Saturday, June 29, 2013

How to Make the Undead Sexy in 3 Easy Steps (Guest Post by Kelsey Mills)

You! Yes, you! The one writing stories with paranormal hotties!

Or trying to.

The problem is, most of the paranormal hotties of choice are kind of, well, dead.

Vampires, zombies, ghosts…all (technically) dead.

This presents a problem, as most people aren’t attracted to the dead. As a writer of zombie fiction, I find that I have trouble making my lead female’s interest in my lead male (the zombie) not icky. He may be undead, but he’s still technically dead, and grossing people out does not help you sell a romance.

However, after careful observation I noticed a pattern. And this pattern works. I would like to share with you all today how to make your undead boys dead sexy.
  1. Make them less dead.
As covered earlier, most people find the dead kind of gross. It might be the decaying internal organs, the blank lifeless eyes or the ashen, sunken skin, but most people do not want to read about someone falling in love with the dead.

Solution? Make your undead boy more “un” than “dead”.

Pale skin is still a must, but describe the skin tone as “moonlight pale” versus “ashen” or “deathly pale”. Defined cheekbones are nice, but not sunken cheeks and really pointy chins. Even ‘drawn’ sounds like someone grabbed the back of your undead boy’s face and just pulled.

Stay away from describing internal processes unless it is absolutely necessary. Especially if you are writing a zombie.

Describing the eyes as “bright” or “sparkling” will negate any uncanny valley effect the reader might experience when imagining your lovely dead boy.

  1. Dark hair.
He has to have dark hair.

If you look closely at most leading dead men, they all have dark hair.

Oh, but Kelsey, I don’t want to play by the rules.” Okay, fine. That’s cool. But look closely at the world of the paranormal and you’ll see that the leading men all have dark hair, and the bad guys are blond.

Look at the one that started the mainstream craze, love it or loathe it- Twilight. Edward has dark hair. Some of the bad guys have dark hair. But all the blond dudes do something evil or douchey.

Look at James from the first movie, or that blond guy Cauis from the Volturi, or Riley Biers, who lies to a bunch of newborn vampires. Even the Cullen’s themselves don’t do too well when it comes to blonds. Carlisle, the patriarch of the family, turns Edward into a vampire, a life that Edward frequently describes as monstrous. Jasper attempts to munch on Bella’s tasty blood.

You can find this trope in other media featuring the undead- I’m just pointing out an accessible example. But hopefully the point is seen, because I’m in the loathe category in regards to Twilight, and I hope to never discuss it again.

  1. A little slight

Your hotty should not be too big.

Okay, some things can be big. But not his body type.

This one makes sense on a practical level as well as the sex appeal- the undead can’t or can barely eat. They’re not going to be huge, unless I’m really underestimating the fat content of blood and brains.

Werewolves can be gigantic beefcakes, but vampires, zombies…no. A little dead/decaying flesh is okay, but too much would start to smell. The slight figure gives off the impression of vulnerability, which adds depth to the sexy, sexy exterior.

This is not to say they can’t be well muscled. But the muscles should be more swimmer or gymnast rather than linebacker.

Oh Kelsey, you’re so shallow, you forgot personalities.” Nice try, writer, but I’m not telling you how to characterize your undead cream puff. While their actions should have a hint of badassery to them (for stories sake, as well as sexiness), the characters personality should be up to the writer and what they think is appropriate for the story, or even the kind of personality they find themselves attracted to. As nice as it is to have a nice body to complete the package, your undead boy’s personality is what will make the readers fall in love with them.

At least them if a reader isn’t attracted to the way you describe him (and you’ve made him blond, don’t say I didn’t warn you) then at least he has a great personality. 

Join Kelsey Mills starting June 28th for her serial zombie fiction, The Zombvenger! Visit to read the first installment. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Gravely Inanimated by Esther Wheelmaker - Zombie Fiction Excerpts

It has been thirty years since England was plagued by zombies. Humans fear for their lives while the dead kill the living.

By the cover of night, a man known only as Aeron hunts these creatures. On one foggy evening he finds Lucille Knight's life in jeopardy and Aeron's interest is instantly peaked when he saves the young lady.
But Aeron will have competition when Lucy meets Lord Garrett Ashdown, son of the Inventor, Earl Thomas. 
Lucy is drawn to the masked man and equally mysterious Lord. With one concealing his true identity and the other hiding a ghastly secret, she does not know which one is less dangerous.
Will she be able to be with the man she chooses when she learns the awful truth?

Buy Links:

Zombies limped toward me, bloody and disfigured, a chaste moon slinging shadows against their lurching fingers. Their crimson-splattered mouths were hungry for my flesh. A few pulled the lower half of their bodies with their ashen, supple hands.

Some moved faster than others; they must have fed recently. How I had been stupid enough to head home from a friend’s house at such a late hour baffled me now.  Thirty years since the zombie apocalypse and sixteen years since my birth meant I had grown up knowing what should and should not be done. Yet here I was. Fear caused me to think as clear as a drunkard bent over a garbage pail.

Even though Queen Victoria had commanded a good majority of her soldiers into the streets of England to protect her people, it still remained a bloody mess. Some of us still lived with a false sense of security though.

I screamed, the sound echoing off the brick buildings. The streets were empty. Smart people were safe at home. The others were in taverns dancing and drinking. I wondered if anyone heard me or if everyone was ignoring me, as I had done so many times before.

Puddles of water splashed against me as I ran. My boots kept my feet warm, breath heavy against the cold. My hand caught my fall as I skidded to the left, the back of my leather skirt ripping against a wooden box I raced past. The whistle of a train broke through the sound of death following close behind. I ran into a chain-linked fence, and my rubber soles scraped against the stone road as I came to a halt. I had misjudged my aim. I had meant to go down Lily Road, toward my house. Instead I went down Dead End Road…literally.

With my back against the fence, I stared through my strands of shoddy raspberry-colored hair and into the dead faces before me. Ten of them. Slow and stupid, but large in numbers. The queen tried to keep these diseased creatures under wraps. Over the last few months, they began multiplying and soon became too much for our countries troops.

Again, I let out a petrified scream, but no soldier came. I imagined my neighbors shutting their windows and locking their doors. Another attack wasn’t anything new, and everyone depended on the Queen’s men to help.

Here I was, at the mercy of these demons, my black-and-white thigh-high stockings slithering down from my ruffled petticoat. Even with gloves covering my hands, the coolness of the steel gate behind me seeped through.

Crusty dried blood covered the mouth of the zombie closest to me, and I shut my eyes when his mouth showed teeth stained with yellow.

You can’t see me, you can’t see me.” I mumbled a childish thought, one would have when only a tot.

The static tenor of a thunderous grinding reverberated in my ears. I opened my eyes. What sounded like the ringing of metal slicing through brittle rock was a sword splitting the flesh and bone of the zombie in front of me. I tried to back into the chain-linked fence, hoping to meld into it and be free from the havoc before me. Blood doused my chest; my eyebrows creased my forehead, my mouth deepening with a frown.

Another zombie with haggard brown pieces of hair staggered up to me. Her hand crept toward my face. My muscles clenched, matching my corset-tightened waist. I pressed the side of my face against the steel to the point I knew it would leave an impression. Peeking through the corner of my eye, I witnessed a blade strike her temple. The blood of the monster squirted against me and I flinched.

A gloved hand grabbed my shoulder, and an arm came under me before I experienced cool air sweeping against my sweaty face. The ground became distant as I was lifted over the fence and to the open road on the other side. My blood pumped with fright while I pounded the body holding me, afraid I had been captured by another type of monster. Arms grasped me closer as if I was Hades' captor, Persephone, and we were crossing through to the underworld.

Stop that or I’ll toss you back to be food.” He had an acute amorous voice.

One calloused hand was around my thigh and his other held my waist. The rapid wind assaulted me as he took us both away from the zombies now obscured in my rear view.

I was being rescued by some pale stranger with long black hair hiding behind a mask. Thoughts turned into a jumbled mess as I wondered if I should scream for rescue or hold on tighter. How could I know if he was truly here to help me or saved me only to murder me himself?

It was hard to see through it all, but I knew his eyes were boring into me. My breath caught as I feared what we might run into with his vision diverted. My face flushed while fear continued to sear through my stomach with a stabbing sensation.

Stop looking at me and start looking at where you are going!”

The strange man’s face hardened in contrast to his one high apple-shaped cheek bone I could see brushed with a light pink color. One eye had a monocle between his eyebrow and bottom lid, with two other monocles reaching up above the other. Through the dark lenses, I thought I glimpsed a red eye similar to those of the zombies.

His dimpled cheeks creased into a smile. “Don’t worry, I can do both,” he assured me, yet my heart still pummeled and the stinging prickles against my skin gave no whisper of disappearing.

Put me down!” Between my endorphins running rapid, the shear shame of needing saving, and my fear of this stranger, I decided to resort to indignation.

He slowed until he was at a jog. Now I could clearly see that his other eye was protected by a mask covering half of his face. The plate was made of leather with cog teeth at the bottom surrounded by a lighter beige oxhide. It appeared menacing and didn’t help to drown my dread in mud.

Die by zombie, die by running into a wall, they both leave my soul diminished.”

What? No thank you?” He came to a stop, still holding me firmly.

My lips tightened with a hardness I’d inherited from my father. “Thank you, you silly boy.” I squirmed until he let me down. My knees buckled and he caught me, helping to keep me upright. I tried to push him away. “I don’t need your help.”

He didn’t even budge. “It would not appear that way.” He crossed his arms and cocked an eyebrow.

When my legs felt sturdy, I stepped back and glared straight into his monocle. “I can take care of myself. Thank you for your help, but please leave me be.” My hand searched inside my pocket for my steam-ignited pistol, but I found nothing. I had left it on top of my dresser at home. Bloody hell, I was more absent-headed than normal tonight.

He shook his head, his hair swung back and forth, stark against his pale face. “You are such a disappointment as a woman.”

I gasped. “Pardon me?” My face pinched, and I clenched my fists.

He sighed heavily as if bored with me. “I am met with hostility even though I saved your life.”
How dare you! What is your name? I shall make it a sin to be spoken.”

The braveness of his chuckle along with his grin made me step back. “Aeron, and please make my name a sin to speak. You are a ghastly mess and should be taught proper manners.”

With my feet planted on the pavement, I grew angry with the way Aeron spoke to me. The desperate groan of the zombies had faded, and my house was less than a block away. All I wanted to do was lay my head down to meet my pillow.

Thank you.” I tried to put more softness behind the words, but my gritted teeth didn’t help. “I’ll be fine now.”

You’re welcome, even though you are quite difficult.” Aeron’s words sent bolts of electricity through my core. I turned around so he wouldn’t see the rage on my face. “Try to keep yourself safe. I won’t always be around to save you.” His nonchalance was insulting, as if he thought I was a simpleton was loud and clear.

God, he was so cocky! I didn’t need him, or anyone else, coming to my rescue. If he hadn’t shown up, I would have figured a way out. “I’ll be just fine!”

The emptiness became apparent when the silence overcame the dim scenery around me. He had gone without a goodbye, and I jogged the rest of the way home. After removing the long chain from around my neck, I picked out the correct key and unlocked the door. I lived with my father and several servants in a double townhouse. We weren’t as upper class as that Aeron man thought, but we were known well enough throughout the city.

When I was inside, I turned the golden knob to snap the lock back in place. Two automated arms came over the door and clasped each other at the mechanical wrists for extra security.

I leaned back. My head hit the hard wood of the door. I let out a breath. Dragging my feet up the stairs, I almost made it to my room without a hitch when a squeak from down the hall caught my attention.

Good evening, Father,” I said without looking.

How many times are we going to have to go over this before I get it through that thick skull of yours? Walking around after sunset is dangerous, and you are forbidden to do so!”

Forcing a bright smile, I went to him and wrapped my arms around his neck. “I’m fine, Father. Look!” When I stepped back, I opened my arms wide and did a circle. “See?”

Bloody hell, Lucy, look at you. Tights falling, skirt raised, hair askew…What were you doing tonight?”

Bollocks, I should have fixed my clothing when I came in. “I was…I was running home because I heard a noise.” Which was ten zombies behind me, hungry for my brains. “I came from Emily’s house. I lost track of ti—”

You will help Olivia with the dishes after breakfast tomorrow!”

I am sixteen years old, Father! You must stop treating me as though I am a mere child!”

Until you are taking care of a husband of your own, you will do as I say.” His mustache twitched. “Now go to bed!”

With a rumble of frustration, I stomped my foot and went off to my room. The first thing I did was tear off my clothes, leaving them were they landed, and changed into a long white gown before going to the vanity and taking a brush to my knotted locks.

My father never talked about what happened when the zombies first rose, but I knew he had been through a lot. A vast majority of England had been wiped out when they first showed up.

The zombies appeared to favor the night when partiers and drinkers were susceptible. From watching several during the day, it did give the impression that they were much weaker when the sun was up.

If it had not been for the famous inventor Earl Thomas Ashdown and all of his automatons, England would be nothing more than a feasting ground for those disgusting creatures. When more time passed, his steam-powered inventions became more advanced and helped us build an army that could at least defend England from the zombies. However, with one dead, it was as if three more emerged. As of late, it seemed that more automatons were in need, and it had been over a year since a new model was made.

Many stories about how the zombies came to be floated around. The most popular story became the gossip of a voodoo queen who obtained the souls of unsuspecting humans. It had been said that she captured the victim’s shadow, and then, little by little, took hold of their body until she possessed the entire person. The person would die, and the voodoo queen would raise them from the grave later that night to put them into a comatose trance. Which turned them into a slave, needing only human brains, flesh, and blood to survive.

After that, the voodoo queen’s curse passed from the zombie to whatever human it drew blood from. One would become nothing more than an animated corpse soon to haunt the streets in tattered rags without any memory of whom or what they once were…or, at least, that was the rumor. Soldiers searched for the queen behind the wreckage, but not much was found to prove it.

There was no other explanation, and the Royal Family was known for their secrets and keeping their people calm…well, calmer state by never acknowledging such a person existed. I could imagine the riots that would ensue, people searching any house they pleased to find out where she was.

For a moment I stopped brushing my hair. I do wonder if their soul was trapped inside their body, and they realize everything they are doing even though they don’t really want to do it. They’re just remnants of a person who once was, dreaming of death as their flesh rots, entirely subservient and bound to the ascendancy of that wicked queen.

People had whispered that they have seen her. She was said to have on a ball gown made of spider web and goblin silk, dirty matted hair twisted into dreadlocks, wild eyes that flashed red when looked into directly and dark skin that was no smoother than that of an alligator. Or so people alleged. I wasn’t sure anyone could see such a woman and not fall over dead where they stood! How ghastly it would be. I shuddered at the thought and put my brush down.

The idea was less speculation since the outbreak began in London instead of somewhere else around the world.

After I rubbed my temples, I felt my bay window beckoned to me. Sitting on the thin cushion, I pressed my finger against the glass filled with condensation and pushed open the French-style window. Zombies had yet to climb trees to get to anyone so I didn’t fear my window being open.

I see you are home safe.”

I covered my mouth before a small yelp came from me. When I scanned the street, I noticed Aeron leaning against a small tree. “Go away.” I tried to keep my voice low so my father wouldn’t hear.

I only wanted to make sure I had not gone out of my way for you to get into trouble a few steps from your house, Miss Knight.”

He must have read my surname off our plaque. Shaking my head, I pulled the window shut and took to my bed, raising the covers high over my body. “What an annoying boy.”

Still, he did save my life, the little voice in my head said as I stared up at the canopy above.

Why did I treat him so harshly when he only wanted to keep me alive? I turned on my side and hugged my pillow tighter. Maybe it had been the suddenness of it all. I became caught up in the moment, truly upset with myself for being so naive and using him to take my anger out on instead of berating myself. I was such a clever girl. He was still a stupid boy though.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Photos: The First of Two Hauls From Better World Books

Better World Books is my arch-nemesis. They see me coming from a mile away, offer me a deal on used books too tempting for a bibliophile like me to resist, and suck all the willpower to resist buying books right out of me. This happened last week, when they offered 40% off an order of 5 or more selections from the discount bin. I paid about $12 for these five books - BWB always offers a free shipping option, anywhere in the world.

On the plus side, for every book purchased, they donate a book. Proceeds from book sales go to support a wide variety of literacy projects in the U.S. and in other countries, plus the Haiti relief fund.

This is how they get me.

My original plan was to stock up on the Psy/Changeling series by Nalini Singh. I read Slave to Sensation last year and thought it was a really good paranormal romance. I don't read enough books in which women of Asian descent are the main characters. I have the second book, Visions of Heat, and haven't read it yet.

According to (a great resource for the reading orders of paranormal romance series), the proper order should be:

-Slave to Sensation
-Visions of Heat
-Caressed by Ice
-Mine to Possess
-Hostage to Pleasure
-Branded by Fire
-Blaze of Memory
-Bonds of Justice
-Play of Passion
-Kiss of Snow
-Tangle of Need
-Heart of Obsidian

Unfortunately, I couldn't find most of those in the discount bin. What I did find:

That's a lot to catch up with, but I think I can do it...eventually. If I'm not determined to have all of them in physical form, my brand-new Nook HD+ can help me with that. (Up until this week, I've been reading e-books on my laptop.)

My next shipment (another $14 worth of books - they got me again!) will include Mine to Possess, Hostage to Pleasure and Play of Passion. As I said on Twitter:

But then:

Well, if you say so, Ms. Singh.

I'm currently reading the first book in Kate Douglas's DemonSlayers series, DemonFire. When I finish that, I'll now have the next two waiting for me:

After Starfire, there's only one more book in this series, CrystalFire. I never finished Douglas's Wolf Tales series - although I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books - but I'm pretty sure I can easily handle four. I think I'll rotate various PNR series I have to catch up on.

This one isn't paranormal, but it is from Cara Lockwood.

This last one is purely for nostalgic reasons; it's a book I read in middle school.

Now I really, really need to donate some books to Better World Books or to Goodwill, another worthy nonprofit. I'm out of room on the bookshelves.

What are your summer reads?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#Fantasy #BookReview : 'Miss Underworld' by Racquel Kechagias

Miss Underworld is a modern adaptation of an ancient Greek myth, written and published by Australian author Racquel Kechagias. I met Racquel on Goodreads when we both commented on a posting about authors exchanging book reviews. She agreed to read Eminent Domain, and I agreed to read Miss Underworld. 

The main character in this short novel is Melinoe. Although she appears to be a normal young woman living in Sydney in modern times, we know from the prologue that her origin is far from ordinary. She is, in fact, the daughter of Zeus and Persephone.

If you're not a Greek mythology buff, you can skip the next section.

The Greek Mythology Stuff:

The ancient myth of Melinoe comes from an Orphic hymn. The Orphic hymns are a collection of 87 poems attributed to the mythic figure Orpheus, who was said to have journeyed to the underworld to collect his beloved Eurydice and returned still alive. Orpheus was renowned as a poet and a singer, and a religious cult developed around teaching attributed to him in ancient times. The Hymns are thought to have been written between approximately 200 BCE and 100 CE. The were translated in English by Thomas Taylor in 1792 and re-translated, supposedly with much more accuracy, by Apostolos Athanassakis.

The hymn to Melinoe is #70 in Taylor's translation and #71 in Athanassakis' translation (Taylor started his numbering at zero). The brief poem tells a story in which Zeus, pretending to be Hades, tricks Persephone into having sex with him (in other words, he rapes her) and Persephone subsequently gives birth to Melinoe. Melinoe "drives mortals to madness with her airy phantoms,/as she appears in weird shapes and forms" when she appears to mortals at night. She may be a personification of nightmares.

In an 1805 annotated version of Thomas's Orphic hymns by Gottfried Hermann, Wikipedia says, Melinoe is described as being half black and half white - literally, not in the usual mulitracial sense that human beings may be. In this way, she resembles the Norse mythological figure Hela, one of the children of Loki. Her two contrasting aspects represent her "two fathers," light for Zeus and dark for Hades (called Plouton in the Hymn).

The Wikipedia entry also mentions Melinoe as a character in the Percy Jackson series, where she is described as the "goddess of ghosts." In the Hymns, it's unclear that Melinoe is considered a goddess. She's sometimes considered a nymph, and sometimes considered an aspect of the underworld goddess Hecate, herself sometimes called an aspect of Persephone.

Back To Our Story:

In Racquel's telling, Melinoe looks like an average mortal human woman, except that her eyes are both stark black, and one has an eerie white film over it. She knows nothing about her unusual birth, and is raised in an orphanage. She's never been adopted, but aged out of the South Australian orphanage and moved to Sydney when she was sixteen. She lives with a very unusual roommate, a surfer-dude vampire named Bernard. Melinoe, called Meli for short, is appalled by Bernard's need to glamour women to drink their blood, but she has some very strange qualities of her own. Meli is sought out by ghosts, who need her help to cross over to the other side. Those who aren't able to cross over become vampires.

Suddenly, Meli finds herself being stalked by Death. She appeals to an older, stronger vampire - the turquoise-eyed Ivan - to protect her from Death, but even he is unable.

If I May Return to Mythology For Just A Moment: In our modern way of thinking, it's easy to equate the ancient Greek concept of the underworld with hell and Hades with the devil. However, in the Greek conception, the souls of the dead were not punished in the afterlife, although the very virtuous dead may have been rewarded. Hades and Persephone were the master and mistress of all human beings after their deaths, good and bad alike, and they were not thought of as evil. They were worshiped with the same awe and reverence as the Olympian gods. Similarly, it would be a cultural mistake to equate Hades with the modern personification of "Death" or the "Grim Reaper." To the Greeks, the god who collected souls and escorted them into the underworld was Hermes - Mercury to the Romans. Hermes wasn't particularly grim or scary.

Back To Our Story:

Meli senses Death - actually her stepfather Hades - is not the real threat. She has recurring dreams, perhaps based on a traumatic childhood memory, of a man associated with a terrible storm, and she sees this figure as the real threat. She's right - Hades and Persephone only want to let her know about her true parentage. Eventually, Meli is found and confronted by her biological father, Zeus. I won't spoil what happens when they meet, but it is not a sweet family reunion. Zeus is quite villainous in this.

Hades is not. Although he seeks revenge against his brother for Zeus's attack on Persephone, he loves Meli and accepts her as his own. He and Persephone are a good, strong match with genuine love and affection for one another.

Melinoe As Heroine: The plot of this novel, unfortunately, doesn't give Meli much chance to show off any special skills or powers she might have as the daughter of the King of the Gods and the Queen of the Underworld. (She's also Zeus's granddaughter, since Zeus is Persephone's father - a myth the book never mentions.) Her ability to aid ghosts is explained, but never really shown. She does come to the rescue of a new friend, a demigod figure named Morpheus who turns out to be the son of Poseidon. (In classical mythology, Morpheus is often considered the son of Hypnos, the god of sleep, and of the goddess Nyx.) However, she is powerless against Zeus and has to be saved by the intervention of Hades and Bernard. She has fascinating attributes, and she's quite brave, but the plot has more to do with her discovery of her true parents and her developing relationship with Bernard than a typical hero's epic journey.

Who Will Enjoy This Book? You might like this short novel if you enjoy young adult and new adult paranormal romances, since Melinoe and Bernard enjoy a slowly-developing friendship-to-love story that's sensual, but not explicit. There's a little bit of a love triangle involving Ivan as well. You might also like this book if you enjoy Greek mythology retellings for older YA readers, such as Aimee Carter's Goddess Test series or Lauren Hammond's Underworld Trilogy. If you like dark, brooding fantasy with an almost horror novel-like atmosphere of impending danger and mystery, this may be the book for you.

This is an affiliate link:

The First Bite Is the Deepest by Elisa Catrina. $2.99 from
“Funny and clever and emotionally hard-hitting” "A perfectly creepy read." Elisa Catrina's debut novel begins as a quirky send-up of vampire romance, but quickly turns sinister. High schooler Stella Ortiz starts dating the mysterious new guy, but her friends are convinced he's bad news: Sebastian misses tons of school, he day-drinks something that smells like pennies, and oh yeah, he's a vampire.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Guest Blogging About My Obsession at Alcide and Other Obsessions

Today I'm scheduled to make a guest appearance at Alcide and Other Obsessions. This is a very cool pop culture blog written by Dominique Eastwick. Dominique has an obvious obsession: Alcide on True Blood, as portrayed by Joe Manganiello. Can you blame her? No, of course not. Look at him.

He's not her only obsession, though. Dominique also has a thing for Karl Urban, the Kiwi actor who plays Bones McCoy in the most recent Star Trek films and played Eomer in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Dominique also invites other bloggers - many of them my fellow erotica and erotic romance writers - to share their obsessions. Ashlynn Monroe (yes, the Ashlynn Monroe who has a story in Indecent Encounters with me), for example, can't stop thinking about Eric Northman on True Blood.

S. Hampton Sr. is obsessed with Lady Gaga.

This song is ridiculously catchy.

Nulli Para Ora loves Michael Fassbender. And why shouldn't she? He's our beloved Edward Fairfax Rochester.

Me? Well, there's this guy I may have mentioned one or two times before.

See you at Alcide & Other Obsessions!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Erin O'Riordan's Movie Review of 'Beautiful Creatures'

I'm getting really embarrassed by how many movies I've seen lately based on books I did not read. I didn't read Cloud Atlas, Warm Bodies, The Silver Linings Playbook or Beautiful Creatures, but now I've seen all those movies. The next thing in my Netflix queue is the version of Mansfield Park with Jonny Lee Miller, and it's one of the Jane Austen novels that I haven't read. (Which is most of them. I've only read Pride and Prejudice thus far, unless you count Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.)

I do read, I swear. I just can't read everything.

To be honest, when I went to watch Beautiful Creatures, I hoped for a sort of gender-reversed Twilight, with the young woman (Lena) being the powerful supernatural being and the young man (Ethan) being the weak, helplessly enamored mortal. There was some of that in this movie.

It's a dark, sad, beautiful movie with an intelligent, delightfully sass-mouthed heroine and a hero whose pastimes include reading books that have been banned from his small Southern town's library. They can't be together because her supernatural powers are dangerous and she's afraid she might kill him. Beautiful Creatures isn't a Twilight knock-off, though.

Lena is a witch, but she prefers to be called a caster. When she arrives at the single high school in Ethan's town, her classmates accuse her of being a devil worshiper. One of them starts a loud prayer in the middle of their public school classroom, and the windows shatter - for which everyone immediately blames Lena. She's in danger of being kicked out of school.

The actors playing Ethan and Lena are fairly unknown, although the actress's mother is the famed director Jane Campion. Beautiful Viola Davis plays the woman who acts as a foster mother to Ethan since his bio mom died. Jeremy Irons plays Lena's foster parent, her uncle Macon. Macon is a dark caster, but he chooses to be "light" for Lena's sake. Male casters have a choice; female casters are Claimed for either the light or the dark on their sixteenth birthdays. Lena's 16th birthday is rapidly approaching.

Lena's bio mom, Serafine, is played by Emma Thompson. Serafine is supposed to be the most powerful dark caster, and she's convinced Lena will be Claimed by the dark. It seems all the women in their family have been claimed by the dark since an ancestor used forbidden magic to bring her lover, killed in the Civil War, back from the dead. Thus, the family is cursed.

If we've told you once, we've told you a million times, kids: do not use magic to bring a loved one back from the dead. Douglas Clegg told you so in Isis, and J.K. Rowling did again in the three brothers' tale within Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. What has been claimed by death is meant to stay dead, because that is way nature works. When our loved ones die, we wish them safe passage to the other world, commend them into the arms of the Goddess and, most importantly, do NOT try to bring them back. Lesson learned, kiddos?

Emma Thompson could tell you that; she was, after all, Sybill Trelawney in the Harry Potter movies. She was also in Sense and Sensibility, in the lovely version with  Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Severus Snape -er, Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon. Furthermore, she was Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing before Amy Acker took over the role. This all makes her sound very British, but Emma Thompson has some surprising American accent skills.

Jeremy Irons is very good in this, as the loving but imposing Uncle Macon. My favorite Jeremy Irons movie is still The Man in the Iron Mask (loosely based on a Dumas classic I have not read), and in my all-time favorite episode of The Simpsons, "Lisa's Rival," Lisa is challenged to form an anagram of "Jeremy Irons" that describes the actor. (It's much harder than it seems. The best option comes up with is, "Jeer, sir? My, no.") Lisa's best guess is "Jeremy's iron."

Uncle Macon thinks of a way to undo the curse, but only at the cost of a great sacrifice. For this reason, although she loves Ethan dearly, Lena is unwilling to be with him anymore. She makes him forget the two of them had ever met. It's heartbreaking stuff. (Yeah, it's a little bit like when Edward abandoned Bella in New Moon.)

The ending only served to make me want more. I liked this a lot, more than I liked Warm Bodies or Silver Linings Playbook. May I have the sequel now, please?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Even More Tales of Biblical Terror: Dybbuk Press Plans 'King David and the Spiders From Mars'

This is my 665th post on this blog. You know what that means - the next one will be #666. It's too bad I couldn't get THIS to be the 666th post on account of its Biblical theme.

In 2010, I read and reviewed the Dybbuk Press horror anthology She Nailed a Stake Through His Head. It's an awesome read. I liked the book so much, editor Tim Lieder decided to use my review as the editorial review that appears on Amazon and Goodreads.

Now, Dybbuk Press is getting ready to publish a second anthology on the same Biblical horror theme. A short blurb by Dybbuk Press publisher/editor Tim Lieder reads:

"I am both the publisher and the editor of the anthology. This book and the previous Bible-themed horror collection - She Nailed a Stake Through His Head - are inspired by my love of the literary Bible studies as pioneered by Robert Alter and Erich Auerbach. When I first started publishing books through Dybbuk Press, I knew that I wanted to edit a book of Bible-themed stories because regardless of one's faith or lack thereof, the Bible is a great literary work with tight plotting, an economy of language, sudden bursts of violence and poetry as well as some of the most memorable characters in Western literature."

The authors and tales are all lined up - the small press is now seeking a little crowdfunding assistance. If you care to, please watch this short video from Tim.

Also, I think you should follow Tim on Facebook because, well, I think he's awesome. You won't see him around on the Sabbath or on Jewish holidays, because he's observant.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Guest Post: Book To Film ~ When They Get It Right!!

Having always been an avid reader and very much a massive movie fan, the concept of turning some of my favourite books to movies has been a somewhat tricky subject. How many times have we sat with our friends, neighbours or family and debated the subject of “Yeah it was good, But did you read the book”? Often it can prove to be a swift kick to the nether regions when you watch the absolute nonsense that passes for an adaptation. Then other times they go way too far and make about 9 films that, to be fair, even the trailers looked boring as hell *cough* The Lord Of The Rings *cough*. Don’t get me wrong, they were decent enough films but my god boooooring. I think Peter Jackson was just way too anal when it came to getting that right.

Every now and then however, you get a movie adaptation that just embodies everything the writer strived to convey and the movie encapsulates the complete spirit of the words. Today I would like to talk about one such example that, in my eyes, does the book justice. The book that sprang immediately to mind would have to be Fight Club from Chuck Palahniuk. This man is a great writer and I seriously love his stuff; it is dark, dirty and holds a mirror up to society. He shows us in no uncertain terms who we are right now and where we are headed. Fight Club is no exception.

“If our Fathers are our models for God and our Fathers have bailed then what does that tell us about God” – Tyler Durden

The book tells us the story of Jack or The Narrator. Jack seems to have lost his way and is feeling like he is simply existing; never really awake and never really asleep. He travels from state to state, never really taking a moment and hoping that there will be a mid air collision just to end the numbness of it all plus “Life insurance pays triple if you die in a plane crash.” Until he meets Tyler Durden. 

Tyler is everything that our humble Narrator is not; cool, cocky, confident and above all else…. FREE. Through him Jack learns how to let go. The two men quickly bond and inadvertently start a car park Fight Club: a group session for men if you will. Here you can forget everything you were supposed to be and become everything you want to be.… A MAN. The basement where they stage their “group therapy sessions” soon re-locates to a house and there the Fight Club evolves into Project Mayhem. The intention being to show the world that no longer will they sit back and eat the crap forced upon them. 

Palahniuk has stated that this story is for the lonely soul, showing that as a society in 1996 we had become scared of confrontation of any kind. We had become victim to the perfection we as humans strived for. As far as I’m concerned this is truer today than back then.

"We're designed to be hunters and we're in a society of shopping. There's nothing to kill anymore, there's nothing to fight, nothing to overcome, nothing to explore. In that societal emasculation this everyman [The Narrator] is created."
               David Fincher[3]

In 1999 visionary director David Fincher was man enough to take this book and adapt it to the screen and my Christ what a job the man did! The movie had that same dark and gritty feel to it and served the book incredibly well. He changed only a couple of key scenes from the book and managed to say everything Palahniuk intended with his book. Edward Norton took on the role of The Narrator. Doing so he delivered one hell of a voice over throughout the movie, telling us his tale and his acting was superb as Ed Norton always is. Brad Pitt put in, what I consider to be, the best role he has ever played as Tyler Durden; this guy was cooler than cool. He is one of my all time favourite movie characters, from start to finish and Pitt is excellent. Both of these men play their respective roles so well that when you come to the almost unbelievable twist in the third act you genuinely buy it as realistic.

Combining both of these actors and Fincher at the helm made this one of my all time top 10 movies and it is perfectly accompanied by one hell of a book. Commercially this movie was considered a flop. Maybe due to the harsh criticism that the movie was nothing more than a “violent portrayal of man’s urge to destroy things.” In my opinion this is completely wrong however; there is so much more to Fight Club than that. Critically it put these three men on the map. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for one of Palahniuk’s other books, Choke, when it was adapted into a Sam Rockwell movie.

This is just one example of many movies that totally got it right but for me. It is the one movie that, upon getting it right, really hit a note inside me and almost every male. It shone a light on what we, as a society, had become: an angry generation. Case and point: the London Riots of 2011. As I said, “still completely relevant.”

Other Chuck Palahniuk books I would recommend are Survivor, Choke and Lullaby. As for Fincher, you have to check out Panic Room, Se7en and The Game.

I am currently reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a movie I refuse to watch until I have finished the book.  My god it’s one of the most intense reading experiences I have ever had. Gripping like you wouldn’t believe!

- Haldon365

I suppose I little about me…. What is there to say, I am a work to pay the bills by day and as of late outside my work I am working hard at becoming a Mark Kermode type (with more integrity). My site is still in its baby stages but the three of us just love doing what we doing. Feel free to stop by and see what we are about.

For the Fanboys From A Fanboy

Haldon365's Walking Dead/Game of Thrones post

Haldon365's Silver Linings Playbook post

Haldon 365's Zathura review

The Host movie review by CHUNK at

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Hollywood Classics Title Index to All Movies Reviewed in Books 1 - 24 by John Howard Reid. $0.99 from
Another essential book for a film buff's library, this one is packed with information and reviews. Some of the entries are quite extensive. JHR provides all the information you need, including complete cast and production staff. I find JHR's information invaluable. I like to read not only who acted in a movie, but who made it, both top-billed and lesser mortals. -- Ross Adams in DRESS CIRCLE mag.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

#Fantasy #BookReview 'Princess of Dhagabad,' an Enchanting Grown-ups' Fairy Tale from Anna Kashina

In August 2010, I read a beautiful grown-ups' fairy tale called Ivan and Marya by Russian-American author Anna Kashina. If I remember from back then, the author herself asked me if I'd read and review it. In April 2012, Dawei Dong from Dragonwell Publishing asked me if I'd read the first two books in Kashina's The Spirits of the Ancient Sands trilogy. Just to be clear, I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for a review and received no other compensation.

Now you see that I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm really behind on the e-books in my review queue.

Ivan and Marya was set in Russia, but The Princess of Dhagabad is located in the Middle East, although Dhagabad and all the other place names are fictional. There is a mosque outside the princess's palace, and she and the other characters seem to be at least nominally Muslim, although they don't seem particularly troubled to interact with people who are polytheists and/or goddess-worshipers.

The princess (named Gul'Agdar, although she is normally addressed by her title, even in the narration) is a pre-adolescent child of about nine when the book opens. Her wise grandmother passes away and leaves the princess - the kingdom's heiress since her father has no living sons - a bronze bottle. As we've all suspected from the beginning, the bottle contains a djinn, or genie. The djinn's name is Hasan, and he quickly becomes the princess's friend and playmate as well as her servant.

Gul'Agdar is a bit unusual among fictional princesses; her parents give her the education and some of the privileges that would usually be reserved for a prince, such as teaching her to ride horses. She has a keen mind and loves to learn. She loves adventure and has a burning curiosity about the world.

For this reason, Hasan knows he's found a kindred spirit in the princess. Djinn are sometimes thought of as wilderness spirits, but in Kashina's telling, all djinn start out as human beings. They seek wisdom, become magicians and sorcerers, and gradually gain power until at last they leave their human bodies behind and become all-powerful. Because they are all-powerful, they must be slaves, because no being should have unlimited power AND unlimited freedom to use it.

The princess and Hasan have many adventures, including visiting an ancient temple of the Goddess of Dance hidden inside a pyramid. (It's strongly hinted that this refers to the Great Pyramids of Egypt, although Egypt is given a fictionalized name.) The princess meets Hasan's former apprentice, who threatens to end Hasan's long, magical life. The princess saves her djinn, and their relationship evolves as the princess grows and gets closer to the time when she must choose a suitor (her 17th birthday).

Because Dhagabad has no male heir, Gul'Agdar is expected to marry the prince of a neighboring kingdom so the two lands can consolidate and strengthen one another. At first she's thrilled with her chosen suitor, but after they become betrothed they begin to argue. He comes from a land where djinns are hated and suspected of all kinds of dark, evil things, but the princess can't imagine being parted from Hasan. When her wedding day finally arrives, the princess does something shocking.

The story will be continued in The Goddess of Dance.

Anna Kashina's fairy tales are a little too mature for children and younger YA audiences. There's some hint of sexuality, although nothing like explicit erotica. Gul'Agdar is a teenager, and as she grows she slowly starts to discover her feelings in an innocent sort of way. Kashina's writing is very sensual, very vivid, not only in sensory detail but also in emotional detail.

The novel is written in a combination of third- and second-person narration, both in the present tense. The second-person narration gives us Hasan's point of view. Generally, I prefer the past tense to the present tense, and I'm not normally a fan of second-person narration, either (it reminds me of those Choose Your Own Adventure books with the multiple endings). However, both of these literary devices are in expert hands, and Kashina knows what she's doing with them. After a sentence or two, I'd get too into the chapter to notice the narrative framework.

Overall, I found this book very enjoyable. I read Ivan and Marya pretty much straight through in one sitting. I didn't have that option with the book, but given the time, I would have. This is a well-told fantasy tale with enough action and romance that fantasy-lovers will find it compelling.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Does this black-and-white version of the fairy queen Titania look familiar? A bit like Scarlett O'Hara, perhaps? Yes, that's Vivien Leigh.

"Over hill, over dale,
Through bush, through brier,
Over park, over pale,
Through flood, through fire,
I do wonder everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green."
(Act II, Sc. I, Lines 2-9)

"If we shadows have offended.
Think but this, and all is mended -
That you have but slumb'red here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend...
Give me your hands if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends."
(Act V. Sc. I Lines 418-425, 432-433)

Oberon: Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.

Titania: What, jealous Oberon! Fairies, skip hence.
I have foresworn his bed and company.

Oberon: Tarry, rash wanton: am I not thy Lord?

Titania: Then I must be thy lady...

(Act II, Sc. I, Lines 61-65)

"The course of true love never did run smooth."
(Act I, Sc. I, Line 136)