Tuesday, December 12, 2017

War Games Release Day!

Just for fun, here's five rapid-fire facts about the release day for War Games!

1) It's the beginning of Summer here in Australia. The weather is hot, I'm wearing the required summer footwear of thongs (flip-flops if you're American) and as soon as I can, I'll be heading out to enjoy the sun.

2) Found a new song I'm really enjoying which is getting a lot of repeating playtime on my writing playlist. Girl Who Cried Wolf by Ashe

3) Today's tea of choice is called Geisha Getaway and is a green tea with mango and pineapple pieces. It's a perfect summer time tea! 

4) Today's chocolate of choice is a Cadbury dairy-milk with salted caramel pieces. 

5) Plans for the day include boring stuff like grocery shopping, cleaning and making dinner. More interesting stuff will include going to a local 20/20 cricket match with my family this evening and then probably watching a few episodes of Doctor Who when the kids go to bed tonight. 

War Games is now available from Entangled Publishing!

When one of her pilots is shot down behind enemy lines, Lieutenant Theresa Brenner will stop at nothing to save her before she’s captured and tortured, even if it means being part of the dirtside team led by Colonel Cameron McAllister. Bren might respect the way the colonel commands his men, but she’ll never trust Cam—no matter how charming he is—because he was responsible for her brother’s death. 

Colonel Cameron McAllister has a covert mission behind enemy lines to team with the Ilari rebels and overthrow the bloodthirsty dictator who’s torn their planet apart. The last thing he needs is to get sidetracked searching for a downed pilot, especially since it means having Lieutenant Theresa Brenner tag along. Not only doesn’t the frosty pilot have the ground game to keep up with his seasoned group, she’s a potential distraction with all those gorgeous blond curls of hers—and she might be just like her brother, whose foolhardiness got his men killed.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Torchwood: A Study In Fandom

Yes, my last Torchwood post was a little bit snarky, but I've calmed my rabid inner fangirl and given some thought to the unique entity that is Torchwood.
Contrary to my usual habits in TV series consumption, I didn't wallow in Tumblr gifs and youtube fanmade videos and then move on to get addicted to a new series. Oh, don't get me wrong. I totally went down a dark fangirl hole of janto gifs and fanvids that hurt me in the feels, but the moving on part failed to happen.
You see, Torchwood might not be on our TV screens anymore, but it's still rolling along strongly in the form of original cast audio drama produced by Big Finish audio productions. They made a really great mini series that fell between the end of season two and Children of Earth/season 3 called Outbreak, and also season 5 that follows on from Miracle Day called Aliens Among Us. But probably the thing that I've been enjoying the most is the fact they've been able to duck and weave back into the timeline of the show and slot in new "episodes" that feature Owen, Tosh and of course Ianto.
One in particular, titled Broken, runs alongside several episodes in the middle of season one, and deals with Ianto's personal fallout after the death of his girlfriend Lisa, while also filling in the gaps about how and when Jack and Ianto's relationship started, which was never explained in the actual TV series.
The Torchwood fandom is still alive, maybe not as strong as it once was when it was on TV, but new audiences are discovering the TV series all the time thanks to Netflix (among other things), creating new fans as the old ones slip away. It very much seems to be a shifting sands of fandoms that I've never seen with anything else. And a lot of these new fans seem happy enough to embrace the alternate media in which this series had continued to exist. Unfortunately, as the years go by, the fandom is shrinking little by little, and these days things like online petitions or sending packets of coffee beans to the BBC (in honour of Ianto being the coffeeboy) don't do anything to sway anyone.
Even with the considerable influence of John Barrowman wanting to get Torchwood back on TV, the chances of that happening seem minuscule at best.
But in all the fandom to-and-fro, the one thing that keeps coming up again and again, is the death of Ianto Jones. As new fans are come along, it creates a whole new group of people outraged over the character's death. This is fascinating to me from several different perspectives.
Look, I will never agree that killing off Ianto was the right move to make, just as I believe that the Torchwood writers and show runners will ever believe they made a mistake. Or, on the small chance they did decide it was a mistake, they'd never admit to it, anyway.
I think the fan backlash is exactly what tells the writers they did the right thing. The fact is that Jack and Ianto's relationship became that much more polarizing because of Ianto's untimely and sudden death. The tragedy of it makes the fans more invested, the wasted potential frustrates and upsets them, so in many ways, killing of Ianto worked fantastically for the series. Unfortunately, for the continuation of the series, not so much. There was a huge Ianto-sized hole in Miracle Day, and while some of the behind-the-scenes stuff I've seen and read about Torchwood, the creators/writers talk about Gwen being the heart and soul of the show (and in some ways was true) I think they completely missed the fact that Ianto was just as much this, if not more so. He was the warmth and comfort of the show, and without him, things just seemed kind of hollow.
With Torchwood continuing on through audio dramas, there's always going to be the possibility in the fandom's mind that characters can be brought back. In fact, for the next instalment of Aliens Among Us, the gossip on the internet is that Yvonne Hartman, who ran Torchwood One in London and was killed during the battle of Canary Warf, would be coming back. Of course, the fans will be all ready to jump on the "bring Ianto Jones back next!" bandwagon, but I think it would be a safe bet to say Ianto is the single character they will never, ever bring back, no matter what. Don't get me wrong. I'm right there with the bring-Ianto-back brigade, but there are any number of reasons I can see why the creators/writers wouldn't do it.
I've seen a few ideas floating around the internet about how Ianto could be saved or brought back. Probably my two favorite are one; having the 13th Doctor save or revive him somehow. Or two, after the BBC audio drama House of the Dead, (spoilers! Just skip ahead if you haven't got to this audio drama yet and don't want to know what happens) there were fan theories floating around that Ianto had actually been fully resurrected and wasn't just a ghost.
When he stayed behind to close the rift, he got sucked into it and is now trapped between worlds, or possibly got flung out again in a different time. There's even been some theories that this could make Ianto immortal like Jack from absorbing rift energy.
If they were going to bring Ianto back, I actually quite like this option, because I think it would give his character an extra dimension that would be amazing. He would still need to be the same Ianto, but his characters always did have those tiny hints of darkness, so you could only imagine that if Ianto did get spat out of the rift in a different time and was somewhat, if not completely immortal like Jack, he might have spent years or decades trying to get back, so his character could be a little edgier, a little darker. Plus imagine all the backstory of where he'd been and what he'd been doing for all that time that the writers could play with.
However, as wonderful as all that probably sounds to the hardcore #janto fans, if on the tiny, tiny chance Ianto did get brought back, I doubt the writers/creators would ever make him immortal, and it comes back to why they killed Ianto in the first place. Jack's immortality is meant to be a curse, and the writers have already stated that killing Ianto was meant to demonstrate this in a way nothing else ever had. To bring Ianto back would lessen the impact of this. To make Ianto immortal so he and Jack can be together forever? Yeah, not going to happen, because immortality no longer seems like such a curse. And I suppose that is where fanfiction will always fill the gaps. Go onto Ao3 and you can probably find any number of CoE fixit scenarios, or fictions where Ianto becomes immortal like Jack. But in the cannon of the the series still being overseen by Richard T Davies and being produced by Big Finish, sadly I feel Ianto Jones will stay dead and buried for good.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Torchwood - Killing Main Characters GoT Style Before That Was Even A Thing

I just finished watching Torchwood season 3/Children of Earth (mini series) last night, and while I know I've still got season 4/Miracle Day to watch, considering what I've heard about the BBC America/Starz production, I'm not expecting too much.
This isn't the first time I've tried to watch Torchwood. I started way back circa 2007 when it was actually still being produced and one of the larger TV networks here in Australia aired it. But Aussie TV channels are notoriously hopeless (unless we're talking reality TV shows. Those, they seem to be great at handling) and when the episodes were shown, I'm pretty sure they were out of order, plus the day and time kept changing so it was hard to keep track of when it was on. In the end I gave up.
But my recent Doctor Who binge (thanks Netflix) made me want to try again, because Captain Jack Harkness was one of those brash heroes you just know is going to do amazing things.
At the top of its game, Torchwood was a brilliant, shinning example of what a TV series can gift viewers with; brilliant writing and production, storylines that weren't bound or influenced by race, gender or sexuality. It was the heart and soul of people. People we could relate to. People we are. But it also gave us quirky humour, lots of tears, creepy scenes that made you think twice about watching it after dark, and never held back on the violence or sex. But none of it was gratuitous, it made you think about who we are as humans and what we're really capable of.
For a TV series that soared so high, maybe it shouldn't have been surprising that it came crashing down so spectacularly, the beginning of the end happening in Children of Earth.
The season 3 mini series got so much right. It was gripping, gritty, had the audience of the edge of their seats with each episode, building the tension like a rising crescendo. I felt every moment of angst over the children right along with the characters.
But then they made one fatal mistake. Its like a neon sign pointing straight to the pits of hell for the rest of the series. In a lot of ways, it looked like the creators were expecting Children of Earth to be the end, but even if it was, I still think they made some huge mistakes and went waaay too dark. Torchwood always had an element of darkness to it, but this plunged it into absolute despair that it was probably never coming back from.
And that simple, single, fatal mistake was killing off Ianto.
I've seen some statements certain people involved with making the show said about why they did it and how they didn't care what the few whinges on the internet thought, but those whinges are your commodity. They are what get shows made and keep them on the air. If you don't care about them, if you alienate them, then what have you got left? And while I don't mean to get on my high horse about it, if you don't care about your viewers, then what you end up producing smacks of ego and self indulgence. The most popular and successful TV series have huge fandoms. Those fandoms are a community. I'm not saying bow to their every whim because you can't make everyone happy and sometimes fans want things to happen that just aren't feasible. But you can have your cake and respect the fandom while you're eating it.
I'm all for killing off main characters. When they killed off Owen and Tosh, it was sad (I cried SO much) but I could accept it. However if a series is to endure after killing off main characters, then I believe there are two main elements to the show's continued survival.
One: some characters are like linchpins. If you kill them off, you risk completely destroying the very fabric of the show. Ianto was one of these characters, especially considering his character arc from the beginning, to his positioning at the end. At first, he was kind of in the background, but the growth he did became part of the heart and soul that kept the show grounded and vibrant. Same for Gwen, her being killed off would have undermined the overall path of the show. Obviously they're not going to kill Jack, especially since he can't actually die.
Second to this, the main characters you do kill need to eventually or gradually be replaced by new main characters to fill the void left. You can kill them as well in the long run if you want, but the audience will have grown to expect a certain kind of balance to the particular makeup of the world they're invested in, so if these characters aren't replaced, it never really has the same feel.
So to paraphrase, I think the two things that completely destroyed Torchwood in the end was the fact that two new main characters weren't introduced as part of the team to make it feel like things were evolving and would survive. And secondly, killing Ianto (especially the pointless, swiss cheese of a plot hole way he died) was like blowing up a support column on an unstable building.
Whatever form Torchwood took in series 4, I'm sure it was a shadow of its former self and can already see why it didn't last more than a season in the US. And honestly, I find all of this very sad, because some of the episodes of late season 1 and early season 2 are my favourite episodes of any TV show ever. Which, considering how much I love my TV shows and how many I've watched, is saying something big. Its always sad when a TV series ends, but seeing one completely destroy itself before that happens is so very disappointing. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Just Finished Reading... Breaking Creed by Alex Kava

4 out of 5 stars.
Probably rating up a little, I felt this book was more like 3.5 to 3.75 stars. 
It was extremely well written, well plotted and had great characters, though not having read the Maggie O'Dell series, I felt like I was missing a bit. I think this book could have been better if it hadn't relied as much on events in the other series. Though, from a fan's point of view, I imagine this would be a huge plus. That was the first thing that lowers this from 4 stars for me. 
The second was that while it was a great book in respect of plot, character and writing, I didn't fully connect and engage with it to the point I couldn't put it down. I was just reading a few pages here and there in between other things. It could have just been my mood though, which is why I did give it 4 stars on the rating. 
My mood aside, it was quite a good book and I will be reading the next in the series, Silent Creed. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Let's Do The Time Warp Again

HA! That song is totally stuck in your head now.
Seriously, though. Pretty sure I stepped through some kind of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey thing (extra geek points for Doctor Who reference) because I have NO idea where the last 3 months went. They were sucked into a black hole of deadlines and other things going on behind the scenes which I STILL can't tell you about. Frustrating, right? But hopefully one of these days I'll be able to get on here and post all kinds of exciting news.
But, for today, I'm here to let you know that Entangled Publishing are having a Halloween Spook-tacular sale with paranormal and sci fi romance on sale for 99c. Damage Control is one of the titles on sale, so click the image below and get yourself some cheap reads! I've already bought half of them.
In the meantime, I have all that behind the scenes stuff to get back to.
Happy reading, people!

Damage Control

In space, you can’t hide from temptation…

Nick-named Captain Hardass by the new recruits, Captain Leigh Alphin is captain of the Fighter Force of the battleship Valiant Knox. He’s honorable, straightforward, and hard as nails – except for the soft spot he has for a young woman he rescued off a transport that was under attack. Now that she’s one of his new recruits, it’s imperative he stop thinking about her in that way. Especially now that the Knox has been secretly infiltrated by the enemy. Mia Wolf’s new commander is icy, no-BS, and completely gorgeous. His glances send heat searing through her. Neither of them can afford to make this mistake, yet desire takes hold, consuming them. For the first time, Leigh’s iron sense of honor falters as his heart fights for love… and against an enemy trying to destroy everything they hold dear.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Back In Action... Almost

Ah, my poor neglected blog. How I have thought fondly of the in these past weeks of solitude--
Sorry, I totally went off into a daydream where I was sitting in a cottage in the 1800s writing a letter with a quill.
Anyhoo, it is true that I have regularly thought of posting in the past weeks, but I had 2 book deadlines, one on top of the other. The 4th and final book in my Valiant Knox series was handed to my editor on the 1st of June (or maybe a week or so past the deadline date, if we're being honest!) and then I had to get straight into writing the 4th book in the Atrophy series, which is due on the 1st of August. I've been chained to my computer, typing my fingers to the bone. I now have 5 days left until the Aug 1str deadline, and around 17k words left to write. So I might not quite make it, but once again, I'll probably only go a week or so over.
Release wise, the 4th Valiant Knox book, War Games, will be out in November, while the 4th Atrophy book, titled Entropy, will be out in January (at this stage, subject to change!)
Otherwise, I have some very exciting projects happening in the background, none of which I can tell you about until the contracts are signed and the ink is dry. As soon as they're confirmed (which could still be weeks or maybe months... hopefully not months, waiting is hard!) I'll be sharing the news on all the usual social media hang outs and here on my blog.
In the meantime, I really need to get back to writing!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Win Copies of Escape Velocity and Damage Control!

With the release of Cover Fire only days away, now is your chance to win the first two books in the series! Just click here to enter the rafflecopter giveaway

So, what's the word about Cover Fire? Here's a snippet of what a few readers are saying: 

5 Stars - "Seb puts his life on the line for Jenna and she is prepared to do the same. Their interactions are witty but passionate and loving. The plot is strong and convincing. The team spirit of the stick jockeys is exemplary. This novel is full of suspense. It had me guessing and on the edge of my seat most of the time. It's so well constructed that it's like watching a movie." - Brigitte via Goodreads

5 Stars - "Plenty of mystery, thrills/spills and romance and a great paced story. I really love Sci Fi romance and this series has been amazing so far." - Nikki Brooks via Goodreads

5 Stars - "Sci-Fi Romances are not books I read a lot of, but when I read the blurb of this story, there was no way I was going to miss out on reading it and I've got to say that this book was everything I'd hoped for and more. Seriously, this story was absolutely riveting, fast-paced and the way this story started had me enjoying this couple immediately." - Book Magic Reviews

5 Stars - "I'm not typically a sci-fi type reader, but I loved this book! It took me two days to read because I devoured every single word, every nuance, every detail between Agent Jenna Maxwell and Sub-Lt. Seb Rayne. Hot! ... The book is really a must read whether you're a sci-fi fan or not, I guarantee you'll love it." - Ayekah via Goodreads

4 Stars - "There’s such a strong visual element in Jess Anastasi’s writing that reading every book of hers is akin to watching a novelisation of a fast-paced tv episode that’s a combination of a space opera and a summer blockbuster. And it rings every bell that I have and for most part, the action, intrigue and romance make me a happy camper by the end of it." - Disir via Goodreads

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Just Finished Watching... The Shannara Chronicles

Admittedly The Shannara Chronicles wasn't high on my to-watch list, but I've been making a pretty good dent in that list lately, and since it's in no particular order, I decided Shannara was next.
First off, like Shadowhunters, this was a show that started out in the seriously-not-great category. The dialogue... ugh. Some of it was cringe worthy and delivered very questionably by the actors. But I pushed through the awkwardness, and while not as addictive as Shadowhunters, Shannara Chronicles still ended up sucking me in well enough.
This kind of high fantasy usually isn't my thing. I'm not a Lord of the Rings fan, and have never seen any of the other movies related to the series (Hobbits or something?). The Shannara Chronicles probably helped keep my interest by the fact that it was kind of post-apocalyptic in that its set thousands of years into the future following the fall of man. That is now ancient history, and living memory has the Elves in control of the land after winning a war against the trolls and gnomes. Humans are still around, but they are now the lesser species.
What really stood out for me in this show? The best love triangle I've ever seen on any TV series or movie. But more on that in a minute.
When we meet the first main character, Amberle, you kind of forced to like her. She's going to enter a gauntlet to do something no girl has ever done -- become a member of the Chosen (this show can't be accused of being subtle) who care for the mystical tree in the middle of their kingdom that is said to imprison a demon army. People have come to believe this is simply a myth or fairy tale. Plus, no one has seen magic for decades, so they believe it has died out. Amberle is successful and we also find out that she's a princess.
Next, we have Wil. I thought Wil was a little wishy-washy at first, and not necessarily hero material. But you know, a hero called and created under adversity -- not through their own choice -- often makes the best hero. Wil's character arc is the classic Hero's Journey (read the book by Christopher Vogler), plot point for plot point.
We find out that Wil is the last of the Shannara, even though he didn't know it because his father changed their name and never told him. The Shannara were a long and ancient line of kings that once ruled the land (I think).
This piqued my interest, and I wondered what Wil was going to do with this information. He didn't have the best start to the series, with his mother dying, and then deciding to set off to make a new life, but instead gets robbed by out third hero, Eretria. After that, a druid turns up (incidentally, played by Manu Bennett [who was on Arrow, among other things] and is a very good actor. Actually, I'm now convinced Manu Bennett can improve the quality of a show just by standing in a scene and looking awesome.
He certainly saved this show early on) and tells him who he really is and that Wil needs to protect a certain princess.Meanwhile, Amberle also ends up running across Eretria, but the outcome of their skirmish is very different. When Wil dealt with her, he ended up being the sucker who got taken advantage of, but when Amberle comes up against her, Eretria loses out when Amerle steals her horse.
The love triangle isn't immediately apparent, though it is subtly established with Eretria seducing Wyl to trick him, and then Wil's obvious attraction to Amberle when he meets her. There were even interesting sparks between Amberle and Eretria in their first meeting, though they were more in the form of clashing personalities.
As the episodes continue on, Wil doubts his ability to help Amberle, even though the druid insists that it's his destiny. Amberle resists wanting help as she attempts to figure out her own path, while Eretria is constantly crossing both their paths. Finally, Eretria sleeps with Wil to steal from him yet again (Elf stones, which he sometimes wields with magic to kill demons) but as she's trying to leave the palace, she is accused of attempting to kill Amberle, when in fact it was a changeling, or shape-shifting demon that had impersonated her.
Soon after this, Amberle has a vision, and realizes that for some reason, she needs both Wil and Eretria to go with her on the quest to save the mythical tree, before it dies and releases all the demons.
At first, Eretria is going against her will, simply a prisoner. But as the journey continues on, become more dangerous and complicated, the three grow closer, and soon Eretria has to make a choice -- her chance to escape, or stay and help them complete the journey. Of course, she chooses to stay, and by now the love triangle is well and truly established.
In one particular episode, Eretria makes a move on Amberle -- hard to say why, there could have been a number of reasons to do with Wil, because it's obvious Wil cares for Amerble and Eretria is a little jealous, or just testing Amberle's vulnerabilities. Either way, when Amberle rebuffs her, I think Eretria is more hurt by it than she expected to be. Later in the same episode, Amberle thinks Wil has been killed, and after she discovers he's alive and she escapes the crazy guy trying to kill her, she kisses him, partly because it'd been building up for so long, but a lot of it would have been simple relief.
Earetria of course comes in and sees them, and she's obviously not surprised by this development. Really, I don't think anyone was. It's at the end of this episode when Eretria ends up making her own choice about the quest. She has the chance to escape and leave the two of them. Logically you might think that after seeing Amberle and Wil kissing, it might have driven her to leaving. Instead, in that moment which also might see Amberle and Wil die, I think she realizes she cares deeply about both of them, that they have or can give her something she's lacked in her life -- real friends, people who care about her because of who she is, not what she can do. So, despite the risk to her own life, she chooses Amberle and Wil.
After that, the trio is now bound by blood -- not really, but symbolically -- and continue to grow closer. However, this isn't without bumps in the road. There's an episode where Eretria looks like she might choose to go her own way after all, settling in a human village that seems open and accepting, plus the leader of this village is charismatic and convinces Eretria its where she belongs, and that her friends probably went on without her.
It's very clear by this stage that Wil has feelings for both girls, though he and Ameberle have shared several kisses. Amberle never really seems jealous of the fact that Wil also clearly cares for Eretria at this point (though at the beginning, after she found out they'd slept together, she did make a few snarky jealous comments). In fact, Amberle seems to care about Eretria just as much at this late stage in the journey.
Seriously, this love triangle was just done so well. Usually I'm a bit "meh" about love triangles. And I'll always pick a side. I just always feel like they're not working somehow. But in this instance, I couldn't pick a ship. I kept swinging back and forth between Ambil and Wiltria (totally just made up those shipper names. I don't know what the fans call them) and in the end, just decided to ship all three of them together. I want them to be happily polyamorous altogether.
Funnily enough, this is not the first polyamorous relationship I've shipped, and the other one was very recent as well. In Cable Girls, though I didn't mention it in the post I wrote, one of the girls was in a committed relationship with a man, but then another woman came along, and while at first they were friends, this woman made a move on the girl, throwing her into a clear state of sexual confusion. She did try to resist, but it was obvious she was also curious and attracted to the woman. Her boyfriend eventually caught them kissing, and while he was a little hurt that she'd betrayed him, he was very accepting. Maybe because he was secretly also attracted to this woman. Suffice to say they all ended up in bed together and seemed to commence a polyamorous relationship, and I'm very interested to see whether they maintain this into the second half of season 1, when it releases later in the year.
But back to the Shannara Chronicles.
In the final two episodes, I was really starting to wonder where the writers were taking the Amberle/Wil/Eretria relationship, because the three of them were connected in a way I'd never seen done between characters before.
Now for some serious spoilerage. In the final episode, after completing the task they'd set out to do, the three of them were being chased by trolls. Eretria stayed behind, giving Wil and Amerle a chance to escape, because even though they'd done what they needed, the kingdom wasn't going to be safe until Amberle made it back to the tree. Both Wil and Amberle were clearly upset and torn about leaving her, but in the end, they didn't have a choice.
Wil and Amberle manage to make it back to the tree, but much to Wil's shock, Amberle tells him good bye. Because in order to save the tree, she has to become the tree. This had been revealed a little bit before hand, so the viewers had already had time to digest, but Amberle had said she wasn't willing to do it. But in the end, it was the only way to save everyone, so she went through with it.
The season closed on Wil leaving to find Eretria. I was hoping that season 2 would see Wil and Eretria searching for some way to release Amberle from the tree without releasing all the demons again. But a bit of googling told me a different story. Apparently a year has passed when the series starts back, and Wil has moved on by himself. Circumstance force him and Eretria to team up again. and Amberle doesn't get a mention, so I'm sadly assuming she's gone for good.
Either way, I was sucked in enough that I'll at least make a start on season 2 whenever it starts on Netflix. But I won't lie, if Amberle really isn't coming back, then I'm going to be sorely disappointed about the waste of a perfectly awesome love triangle.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Cover Fire Now Available For Pre-Order!

Sharing some new cover goodness with you today! Cover Fire is now available for pre-order with all e-book retailers ahead of its June 19 release. Need more than the hotness going on here to convince you? Then here's everything else you need to know:

He will protect her with his life... but who will protect his heart?

If the assignment is crazy, dangerous, or a little of both, Sub-Lieutenant Sebastian Rayne can’t help but take on the challenge. So when Command Intelligence tags him to fly one of their agents behind enemy lines, it seems like just another routine death-defying mission. Crash landing on the planet was a piece of cake, but the gorgeous agent he delivered safely to her meeting is now believed dead and he must return to retrieve her body.

After Agent Jenna Maxwell realizes her own people attempted to have her killed, she enlists the hot stick jockey’s help. His new mission? Sneak her back onto his ship to ferret out who wanted to get rid of her and why. But she fears her growing feelings for Seb have blinded her to his reckless insistence on helping her stay alive, and his rash behavior will cause them both to lose their lives.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What Makes an Unsympathetic Hero?

Sometimes I like to push the boundaries when it comes to my heroes. Rian Sherron, the central character to my Atrophy series, is a good example of this. He's dark and twisty, and I've always wanted to see exactly how dark and twisty I could take him, how far I could push the line on his behavior before the readers decided he wasn't a hero any longer. Admittedly, there have been some scenes in the first three Atrophy books that were either toned down, or completely changed by the time of publication because my editor was worried Rian had crossed that line -- and given that my Atrophy books are with a romance publisher and predominantly read by romance readers, I possibly couldn't be as dark and twisty as I wanted with Rian, than I could if I was writing straight sci-fi.

Despite testing the boundaries of that gray area between good and bad, I'd never given too much thought to what makes a hero unsympathetic. Not very deeply anyway, until an episode of The 100 two weeks ago. Just skip ahead if you're not up to date on The 100 and don't want to know.

For those of you who don't watch it, here's some framework to base my point: The 100 is a post-apocalyptic TV series that started out as a teen drama, based off the book series of the same name by Kass Morgan. However, in the four seasons since it began, it moved beyond the constraints of a simple teen drama, and way beyond the original premise of 100 teenagers being sent to Earth, after the human race survived the nuclear apocalypse 90 years earlier by living on several cobbled-together space stations. Of course those who survived on the space stations were surprised to find survivors on the ground, who had regressed back to a clan type of society, with justice often being served through black-and-white judgements and using a lot of violence to solve issues.

In the fourth season, it was revealed that all of the nuclear power plants around the world that have been left unattended for almost a hundred years are all melting down. This will result in a massive death wave that will kill all life on earth. For the first part of the season, the main protagonist, Clarke, was trying to find a way to save everyone, not just the people of the Ark (the space station which ended up crashing to earth) but all of the Grounder clans as well.

They found a bunker, but of course the bunker can only hold so many people, so then the fight began over whose people would get to survive in the bunker. Honestly, the people of the Ark have a bit of a superiority complex over the Grouders. In part, I suppose you could say this is justified. Whoever ends up in the bunker needs to know how to run to bunker -- the hydroponic farm, the water and air filters, etc. The people of the Ark have this knowledge from surviving on a space station, while the Grounders do not as they've been living for three or more generations without technology.

The Grounders agree to have what they call a Conclave -- one representative from each clan fights to the death, and whichever representative survives, that clan wins the bunker. Not believing they can win this fight (and according to Clarke "doing what's best for my people," which had been a reoccurring theme for her over the seasons, most often to the detriment of her morals, putting her on a darker and darker path) Clarke devises a way to "steal" the bunker for the people of the Ark to survive while everyone else is distracted by the Conclave.

When this revelation came out at the end of the episode, I was actually quite shocked that Clarke had made this move. For me, that was the tipping point, and she became an unsympathetic hero. She was now looking more like the villain. This was especially highlight in contrast to Octavia, who had fought in the Conclave as the representative of the Ark people, and won. When she fronted the grounder council with her victory, she announced that her people wouldn't take the bunker for themselves, that they would instead share it equally with all clans -- 100 of each. It starkly juxtaposed the growth the two characters have had over the four seasons -- they have both experienced loss and hardship, but while Octavia started out as a somewhat shallow and wilful girl, she became the hero that found a way to save everyone. Clarke started out as a serious, responsible girl with a deep moral compass, but she had become the antihero, making a decision that would only save those she deemed more important, even though she had always said the people of the Ark and the Grounders should be considered equal.

There was another instance an episode or two before this, where Clarke also tried to take advantage of Grounder law to stage a coup and become leader of the Grounders so she could decide for them how to handle the coming disaster and division of the bunker. But it backfired, which I was glad for, because it left me feeling very uncomfortable -- for me, Clarke seemed to have this superiority complex. Yes, she said the people of the Ark and Grounders should be equal, but when they wouldn't confirm to her idea of what should be done, she tried to take advantage of their beliefs for her own gain. Maybe she technically had noble intentions, but her method was insulting to the Grounders and their beliefs. I'm not sure if this is what The 100 writers intended, but that was how I digested it.

So, through these few pivotal choices, for me, Clarke had become the unsympathetic hero. However, as I was thinking about what the writers could have done differently, or why they put Clarke on this path and what it might mean for her future (something I regularly do, because it's fun and I think it helps exercise my story telling muscle) I questioned how I would have felt about her actions had it been one of the male protagonists, say Bellamy, who did these things. I realized that while I still wouldn't have agreed with these methods, if it had of been Bellamy or a male character, then I would have probably seen it as him taking charge and been more amiable to accepting, heck, even being impressed by the lengths he was willing to go to for what he believed in. And that is where my hard-wiring from being brought up in a society that teaches us to judge women more harshly, that is still entrenched in sexist, patriarchal ideals, impacted into how I viewed Clarke's actions, simply because she was a woman.

But the point of this post wasn't to get all political. I still haven't properly explained what makes an unsympathetic hero. From my personal point of view, it's where a character reaches a point that no matter what they do after, they are no longer redeemable. And this is my jam. I love a good redemption story line. All you need to do is find any of my posts about Agents of Shield's Grant Ward. He did some horrible things, a lot of them were not easy to watch. But the darker he got, the more I wanted to see him redeemed. Even when he got infected with an alien organism and went completely evil, I still prayed that somehow he would get his second chance. For many people, Grant Ward became the unsympathetic hero and was thus irredeemable after the end of season 1 when he initially betrayed the team and his true Hydra loyalties were revealed.

For me, even though Ward constantly did bad things, he was still likeable. With Clarke, she has also done a number of bad things, and I reached a point where I no longer found her likeable. Though, after my introspection, I decided to reverse my judgement and give her a second chance. It'll be interesting to see when, how, or even if Clarke will start her redemption. She's hurt and betrayed a lot of people, especially Bellamy who always stood by her no matter what anyone else said, but when she left his sister, Octavia, locked outside the bunker and facing death, that was obviously a deal breaker. As for Grant Ward, it's complicated, but in short his character was killed and sadly he probably won't be getting any redemption.

When it comes to my own characters, especially Rian, I feel that so far I am achieving what I'd hoped for -- some people don't like Rian, they find him brash, reckless, and selfish. Some people are loving him, and are looking forward to his redemption. For me, I want to drag Rian down into the darkest depths possible, before bringing him back up for his redemption. Though, as previously stated, publishing through a romance publisher may hinder me in that a little. But that's not to say I might not have other avenues to explore the monster inside him.

In general terms, I think there's a balance, an equation that needs to be met to create the difference between a character being unsympathetic or not. And that is weighing likeability/reasoning against the character's actions.

So, the darker or more horrible a character's actions, the more likeable or the deeper the reason for these actions needs to be. For Rian, I use the fact that he endured years of unspeakable torture at the hands of aliens as the reasoning behind his actions. He's on a quest for vengeance, and nothing will get in the way of that. This doesn't excuse his actions, especially when those he cares about are the ones caught in the crossfire. It simply gives the reader an understanding. They do with it what they will.

Secondary, I have the fact that even though he is broken, he still loves his sister and cares about his crew, even though he may not exactly show it, he protects them (sometimes from himself) and will go above and beyond for them. He has their unwavering loyalty, which I think speaks to the likeability factor. Thirdly is his confusion over the feelings he has for Ella, a priestess he inadvertently rescued from the aliens, which leaves the reader hoping that he will start finding his redemption through her, through love.

Of course, the one thing I've over looked is the fact there are some deeds that will immediately and irrevocably make a hero unsympathetic, no matter how you try to redeem them or make them likeable. Socially unacceptable things like rape, racism, sexism, etc, so these will need to be avoided, or the reader will be completely alienated. With the caveat that yes, I know sometimes people break these "rules" successfully. But it's not easy, and takes a very skilled writer.

So, there we have it, after a very long post, my take on what makes an unsympathetic hero.
Looking for other writerly information? Then just search the tag writing advice or so you think you can author on my blog.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Just Finished Watching... Las Chicas Del Cable (Cable Girls) on Netflix

Actually, I finished it a bit over a week ago, but hadn't gotten around to writing this post.
I'd been waiting for this show to appear on my Netflix catalogue since I finished watching Gran Hotel last October and some internet stalking research revealed that many of the same people behind Gran Hotel were now working on a Netflix original called Las Chicas Del Cable, including the lead actor, Yon Gonzalez.
Season 1 part 2 released last week (or was it the week before?) with little fanfare, but man, was I excited when I saw it there. However I made myself wait, as there were other shows I was watching and was guessing that once I started Cable Girls, if it was anything like Gran Hotel, I wouldn't want to watch anything else until I'd binged all the episodes.
And I was right.
So right.
Cable Girls is set in early 1920s Madrid, based on a group of four women who struggle for their jobs and independent lifestyle as operators at a telephone company, against the social norms of the time. Like Gran Hotel, this show is in Spanish, so be prepared to read subtitles. And as happened with Gran Hotel, I'd gleaned enough Spanish to understand that what was being said wasn't always exactly the same as what was translated on the subtitles. Though, I did see it mentioned somewhere that English dub was available, but I didn't look into it, because I actually enjoy listening to the Spanish being spoken.
I'm not sure what I expected of this show -- not for it to necessarily be Gran Hotel all over again (because let's face it, nothing is ever going to be Gran Hotel again!) but the first half of season 1 managed to surprise me in a lot of different ways, all good.
To begin with, Yon Gonzalez (who played the lead part of the swoon-worthy Julio in Gran Hotel) played a much more polarizing character this time around, named Francisco. There was no good or bad for this character, just a whole lot of gray where what he wanted often ran in opposition to his duty and the life he'd built for himself.
In the first episode, we were introduced to Alba, who starts working at the phone company under the fake name of Lidia, blackmailed into stealing from the company, not knowing her childhood love, Francisco, is the company director. However, Francisco is also BFFs with the company owner's son, Carlos, and married to the company owner's daughter (whose name escapes me right now).
Years earlier, Alba/Lidia and Francisco were split up only moments after arriving in Madrid to start a new life together, due to a misunderstanding which saw Alba/Lidia arrested. Her rescuer ends up being a Madam who runs what basically amounts to a brothel, I think, and she teaches Alba/Lidia how to survive. She spent the next years thinking that Francisco simply abandoned her, while Francisco never knew what happened to Alba/Lidia.
Until she turns up at his company as one of the new operators. Francisco recognizes her right away, but she tries to pretend he has her mixed up with someone else. He isn't fooled, however, and her suddenly reappearing in his life sends him into a bit of a tailspin.
Francisco is in an interesting position. The owner of the phone company trusts him in running things more than he trusts his own son, Carlos. Meanwhile, Francisco is all but a brother to Carlos, so Francisco is constantly trying to manage the father's expectations, his own duty to the company, but also take Carlos' side when he clashes with his father. Of course, you have to throw in a few secrets that Carlos doesn't know about between Francisco and Carlos' father when it comes to running the company. Plus Carlos has a secret of his own.
Then the really messy interpersonal stuff comes into it. At first Francisco is determined to win Alba/Lidia back, despite already being married. But then circumstances force him to recognize the damage his actions will have on his home life, possibly extending into his professional life. Most of this is not helped by his scheming secretary, who ends up spying on Francisco on behalf of his wife.
And of course, this show wouldn't be complete without the love triangle. Alba/Lidia also caught Carlos' eye from her first day on the job, and her continuous rebukes to his charm only tempts him more. Finally, circumstance forces Alba/Lidia to get closer to him, and at first she only plans to use him, but of course, feelings get messy, and she becomes torn between Carlos and Francisco. Every time it seems she might be able to move on from Francisco -- which would probably be the healthier thing for both of them -- some other revelation or circumstance pushes them back together.
Part 1 of season 1 ended on a cliff hanger, which I usually hate, but in this case it was all so well done, I couldn't be cranky about it. But I am now impatient to see the second part of season 1, which won't be coming for a few more months at least.
And here I haven't even mentioned all the other breath-stealing things going on with the three other female main characters. Cheating spouses, sexual confusion, secret fiancees, hidden pregnancies, and all kinds of situations that kept me up until the early hours of the morning watching episode after episode.
If you are a fan of Gran Hotel -- heck, even if you're not and just love a good period drama -- then Las Chicas Del Cable is definitely worth your time.
For me, I'll be eagerly waiting for the second half of season 1 to drop, and in the meantime, might even do a Gran Hotel re-watch to tide me over.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Agents of Shied - 4x21 The Ward/Fitz Parallel Set in Stone

I hate to say I told you so... Who am I kidding? I love saying I told you so! Totally called the Ward/Fitz Parallel two episodes ago.
I almost wasn't going to write a post about AOS today, I kept telling myself to wait until after the season finale next week and do a season 4 wrap up. But I couldn't help myself. Because there was one line Fitz said in this week's episode that will go down as one of my favorites of the entire season.
"I'm just like Ward."
Oh man, the feels. The dawning understanding on Fitz's face, in that moment completely understanding original-Ward for the monster he was, now having that same monster inside him, it was brilliantly executed by both the writers and the actor, Iain De Caestecker.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
In this week's episode, everyone except Mack escaped the Framework. This actually has to be one of the best overall AOS episodes out of all four seasons so far. We had Mae and Coulson locked in a room together with the enemy outside, the two of them trying to figure out how to escape their underwater prison, while hashing out some of what had happened while the Mae-LMD had been in place. Coulson almost admitted to Mae that he'd kissed the Mae-LMD, but couldn't get the words out. Mae filled in the blanks, but assumed that her LMD self had tried to kill Coulson.
He totally jumped on the excuse, and it was one of those laugh-out-loud moments I've missed seeing. Even in a tense situation where death is a real possibility, the AOS writers still manage to get some humor in there, which only gives the whole make-up of the show that much more depth.
Then we had the now human Aida/Ophelia. While Fitz tried to come to terms with what he had done and who he had been in the Framework, he was also dealing with the new Aida/Ophelia. For a moment it looked like he was going to talk her around, that she might actually come good and not be the sociopathic Ophelia/Madam Hydra from the Framework. But then when Fitz admitted that Gemma was the one he'd always love, Aida/Ophelia/Madam Hydra lost her shit and went on a killing rampage.
With multiple inhuman powers, and some other secret that hasn't been revealed yet -- one that Fitz and Mae were in on, something about the inhumans they experimented on in the Framework -- Aida/Ophelia was apparently unstoppable, and escaped what was left of the Shield base, leaving a number of bodies in her wake.
Source: stydiaislove on Tumblr
The silent reunion between Gemma and Fitz was gorgeous and heartbreaking. But Fitzsimmons fans better not get their hopes up. I'm guessing there are some rocky times ahead for Gemma and Fitz, especially now that Fitz sees himself in the same light as Grant Ward, who he spent the better part of two years hating. As I said in the last post, I know a lot of Fitz and Fitzsimmons fans are absolutely hating what the writers have done to Fitz, and I'm sorry for them, but I absolutely love it. Take a good character and give him that hint of darkness? Totally sold. I can't wait to see what the AOS writers are going to do with this new dark side of Fitz going into season 5. Will he get the path of redemption that Grant Ward never took?
Speaking of Ward, I'm confused and hopeful over Framework Ward. I'm hoping we'll see him in the next episode. I can't imagine that the writers would leave such a massive thread not tied up. There was no real conclusion to his story line when Skye/Daisy left him at the TV station to ensure Coulson's broadcast wasn't interrupted. Given that he was once a pivotal character, I just can't believe the writers wouldn't give fans some conclusion to whether he lived and got his Skye back, or got killed making sure Daisy and the rest of the team made it home.
If we don't see anything of him in the next episode, with Yo-yo in the Framework to bring Mack home, then I'll have one last little slither of hope. And that hope is that after Aida/Ophelia became human, but before the underwater base got torpedoed, Framework-Ward also managed to come through, getting a human body and escaping the flooding facility. Maybe he went up the stairs when Coulson and Mae went up the elevator. Maybe he managed to hide on the submarine. And during the first two or three episodes of season 5, he's going to randomly appear, surprising everyone.
This would be so great to continue the Ward/Fitz parallel. Because now we have this good Ward who was brought into Shield by Victoria Hand, is loyal and an all round good guy, while Fitz has two lives worth of experience affecting him, one of which he was the bad guy who did all the wrong things, just like Original-Ward.
Yes, I am praying hard that the writers have decided to bring Ward back for season 5, and we'll see some semblance of the original team for what could be the final, epic season.
Oh, and I also have to mention, I was happy to see Robbie Reyes, aka Ghost Rider made his way back to our dimension in the last few minutes of this episode. The season four finale is looking like it'll be amazing.

Incident Report IBC-726A-39

FORMAL INCIDENT REPORT SECTION ONE Incident Date:___ 25 th August 2436 __ Incident Time:___ 22 :30 hours approx ___ Incident...