What Happened to the Big “O?”

Sunny Frazier 5Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, opines on the current young adult dystopian fad and how pessimistic it is compared to real life even with its shortcomings.

sunny69@comcast.net   //  http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

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I’m talking about Optimism.

If I’m to believe young adult books and movies, the world is doomed. There is no planning for the future because there is no future. The previous generations screwed things so badly that the Milleniums are left dealing with the dregs. Is there anything entertaining or uplifting in these works?

I never heard the word “dystopian” until it became en vogue. It’s the opposite of utopia, which was a dream of my generation, the Baby Boomers. World War II was over and our parents, who grew up in the Depression era, worked hard to give us a better life. As a result, we grew up with optimism and hope for an infinitely better society in the future.

Feeding that optimism was John F. Kennedy. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Young adults joined his Peace Corps. We were going to make a difference. We might have succeeded had Kennedy not been assassinated. All too quickly followed by Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy and Vietnam. Our faith in the previous generation was diminished.

Oddly enough, our response was not to give up on society. Out of it came the hippies. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they believed they had the answers: peace, love, communes, free love and drugs. Stuffing flowers down gun barrels of the National Guardsmen. Hopelessly optimistic about a future for little Rainbow and Phoenix. (Note: I was not a hippie. I joined the military as a “hawk” and left as a “dove.” Go figure.)

Seven by SevenThere were dystopian novels out there: Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, On the Beach. But these were about adults dealing with the aftermath of the destruction, not teens. And they were spawned by the realities around us. My generation was taught to duck and cover in the event of an atom bomb. People built bomb shelters in their backyards. My military family was sent to Midway Island where my dad “flew the barrier” to protect America from Soviet invasion. Remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? I was eleven. We were sent home from school and fathers had to brief the family. Rumor was, our base was the #3 target. We held our breath and waited for Kennedy’s next move. That was real, not some Hunger Game scenario. We lived it and survived. There was no need to create fictionalized chaos.

My message to the gloom and doomers of today is this: get over yourselves. You can wallow in disgust of the world you perceive or you can work to change it. Stop and smile once in awhile. Save all your black clothes for funerals. You are never going to be young again and there’s plenty of real sadness ahead. Don’t celebrate it early. And don’t infect the next generation with your poisoned outlook. They’ve already got enough on their plate.

Spotlight on Ark Storm by Linda Davies—and a Giveaway!

Ark Storm 2

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Title: Ark Storm
Author: Linda Davies
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: August 19, 2014

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A stylishly written thriller that tackles the
volatile relationship between high finance
and extreme weather events….

The Ark Storm is coming—a catastrophic weather event that will unleash
massive floods and wreak more damage on California than the feared “Big One.”
One man wants to profit from it. Another wants to harness it to wage jihad on
American soil. One woman stands in their way: Dr. Gwen Boudain,
a brave and brilliant meteorologist.

When Boudain notices that her climate readings are off the charts, she turns
to Gabriel Messenger for research funding. Messenger’s company is
working on a program that ionizes water molecules to bring rain on
command. Meanwhile, Wall Street suits notice that someone is placing six-month
bets on the prospect of an utter apocalypse and begin to investigate. Standing in
the shadows is journalist Dan Jacobsen, a former Navy SEAL. War hardened,
cynical, and handsome, Jacobsen is a man with his own hidden agenda.

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Dear Reader,

It was the summer of 2010.  I was living in Dubai, and I had read that dramatically heavy rains were falling in the deserts of neighbouring El Ain in the United Arab Emirates.  The historical average number of rainfall events for June through September is two.  The National Weather Service forecasted zero rain events over that period.  But it did rain. On fifty-two separate occasions. And it hailed and galed and thundered.  It made the international news. 

There were rumors of masts in the desert, of scientists and computer models, and it sounded like something out of a James Bond movie. And then I read an article which explained what had been going on.

It was the work of scientists.  Technicians were mounting ionizers on masts, producing electrons which attached to dust particles in the atmosphere. These dust particles rose by convection until they reached the right height for cloud formation where they attracted water molecules floating in the air. Those molecules then started to condense around them.  Billions of droplets of rain formed and fell….

So far, so Bondian.  Then I heard about the latest twist where the ionisers are sent up on drones, which made me think of terrorists, and I had myself a novel. It had all the things I love to write about—science, terrorism, financial shenanigans counterterrorism—and in the midst of it, a wonderful heroine.

Welcome to Ark Storm.

Sincerely,
Linda

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About the Author

 

Linda DaviesLinda Davies is a graduate in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford University, and worked for seven years as an investment banker before escaping to write novels. Davies is married with three children. She lives by the sea in Suffolk, United Kingdom.

Linda lived in Peru for three years, and in the Middle East for eight years, during which time she had a rather unfortunate run in with Iranian government forces which resulted in her being held hostage for two weeks in Iran. After UK government intervention, she was freed.

Linda keeps reminding herself not to sweat the small stuff…

 

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover copy of
Ark Storm by Linda Davies, leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn Thursday evening, September 18th.
This drawing is open to residents of
the US and Canada.

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“A plausible and stormy eco-thriller that might presage future
events…. an exciting and enjoyable book.”

Kirkus

Ark Storm is a winner. It draws you in and thrashes you about like a
hurricane. It’s plausible and terrifying. The writing is crisp, the pacing
is breakneck, and the characters are vivid. I highly recommend it.”

—Douglas Preston, New York Times bestselling author of Impact

“This vivid, exciting and original tale turns a very real superstorm possibility
into one of the most exciting stories I’ve read in a long time. I was going to
say that I got blown away by Ark Storm, but I’m afraid to! So I’ll say that I
got caught up in it, loved it and had wonderful time reading it!”

—Whitley Strieber, New York Times bestselling author of The Grays

Book Review: Bonnie of Evidence by Maddy Hunter

Bonnie of EvidenceBonnie of Evidence
A Passport to Peril Mystery #8
Maddy Hunter
Midnight Ink, February 2013
ISBN 978-0-7387-2705-9
Trade Paperback

Emily Miceli and her former detective husband lead a group of elderly tourists on a bus tour through Scotland. Her mother, father and grandmother are among the group. Though the senior citizens are all as spry as rabbits, and some are involved in amorous experimentation, most of the travelers are close to senile which accounts for many of the humorous lines in the story.

The travelers divide in teams to follow clues much like a scavenger hunt which adds to their enjoyment of the trip but also creates animosity among the teams. When one of the ladies is killed, accusations run rampant and the fear that she died from an ancient curse dampens the group’s spirits.

As Emily and her husband attempt to solve the murder, tempers fray and nerves jangle among the elderly travelers as suspicions fly and accusations run amuck.

Emily must bring all her organization skills to the forefront, keeping this rag-tag group together as they traverse castles, motes, sea serpents and suspicion.

A cute mystery with plenty of local color, this one will be enjoyed by readers particularly fond of ‘slap-stick’ humor.

Reviewed by Elaine Faber, August 2014.
Author of Black Cat’s Legacy.

Book Review: Rebel Spirits by Lois Ruby

Rebel SpiritsRebel Spirits
Lois Ruby
Point, June 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-42623-7
Hardcover

The first feature to grab me was the tone of Rebel Spirits. It is more than confident, not yet cocky; accepting, unapologetic; charming; and totally void of any defensive vibe. As the story centers around “nearly seventeen” year old Lorelei; this reader was stunned by Ms. Ruby’s ability to, seemingly effortlessly, capture the open desire, the willingness to believe, that most teens still carry inside of them (albeit, some much…much deeper than others). While her steadier, yet clearly open-minded older brother, leans more towards logic and rational explanations; even he has that tiny glimmer of hope….the “why not?” that is sometimes lost in adulthood.

Yes, Lori’s parents truly are startlingly naïve and absent-minded with matters of upmost importance; yet oddly tenacious and relentless on the most trivial of things. The “caretakers” are undoubtedly a bit past odd, edging toward dangerous. The “lawn-boy”…well, okay, he seems like a typical, bleary-eyed, sun-baked kid. Nathaniel Pierce has a starring role, as…..well, Nathaniel is: of course, and why not; a ghost. Not just “a ghost”; but the ghost of a Civil War Soldier, calmly and curiously, standing over Lori’s shoulder, in her tower room, in the creepy, creaky bed-and-breakfast that she can now call home…in Gettysburg.

None of the aforementioned could be construed as spoilers, and that is one of the coolest quirks of Ms. Ruby’s story. At a blush, it would seem that with all of this already in the open, there can’t be room for mystique and intrigue; on the contrary, the plot thickens….and thickens. As quick as Lorelei is to end an annoying conversation; this reader was immersed. Mysteries abound, romance flickers and flutters by, all while Miss Lori boldly plows through, looking for answers and keeping careful watch on the caretakers and some pretty suspicious guests.

Rebel Spirits is historical fiction, but with Ms. Ruby’s characters feeling oh, so human; the history revealed in such a heart-felt fashion, this reader effortlessly let the “fiction” part slip away, to become fully mesmerized in the few, time-critical, fast-paced days Lori & Nathaniel spend together. Ms. Ruby’s enviable skill of combining a story that in turn; elicits chills, danger, even fear and yet references “red-checkered Vans” under an 1860s(ish) hoop skirt is impressive and makes for a fascinating book.

 

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2014.

Phantom Camels, Untimely Clocks and Leapfrogging Idioms

Jeanne Matthews 2Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press.  Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust.  Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels.  She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor.  Her Boyfriend’s Bones, the fourth book in the series, is in bookstores now and Where the Bones Are Buried will be out in January 2015.  You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at www.jeannematthews.com.

Archaeologists dispute the use of camels for transportation in the Book of Genesis, claiming that dromedaries weren’t domesticated until centuries later. Historians point out that a clock could not have chimed the hour for Julius Caesar, as Shakespeare imagined, because the mechanical clock had yet to be invented. And persnickety fans of the period drama Downton Abbey keep lists of idioms that would never have come out of the mouths of people in that day and age. When Ethel the maid pipes up with “I’m just sayin’” or Thomas the footman complains “our lot always get shafted,” the dialogue has leapfrogged the 1920s and landed squarely in the modern era. Recently, viewers spotted a plastic water bottle atop the Downton mantelpiece and sent up a chorus of tut-tutting. Timing is everything and since I have started writing my first historical novel, I’ve become acutely aware of the importance of placing every single thing in its proper time.

My work-in-progress is set in Chicago in the 1860s and I’ve been surprised to discover that a lot of things I thought of as later inventions were already in use. Elevators, burglar alarms, jackhammers, motorcycles, potato chips, dental floss, and mass-produced toilet paper to name but a few. Things not yet dreamt of include zippers, tattoo machines, earmuffs, ice cream sodas, and the concept of female equality. An American woman in the 1860s was constrained by more than her corset. Note to self: Don’t let the heroine sound too pushy. And don’t give her a modish moniker like Caz or Zoomy. Keep the characters’ names appropriate to the period, even the horses’ names. Although a horse named Skyscraper did in fact win The Derby at Epsom Downs in 1789, the first ten-story “skyscraper” wasn’t built until 1884. Readers unfamiliar with matters equestrian would assume such a name in 1860 was an anachronism.

The dictionary defines an anachronism as a chronological inconsistency – a custom, an event, an object, or a word that belongs to a different age. Except in the time-bending genre of steampunk where sci-fi technology coexists harmoniously with Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens, anachronisms tend to jolt the reader out the story. If you import a cannon from the Middle Ages into a tale about cavemen, you’ll get letters. But it’s disconcerting how many ways anachronisms can sneak in, no matter how careful you are. Even if you stick to the technology available at the time, unless you’ve operated a particular piece of antique machinery, you might err in describing the way it functioned. Even if you cleave to the period vocabulary, words had different connotations to people a century ago, let alone several centuries ago. Meanings have changed. Cultural tastes and attitudes have changed. Interpretations of history have changed.

The changes in swearing are cause for particular concern to writers of historical fiction. In days of yore, people vented their spleens with language much different from that used by, say, Tony Soprano or Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. In my opinion, a lot of originality has been lost since Tristram Shandy swore, “By St. Booger and all the saints at the backside door of purgatory!” But what was considered vulgar, blasphemous, and obscene to Tristram and earlier generations sounds quaint and ludicrous to ears accustomed to saltier stuff. O tempora o mores. It presents an author with a dilemma. Can you convey to a modern audience the depth and richness of a character’s rage with the euphemistic likes of “Consarn you!” or must you resort to the f-bomb even if it’s anachronistic?

Bones of ContentionBen Schmidt, a thirty-something historian at Northeastern University, can reduce to a minimum, if not entirely eliminate, the problem of anachronisms for those able to afford his services – primarily the makers of TV shows and movies. Schmidt has designed a computer program that consists of a Google database containing the full text of some six million books. When a script is fed into the program, its algorithms identify the words and phrases that had not entered the parlance of the era in question and print them out for the writers to reconsider. From there on, it’s a matter of authorial judgment.

I strive for historical accuracy, but I’m not a stickler. After all, we are talking about historical fiction. I pity the writers of Downton Abbey, relentlessly criticized for anachronisms such as “I couldn’t care less” (circa late 1930s), “get knotted” (mid-1960s); and the kitchen maid caught humming “Fly Me To The Moon” (composed in 1954). No writer can translate with perfect authenticity a past he or she has not inhabited. A cliché from the 1970s springs to mind: “You had to be there.” The best we latecomers can do is read extensively, research thoroughly, and try not to “jump the shark” (1977), timewise.

Book Review: The Corpse Who Walked in the Door by Jackie King—and a Giveaway!

The Corpse Who Walked in the DoorThe Corpse Who Walked in the Door
A Grace Cassidy Mystery
Jackie King
Deadly Niche Press, June 2014
ISBN 978-1-62016-112-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Former society wife Grace Cassidy is learning to live on the minimum wage she earns as a bed & breakfast inn-sitter. Grace finds her cat’s bloody paw prints leading away from a bathtub and wants to run for her life. But she can’t. Her 19-year-old son is accused of pushing his pregnant girlfriend down a flight of concrete steps and she won’t abandon him.

Grace is a woman who is way out of her comfort zone, thrown from married life to single status and having to make her own way in the world. That alone is enough to make her an interesting and appealing protagonist but she also happens to be very likeable, especially as she becomes more and more able to cope with her new circumstances.

Character development is at the heart of a good cozy and Ms. King doesn’t fail her readers. Besides Grace, there are any number of folks who reeled me in to the story, not least of which are her son, Brand, best friend Theodora and Grace’s delightful cat, Trouble. It’s nice that she still has her son close by since the two of them need to band together after having been deserted by Grace’s rat of a husband.

A solid mystery is the other strength of a good cozy and I confess to being puzzled by this one nearly to the end, something I always appreciate. I also found that it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the first book in the series because Ms. King is adept at bringing the reader up to speed as much as is needed without creating info dumps.

As manager of a bed & breakfast, Grace is doing a credible job of morphing from society maven to regular working woman but hosting the inn owner’s family might be more than anyone should have to deal with, especially considering the hostility between the very unlikeable Wilbur and his long-lost twin. Still, it’s not one of them that becomes an almost-corpse or even her cad of an ex who wants her back or the nasty-tempered Uncle Jasper.

A well-constructed mystery and appealing characters make me want to read more of Grace’s adventures. Since I’ll have to wait a while for the third book, I guess I’ll have to go pick up the first one ;-)

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2014.

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About the Author

 

Jackie KingJackie King loves books, writing tall tales, and murdering the people she dislikes on paper. Her latest mystery The Corpse Who Walked in the Door is available in print and ebook format. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Oklahoma Writers Federation, and Tulsa NightWriters.

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Leave a comment below and
you might win a print OR ebook copy of
The Corpse Who Walked in the Door
by Jackie King!
The winning name will
be drawn on Sunday evening, September 14th,
and the book will be sent out at the end of
the tour. This drawing is open to
residents of the US.

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Book Review: The Spirit and the Skull by J. M. Hayes

The Spirit and the SkullThe Spirit and the Skull
J.M. Hayes
Poisoned Pen Press, August 2014
ISBN: 9781464202827
Hardcover

Here is a mystery truly from ancient crumbling pages of a time long gone. The narrator is an ancient member of a tribe from the Paleolithic era. He inhabits a time and a nomadic tribe that is making its troubled way slowly down the western coast of what we now call the Western Hemisphere. Raven, the narrator, is a conflicted member of this tribe, because, while he is an agnostic with deep-seated questions about the spiritual construct of the tribe, he is their designated Spirit Man. Raven must play the role of mediator, detective and ultimately, judge. and what if the killer is a comely young woman with whom Raven may be falling in love?

Raven interacts with a powerful, scary Earth Mother in a long and winding trail to determine a murderer. Murderers are the most disturbing individuals in the tribe, they cause the most unrest and must be rooted out in order to preserve the fragile fabric of the tribe as it wanders south through forest and mountains, encountering great beasts and natural barriers of monumental stature.

The novel is an interesting and penetrating look at what and how it might have been in those ancient times, when some of our myths and legends and, indeed some of our cherished traditions where formed in the cradle of a time long gone.

Author J.M. Hayes is a fine and thoughtful writer with an original vision and an intriguing story to tell.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, September 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.