Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Not Going There

There are some places I'm not willing to go as an author. Sure. I've thought about it, but the idea of writing some scenes make me uncomfortable, and if I feel uncomfortable about them, then I can only imagine many of my readers would too.
I've been thinking about this concept a lot in the past week. You see, in the last episode of the Fosters I watched, Leena was forced to terminate her pregnancy at 20 weeks because of severe preeclampsia and the possibility of "maternal mortality" I think was the term they used. Although the Fosters has dealt with all sorts of hard issues like same-sex relationships, rape, and drugs to name a few, there's always been an underlying positivity, almost a cheerfulness, so as a viewer you felt no matter what happened, things would be okay.
Well, for me, all of that was pretty much destroyed last week. I totally didn't see this twist coming, it happened fast and suddenly. I know that I am probably a little more sensitive to this kind of tragic storyline because I am a mum and its all too easy to recall those joyful yet tense months of pregnancy. My own life situation aside, I was devastated by this turn of events, as I'm sure many fans were. I know that in TV land, people quickly move on from this kind of tragedy, but the way this story played out has definitely taken some of the shine off The Fosters for me and I'm not looking forward to this week's episode like I normally would.
This isn't the first time an event in a story has put me at odds. A while ago, I was reading a sci-fi romance by a popular sci-fi romance author. I'd read many of her books before and always enjoyed them. However, in this particular book, the aliens had taken a whole bunch of people captive, and in order to subdue them, decided to use some sort of gas that put them to sleep. However, there were several babies and pregnant women in the group (in varying stages of pregnancy). The gas had the unfortunate affect of killing the babies and making all the pregnant women miscarry. One of the pregnant women even died as she bled out and none of their captors tried to help her. I put that book down and since then haven't been able to bring myself to read this particular author. For weeks after, I kept thinking about this story, questioning why the author had to take the story there. Personally, I believe it didn't add any value to the story, and actually made me intensely dislike the hero, who was the leader of the aliens and had made the decision to gas the people they were holding captive.
I'm not saying these types of scenes in literature and fiction don't have their place, and obviously every author is free to write whatever they see fit. But in romance, which is at heart meant to be a pleasant escapist type of read, there are some places an author doesn't need to go. In the case of that particular book, I almost felt like the scene had been put in there for shock value, as opposed to any real development in character or story. Even if I'd been able to finish the book, I doubt I would have been able to forgive the hero for the part he played in the tragedy. Given, he couldn't have known that the gas would have the affect it did, but surely he could have found a better way to deal with the uncooperative group of people he'd abducted.
Now, I'm not saying I wouldn't ever use some of these storylines myself, but there are definitely some ways I wouldn't use them, if that makes sense. I actually do have in mind a particular story where the heroine gets pregnant and then loses the baby within the first few weeks, because miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy is unfortunately quite common. However, I'll be doing my best to handle it carefully and respectfully, because no doubt such a situation may hit close to home for some of my readers.
When sitting in front of your computer, writing your books, its easy to forget, or even disregard the masses who will eventually experience this story you've created. Or, its easy to think of them as "the masses" and nothing more, not thinking to closely about the fact that they're individuals with a myriad of life experiences they'll bring to the table when siting down to read your book. I hate to think I might ever write anything that could for one, make a reader put my book down, and worse, never be able to read any of my books again.
I might not always get it right, but I'm always doing my best to be mindful of the journey I take my readers on.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Muse - Tyler Hoechlin as Derek Hale on Teen Wolf

You know, sometimes I wonder if I'm too old to be enjoying shows about teenagers so much... But what the hell, good TV is good TV, and Teen Wolf is definitely on my good TV list. In fact, this show quickly became one of my favorites. Its one of those series that has the magic combination; a great cast, action/excitement, romance, the occasional creep factor, and moments of comedy that make you laugh out loud -- especially when Stiles and Derek get a scene together.
Which brings us to the topic of today's Monday Muse. If you're looking for mansipiration, or just needing a good drool, there are some fine specimens of manhood on TV at the moment, however, I have to say that Derek Hale/Tyler Hoechlin is a particularly spectacular example. Let's see an example, shall we, and take a moment to really appreciate.




So, now that we've gotten that out of our system, let's talk about character.
When Teen Wolf first started, Derek was the mysterious creepy guy always lurking in the background. At first, Scott thinks Derek was the one who bit and turned him, but then its revealed that someone else was responsible.
Derek and Scott's relationship is very tenuous at first. Scott doesn't trust him, and while Derek offer his help (more than once) it is obviously done in reluctance and for his own reason and benefit. Even when they come to an agreement about things, Scott's mistrust and Derek's secretiveness gets in the way of them working together all that well. However, over the seasons, Derek and Scott do eventually come to a place of respect and regard for each other. I still wouldn't say they're all buddy-buddy, but they've got each others backs and have definitely saved each others lives on more than one occasion.
And then there's the whole Derek and Stiles thing.
Admittedly, these two together are character-dynamic-gold. Because Derek is so serious and intense, while Stiles is the exact opposite in temperament, they play off each other perfectly.
Enter the Derek/Stiles slasher fans, or Sterek as it as been officially shipped. Some of it delves into places I don't want to know about, like the Supernatural Wincest phenomenon.
However, I have to say some of the lighter stuff is pretty entertaining, like this:



I won't deny Derek and Stiles have some sort of bromance going on, I just don't agree that its sexual in nature. On a side note, I spend waaaay to much time watching those crackvids on youtube, some of them aren't great, but the good ones are so freaking addictive.
Anyhoo, back to Derek. His character has always been one of the darker elements of Teen Wolf, from the revelation that almost his entire family were trapped and killed in a house fire set by hunters, to him investigating the death of his sister in season one. And just when it looked like he might get some happiness in a love interest, it turned out the new GF was the big-bad crazy of the season, who then tried to kill him and everyone else.

Not many men can pull off a brooding pout, but Derek has it down perfectly



This season, we're only a few episodes in and already poor Derek has been totally screwed with. It appears one of the arcing stories of the season will be Derek trying to find out what was done to him by Kate, the hunter turned werewolf who abducted him and then somehow aged him backwards to his teenage years so she could access the Hale family vault... confusing much?
Anyway, when Derek was restored to himself, the color of his eyes had changed. I can't remember what the colors signify, red is an alpha, and I do remember there was some storyline about how Derek used to have yellow eyes, but they turned blue. Something to do with innocence, or intention, or the soul. Anyway, Derek's have changed again, and now he needs to find out why. So, it probably to mean we're going to get some great Derek scenes, and for all the Sterek fans, my guess is there will be plenty of that too. I caught a promo the other week where Malia says to Derek "maybe we need to think like Stiles." To which Derek replies "like a hyperactive spaz?" Yeah, that about sums it up.
Season four is shaping up to be pretty awesome, especially where the Derek storyline in concerned. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

True Blood Season 7 - The Last Hour of Redemption

For those of you who either don't watch, or don't follow True Blood very closely, we're now four episodes into the show's seventh and final season.
I have to admit, I started watching this season not because I was excited to see the show return, but out of habit, and a vague interest in what the writers would do to end this popular, long-running series.
The last post I did on this blog, way back in 2012, I made the not-so-small claim that the season 5 finale of True Blood was the best TV cliffhanger I'd even seen in a series. Season 5 had a definite middle slump where I was totally board, but when the writers brought all the players together for the final episode, it resulted in an awesome hour of television.
However, you may or may not have noticed that I haven't written a single post on True Blood since then. And there is a very simple reason for this. After the breath-stealing excitement of the season 5 finale, it was like those writers decided to go on holidays for a season, leaving the scripts to be written by temp-staff, possibly a different group each week. Because season 6 of True Blood was an epic hole of suckiness. I'm sorry, I know that's harsh, but its the unfortunate truth.
Okay, okay, it wasn't all bad, but after where the season 5 finale left us, I thought we were in for something great in season 6, except the whole show kind of went even farther off the rails than it already had in season 5.
The season 6 opener was about the best episode until the end of the season; Bill came after everyone, and looked like he was going to kill Eric, so Sookie staked Bill in the back (YAY! Team Eric!) Unfortunately (or fortunately if you're a Bill/Sookie fan) Bill had become like this invincible god, so the staking didn't do anything. But the symbolism, people! The symbolism was important; read: Sookie can and will kill Bill to save Eric.
For the rest of season 6, there were some interesting Eric moments, plus whenever Pam is in a scene, you know its going to be good. I actually like Bill's character a bit more in season 6, and it was interesting to see him basically sacrificing himself at the end to save everyone, when in direct contrast, in the season 5 finale, he was the scary monster everyone was running away from.
The finale of season 6 left me more than a little unimpressed. After all the excitement, next thing we know, 6 months has gone by. Sookie is living with Alcide (which I was pretty unhappy about at first) and they're watching reports about the hepatitis-V infected vampires. The episode closed on a bunch of sick vampires surrounding a "mixer" Sam had organized as mayor so that healthy vampires could make an arrangement with healthy citizens of Bon Temps to protect them in return for being fed.
So yes, I had some definite "meh" going on when I tuned in to watch season 7 of True Blood.
But I sit here, four episodes in, ready and willing to admit that in those handful of episodes, the show has redeemed itself to the point where I am now on the edge of my seat, wanting to know what's going to happen next.
The first episode was about what I expected; blood, massacre, Alcide acting all protective and macho over Sookie, and Bill back to trying to be everyone's friend. Except holy hell! They killed off Tara. For a little while I refused to believe she was actually dead, I kept thinking maybe she just got taken by the infected vampires for some reason, because we didn't actually see her die, only heard about it from her mother. But no, it seems she really is gone, which is very unfortunate for Pam.
The second episode... wowsers. What can I say about an opening that featured Jason on Eric action? I am putting this down as one of the best kiss/romance/sex scenes between two characters I have ever seen on TV.
The chemistry the actors brought to the screen as those two characters was off-the-charts amazing, and who would have ever guessed that a love scene between Jason and Eric would work so well?  It even put my favorite Eric/Sookie scenes to shame. The fact that it was Jason having a vampire-blood induced dream after Eric healed him last season didn't detract from the scene at all.
Admittedly, it was about that time I realized the writers might not be pulling any punches for season 7. And why not go all out? Why not finish with the biggest, season-long bang they can put together?
And the hits have kept coming. Pam found Eric, and it turned out he's infected with hep-V (all Eric fans and Eric/Sookie shippers: "NOOOOOOOO!!!!") and to keep him from giving up, Pam tells him that Jason failed to kill Sarah Newlin, which lights the fires of vengeance in Eric, and gives him a reason to return to Bon Temps. The end of episode 3 saw Sookie asking Bill to help her in a risky plan to rescue some friends (and me bitching the whole time this season better not put Sookie and Bill back together or I'll be pissed about it forever!) which resulted in Alcide getting shot trying to save Sookie.
So that's three episodes in and two characters down... (well, almost 3 if you count the fact Eric is dying) this does not bode well for the rest of the characters in the remaining eight episodes.
The fourth episode was awesome for the Eric/Sookie shippers. He arrived back in Bon Temps, and went to Bill's house, only to find Sookie (and a few others) there, planning an offensive on how they were going to get their friends back from the hep-V infected vampires who'd taken them.
The reunion between Eric and Sookie was awesome and sweet. They have this easy affection between them that Sookie doesn't have with any other character. While Sookie is mourning Alcide, she obviously cares very deeply for Eric, and had said herself to Bill, before Alcide was killed, that she didn't love Alcide as much as he loved her (and dare I say, nowhere near as much as she loved Eric?)
As for Eric, it was easy to see in his expression and manner that he still loves Sookie, but the issue of the hep-V is obviously going to get in their way, as well as several other issues. Eric obviously wouldn't want to risk infecting Sookie.
It also looks like the whole Eric/Sookie/Bill love triangle is going to come back into play, as Bill quite obviously wants to fix things between him and Sookie.
I'm a realist, so I actually don't think Sookie will end up with either of them. She has said before that she loves both of them (although, the things Bill did to her hurt her very deeply, and she may never be able to forgive him) but her decision was that being with either of them would not be good for her.
However, the optimistic romantic in me hopes that this season will treat us to some serious Eric and Sookie moments, especially in light of Eric's limited time.
That being said, I can't believe that Eric will actually die. Yes, the writers have proven that no character is safe, they can and will pretty much kill anyone. But Eric is one of those larger-than-life characters who really does make his presence felt in any scene he's involved with.
And of course, my writer's brain has to come up with its own solution, and in this case, it's simple. Eric will come close to death, yes, but Sookie being stubborn like she is, and having already lost so many people she cares about, will refuse to give up on him. In fact, she'll decide to feed him, despite the fact she'll contract hep-V. The twist will come when Sookie's fairy blood heals Eric. Maybe not entirely, maybe they'll need to go get Andy's one remaining fairy daughter to get a more concentrated dose of fairy blood, but Eric will be totally cured, and Sookie will be immune to carrying the disease.
Eric and Sookie may not necessarily end up together, but I would be more than satisfied with this ending.
Of course, the more likely scenario is that everyone will be dead by the season's end.  
Whatever happens, I hope the writers continue to go all out, and make this last season of True Blood the best, and most memorable since the show started.

** Edit Add:
The thought occurred to me the other day that I wouldn't be surprised if the writers did something totally nuts like have Sookie find out she's pregnant with Alcide's baby... or, um cub-- puppy? Whatever kind of kid a werewolf has. Would love to Eric and Bill's reactions to that! Anyway, I'm just putting it out there, people. Anything could happen!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Growing Up Author-Wise

I've just started working on the first pass of edits for Escape Velocity, which is obviously very exciting. I've got an awesome editor, and I'm looking forward to getting this book into shape and out in the world.
Of course, starting with a new publishing house brings new experiences, and I've been learning a lot in the past few weeks. And one of those things is something I've been resisting for a long time.
If you've read this blog long enough, then you know I've always been a pantser (I "write by the seat of my pants" with no plot or plan, I just sit down and see what comes out.) However, I do have to admit that in the past few years, I have blended my pantsing with a bit of planning -- not the entire storyline, but usually I'll write down some major scenes or conflicts, and as I'm going along, I'll often map out 2 or 3 chapters or scenes ahead of myself, to help keep an ultimate direction in mind.
And this is where growing up as an author comes into things. I have never, ever written any kind of synopsis or proposal before beginning a book. However, going forward as a published author with both Entangled and a New York publisher when my agent gets me a contract for my romantic suspense, working this way is no longer sustainable.
Once contracted, there is obviously no point spending weeks or months writing a book that will ultimately get rejected by your publisher because it has major plot holes or character flaws. This is where the synopsis comes in. Providing an outline of the projected story can give your editors insight as to whether you're on the right track. But there's no need to panic if you start writing and your story veers off in a different direction to the one you proposed -- from my understanding, this happens quite often to authors. As long as the final product you turn in is still a tight story that sticks to the basics of what you first envisaged, then its not too much of a problem.
However, this process still intimidates me! Sometimes I still start a book simply because the opening scene has come to me, and the characters are telling me how their story starts. Following this is often a massive black hole, so forcing the characters to reveal enough for an entire synopsis or proposal pretty much scares the bejebees out of me!
Yet obviously this is something I'm going to have to come to terms with, and something I will have to get used to doing with regular occurrence, especially if I want to have a long successful career like I plan.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Supernatural Season 9 Finale -- It Always Ends Bloody

So THAT happened.
I've been meaning to write a post on the season 9 finale of Supernatural ever since I saw it, because holy hell, was that some ending. There I was, watching Sam all crying, and then drinking, and then summoning Crowley, thinking "how not surprising" and then BAM! Dean opens his eyes and clearly he's no longer human.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First off I have to say that season 9 of Supernatural was one of the best in a while (season 6 and 7? Yeah, let's just forget those two seasons happened... okay, they had their moments, like the possessed Impala trying to kill Dean, Castiel kissing Meg and blaming the pizza guy, Dean being a Vampire for like five minutes, the creepy awesomeness of soulless Sam, the episode where Jared and Jensen played Sam and Dean, who were playing Jared and Jensen (who then tried to play Sam and Dean) in an alternate reality, Dean fighting a fairy (("fight the fairies! You fight those fairies!")) Castiel playing twister, that whole Sam/Becky thing, and the awesomeness that was Death... but the rest, well, let's just leave it at the highlights)
A lot of stuff went down this season. One of the biggest? Gadreel killing Kevin. It was inevitable, really. Like I've said in a previous post, no one has a vortex of certain death around them like the Winchester brothers. Every single person who has ever gotten close to them has died (with the exception of Lisa and Ben, who had their memories totally squeegeed, so same difference). I wouldn't be surprised to see by the end of season 10 that either Castiel and/or Crowley have kicked it, completing the certain-death cycle. Okay, so technically Cas already died, but we all know in the Supernatural world, a person (or angel, demon, ghost... whatever) can easily die more than once. Death is definitely not the end in this world. More often than not, dead people at least make a cameo (ghost Bobby and ghost Kevin anyone?)
But Kevin's death wasn't the one that stuck with me. I'd say I was annoyed about it, but these days when someone gets killed off on Supernatural, I can't pretend like I'm surprised, only because the writers on Supernatural have proven time and time again that no one is sacred, and anyone can and will be killed at any time.
Which brings me to Tessa.
When the episode with Tessa started, I was all but bouncing in my seat -- Tessa and Dean have always had the most awesome story lines together, so I thought I was in for a treat. If you'd asked me, I would have said a long time ago that Tessa should have been brought in as a semi-regular character; one, because I've always believed Supernatural could do with a semi-permanent female character (they did pretty well with Ellen and Bella, and Jo to an extent ((not at first, at first I thought she was sucky-Jo, but later she got better)) and let's not forget Sheriff Mills), except what a surprise, they killed all the chicks (except for Sheriff Mills... its doubtful she'll survive season 10) and secondly, imagine all the things the boys could have done with a reaper helping them? Anyway, it was not to be.
So this episode popped up with Tessa, and I was all excited until it turned out she'd gone totally off the rails and had decided to go all suicide bomber on Castilel's behalf. Of course, there was an explanation, something about hearing the cries of the dead stuck in the veil because Metatron closed the gates of heaven... anyway, after a tense stand-off with Dean, Tessa shoves herself onto the first blade and that's the end of that reaper. I didn't flinch when Kevin died (though it hurt watching Dean's grief) but Tessa dying definitely struck hard. Funny that I was so attached to such a minor character.
The other major development in this season was Dean and the Mark of Cain.Nothing about the mark ever really got explained, except in the most generalized sense, but we could all see how it was twisting Dean into something a little scary... well, more scary than Dean already is. I understand, especially after that season finale, why the writers have left so much mystery surrounding the blade and the mark. With the things its done to Dean, obviously the story of the blade and mark, and most importantly, if there's anyway to reverse or fix the effects, is going to be a major plot for the final season.
What else did I like this season? Crowley's humanity and kind-of-but-not-really being a good guy. I already thought the ex-crossroads demon turned king of hell was kind of awesome. Ever since the boys first came across him, Crowley always came up with the best quips and nicknames for the boys, to the point that Moose has become an acceptable moniker for Sam. So Crowley with humanity, addicted to human blood (drunken slur: "you don't know what its like to be human!") and honestly, wanting to be in with the Winchester brothers, was just so perfect. Especially him road-tripping with Dean. Yeah, Crowley definitely has a thing for Dean, and now that he's apparently a demon, I can't begin to imagine how much Crowley is going to love and play off that.
So yep, season 9 had a lot going for it. But I'm left wondering how its all going to end. What could the writers possibly do to round out this epic gift to modern TV culture, giving it the ultimate finale it deserves? I want to be shocked and surprised, but in a good way. I have put some thought into how it could all end, and so far, I've come up with:

1) The most obvious ending would be everyone dying. And I mean everyone. Sam, Dean, Crowley, Castiel, Charlie (they'll have to bring her back from Oz to kill her), Kevin's Mom, Sheriff Mills... pretty much anyone who is anyway connected to the Winchester will have to die in some epic saving-the-world kind of thing. But in all seriousness, I'm kind of hoping the writers don't decide to kill them all, or any of them really. I feel like this ending will be much too expected, and probably even cliche. They've already saved the world I-don't-know-how-many times, and at this point, I'll be disappointed if the writers take the easy way out in killing Sam and Dean.

2) We get a flash-forward showing Sam and Dean as older men, hanging out at the batcave (or whatever their lair is called) answering phones, pretending to be the FBI, or NSA, or DOD, for a couple of younger hunters who've taken up the reins, while Sam and Dean have fallen into the type of role Bobby used to play. This would be a nice way to end things, but unlikely. For one, its too positive and almost-cheery for Supernatural. And second, since Dean has already become a demon, its currently not possible.

3) Dean accepts he's a demon and stays that way. Sam becomes an angel in some random mystic event (maybe he goes to help Castiel get his grace back, and gets hit up with a dose of grace himself, thus turning him into an angel... or something). They're both badass immortals, and Team Free Will can keep fighting the good fight for the rest of forever.

4) They solve the season's major plot, beat the bad guys and get into the Impala to drive off into the proverbial, or maybe a literal sunset, going off into the world, leaving us with the belief that Sam and Dean are still out there hunting things, and saving people, doing the family business. However this ending is totally cliched, and I will be pretty much pissed off if this is the ending we're given after 10 season, it would pretty much be the biggest cop out in the history of TV shows.

5)  Dean heads off the hell to help Crowley rule his kingdom, while Sam finally gets a girl he can stay with and settles down to a mini-van full of kids, complete with dog and picket fence... That better not happen. Seriously.

6) Sam wakes up and its all a dream. He's still in college studying his law degree, Jessica is alive, John is still alive, Dean is still a charming but sexist womanizer living life on the road. None of it ever happened... That SO better not happen. SERIOUSLY!

7) God comes back and fixes everything; gives Castiel his grace back, makes Dean human again, banishes Crowley and all demons back to hell. Sends all form of supernatural creature to purgatory, leaving Sam and Dean with the luxury of being able to do anything they want with the rest of their lives. This one would be kind of cool, but like option number 2, unlikely in the dark it-only-gets-worse world of Supernatural.

8) Sam and Dean somehow get sent back to the alternate reality where they're Jared and Jensen and this time they can't get back!

9) Sam and Dean go back in time (again) and do something that changes their history, thus altering everything that ever happened to them in some way they can't fix, but is kind of better because they managed to stop Dean from becoming a demon, but still defeat Abaddon and Metatron. I'd be annoyed about that one. I think Stargate SG1 did some kind of episode like that, which meant technically SG1 weren't the orginal SG1 team, or they were techincally different versions of themselves, or something. I don't remember specifics, I just remember being annoyed about it.

10) None of the options above, but something totally awesome that will cement this show as one of the greatest series in history.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Writing!

There are other things I should possibly be working on, but the 3rd Atrophy book, currently titled Diffraction, has been calling me, so I gave in yesterday and decided to get stuck into the opening chapters. I know I probably won't get too far into the manuscript at this stage -- its looking like the first round of edits on Escape Velocity will be turning up at some point next week. And possibly I should actually be finishing the 3rd novella to Escape Velocity, especially since I've already written three-quarters of it. But I decided to go with the muse on this one. Atrophy is easily my favorite world out of all the books I've created, and slipping into it is so easy and comfortable, plus there's never a dull moment when Rian is around.
And since I'm in a sharing kind of mood, I've uploaded a snippet from Diffraction and the 3rd novella in the Escape Velocity series onto my WIP excerpts page. So if you want a peek at what I'm currently working on, head over there. Otherwise, I'm getting back into it!