Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

UPDATE: Apparently, I was right. Who knew? The second episode was supposed to be .... that way.  Why?  Because while we all remember that this is a Joss Whedon show, some of us (me included) have quite deliberately forgotten that Jeph Loeb is involved. Who's Loeb?  Does anyone remember Heroes? That was him. We're lucky AoS hasn't turned into a complete train wreck by now.
Loeb in an interview with TV Line states that "Certainly the second episode was intended to be very much like ‘The Pilot, Part 2,’ because it was really the first time [the characters] could all work together and see who they are. Very much in the same kind of way that the audience is getting to know these characters, these characters are getting to know each other as well. That is the mission. “I think the show is absolutely getting better as we go — and we hope the audience feels that way as well,” he continues. “We’ve absolutely found the show; the idea is to keep watching. It’s very much like a roller coaster. You’ve got to go up the hill before you start coming down the hill at 100 miles-per-hour.”
As I said below  .... tell it to Arrow.

So, where does one begin with Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Should one say “Coulson lives!” and move on? Does one give it a strange look, cross some fingers and toes, and hope it all comes together? Perhaps one just believes in Joss Whedon as nerd deity and move on.

First: do I really have to say *spoiler alert*?

Then, how about we really start with the difference between criticism, and being a trolling / hipster douchebag? For criticisms of MAOS, start with my colleague Matt Bowman, over at Novel Ninja, as he looks at the first and second episodes. Then, you can look at my favorite punching bag, Tor, whine over every little line (actually, the article had been far worse; the original title mentioned "nerd shaming" and implied that it was insulting their target audience... nerds). Or, one better, we can look at "screen rants" talk about already killing off characters -- and that was written around the second episode!

Me? Well, to start with, I follow the three-episode rule followed by TV guide reviewers. Never judge a show by one episode, wait until the show hits its stride. Obviously, we can't all follow the rule, no matter how hard we try. The new Ironside show, for example, took the original tv show with Raymond Burr (known to my generation as an aging Perry Mason) as a cop confined to a wheelchair, and updated it with Blair Underwood, making Ironside a nickname, and turning him into House with a badge … as I didn't like House in the first place, I was turned off in short order.

So, SHIELD … to start with, I like some of the dynamics they've got going. They've got Ming-Na Wen playing Agent Melinda May – former field operative, and now “just the pilot.” There is “Fitz-Simmons,” two scientists who are obligatorily young, perky, adorably socially inept, and accents so thick you can cut them with a machete. There is the obligatory Agent Ward – loner field agent, good-looking, stoic, and doesn't play well with others. And since we have Ward, we must have – Skye! Hackerchist (hacker anarchist) who has no problems blowing classified operations in progress because The People Must Know (no matter who gets killed).

And then, there's Phil Coulson, badass. He is the little man who wasn't there, you never saw him, never noticed him, until he cracks you over the head and whips out his boogeyman gun. He loves his classic cards, his classic car, and indulges in a lot of lateral thinking. How can you hate Coulson? I can't.

Of the first three episodes, we had a solid pilot, an episode that felt like it was cut off from the first draft of the pilot, and episode three, The Asset, which felt like someone said "enough setup, let's get us a plot." It's got a nice, stable foundation for an ensemble cast.

Is it perfect? No, I've got some problems...

Yes, problems.
[More below the break]

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lindsey Stirling sucks

Or, to be more precise, Lindsey Stirling does a Dracula (the series) themed video.

Yes, I made a "vampires suck" joke....

Oh, shut up and play the video. Enjoy. No one reads my blog on federal holidays anyway.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Interview with Jo Linsdell.

Tell us a bit about your latest book Virtual Book Tours: Effective Online Book Promotion From the Comfort of Your Own Home

Virtual Book Tours are a great way to create a buzz for a new release or to put life back into an older publication. In this book I take you through everything you need to know to be able to set up and carry out a successful virtual book tour.
The book is divided into 4 main sections for easy navigation:
1) What is a Virtual Book Tour?
2) How to organise your own tour
3) Promoting a tour
4) Useful resources
You'll find it packed with links, tips, and advice to help make your tour a hit.

Why do authors need your book?

Marketing is part of being a writer. Regardless of how you're published (traditionally or self-published), you will, at some point, need to do some marketing. Virtual book tours are one of the most effective methods of creating a buzz about your book and have numerous benefits. In this book I cover everything you need to know to organise and carry out a virtual book tour. Even if you decide not to do a virtual book tour, you'll still find this book useful as it's packed full of marketing ideas and links to resources.

Why did you decide to write a book about virtual book tours?

I've done several successful virtual book tours for my own books and have worked with book tour companies and authors for years hosting them on my sites. Over the years I've therefore gained a lot of experience in doing virtual book tour both from the author and host point of view. As I often get asked for advice about doing them from other authors I decided to put all the information together and created Virtual Book Tours: Effective Online Book Promotion From the Comfort of Your Own Home

What is the first thing you recommend authors do when they decide to organise a virtual book tour?

Put together a media kit. In creating a media kit you have all the information regarding your book, you as an author, and your virtual book tour, all in the one place. This makes it a useful reference tool for you, but also a valuable tool you can use during preparations for your tour. It looks professional and creates a good impression. I also makes life easier for your hosts as they have all the information they might need for your post all in the one place.

You created the cover art for the book yourself. What was your inspiration for the design?
I wanted a cover that was thumbnail friendly as, more often than not, it gets seen online in that format. That meant the text needed to be easy to read and the whole look needed to be clutter free. Too many details or fancy fonts don't look good in thumbnails. I also wanted an image that quickly portrayed what the book was about. I choose the theme "sending your book around the world" and played around with some ideas based on this idea. I'm really pleased with how the cover came out.

Why did you choose to self publish using Amazon's KDP program?
I've always been very pro self publishing. For me, it's always been my plan A. I choose Amazon because it's the leader in its field. Everyone knows Amazon. Using the site is super easy and through KDP your book can be available to the public in just 12 hours from hitting the publish button.

I like that through KDP setting up a free day is easy. It's a great way to spread the word about your book and get readers to take notice. I like that you can update your book information as and when you please and have full control over pricing. They also have one of the best customer services I've come across. If that's not enough, they bought Goodreads earlier this year (one of the top sites for book lovers).

You're best know for your best selling children's picture books. Why the change in genre?
For me, it's not about thinking outside the box. The box simply doesn't exist. I like to experiment with my writing and although I've had most success as an author and illustrator of children's picture books, I'm always trying out new genres. When I get an idea that gets me excited, like this book about virtual book tours, I go with it.

You're a mother to a 5 year old and a 2 year old. How do you find the time for writing and marketing?
My kids definitely keep me busy but I've learnt to make the most of the time I get. I do most of my writing in the evenings once they've gone to bed. Sometimes my husband will take the kids out for the morning to give me a break and give me a few hours to work on bigger projects.

During the day I hop on and off my social media pages to network. I have the apps installed on my phone so I can visit and engage with my contacts even when I'm not near my computer.

I use sites like Social Oomph to program some content to post at scheduled times. I do the same for some posts to my Facebook pages. This gives me a constant online presence without needing to actually be online all the time. I also program my blogs ahead of time. When you have young kids anything can happen and so you need to prepare for the unexpected. By having some content programmed in advance I give myself a safety net and so don't need to stress about keeping up with things as much.

What's next?
I'm currently working on another children picture story book The Bedtime Book, a series of non-fiction books for writers and authors about using social media, and some new collaborations as an illustrator. I like to keep myself busy ;)

Where can people find out more about you and your books?
On my website www.JoLinsdell.com

Anything else you'd like to add?

Virtual Book Tours: Effective Online Book Promotion From the Comfort of Your Own Home is available to buy at the discounted price of $2.99 for the whole month of September to celebrate its release (normal price $4.99) http://bit.ly/VBTKindle

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: Mind Over Psyche, by Karina Fabian

Some days, it feels like Karina Fabian is being reviewed on this blog every three months. It's not entirely accurate, but close enough for government work.  Especially government right now.

So, if you remember Mind Over Mind, you don't need much of an introduction.  If not....
Deryl isn’t crazy; he’s psychic.  Desperate to escape the insane asylum, Deryl  teleports to Kanaan, a world of telepaths who regard him as an oracle.  But freedom comes at a price.  The Kanaan expect their oracle to teach them to use their powers to wage war.  Meanwhile, he’s falling in love, but to be with her means to share his psyche, which could drive her insane.  Most dangerous of all, he hasn’t escaped the Call of the Master, enemy of the Kanaan, whose telepathic manipulations were why Deryl was committed in the first place.  Now, the Master will forge Deryl’s powers into a weapon to kill all he loves or destroy his mind trying.
First, I must say that I like this world she's created.  It's one of the most comprehensive scifi worlds I've seen in a while -- one of the better planet-as-character routine I've seen since Dune, and possibly one of the better Christian science fiction premises I've seen in print since C.S. Lewis penned Perelandra.  We've got flora, exotic fauna, aliens who mate for live, like wolves or Catholics, and did we mention that there's a war coming?

At the end of the day, one of the more interesting threats is Deryl himself.  Sorry, I've got a thing for where the hero is one's own worst enemy. And in his case, if he's not careful, he's going to develop psychokinetic abilities and level Tokyo....

Oh, wait, he already has telekinetic abilities.

Yes, everyone's in trouble.

We also have an interesting introduction to the Twilight Zone. Season 1 to be precise. Literally, there's a section narrated by Rod Serling. And it's quite awesome.  Not to mention that there's a large segment of the novel that looks like The Last Temptation of Christ meets The Prisoner.

The book can be broken down into three sections, so much so that they're almost like vignettes strung together.  First, there's the incident that precipitates the accidental teleportation to an alien world.  Next, we have the Oz effect -- as in "we ain't in Kansas no more" -- complete with your standard writing conflicts of man vs. nature, man vs. self, and a man vs. society, all to varying degrees along the way. Much of it is interesting, though there are moments you might want to take Deryl and smack some sense into him. The book's strengths lay in the exploration of the alien world via the two "sidekicks," Joshua (Deryl's friend/shrink in the last book), and Tasmae, the local alien contact.

Then, part three, we actually have man vs. man .... if "the man" in this case is an alien who can kill you with his brain and throw you into a nice, ready- made nightmare. So, fun.

I like the world, I like the characters ... though there are some scenes that were exceptionally drawn out. I liked The Prisoner as much as the next guy -- maybe more than the next guy -- but when we, the readers, already know what is and isn't real, hallucinations can get tedious.

Thankfully, by the end of the day Mind Over Psyche is the payoff we wanted from Mind Over Mind.  Round three should be interesting.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Interview with Karina Fabian of Mind Over Psyche.

If you don't remember Karina Fabian ... that's too long a story to get into here, just click on "Fabian" keyword below, and you'll find her quick enough.

If you don't remember the first book in this series, Mind Over Mind, you can see my review of it here.

Now for a look at Mind Over Psyche.

Deryl isn’t crazy; he’s psychic.  Desperate to escape the insane asylum, Deryl  teleports to Kanaan, a world of telepaths who regard him as an oracle.  But freedom comes at a price.  The Kanaan expect their oracle to teach them to use their powers to wage war.  Meanwhile, he’s falling in love, but to be with her means to share his psyche, which could drive her insane.  Most dangerous of all, he hasn't escaped the Call of the Master, enemy of the Kanaan, whose telepathic manipulations were why Deryl was committed in the first place.  Now, the Master will forge Deryl’s powers into a weapon to kill all he loves or destroy his mind trying.

Interview Questions for Mind Over Psyche by Karina Fabian
1.  In Mind Over Mind, you had a romance between Joshua and Sachiko.  Will we see more of that in Mind Over Psyche?
No.  It’s Deryl’s turn to fall in love, and it will be a very different experience from Joshua’s.  For one, Tasmae is an alien.  Kanaan mate for life and when they meet their soul mate, it’s usually a compulsion.  They know, on a biological and telepathic level, that this is their soul mate, and they figure out the rest later.  Of course, Deryl being human makes things a little confusing for both him and Tasmae.  There’s more danger involved, as one or the other could drive each other insane in the literal sense.  Kanaan bonding is more than joining hearts or bodies.  They link minds.  Readers of Mind Over Mind know that’s traumatic enough for Deryl even with limited human contact.  What’s worse, however, is that Tasmae is under the psychic influence of her ancestor’s memories—her ancestor who had gone mad.  Add to that the fact that some of the Kanaan close to Tasmae see Deryl as a threat, not an oracle, and you can understand why Joshua is really worries about Deryl and Tasmae ever having the chance to be alone together.
2.  Joshua practices a form of psychiatry called neuro linguistic programming.  He used it extensively in Mind Over Mind.  Will he use it in Mind Over Psyche?
Some, but it really doesn’t work with aliens.  He will, however, save a child’s life with it, and will use some techniques to help Deryl and Tasmae out of danger.  This book, he also gets to exercise his musical talents.
3.  What is your favorite scene?
Tasmae is deeply under the influence of her ancestor’s memories and the pain and confusion have made her violent.  They’re causing Deryl pain a well, and he begs Joshua to help her.  He’s a psychiatric prodigy, right?  Never mind that he’s 19, an intern, has no drugs or orderlies as backup and oh, yeah, is dealing with aliens.  I loved imagining what Joshua, Deryl, and especially Tasmae were thinking and doing.  Crazy can be a lot of fun…when it’s not real.
4.  What’s the challenge about writing about a psychic people?
They don’t communicate just in words, but also images, emotions, and simple knowing.  For example, why have a name for a person when you can pass on the knowledge of who that person is?  Ditto for places.  However, to reach a reader, I have to use words.  No one wants to read “the captain of the Kanaan guard” ten times a page, so some characters needed names, and I needed a reason for them to have one.  In the end, humans and the Barin (who also have verbal language) name certain things.  This will be fun in Mind Over All, because Joshua will joking name a young boy who clings to him, “Axel,” and it sticks, to Sachiko’s ire.
Also, with no written language, there needs to be a way to preserve history.  This is vital in Mind Over Psyche, as memories are stored in psychic plants.  You experience things as the person experienced them—no sanitizing, no skimming, no skipping the yucky parts (unless the plant allows it.)
5.  Tell us about the everyn.  They’re more than just small dragons, right?
Oh, yes.  The everyn are part of the sentient animals species called Bondfriends.  They have a symbiotic psychic relationship with certain Kanaan (also called Bondfriends).  Without this psychic bonding, an everyn reverts to a fully animal state, while a Kanaan will ignore their physical state until they die before they reach puberty.  Bondfriends life separate from “regular” Kanaan, who don’t’ really understand their psychic relationship.  Also, because they are an animal/person mind, so to speak, they are a bit wilder than the Kanaan.
6. Where do you get your ideas? 

All over—from TV, from conversations with friends, from something on the news (or Facebook), from another book I’ve read, from a call for submissions for an anthology… There’s actually a psychological term for it: cognitive disinhibition. People with CD do not organize/file away information as well as people who don’t have it. As a result, we have a lot of stuff floating around in our minds, synapses snapping around until they link up with something else, and BOOM! Idea! Interestingly, schizophrenics also have CD, but on a more extreme level. So to all the people in college who thought I was inhibited—HA!

7. What’s a common mistake new writers make?

Following “rules” too closely. Really, there aren’t rules, just guidelines. For example, I had a friend who tried to remove every single adverb in her novel because “the rules” say “No –ly words.” Those words are a legitimate part of the English language and used judiciously (Look! -ly word), they can have an impact.

8.  You write a lot of different stuff—horror, fantasy, science fiction, comedy, devotionals…  What won’t you write?
Erotica, for one, or anything with an excess of gratuitous sex or violence. I have a rule for writing: If I’m not comfortable reading it aloud to my kids, I won’t write it. I've put aside novels because the characters want to share more than I’m comfortable writing.

Also, I won’t write something deliberately hurtful or insulting. I don’t hold back my opinions, nor do I resist a good joke just because it might offend someone. People are too prone these days to take the most innocuous stuff personally—or “personally” on behalf of someone else or some particular demographic. I spent too much of my childhood with a thin skin; life is more fun when you realize a joke is a joke.

I sometimes take on controversial subjects. The Mind Over series has a subplot concerning abortion, for example. I try to put myself aside and stay true to my characters’ feelings and attitudes. I won’t go so far as to say I’m always balanced; again, I write what I’d want my kids to read. So, while I won’t write a pro-abortion story I also don’t cast the woman who had one as the obvious villain. Life is complex, but there is a right and wrong.

9. You often decry on Facebook that you have too many ideas. How do you decide which to write first?
I have a rubric:
1. Will I get paid? (as in right away)
2. Am I on deadline?
3. Do I have a contract or an expectation from a publisher?
4. Will it sell more books?
5. Has the story grabbed me?

Sometimes, these blur, and once in a while, they go out the window. For example, I had an idea for a flash piece that I sent to a friend’s website. It will earn me nothing, and no one was expecting it, but the idea did not want to let go.

10. Is there a world of another writer you’d like to write in?
Madeleine L’ Engle’s Time Trilogy. Daydreaming up stories about Charles Wallance is what got me started. In fact, Mind Over Mind started in high school about Charles Wallace as an adult. Of course, it has radically changed! Deryl is nothing like Charles Wallace now, and the worlds are totally different. However, I still have one story that would work best with Charles Wallace. It takes place when he’s in his seventies and must again go in and out of people like he did in Swiftly Tilting Planet. One day, I plan to write it and use technology instead of withining—unless, of course Madeleine L’Engles’ estate wants to contact me about it!

I have been invited to write a novel in another author’s universe, incidentally. I don’t want to say more, though, until we have something more concrete. Let me just say, it’s a very interesting world premise and potentially a lot of fun.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Guest post: Karina Fabian of Mind Over Psyche.

Guest blogs: the lazy blogger's best friend ... well, it's either that or Darren Brown Tickets. This week features the return of Karina Fabian, author of Mind Over Mind, Mind Over Psyche, Neeta Lyffe: Zombie Exterminator, and creator of zombie killers, interstellar rescue nuns, and dragon private investigators.

The Joy of Having Written
By Karina Fabian

Every now and then, we have Tabata week at the gym I attend.  If you don’t know Tabata, think of it as being in labor:  20 seconds of hard pushing and pain, followed by ten seconds of rest.  Of course, drugs are discouraged and your trainer might not appreciate it if you snarl, “This is your fault!” but it only lasts an hour, and then you’re done until the next day.  Sometimes, I enjoy going to the gym, but it had been a crazy week, anyway, and my motivation was low, even less so for Tabata, but I went. 

Why?  Even though I didn't look forward to going, I enjoyed having gone.

That’s how it goes with writing sometimes.  There are plenty of times when I don’t feel like writing.  Sometimes, other things in life seem much more important, whether planning a surprise for my husband’s retirement or doing dishes.  Sometimes, it’s looking at my Amazon sales and realizing that, should something horrible happen to Rob, I would not be able to support my family on my writing.  Rarely, but on occasion, a bad review or comment from someone will make me wonder why I bother.

But why I bother in those moments is the same reason I bother to go to the gym:  Even if I don’t want to write, I invariably enjoy having written.

There’s a definite satisfaction in a scene well crafted, a character who comes alive on the keyboard, or a sentence that makes your eyes sting with its poignancy.  (Just wrote one of those today, in fact.)   There’s getting that message out of the blue from a reader saying they loved my book, or from an editor asking when the next story is coming.  There’s that hope that this story, this novel, will be the one to break through—but of course, that will never happen if I don’t write it.  I know, too, that I’m in this for the long term.  I love writing.  I love having written, and I love going back over my own stories and marveling anew at the adventures I lived without ever leaving my chair.

After eight months at the gym, including four or five weeks of Tabata, I've lost 25 pounds.  That puts me at just under 145.  One of the ladies asked me what my ultimate goal was.  I suppose I could go for 120 or 125, which is what my weight from my teens to my early thirties, but I realize that it doesn't matter as much to me, any longer.  Maybe I’ll get there, but if I can stay around 140 and keep going with my exercising, then I’m satisfied.

You know, I have to keep that same attitude with my writing.  Someday, I may make the NYT best-seller list.  I may find my Amazon sales grow enough to let my husband quit his day job.  But if that never happens, then if I can keep writing and producing and find readers who love my work, then I’m satisfied.  Even when my motivation is low, and things around me discourage me from my craft, I keep pounding away at those words, the same way I pound away at the weights (minus the labor-like groaning, of course.)

After all, the real satisfaction is in having written.

Big:  Winner of the 2010 INDIE for best Fantasy (Magic, Mensa and Mayhem), Karina Fabian has plenty of voices in her head without being psychic.  Fortunately, they fuel her many stories, like the Mind Over trilogy. Mrs. Fabian teaches writing and book marketing seminars, but mostly is concerned with supporting her husband, Rob Fabian as he makes the exciting leap from military officer to civilian executive, getting her kids through high school and college, and surviving daily circuit torture…er, circuit training.  Read about her adventures at http://fabianspace.com.