#urbanfantasy

#Review: The Good Place

Sometimes, entertainment comes from the most unexpected places.

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When I saw a promo for The Good Place, I thought there was no way it could be anything but stupid. I continued on, hopping around #Neflix and as is often the case, 247 clicks later I hadn’t found anything that I wanted to see. Desperate, I took a deep breath and returned to The Good Place. I’m glad I did.

The premise of the series is that after we die, we experience one of two possibilities: We either go to The Bad Place and endure a hell made especially for us, or we go to The Good Place where whatever we desire is available to us. The story centers around Eleanor, convincingly played by Kristen Bell. She lands in The Good Place, only to realize she is there by mistake. Ted Danson also plays a pivotal role, but it is an ensemble cast with no weak players.

To my great surprise, the show is Laugh Out Loud funny. The humor is witty, with a humorous take on the human condition. I laughed because I could relate. It is also an emotional journey, with characters who are flawed, broken, with deep wounds that impact their choices and their beliefs more than they have realized. Moreover, the story arcs are creative and unexpected in that, “ did that really just happen” sort of a way, while still being true to the characters personalities.

I hope Netflix renews the series. I’m already addicted. 5/5 Stars

Spawn of Lilith—A Review 4/5 stars

Spawn of Lilith—A Review 

4/5 Stars

I recently finished Spawn of Lilith by Dana Fredsti. I liked this book and would recommend it to others. It seems to follow none of the “rules” we have come to expect in books. There is no inciting incident (or ordinary world, I couldn’t tell which was missing), no rising action. Most of the book is simply Lee, the main character, doing things. Lee buys beer. Lee take a job on a bad movie.  Lee takes another job with another bad movie. Although she’s a stunt woman, I’m not sure any of those scenes are necessary for the story. In fact, I wasn’t sure what the story was until the end of the book.

According to Lee, the movie industry is full of supernatural creatures. But they are not on the page, at least not in a way that impacts the plot or characters’ development.

So why do I like the book enough to recommend it? I like the characters. They were well developed and engaging. I like Lee. I like Lee’s friends— Eden, an actress, and Randy, a stuntman and a shapeshifter who never shifts. In a roundabout way, they help her grow and become more independent. I might have found Sean and Seth (her father and pseudo-foster brother) more interesting if they had been around more.  

I’d put the book back on the shelf several times because one of the blurbs described Lee as snarky. I hate snarky characters, but eventually I decided to give it a try. I did NOT find Lee snarky. Snarky is just bitter and angry, which Lee isn’t. She had humorous moments that were well done.

All in all, I couldn’t put this book down.  I’m looking forward to reading Lee’s next adventure.

Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Binge-Watched: A Review of Umbrella Academy

A remote control pointing to a blurry television.

A remote control pointing to a blurry television.

Umbrella Academy is a new series on Netflix. I’d say it’s urban fantasy, my favorite genre to read and watch.

Despite some irritations, I loved this show.  I had no knowledge of the comic so had no expectations, which may have allowed me to enjoy the show instead of looking for where it diverged.

The premise seems to be this: On October 1, 1989, 43 women who had not been pregnant that morning gave birth. A rich entrepreneur adopts 7 of them.  He trains them as superheroes to combat crime. Each child has a unique superpower. For some reason, unexplained but perhaps hinted at, the children go their separate ways. This story takes place when they reunite at their father’s death.

Many of the characters are a bit stereotypical. But can we expect more from comic book villains and heroes?  We saw their flaws and strengths in concrete terms. However, I found most of them to be sympathetic. I tend to be attracted to stories of broken heroes and this one gives me three--Luther, Diego, and Klaus.  

There were a few others worth mentioning. I adored Hazel and the donut lady. I liked Bobo and felt so much emotion from “mom” even though she was supposed to be an automaton. I cared and worried about these people. On the other hand, one major irritant was the show’s inconsistencies. Luther’s size was all over the board.  And the speed of the relationship between Leonard and Vanya was hard to believe. Speaking of Vanya, I also couldn’t believe her total personality metamorphosis took only 3 or 4 days. As this was a major part of the season’s arc, I had some difficulty staying connected to the storyline.

 Even with the irritants, what the series does well had me hooked--Giving viewers a reason to care about the characters.  I watched the entire season in two days. And I’m sure I’ll watch it again.

I Like Keeping Them With Me #MFRWAuthor

You may have heard the warning about never making a writer mad at you or you will meet a disastrous end in their book. I will admit to having desire to serve justice in writing on occasion but I don't believe I have ever done it. What would be the point? It would serve as a reminder of my anger every time I read it. I've never had a family member in a story either. They just don't fit into the kind of stories I write. Last time I checked they were all human and not a rock star in the bunch.

On the other hand, I have a few friends who have appeared on the page. Ria and Jewell are composites of people I know. Auntie Vi, a major player in Volume Two of Cheyenne's story, has been in the background for awhile waiting for her curtain call. Chance, the star of WOLVES (from my upcoming New Adult urban fantasy) is very much one of my friends. I wonder if he will recognize himself. My doctor will make an appearance in WOLVES, at his request. Yes, you read that correctly. He asked to be a character in the novel. My doctor is a very cool guy.

In truth, my characters are more likely based on actors, sports figures, or musicians who have the look I am going for. I will base my character on those looks, changing some of the details here and there as I see fit. My take on their personalities comes from what feelings their looks evoke.

Often, I'll develop a character and spend months playing in that character's world but not finish a story about him (it's usually a him). A hundred percent of the time, however, these beloved characters will appear in supporting roles in other stories--sometimes multiple other stories. I suppose I like keeping my “friends” with me.

Finishing a Book: Complex Endings and Beginnings

I have friends who throw parties when their manuscript is finished. One even rented a hall, catered it, and signed books for the occasion. Others unceremoniously set it aside and start the next one. And others who throw up their hands in exasperation and declare they are sick of the whole thing, refusing to look at it again. I have elements of each of those extreme reactions, with a healthy dose of relief that comes completing a big project that is personally significant, and a little bit of grief that it's over. Not that I ever finish a manuscript. Rather, I am more likely to have it taken from me before I “edit all the life out of it”. Even after it has been sent off to the editor, I am likely to keep rewriting it in my mind.My best luck at letting go seems to be when I can bury myself in a new project. I keep a notebook of ideas and rely on a gem inside to intrigue me enough to pull me away.

There is so much that has to happen to successfully launch a book I am not sure how anyone finds the time to celebrate at all. And because for me, writing is something I'm driven to do, have no choice but to do, I forget what a monumental accomplishment completing a novel truly is. Going forward, I plan to honor my achievement by buying myself something nice. Some possibilities?

  • A Barnes and Noble shopping Spree
  • An Amazon gift card
  • A new tote bag
  • A fancy pen
  • A fancy journal
  • Chocolate

Hmm. Now that I look at these all in a row like that, it seems what I want for finishing a book includes only books and writing related things. Which bring me right back to writing. Oh, well.

Yes. Chocolate is involved. Chocolate is always involved. #don'tjudgeme

I Can Hardly Imagine Worse

I don't understand negative book reviews, and I have never been compelled to write one. If a book doesn't click with me, it doesn't click with me. Maybe if the book were racist, sexiest, and undecipherable, maybe I'd think that it would benefit society to hear my opinion. Otherwise, I recognize that nothing pleases everyone so if I read a book I don't like, I move on to the next book. My opinion about negative reviews was, unfortunately, exacerbated by my very worst one. You see, my worst review was also my FIRST review.

That's right. The very first review I received for my debut novel, HOUSE OF THE RISING SON, was a 1-star review. And it gets worse. The reviewer remarked, "I admit it. I skimmed it." She went on to say that she didn't like the main characters.

She hadn't even read it.

I am a realist. I hadn't expected the world to fall in love with me at first reading. I didn't think I was the next Laurell K. Hamilton. I just hoped some folks would find my book and enjoy the story, maybe connect with my characters. I knew that a book about a bisexual incubus with kids and a screwed up childhood wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. Still, I couldn't have anticipated that someone who "skimmed" the book would be so publicly and permanently negative. Yes, 1-star reviews are permanent. They affect an overall rating in a way that is difficult to overcome, mathematically speaking. Fortunately, I'm surrounded by kind, generous, and experienced authors who talked me off of the ledge. I recall, in particular, a letter from syndicated columnist and author Vicki Williams. Her words of support and encouragement meant (and still mean) so much to me.

For giggles I read the 1-star reviews of my favorite books.Doing so helped me to understand something about the review process. Since nothing pleases everyone and we live in a world where the internet makes it easy for people to express all sorts of views, negative reviews are the cost of being a writer. Our work is public, therefore opinions about it will be too. It is also clear to me that most people don't understand the ramifications of negative reviews and consequently don't hesitate to give a very low rating for peculiar reasons. For instance:

  • "I skimmed it."  How do you know if it was good or bad?
  • "I hated the cover." Not a commentary on the story.
  • "Just got the book, I'll change the review after I read it." No. Just no.
  • "Not the type of book I care to read." And that deserves a low rating?
  • "I skipped every scene this character was in...The book was confusing." Of course it was confusing.

Overtime, House of the Rising Son received more reviews, including many 4 and 5-star accolades. The fact that readers enjoy Cheyenne's story (and find him as sexy as I do) is encouraging, and has strengthened my commitment to continue writing. I do still read my reviews (can't help myself) but I take them for what they are: One person's experience. Bad reviews are going to happen. So are good ones.

Lost Souls, Found Genre #MFRWAuthor

There have been many books that have influenced me over the years, each for a different reason. Some were non-fiction books on the craft of writing, business development, and managing life situations. These are, of course, designed to impact your life. One book of fiction that most directly influenced me is Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite.

I received Lost Souls in 1992 as a gift, the first of many novels given to me by someone I love. Lost Souls was published by Abyss, an imprint of Dell Publishing. Abyss published primarily horror fiction and I depended on that Abyss logo when I shopped for books. It never let me down. I was heartbroken when it disappeared.

Lost Souls did more than introduce me to my favorite publisher, it introduced me to vampires in a way they had never been presented before. There was still an element of horror in that some of them were vicious and deadly, but mostly they were beautiful, sexy creatures. Later this style of gothic horror, in my opinion, evolved into paranormal romance and to urban fantasy, where romance is typically secondary to the main story.

Zilla and Nothing (the main characters) introduced me to the possibility of new worlds with new rules. Boys loved boys, humans desired non-humans, heroes could be flawed, rape and incest questioned the norms. And of course there was music. Lots of music. My love of this book led me to another novel by Brite, Drawing Blood. Later, I was drawn to the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series.Vampires and other supernatural creatures walked among us, lived and worked with us, and had lives with purpose beyond being the “boogeyman”. Between 1992 and now there have been many incarnations of the vampire story.

Experts periodically tell us that genres with supernatural elements are dead, but a stroll through a bookstore or Amazon indicates there are still plenty of people, like me, who are looking for that sexy, supernaturally dangerous hero. Which is why I write urban fantasy. My love of horror and fantasy merged perfectly.

And I can make my world whatever I want it to be.

It's a Little Like Giving Birth #MFRWauthor

People ask me all the time if I write myself into my books. Yes and no. Most of my characters are male so I don’t particularly identify with them other than finding them attractive and, for my heroes, likeable. My ego may show up in a female character at some point, probably more as someone I'd like to be rather than who I am. That being said, I’m not sure that it is possible to create without having myself in my writing to a significant amount. Getting a book to print is a little like giving birth: Your DNA is in the mix with your blood, sweat and tears. And it's all fun and games until you have to painstakingly squeeze out actual words that you  hope other people will find as wonderful as you do.

More to the point, like DNA is passed onto one's children, my interests and choices are infused in my stories. For example, on a simple level my characters—or at least my heroes—will look and behave in a manner I find appealing. My heroes are either significantly short or exceptionally tall. None of those average height guys for me. They'll all have long hair because I like long hair. Their clothing may change to conform to the story but it will still be something I find attractive. So my preferences and desires will always be present.

In terms of personality and behavior, the protagonists in my books are unlikely heroes who have to go the extra mile to prove they are worthy. I’m not sure that means anything more than their struggle is huge (and therefore more interesting to me). I would have a difficult time writing about a gorgeous billionaire who has to fight to get ahead. Kudos to those who can.

Because it's so important in my life, music will usually play a role in my stories. If nothing else, a minor character will be a musician but most often it will be a significant element in the setting or in the life of a main character. I frequently get ideas for stories from music. I am sure that the mood of the music I play while writing affects the words on the page. Emotional music makes for an emotional story. Sexy music…well, you know.

There is also the aspect of the time and effort that goes into writing these stories. If I'm tired and pressed for time, my writing echoes a negative feel and drags on. In revisions, I can effectively moderate this tone. On the other hand, if I'm excited about the story or something else in my life, my writing takes on a lighter, happier, or more optimistic tone.

I dare say people die when I am feeling angry about something. #writerprivilege

These Words #MFRWAuthor

When I hear the phrase “words to live by” I think of Facebook memes and quotes at the end of writing exercises. But they are more than that. Often they’re a shorthand for someone’s philosophy toward a particular thing or life in general (Don’t sweat the small stuff), or an emotion. Speaking of which, I am not sure where “Bless her heart” became a “fuck you”. That is not how it’s used in the South, rumors to the contrary.

I can think of three phrases I use often and the reasons behind all of them. I fall back on “everything happens for a reason” to help cope with minor disappointment. An example would be the events of one evening when we had tickets for a concert two hours away. First my partner had an appointment she had to keep so I was to meet her. Being pathologically early, I left home in plenty of time. Along the way I realized I had forgotten the tickets and had to return home. I’d never taken this exit before, ended up wandering around the back streets of a city and being totally lost. (This was before GPS). When I did finally get back on the road I ran into traffic that was literally stopped. Basically I was in a parking lot for nearly an hour. When I picked up my partner we decided that something was telling us not to make this trip so we went home, convinced that we would have been in an accident or something had we continued.

“I can do anything for 15 minutes” is another I use often to make myself start something I don't want to do. It isn’t always true of course, but it does usually urge me to action. I try to use it when scheduling big tasks, and setting goals I am resistant to, even though I know I must (for instance, physical therapy exercises).

One I remind myself of (although sometimes don’t listen to myself), is “don’t love anything that doesn’t love your back”. This includes jobs, possessions, and toxic people. Sometimes that even includes a story that won’t let itself be written and causes too much stress.

My favorite is “life is short”. Sometimes I’m so busy working on one thing to another that I forget to stop and enjoy my life. Then I remember another favorite,  “Life isn’t a rehearsal”. These words to live by remind me how to live.

Their First Kiss #SexySnippets

Today's 7 sentence sexy snippet is from House of the Rising Son. It's the first kiss between Cheyenne (the hero and incubus) and Alexander, the human who is inexplicably drawn to him. Well, at least inexplicable to Alexander.


He wanted Cheyenne--the surprise was it never occurred to him he’d have the chance to do anything about it. But here he was, looking into the eyes of the person he’d fantasized about for months, the person who’d already set his life on edge. How many chances would he get if he blew this one and then regretted it?

He tilted his head, leaned down and pressed his lips against the smaller man’s. Cheyenne kissed him back, parting Alexander’s lips with his tongue and slipping inside.

The hunger that Alexander had buried for so long ignited in the kiss and melted away any lingering doubt. This felt more than right—kissing Cheyenne felt like home.


 

My Life: Laughing Out Loud

I've been known to embarrass myself by breaking into laughter at inappropriate moments. Who doesn't enjoy laughing? I have laughed so hard at movies that my sides hurt. In fact, I have laughed through movies that apparently the rest of the audience did not find funny, like Tremors. Anything by Kevin Hart is sure to be a hit. I love Katt Williams even though his specials are bleeped so much it can be hard to follow his stories. Offbeat humor is one of the things that make my favorite books just that-favorites. Having read Smoke and Mirrors (Tanya Huff) at least 20 times, I still occasionally laugh out loud.

Those things are typical sources of laughter. After all, they are designed to be funny. But my day-to-day life is hilarious.

My dog, Toby, brightens even dreary days. He came to my partner and me in November when my elderly aunt died. He is 13 pounds of insecurity, exacerbated by my other dogs that weigh in at 40-50 pounds, one with her own anxiety issues.

Toby's feet never touch the ground except, well, the ground when we go out. Otherwise he moves from sofa to chair to bed, which keep him at more or less eye level with the girls. Because they are all so sensitive, I have to treat them exactly the same. Toby came with a bed, our girls had to have beds like his. He had a coat because he’s tiny and he freezes; they had to have coats. Chloe gets medicine for a couple of issues so Molly and Toby get fake pills so they don't feel left out. You see the amusement. I’m sure our dog sitters think we’re nuts.

In the past week, Toby has surprised us with something. He can bark.

Scream and shriek might be more accurate.

For 6 months he’s kept his vocal hysterics to himself but I suppose he now feels completely at home. His screams can be heard all over the neighborhood. That is not an exaggeration; neighbors have asked about him. It starts when our car pulls into the driveway. The fact that we are outside in plain view is the only defense we have against claims of abuse. The screeches continue until we are in the house and they are replaced by leaps and digging at our clothes.

I know that it probably irritates the neighbors, especially when we get home in the wee hours of the morning, but he always makes me laugh. How can you not love something that is so happy to even hear you that he can’t contain his joy in a regular bark?

Do you have something you laugh about even though you probably shouldn't?

Social Media, My New Playground

Over the past few years social media has exploded with ways to connect to friends and family.  As a marketing tool, they were economic and direct ways to interact with your readers. But there are too many to use them all effectively. Marketing gurus always advise a new one along with ways to use them. These are also ways for me to stalk, er, follow folks I'm interested in. Roman Reigns. Jason Momoa. The Winchester boys. But truthfully, no one has time to use them all. I do spend time on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. I try to check them everyday but sometimes that just isn't possible. I also blog. Obviously.

Pinterest Is my favorite. I go there to find clothes for my characters and sometimes the characters themselves. I have found their houses and apartments complete with floor plans. I spend many wonderful hours lost on Pinterest.

And that's the trouble. If I am not careful Pinterest, and all the other forms of social media, can take up too much of my time and there is none left for writing. I can easily justify the time we spend since we must have a platform. That is one of the first questions prospective agents and editors ask, and if you cant show them a decent following then you may not be worth their risk.

It's like the dog chasing its tail.You spend all your time on social media to maintain connections with people who like your work, which does you no good unless you make time to write your book. Finding balance is the key.

But I do like to play online. Come find me, and we'll play together. www.pinterest.com/trevannr