Wednesday, May 30, 2012

WIP Wednesday + My Hunger Games Origin Theory

Welcome to the weekly Work in Progress (WIP) Wednesday feature. Authors needed - all genres! Are you an author who'd like to share a 100- to 200-word blurb about a current work in progress on a future WIP Wednesday? If so, please send an e-mail to Erin O'Riordan (erinoriordan AT sbcglobal DOT net). 

Erin O'Riordan: In the past week, I've been editing a novel by Joe Cacciotti. It's titled Missed Opportunity. Although I have, in the past, edited novels in Joe's action-adventure Hurricane series, this one combines action with erotica and is Joe's second erotic thriller in a series. I don't believe that the first one has been published yet; last I heard, a publisher was looking at it. 

The hero is former Navy SEAL Jason Connors, and the heroine is FBI agent Susan Quinn. (Not to be confused with Susan Kaye Quinn, the young adult fiction author.) Susan, clearly, is an alpha heroine. She will not put up with shit. In Missed Opportunity, she's targeted by a serial killer with a nightmarish tendency to keep souvenirs of his victims. 

Meanwhile, Tit Elingtin and I spend an hour or so every morning reading out loud and editing the third book in the Pagan Spirits novel series, after Beltane and Midsummer Night . Its tentative title is St. James' Day

I have also finished the first draft of the zombie survivor short story, and that's also on deck, waiting to be edited. 

Having finished reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I'm now making my way through Mockingjay - somewhat disappointedly, since Pinterest spoiled a character death for me. Now, my theory of how The Hunger Games originated:
President Snow got the idea from his great-great-great-grandfather, Mark Snow...

...who had the idea to drop Reese and Stanton into China and try to make them kill each other. What was the point of telling Reese to kill Stanton while also secretly telling Stanton to kill Reese if not to find out who the stronger operative was? Sounds pretty Hunger Games to me. 

Bard Constantine contends that any fictional character named Snow must necessarily be up to no good. I can't think of any other examples, though. Perhaps if I were a reader of George R. R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series or at least watched Game of Thrones, I could tell you whether Jon Snow was a good guy or a bad guy. But I can't 'cause I don't.

The top three TV series my online friends tell me I should get into are:

1. Game of Thrones
2. Lost (Michael Emerson's previous series before Person of Interest)
3. Being Human - and I'm told the U.K. version is superior to the American version. 

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Red, White and Blue Monday ~ Memorial Day Pin-Ups

Happy Memorial Day! We celebrate it happily, because it's a federal holiday and some people get the day off from work, but actually, we're remembering the ones who died in defense of the country. It's a solemn occasion.

We have no war dead in my family. As I may have blogged once or several times before, my grandfather, at the age of 17, was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. He was wounded, and then, with the small amount of medical training he had as a pharmacist's assistant, he helped attend the wounded. After World War II, he stayed in the Navy, and also served in the Korean War. He passed away in 1994, in between my junior and senior years of high school - which is to say, when I was at the age he was when he survived Pearl Harbor.

Now let's go a little retro. I kinda already used this idea for Veteran's Day 2011, but that was before I had the aid of Pinterest.

Boys can be pin-ups, too. Oh god, the abs.

I'm loving these fishnets. (It's really too bad that the "pin-it" button covers up the young lady's face. Sorry about that.)

The fourth one, Jo-Ann, makes me laugh, because no woman sits like that, except while doing yoga.

Forgive a chick for being in crazy Catholic schoolgirl lust, but here Jim Caviezel is wearing Navy camo. I'm not entirely sure why - he did some Navy SEAL training or something.

...and of course he also played my fictional Memorial Day army boyfriend, Private Bob Witt from James Jones' novel. All I really want is to be the nurse who stitches up the gash on Witt's cheek when he gets drunk and cuts his face on a rock. Maybe while he's sleeping off his drunk, the hospital unit needs the bed for a more severe case, and I have to wake him up and send him back to his unit. Outside the door, I examine his face one more time, checking my stitches. I tell him not to shave for a few days and ask him if he's in any pain. He answers with a rather lewd suggestion, something like, "My face don't hurt, but I got this other ache you could take care of..."

Sidebar: In the movie, when Witt tells First Lieutenant Welsh, "I'm twice the man you are," I think he means to tell Welsh that he refuses to be humiliated by Welsh's punishment of busting him down to the disciplinary unit. However, I am imagining an alternative interpretation of this statement; see also In Which the Term "13-Inch" Is Thrown About Shamelessly.

I tell him I'm not that kind of girl, but eventually, after we've seen each other around a few times and know each other a little better, his rough-hewn Kentucky charm starts to wear me down. If I'm in a HEA type of mood, maybe we're even reunited when we get back to the U.S. (In the movie, Witt sacrifices himself, but at the end of the book version, Witt is alive.) Maybe, even though my character is from the Bronx or Boston or some such, she moves to Kentucky to be with him and they live on a farm and have babies.

As a literary exercise, it would be interesting to revisit a Jones novel from a female character's perspective. I think the only female character in The Thin Red Line is Bell's wife, Marty, and she's back in the States. All we know of her comes from Bell's memory and her Dear John letter.

But if I had to choose a back-up fictional army boyfriend, it would definitely be Logan Thibault.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey: My Informed Opinion

I liked Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I liked it a lot. I was a bit scared at first by Anastasia Steele’s frequent use of the word “crap,” a singularly unappealing word. However, I soon found Ana to be a relatable young woman. Who hasn’t felt overcome in the sight of a human being so attractive it should virtually be a crime? I don’t wonder why she fell so hard for Christian Grey. He’s a very attractive character.
I wanted to withhold some of my comments about this novel until I’d read into Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan of the website  (I’m about halfway through it.) I wanted to compare Fifty Shades to the romance/erotica genre as a whole – not to use genre conventions as a positive or a negative, but merely to show ways in which Fifty Shades falls inside a specific literary tradition.

Whether or not you like Fifty Shades will basically come down to whether or not you like the protagonists. Let's look into some of the reasons why Ana and Christian might, or might not be, likable characters. 

The Innocent Heroine: When the novel commences, Ana is a 21-year-old virgin. This is to be expected, because romance/erotica heroines are, by genre convention, virginal, either literally or figuratively. “One of the more peculiar constants of most romance novels,” Wendell and Tan write, “from historicals to contemporaries to paranormals and even erotica, is the sexually unawakened state of the heroine. She’s relatively innocent, as proven by her inexperience or her outright virginity. No matter what type she is, she’s definitely not the ho-type.” The Unawakened Woman is also unaware of her own beauty, a convention Ana readily embodies.

Tan and Wendell describe ten types of heroines. I feel Ana Steele falls into the category of ingénue. Her characteristics include being “young, innocent, and a tender flower, but what she lacks in experience, she more than makes up for in good humor and a surprising resiliency. She can be clueless at times, but she differentiates herself from the Too Stupid to Live heroine by displaying flashes of good sense.”

Because James wrote Fifty Shades, originally, as Twilight fan fiction, the comparison to Bella Swan from the Twilight series is a useful one. One might assume that Bella is an example of Too Stupid to Live, but Wendell and Tan specifically name Bella as an example of Doormat. Another example of Doormat is Marissa from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. (The examples of Ingénue are not ones I recognize.)

The Irresistible Heroine: No matter what her type, though, the heroine has what Wendell and Tan refer to (somewhat obnoxiously, in my opinion) as The Magic Hoo Hoo. “One taste of the Magic Hoo Hoo is all it takes; the hero won’t be satisfied with anything else, physically or emotionally.” Stephenie Meyer would say she becomes his own personal brand of heroin(e). Christian Grey would say, “You’ve bewitched me:” another genre convention followed.

Identifying with Ana: Is a romance/erotica novel heroine meant to be a placeholder for the reader? This is a matter of some debate, and depends somewhat on the reader and the writer. It’s not necessary for the reader to put herself in the heroine’s shoes, as long as the reader has empathy for the heroine. I found myself easily able to empathize with Ana.

Identifying with Christian: Wendell and Tan suggest that readers are sometimes harsher critics of the heroine of the romance novel than of the hero. “Why is it that romance readers can tolerate any number of crazed behaviors from a romance hero, whereas if a real-life dude did one-tenth of a hero’s dastardly deeds…she’d be calling 911 faster than you can say ‘restraining order?’” The male protagonist gets more of pass, suggests Laura Kinsale in one quote, because “often that’s the way it is in real life – we see what we want to see regarding the opposite sex when we’re in love.” Still, Wendell and Tan add, “Women are not dumb. We know when we’re reading fiction.”

Christian Grey likes to be in control. He can be overbearing and stalkerish – characteristics he still shares with Edward Cullen. It’s okay to like that in a fictional character. “…The fantasy of an overbearing hero can represent for some women devotion, attraction, and protection instead of bullying.” Key word: fantasy. This does not mean we want our significant others to act like control freaks in real life.

The male protagonist also inspires a kind of literary penis envy: readers like strong heroes because we identify with their strength. A more Jungian interpretation of this theory is that “If the hero is the shadow self of the heroine, and the reader, then her conquest represents the same integration of selves, and that integration is what makes the hero so crucially important, and also what makes the happy ending so satisfying.”

Fifty Shades of Grey does not come with happy ending. Perhaps the trilogy does – I don’t know (and no spoilers, please!), but the first book ends at an impasse. Well played, E.L. James. You knew I would have to know how the impasse was resolved, and thus I’d need to buy the next book(s). Either way, it’s a well-worn trope in popular fiction and, especially, Hollywood films that the hero is entitled to the “girl.” See: 

The Alpha Hero: BUT when I say that I approve of Christian Grey as a hero, you might take that to mean there are aspects of Christian Grey I want to come to terms with. He also has other qualities that generally make fictional heroes attractive, including the stormy gray eyes. “What, twelve shades of gray doesn’t do it for you? While your heroine may have jewel-tone eyes of the most priceless variety, heroes, they are usually described in metallic terms, ranging from the ever-popular gunmetal gray to steel blue, cold green, or, in a rare and paranormal exception, amber. Never, however, are the hero’s eyes purple. That’s indubitably too gay.”

Note: Wendell and Tan do not say that they personally have a problem with gay, in life or in fiction. They only say that in the conventional heterosexual romance novel trope, “gay” and “bisexual” were usually shorthand for “up to no good.” They recognize that this is slowly changing as m/m/f becomes an increasingly popular subgenre. (Yay!) Note, too, that although Ana embarrasses Christian and herself by asking him if he’s gay early in the novel (and then later asks him if any of his Dom/sub partners have been men), Christian Grey is unrelentingly heterosexual.

He’s alpha without being what Wendell and Tan term an “alphole” (the amalgamation of alpha and asshole). Alphas are strong and confident; alpholes are cruel. Christian Grey is never cruel. He may have issues the size of Washington State, but he never does anything with Ana unless he has her consent.

He also holds at least two of the Romance Cliché Job Options: billionaire and CEO of an unspecified industry. What does he do? Something with food distribution?

[A topic for another day will be how assassin/sniper/CIA agent/former military operative is also a Romance Cliché Job Option. A topic for still another day will be how Josselyn Carter fits the mold of Alpha Heroine.]

Sooo…impossibly beautiful, brilliant, rich, kinky and utterly captivated by Ana? Hell yeah Christian Grey.

In Conclusion: If you’re one of the readers embarrassed to be seen with a copy of Fifty Shades, or any romance novel (as are the women described here), don’t be. “Romance novels do not make you stupid, we promise,” Wendell and Tan write in a section titled, “So, Why is Romance So Often and So Frequently Denigrated?” They answer their own question thus: “Are you a woman? Look in your pants. That could be why.” In short, plain ol’ sexism makes a genre dominated by female writers and readers (and really, all genres are dominated by female readers!) less acceptable to society at large. Fuck society – read proudly. 

Links For Further Reading:
Natalie at Fake Rain's Fifty Shades Pinterest post

Natalie nominates Ian Somerhalder to play Christian Grey on film

Tranae at Becoming Fab nominates Alexander Skarsgard

What to Read After Fifty Shades

The infamous 50 Shades of Suck Tumblr

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Yes, I Finished 'Fifty Shades of Grey.' No, I'm Not Reviewing It (Yet)

Last night I finished the last 120 pages of the first book in E.L. James' Fifty Shades trilogy. I desperately want to review it, BUT not until after I've read further into my other recent Barnes and Noble purchase: Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels. I have ideas about literary loss of virginity and other things that I think Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan can contribute to in a meaningful (and fun) way. So I'm even withholding a star rating on GoodReads until I can get all my thoughts together.

But without that review to share, I have a little bit of blogger's block. (Kind of - I have lots to share on Memorial Day.) So instead I'm stealing this chick's idea, which comes to me through creeping around ThePurpleJunkie's Tumblr. The first 20 songs in my phone, no matter how much they may embarrass me. This is my soul laid bare in musical format.

1. Nelly Furtado, "I'm Like a Bird"

2. Weezer, "Say It Ain't So"

3. Enrique Iglesias, "Bailamos"

4. Billie Holiday, "Willow Weep For Me"

5. Josh Turner, "Firecracker"

6. Zwan, "Honestly"

The name of this Zwan album is an ancient title for the mother-goddess

7. Santana, "Game of Love"

8. Melissa Etheridge, "Refugee"

9. Shonen Knife, "Burning Farm" ~ great Beltane song, btw

10. U2, "So Cruel"

11. Duran Duran, "I Don't Want Your Love" 

12. Puddle of Mud, "She Fucking Hates Me"

13. Shakira, "Suerte"  ~ yes, I know all the Spanish lyrics

14. Maroon 5, "Wake Up Call" ~ Christian Grey and Ana Steele could probably appreciate the Maroon 5 post Beauty Queens of Only 18 and Misery

15. The Spice Girls, "Last Time Lover"

16. Shonen Knife, "Butterfly Boy"

17. Train, "Meet Virginia"

18. Soft Cell, "Tainted Love"

19. P!nk, "Get the Party Started" ~ P!nk will be one of this year's Hanukkah Hotties 

20. Sinead O'Connor, "Regina Caeli" ~ and yes, I know the Latin lyrics ~ Catholic school, yo

NOT something they taught us in Catholic school.
So obviously, my songs haven't been updated in a good, long while. If they had, I'd be listening to "Watching You Watch Him" by Eric Hutchinson, my current song crush about a love triangle. It could be how Jose feels about watching Ana with Christian. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Please welcome author Lorrieann Russell to Pagan Spirits

My name is Lorrieann Russell.  I am the author of the novel By Right of Blood, which has just been released in Kindle and eBook format by Edin Road Press.  I’d like you to meet one of the characters, one that's very near and dear to me. Her name is Laurel, and though she’s just a slip of a girl, she is far from weak — or meek. This evening we seem to have caught her in the middle of an important encounter.  We can just sit quietly and listen.  I’m sure she won’t mind.
Oh, hello.  I just came by to feed Lucy, and put my feet up for a little while.  I dinnae realize I had company. Oh, please dinnae give me that look. I’m only jestin’.  Of course I know YOU are always there, even when you’re being so quiet I think you’ve abandoned me. 

No, I’m not going to be more careful! Not because I’m being careless, but because I am already being as careful as I can be.  Elinor worries far too much. If she would only listen for a moment, she’d know that I am fully ready, willing, and capable of teaching Will some of more. . . mystical lessons.  After all, she is the one who taught them to me, isn’t she? So why is it not right that I teach Will?  She trusts him as well as she trusts me, or she would not have started the lessons to begin with.

There, now, Lucy.  Some nice turnip shoots for you.  My goodness, you certainly eat a lot for a wee mouse.

Aye, I’m paying attention. I told you, I came in to feed Lucy.  She cannae very well feed herself. What did you want to tell me?


But I’m simply Laurel. I’m not anyone’s savior, especially his! He’s a nobleman, and I’m . . . just Laurel May McCary, maid servant to the house of Stonehaven. I dinnae have the power to put anyone onto their proper journey.  You must be daft.

Nio forgive me.  Of course I didn’t mean. . . I know you are not. . .but me? I know we share lessons but. . . could you mean that I should be teaching him the mystical lessons?

Elinor will never approve.

You have?

She already knows?

Which charm would you have me cast then? And what shall you ask me to give in tribute for your blessing?

Lucy? My little. . .

So mote it be, Mother. 

If you’d like to know what the task that was given to Laurel by “Mother”, you’ll need to read By Right of Blood.  Check it out in the Amazon's Kindle store, and on
Thank you for reading,

By Right of Blood
By Lorrieann Russell
Ebook ISBN: 9781452421841
Paperback ISBN: 9780615645704

Cover and artwork: Lorrieann Russell

Cover Synopsis:

William Fylbrigge is ill prepared to claim what is his, by right of blood, and his place among the powerful clan he has been born into. His older brother Thomas doesn’t want to share what he thinks is rightfully his, secretly arranging to have the young lad killed in a convenient “accident.” William could lose everything, including his life. 

Sean Wilbrun, the son of a common groomsman, transcends the barriers of his class and station when he is elevated to the esteemed ranks of guard for Lord Edward, Duke of Stonehaven. His first assignment, however, is not to wield a sword to protect his duke, but instead to attend to the newly arrived foster son. 

William and Sean soon form an unlikely duo and a lasting bond as together they face Thomas’ accusations of murder and treason. 

Short Synopsis

William Fylbrigge is ill prepared to claim what is his by right of blood, and his place among the powerful clan he has been born into. His older brother Thomas doesn't want to share what he thinks is rightfully his, secretly arranging to have the young lad killed in a convenient "accident." William could lose everything, including his life.

Author photo:

Author Bio:

Lorrieann Russell has written three books (so far) chronicling the life and times of William Fylbrigge: By Right of Blood, My Brother’s Keeper, and In the Wake of Ashes.  She has also published several short stories, and has been a featured guest on Edin Road Radio.  She is an accomplished artist, illustrator, photographer and designer.  A native New Englander, she spends much of her time in the mountains of New Hampshire, hiking and taking pictures of the landscape.

Author Contact and Websites


He leaned against the stall, scooping up a piece of hay to chew on, noticing a slight movement near the wall. He dropped down, sitting cross-legged with his back to the pile.

“Must have been some ride you had. I know the Causey Mounth road from Aberdoir can be quite a fright along the cliffs,” he said casually and paused to listen. The rustling stopped. “The ruts are so close to the edge, if the horse makes one bad step, och! ‘Tis fearsome. Is that what’s frightened you, lad? The road?” He risked a glance over his shoulder. “I wouldn’t blame you if it did. I surely don’t like riding Causey Mounth – especially after it’s rained like it has.”

Still no reply.

Frustrated, Sean idly scanned the barn until he spied a basket of early apples not far from where he was sitting. “You don’t mind if I do m’ chores? I need t’ feed the horses, you see.” He stood and scooped up a couple of apples and headed to the first stall occupied by an animal. “This is Hawk. He’s a yearling. Not quite broken yet but he’ll be a fine mount one day.” He pulled a sharp dirk from his belt and sliced one apple in half, holding one half flat-palmed for the horse. “I’m hoping he’ll be mine. He suits me.” Another glance over his shoulder and he caught sight of a pair of wide green eyes peeking through the straw. There you are. Papa’s right, you do have big eyes. He moved to the next stall.

“This one is Ceres. No one has ridden him yet. He’s full of fire, this one.” He stroked the horse’s nose, then offered the other half of the apple. “Do you like horses?”

The straw moved slightly and Sean could see an entire face now. Small and staring, the boy looked no more than eight years old. I thought Edward said he was twelve?

Sean gave him a smile in greeting, then turned his attention back to the horse. “There’re more to feed; would you like to help?”

The boy did not answer but Sean saw him peek out a little more, looking toward the other stalls. He sliced another apple and moved down. “Hello, Gallant, are you hungry? Aye, I see you are. There’s plenty … there you are.”

A moment later, Sean felt someone standing close behind him. He did not turn but kept to his task of feeding the horses. When he’d run out of apples with two horses left to feed, he turned to reach into the basket for more. Instead, he found the lad holding out an apple with one hand. Sean smiled and took it from him, slicing it in half. “Thank you.”

The boy nodded, then stood back, half concealing himself behind a post. Sean fed one half of the apple to the horse in the stall, then held out the other half toward William. “Star may like this one.”

William stared at the apple, then up to Sean, then back to the apple.

“Go on, she won’t hurt you. Just hold it like this, with your palm flat.”

William took it and held it to the filly in the stall he stood next to. She nickered and chomped it down, shaking her mane in gratitude. Sean saw William’s eyes widen and the trace of a smile cross his face. He also noticed something else – ghastly purple marks encircling his fragile looking wrists. He quickly averted his sight, so as not to startle the lad. He’s been bound! Good God. What am I dealing with here?

“She likes it,” William whispered.

Sean forced a smile, somewhat shaken by the dark hollows under William’s eyes when the lad turned to look at him. “Would you like to give her another one?” he asked, making an effort to keep his tone as gentle as possible.

Just as William was about to answer, there came voices from outside. It was Laurel speaking to Arthur. William spun on his heel and, without warning, dove back into the hay.

“Lad … wait, there’s nothing to …” Sean stopped and gasped at the sight before him. He hadn’t seen the boy’s back before now and he stopped, astonished. The shirt was flayed open in crimson-stained shreds, the flesh beneath caked in dried blood. He stood for a moment, not finding anything to say to the boy but knowing something needed to be done. Sean turned and headed toward the door. He’d have to let Edward know what he’d seen, and to let him know that he’d have to wait a while longer to meet his new foster son.          


Author Lorrieann Russell has used great imagination and artistic creativity in By Right of Blood. Her talent shines through the characters she has so lovingly created and this talent spills over into the world of the reader, allowing them to walk with the characters through the streets of the market, to the cliffs above the ocean. Feel their fear as they run through the woods, and into the meadows escaping hunters and those that would do them harm, only to prevail in the end. Experience their happiness and their sorrows, as they fight to make their mark in the world surrounding them.
I give By Right of Blood five stars *****

Nora Chipley Barteau
Reviewers Helping Authors

* * *
 A real page turner, this novel captures you from beginning to end. You seem to become part of the adventure as you join the characters on their journey. Russell's descriptions of places and characters make it easy to picture these things as you read. I absolutely loved this novel and look forward to anymore work by this wonderful and talented author. If you have not read By Right of Blood by Lorrieann Russell, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy. This book is full of drama, action, romance. All the things that are needed to make a wonderful work of Fiction for readers to enjoy. An excellent novel. I won't hesitate to read anything with Lorrieann Russell on the cover.

J. M. Barfield
Reader review

There is one essential element that stories must have in order for me to be fascinated. They must have a conflict. I can honestly say that Lorrieann has succeeded here.  The conflict was immediate. Right from the beginning in the first two pages I knew I was going to read all the way to the end. By the time 10 pages had passed, I was emotionally bonded to the characters. When you can step into a story and consider someone your brother or sister, the author has done their job. I would recommend this book to anyone high school and above. 

Linda Horne

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blue Monday - Once in a Blue Moon

These pins come from my I've Got the Blues board on Pinterest. On Mondays I hook up with Pinning! at A Night Owl Blog/Baxtron{Life}. On Wednesday, it's Oh, How Pinteresting! at The Vintage Apple.

This beautiful goddess image is of Diana in the ancient Roman pantheon, or Artemis in the Greek pantheon. The Lady of the Wild Things, a bow-wielding huntress who controls human access to game animals, is a common goddess manifestation in European folklore. Her literary descendants include part-veela Fleur  Delacour in the Harry Potter novels and Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games trilogy. 

This is my favorite lunar image. It's just so pretty and sparkly.

The moon doesn't always appear by herself. Here she is with the planets Venus and Jupiter. 

Sometimes she appears with Britney Spears.

The moon can be very inspirational. This could be the inspiration for an urban fantasy heroine. It comes from author Bonni Sansom's wonderful blog. 

The full moon is equally beloved by the sidhe as by goddesses and urban fantasy heroines. 

Let us close all this celestial beauty with a pretty piece of pop music. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris ~ A Mother-Daughter Review

My mom and I both read Deadlocked, the 12th Sookie Stackhouse novel by Charlaine Harris, this week. So that you can better visualize the reviewers of this book, I present this photo, taken three Mother's Days ago at a fancy-schmancy brunch. We're drinking mimosas.
I am the dark-haired one. 
This is the impression I recorded on GoodReads. I do not promise a spoiler-free zone.

Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse, #12)Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sookie Stackhouse, you listen to me: Eric is a jerk. Except when he was under a witch's spell, Eric has always been a jerk. You do not love Eric. In your 13th and final novel, you'd better decide to get back together with Bill, or you will break my heart.

This wasn't the most exciting volume of Sookie's adventures, and the ending was abrupt. The climactic scene almost felt tacked on, as if Charlaine Harris needed a last-minute excuse for Sookie to use the powerful faery-magic object she possessed. But reading a Sookie Stackhouse novel is like visiting a long-established friend. Whatever happens in the next book, I will tear through it in three days like I did this one, and I will sob when it ends, however it ends.

Bill says he'll refuse to make Sookie a vampire, but we'll see.

View all my reviews on GoodReads

Southern Vampire Mysteries Gifts at Cafe Press

My mom must have finished it last night. She e-mailed me her impressions, which were as follows:

"OMG!  Why, why was Claude so bad!   Why did Eric leave Sookie! 
 Why did Quinn suddenly call?  
 Why did all the faeries have to leave America?? What about Sookie,  won't she need some fairy connection?    This book was so good.   I can't wait for the answers to all these questions.
I bet Sookie ends up with Sam or no one, just her nephew."

I love that my mom e-mails using the phrase "OMG." (I'm going to die laughing the day I get an OMFG.) I composed an in-kind reply, which went like this:

"Eric is a jerk. Eric's always been a jerk, except when he was cursed. 
The Quinn part, I think, was just wrapping up a loose end. 
Sookie will be fine without the fairies. Besides, Dermot stayed. 
You think she'll end up with Sam? I don't know. I'll be sad if it's not Bill."

"Sad" won't begin to describe it, actually. I'll be bereft. But I was wrong about one point, which Mom corrected me on:

"Dermot didn't stay.  At the last minute he went.   His father finally acknowledged him."

Of course you're right, Mom.

Season 5 of True Blood, please hurry up and get here. Now, gratuitous werewolf flesh.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Today, My Fictional Boyfriend Is Pvt. Bob Witt

As I noted, I watched The Thin Red Line (1998 version) yesterday. I became very curious about how the character of Pvt. Witt developed in the original James Jones novel. Was he really intended to be such a saintly figure, bonding with the natives and helping fellow soldiers through the passage between life and death?

Unable to cope with the gap in my literary knowledge, I went to the library and checked out its yellowed copy of The Thin Red Line. Lightly penciled on the first leaf is “This book belongs to B. Asher,” and the volume is redolent with sweet old-book smell. It looks the same as the first edition pictured here. From Jones’ 1962 work, we learn the following about Witt:

He is 21 years old and from Kentucky. He pronounces fire “fahr.” His first name is Bob.

Witt is both proud and stubborn. 

He first appears on page 100. He’s considered a troublemaker by the first lieutenant, Welsh (played by Sean Penn in the movie), and by the captain, Stein (called Staros in the movie, and played by my old friend Elias Koteas – whom I remember fondly from the J.G. Ballard/David Cronenberg Crash, which I’ve now managed to mention twice this week).

Witt will fight you - but his own bro code means that he'll give you a verbal warning before he throws a punch. 

Witt’s a bit of a drunk - but, Jones admits, many of the men at Guadalcanal are. In one scene, he gets drunk, falls down and cuts his cheek on a rock. 

He has malaria. His appearance is gaunt and faintly yellowish.

He expresses to Cpl. Fife (played by Adrien Brody in the movie) his anger and bitter disappointment at not being allowed to fight with C Company. On page 208, we learn that Fife Stein thinks Witt’s desire to rejoin C Company, even though it places Witt in greater danger than his stretcher-bearer job, is terribly romantic, “Like something out of Kipling. Or Beau Geste.”

Page 309 informs us that Witt’s camaraderie with C Company is passionate and “almost sexual.” Several times in this novel, various characters experience sexual arousal from combat situations, and sometimes they have sexual feelings for their fellow soldiers. (This, I think, is what some early readers of Jones' novels found so objectionable in the mid-20th century.) Witt himself does not express any overt sexual intentions toward the other men. (Fife worries that he - Fife - might be gay, but he also knows that he likes women. Bi for the win!

On page 310, Witt meets the scout Ash, whom we learn will eventually die of gangrene after being wounded in the knee. Witt offers to help Ash walk back to camp with him, but otherwise isn’t particularly comforting toward him. However, later in the novel, Witt is comforting to Gooch, who dies in his arms. Gooch and Witt have both been boxers in the army (Robert E. Lee Prewitt, the central character in From Here to Eternity, is also from Kentucky and refuses to box after accidentally blinding a man).

Witt does not sacrifice himself for Fife and the others in the book – he’s alive at the end of the novel. He’s transferred and promoted to sergeant.

The nobility, philosophical bent and self-sacrifice Witt displays in the film, then, are products not so much of James Jones’ novel as of Terrence Malick’s screenplay. These are some of movie-Witt’s lines, from

Private Witt: I remember my mother when she was dyin', looked all shrunk up and gray. I asked her if she was afraid. She just shook her head. I was afraid to touch the death I seen in her. I couldn't find nothin' beautiful or uplifting about her goin' back to God. I heard of people talk about immortality, but I ain't seen it. 

Private Witt: I wondered how it'd be like when I died, what it'd be like to know this breath now was the last one you was ever gonna draw. I just hope I can meet it the same way she did, with the same... calm. 'Cause that's where it's hidden - the immortality I hadn't seen.
Private Witt: I seen another world. Sometimes I think it was just my imagination. 

Private Witt: Maybe all men got one big soul everybody's a part of, all faces are the same man. 

IMDB also says that Terrence Malick ( has a degree in philosophy from Harvard as likes to use philosophical themes, and that a hallmark of his writing is narration by one or more characters. Maybe he wanted a more uplifting version of Witt to temper some of the darker themes in Jones' novel? 

In conclusion, while I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading the book, it's a very different experience from the movie, especially when it comes to the character of Witt. You should read James Jones because his contributions to American literature are, according to the New York Public Library Literature Companion, winning the National Book Award for From Here to Eternity and, in Eternity, Line and Whistle, summing up the pre-war, wartime and post-war experiences of "ordinary servicemen" in a crucial part of 20th century history. 

Whistle is the full title of the third book in the trilogy, by the way. Prewitt/Witt becomes Prell in the third book. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I resent Dark Shadows, miss Donna Summer, and work in two Jane Austen references

It's Thursday, and I am counting down the last hour and a half or so until the Person of Interest season finale (less time, by the time I finish writing). I haven't gotten to interact with my blog or social media as much as I would have liked over the past few days - my hubby and I rehabbed my parents' bathroom while they were out of town, and then I spent two days helping him with an exterior painting job. I've been painting porch pickets - hence the lackluster WIP Wednesday yesterday.

Pride and Prejudice and Person of Interest
 Earlier today, I learned that Donna Summer passed away at the young age of 63 after a battle with cancer.  I'm not a huge disco fan, but there was one summer when I drove an old Chevy Cavalier with a cassette player and wore out a cassette of disco favorites. One of them was "Bad Girls," but I think my all-time favorite Donna Summer song is "Love to Love You Baby."

In She's a Rebel, Gillian G. Gaar calls Summer "the undisputed Queen of Disco" and details how the Boston-born pop star was inspired by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. After the decline of disco, Summer went through a born-again Christian/gospel music phase, but then returned to the pop charts with "She Works Hard for the Money."

My Facebook friend and fellow author/blogger Donald Peebles (he's on Blogger here) wrote, "My BFF DjMonalisa Indasoul and I used to talk about the infamous Kaminsky Park incident where many White males crushed and broke numerous disco albums at Kaminsky Park, Chicago as part of their "DISCO SUCKS" campaign. Disco was a musical form in which many White American males could not really capitalize on and dominate whereas African-American women, gay people, and newly independent White women navigated freely. This backlash more or less ended disco as well as the war on the gay liberation movement."

Disco - uniting African-Americans, the gay community and women in a way that white males couldn't appreciate or understand and felt threatened by. Whether you like the music or not, you've got to respect that it was a cultural force to be reckoned with from the mid-'70s into the early '80s.

Later this afternoon, Mom and I went to a matinee showing of Dark Shadows, starring Johnny Depp, written by Seth Grahame-Smith and directed by Tim Burton. I should state that I've never seen an episode of the 1970s TV show of the same name, the inspiration for the current film. Thus, I have no idea how the film compares to the original. (I can, however, read about the original on pages 146-151 of Vampire Lovers: Screen's Seductive Creatures of the Night by Gavin Baddeley.)

I liked Depp's performance as Barnabas Collins, a vampire chained in a coffin in the 1770s, only to emerge in the 1970s. He's absolutely charming. The problem with the film's plot and characterization is that the women are too easily charmed by him - to the degree that one love interest kills herself because she can't have him and the other goes completely psychotic when her love is unrequited.

The psycho with the unrequited crush on the pretty vampire is a witch, and I didn't appreciate the witch-bashing. The worst part, though, was the climactic battle scene in which Collins and the witch, Angie, battle it out in the Collins mansion. Although she's threatened his family, she isn't trying to kill him, so when Collins slaps Angie around, it just reeks of relationship violence. I like Johnny Depp; he's my beloved gypsy Roux from Chocolat. I don't want to see him as a character who slaps his ex around.

I didn't like his hasty disposal of the Helena Bonham Carter character, Dr. Hoffman, either. Her "crimes" of getting drunk and wanting to be immortal were hardly worth the death sentence. She's not Bellatrix LeStrange here, and she doesn't deserve the contempt the other characters treat her with.

Et tu, Seth Grahame-Smith? You, the same guy who made Elizabeth Bennett into a deadly ninja warrior in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? If Mr. Darcy would have raised his hand to Lizzy in anger, she would have snapped him in half like a twig. She did kick him into a marble mantelpiece, and all he did was propose to her (albeit in a rather backhanded way).

The best part, actually, was a farcical sex scene in which Collins and Angie destroy an office in a fashion that puts Bella and Edward's bed-wrecking to shame. That, my friends, is what should have happened between Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont in A Discovery of Witches.

The same theater was also showing The Lucky One (based on the Nicholas Sparks novel I recently read- and loved. That ending - oy! I literally threw the book down and said, "Now THAT is how you end a novel! Well done, Mr. Sparks!") and The Hunger Games. I have a feeling I would have been better off seeing either one.

Oh, and earlier today, while I did a bit of online research, I watched The Thin Red Line. I admit I've never read a James Jones novel. Once, when I was 16 or so, I checked From Here to Eternity out of the library. Because the profanity and sexuality of the book were considered somewhat controversial when it was published, I thought I might enjoy it. I don't think I made it past page 10. Line (the title comes from a Kipling poem) is a sort of sequel to Eternity.

It's a brilliant film, although I don't particularly care for Sean Penn. Jim Caviezel is playing Private Witt, a Southerner who's not particularly intellectually gifted, but who is nonetheless amazingly perceptive, kind and noble. His observations in voice-over are lovely. Now I'm forced to wonder how much of Witt comes from James Jones and how much comes from the screenwriters. Might have to go to the library and peek inside the book.

Witt, your soul is pure. You're as pretty on the inside as you are on the  outside. Which is a lot. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

WIP Wednesday ~ Zombie Survivor Tale

Authors needed - all genres! Are you an author who'd like to share a 100- to 200-word blurb about a current work in progress on a future WIP Wednesday? If so, please send an e-mail to Erin O'Riordan (erinoriordan AT sbcglobal DOT net). 

I've been unbelievably busy doing not-writing stuff for the past week. I have, however, set aside an hour a day starting yesterday to edit St. James' Day, the third novel in the Pagan Spirits series, with Tit Elingtin. I finished writing the first draft all the way back in 2010, but we set it aside to work on Eminent Domain.

I've also got several pieces of short fiction as ongoing writing projects. This is a short excerpt from the zombie short story. It doesn't have a title yet:

“Know what I miss most? Coffee.”  The male voice was surprising close to me, causing me to jerk around to face him. The tall, dark-haired man who lived down the hall from Aimee and me pulled out a chair at my table.
“Excuse me?” I said, more offended that he’d invited himself to sit with me than anything. 
“They say it’ll be years before any mature coffee trees grow within city limits – and even then, I bet it won’t taste the same as I remember.” He sat beside me, ignoring the tone in my voice. “Ava, right?”
I nodded. “…and you’re Steven.”
I’d learned his name the day Aimee and her scouting party came back with his band of survivors. We’d considered them an especially lucky find – an entire town relatively untouched by the Wild Ones, including strong adults with survival skills. I still don’t know how they held out so long without the help of the ghosts. They’d been running low on food, and with my nursing skills, I’d taken care of Steven and some of the other men who’d let themselves get badly undernourished to give the women a better chance. Steven was a little worse off than the others; he’d injured an arm in a building collapse, and the wound was badly infected.
“You remember,” Steven said, smiling. He had a nice smile; I’d always noticed that about him. When we met in the halls, we were cordial to one another, but we’d never been friendly. I thought Aimee had assigned him to the security detail, but I wasn’t sure. “Of course you remember. You saved me.”
He’d probably felt close to death, but except for a high fever and a manageable electrolyte imbalance, his case was far from the worst I’d ever treated. Two members of his band had succeeded in starving themselves to death.
Given how he remembered me, it seemed rude of me to ask him what he was doing at the table I customarily shared with Aimee. Most of the survivors were so grateful for Aimee’s leadership, they treated everything she touched with a certain respect.

Its intended destination, after several more rounds of edits, is this anthology:

You can read the call for submissions at

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I'm 35, and so are these 10 hotties born in 1977

Happy birthday to me! My birthday gift to you, loyal readers, is a gallery of hotness inspired by the year of my birth, 1977.

I am completely, blatantly ripping this post off from Alexandra O'Hurley and her blog Oh Alex, except Alex was born in a different year. Thanks, Alex, for the inspiration. Everybody should buy your books on Amazon or from their favorite retailer.

Fabulous Peeps Born in 1977:

10. John Mayer

Oh yeah, that body is a wonderland. He barely makes the list at #10 because he's still in the doghouse over his derogatory comments about women of color in a Playboy interview. He's one of those bros you shouldn't think is hot, but maybe you do.

9. Predrag "Peja" Stojaković

That Yugoslavia! Thing strikes again; I like big Serbian dudes and I cannot lie. Plus, you've gotta love Peja because of his deep commitment to children's charities, following the example of his mentor Vlade Divac.

Now that he's retired from the NBA, I believe he should be put out to stud; Peja makes beautiful babies.

8. Michael Fassbender

I first noticed him in Inglorious Basterds, and along with Eli Roth he inspired me to write Brad Pitt Is Not the Hottest Guy in Quentin Tarantino's Latest. The Internet nominates him to play the role of Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey.

A good Fassbender gallery comes from The Daily Hotness. A good Fassbender tweet is:

7. Chris "Ludacris" Bridges

Ludacris is another guy that when you're a feminist woman, you're not supposed to like him - but damn, this guy can lay down some irresistible beats. I especially enjoy his collaborations with Missy Elliot on "Gossip Folks" and "One Minute Man."

I love him in Crash - not the David Cronenberg film of the J.G. Ballard novel, but the other movie titled Crash. He was also a guest on The Simpsons, on which he created the greatest anti-tooth decay film ever. Dirty dirty mouth, y'all!

Luda even has his own brand of cognac - how cool is that?

Also, bisexual girls like Ludacris 'cause at first we thought he was saying, "Bi chick bad, bi chick hood/Bi chick do stuff that your chick wish she could."

6. Maggie Gyllenhaal

Yeah, yeah, I know I already sung the praises of the female Gyllenhaal sib as part of The Hanukkah Hotness, but can you ever really get enough Maggie G? Maggie and lil bro Jake rank very high on the list of Things Bisexual People Like.

Here, she's modeling for AgentProvocateur.

5. Kal Penn

New Jersey-born Kalpen Suresh Modi serves his country as Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. He's smart and sexy - that's hot. The politician and sometimes academic lecturer on Asian-American studies also goes by the stage name Kal Penn, under which he is best known as Kumar Patel of the film duo Harold & Kumar.

4. Shakira

Hips don't lie.

3. Zachary Quinto

Having had a crush on Syler on Heroes (when he wasn't cutting heads off), I based Zachary in "Innocent" on him. If I would have known he was gay, I would have made it a m/m story. Feel free to send me links to your Syler/Peter Petrelli slash.

No, really. Send them to me.

2. Orlando Bloom

Legolas. Need I say more?

1. Jonathan Rhys Meyers

He's not the guy who made out with Christian Bale in Velvet Goldmine, but who cares? He was in VELVET GOLDMINE.

A good JRM gallery is at MamaKitty Reviews.