clark vs. Zod. SPOILER ALERT! Clark has only recently discovered that he is from Krypton, and that the planet died; Zod is another survivor, a fellow Kryptonian, and he offers a chance to rebuild their world. They don’t have to be the last Kryptonians. However, in order to do this, humanity must be destroyed. No matter what he does, Clark loses: if he joins Zod and rebuilds Krypton, his adoptive world and people are lost; if he stops Zod and saves Earth, his birth people are lost. In the end, he makes the only choice he can, considering his character.

Before he knows what Zod wants, though, Clark has another choice to make: Zod threatens to kill every human on Earth if Kal El doesn't surrender himself. Clark hesitates, not because he fears for himself, but because he doesn't trust Zod not to kill everyone either way. He’s right, of course, Zod’s plan has always been to build a new Krypton on the bones of the humans who stand in his way. Again, Clark makes the choice that is in character.

And here is where the movie got really interesting for me.

The original purely good person, Christ Jesus of the New Testament, is the model for everyone who follows. In university, I learned that a character who fits this mold is called a “Christ figure.” I am fascinated with this idea. There are many characters who can be said to fit in some way or another (few fit perfectly). Aslan, Gandalf the Grey, Frodo Baggins (even Aragorn Elessar), Luke Skywalker, and Sailor Moon are just a few.

In Man of Steel, Clark Kent is 33 years old, which is the age at which Jesus began his ministry. Clark is not of our world, and his father sent him here. Most telling of all, when he surrenders to the military so they can “hand him over” to Zod, he makes it very clear to them that he is in control, not them. Just like when Jesus said, “I lay down my life... No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17b-18a NIV) Of course, Kal El doesn't actually die, but he does have to make sacrifices, like I mentioned before.

This is the first time I've really thought of Clark Kent as being a Christ figure. I can’t believe how blind I was (maybe I have more in common with the old version of Lois than I thought). I guess I never really noticed because he’s never sacrificed himself before. (Or did he? What about the Doomsday plot in the comics? Maybe I am blind.)

Now, this is a summer blockbuster movie, so they had to include some big explosions and the like. And they gave Superman an enemy who can actually threaten him. Zod is from Krypton, so our yellow sun gives him the same powers it gives Kal El. This makes him Clark’s equal physically. Furthermore, Zod was born to be a warrior and has trained his entire life. Clark grew up on a farm, and his greatest physical struggle was adapting to an alien atmosphere, which wasn't really that hard. Clark has never had much trouble with anything physical. He can lift anything, and nothing on Earth can hurt him. Zod and his allies are a shock to him.

And Clark is alone in his fight. Lois and the “ghost” of Jor El (some kind of computerized construct of his memories) do their best to help, but when it comes down to it, Clark must face Zod alone. And Zod is not alone; he has a squad of Kryptonians with him. So truly, this is a fight that Clark cannot hope to win. Yet, somehow, he does. I’m a little hazy on the details here, but it seems that 33 years spent adapting to Earth’s atmosphere gives him that edge he needs, or something.

After the obligatory fight scenes between Clark and the Kryptonian criminals, the movie ends with a kiss between Lois and Clark and a new, uneasy truce between Superman and the military. I walked out of the theatre unsure how I felt about the film as a whole, and I’m still conflicted. It was definitely the best Superman movie I've seen, but the climactic fight was confusing and strange, and the ending was disappointing. I loved it, but I wished for something more.

14 August 2013

My Name is Esther, and I am a Ginger

If you want to completely lose your faith in humanity, do a Google search for "Ginger Jokes." For even more depravity, look at the images. Some of them say "No offense intended"—as if that makes it okay. If you don't intend to offend, don't post it.

I am a redhead; aka a ginger. So are one of my brothers, one of my brothers-in-law, both of my sisters-in-law, and three of my nephews. While I was growing up, I used to say my hair was "copper-coloured." I was very literal as a child, and "red" was the colour of Ronald McDonald's hair, not mine. I never heard the word "ginger" used to describe hair until I read Harry Potter. I like it, though. It makes me think of gingerbread and Christmas. It's a warm and comforting word, with just a hint of spice. I'd like to think it suits me.

Unfortunately, I discovered soon after I read Harry Potter, there is a lot of hate for gingers. I don't know where it comes from, but a quick Google search indicates that it might be racism against Irish (even though many Scottish are redheads too). It seems the idea is that gingers have no souls. From reading fantasy and historical fiction, I was aware that in the past, some people believed that redheads were magical. Whether you thought they were evil or not depended on your view of magic, I guess. Now, I like to call myself a vampire because of my pale skin and my tendency to burn in the sun, but that doesn't mean I have no soul.

The first time I saw the picture on the right, it was before I was aware of the "gingers have no soul" thing, and I read it as "gingers can get any man because they're just that awesome." I still like that reading better than the "no soul" thing. I have met many a man who thinks redheaded women are the most beautiful of women—I married one of them.

(Grammar Templar comment: I didn't make this poster. I don't know why the comma is there. Yes, I know it shouldn't be there. Yes, it is a comma splice. Yes, it drives me crazy, too.)

Harry Potter is one of my all-time favourite book series, and I really identify with the Weasley family. I am the oldest of eight children, and I have only one sister. The Weasleys have only seven children, but if they had one more girl, they would practically be my family. Well, my sister and I are the two oldest, and Ginny is the youngest, but still. The only other difference is that we have only two gingers: me and my fourth brother. Everybody always said how lucky my parents were to get two redheads as we are so rare. The idea of a whole family of gingers is such a cool idea, but the odds against it happening in real life are astronomical.

Tell me these kids aren't adorable. I dare you.
I've heard that gingers are a dying breed, because the gene that causes red hair is recessive, so slowly but surely there are less and less redheads born and, one day, there will be no more ever again.

Then my sister married a ginger and they had two kids who are both gingers. And my third brother had a kid who's a ginger. So my family is doing our part to keep the trait going into the next generation.

Anyway, back to the Weasleys. I saw an interview with James and Oliver Phelps who play the twins Fred and George. They said when they got the roles, they went back to their school and told everyone, but no one believed them. Then, the next day, they showed up at school with their hair dyed ginger, and everyone was like, "Well, there's no way you would dye your hair ginger for any other reason!" Because, you know, no one wants to be ginger! Well, talk to my sister. She's always saying she wishes she had red
hair. Also, talk to Doctor Who. It's a running joke on the show that every time he regenerates, he wants to be ginger, but he never is, and that is very disappointing for him.

(Yes, I know they call him "The Doctor" on New Who, not "Doctor Who." I know there are many people who hate when people call him "Doctor Who." I don't care. He was Doctor Who in the credits on the original show. Yes, I know I may get some hate for this. Hey, I'm a ginger. I'm used to it.)

Another side of the whole thing is the phrase "red-headed stepchild." I did a bit of Googling on this, and it seems that it comes from the idea that if two non-gingers have a ginger child, the father assumes that his wife was unfaithful to him and the kid isn't his. "Stepchild" here is used as a euphemism for "bastard." This child then gets treated poorly, leading to the phrase meaning something like "second-class citizen." Well, my mom was brunette and my dad was blond, and he never assumed either me or my red-headed brother weren't his. While the red-headed gene is recessive, it can pop up unexpectedly. Both of my parents had uncles and other distant relatives with red hair. Both of my parents had Irish and Scottish blood in their history. My brother and I got the red hair legitimately.

I would love to have red-headed children, but I will love them just as much if they have brown, blond, or black hair. By the way, I hate blond jokes, too. I think it's just as bad to stereotype someone because of the colour of their hair as it is to stereotype them because of the colour of their skin. It's all wrong. I am proud to be a ginger.

I leave you with this picture of Molly Weasley. She is one of my favourite gingers.

07 August 2013

What is Truth? (A Triolet)

Morgan Dragonwillow asked the following questions as a poetry prompt:

  1. What does truth mean to you?
  2. What is your truth?
  3. Do you know what your truth is?

Here is my response in triolet form:

What is Truth?

One unerring mark of the love of truth is not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant.
~John Locke
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
~Flannery O’Connor
What is truth?
~Pontius Pilate

I asked my neighbour, “What is truth?
“Is it the same for you and me?”
He answered me in words uncouth.
I asked my grandma, “What is truth?
She smiled and showed her single tooth.
“Truth is truth, do you not see?”
I asked the world, “What is truth?
“Is it the same for you and me?”