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Days of the Dead Blog Tour – Guest Post: Gail Z Martin

Hey everyone, Dave here! :-)

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It’s that time of the year again – Gail Z Martin, author of many novels -including those that make the Chronicles of the NecromancerThe Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Fallen Kings CycleDeadly Curiosities and plenty of short stories- is preparing us all for a massive 2015 by taking over the blogosphere with guest-posts, giveaways, excerpts and much more!

So, let’s welcome Gail once again, with a guest post exploring characters… ;-)

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What Characters Do Between Books By Gail Z. Martin

Have you ever wondered what characters do on their days off?

What I mean is, do you ever think about what characters might be doing between books, when the author isn’t looking?

Those of us who live with multiple casts of characters in our heads think about strange things like this. Often, we are faced with characters who might be ready to mutiny on a moment’s notice if they thought it would get them a new book contract or a series of short stories.

Really, it’s not easy being in character limbo. And to tell the truth, that’s not how I think of my characters in between the tales I tell.

For example, my Chronicles of the Necromancer series is on hiatus as I write the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. I have six more books I plan to write in the world of the Winter Kingdoms, but there is a natural seventeen-year break in the action in the books, and it was a good resting place for me to go off and do some other projects for a while.

That doesn’t mean the characters are resting on their laurels.

In my mind’s eye, I can tune in and see what my characters are up to while they wait for their next book. In my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, King Martris Drayke and his queen, Kiara of Isencroft are busy chasing two young boys, one with special magical needs, while rebuilding two kingdoms—Margolan and Isencroft—torn by war, famine, plague, and invasion.

Meanwhile, Lord Jonmarc Vahanian and his wife, Carina, are busy with twin girls, and Jonmarc must juggle the demands of his role as Lord of Dark Haven against his responsibilities as Champion to Queen Berwyn and her consort, Gethin of Eastmark. In Dhasson, newly-crowned King Jair struggles to lead his kingdom after the death of his father while grieving the loss of his wife and trying to raise a son who is both the rightful heir to the crown and the next shaman-chief of the nomadic Sworn.

Those are just a few of the characters readers got to know in the series, but as I go through the list, I can tell you how the others are doing, what their recent triumphs and trials have been, and what’s next for them.

From a storytelling perspective, these character-years aren’t important to chronicle because they fall between the big events. They’re the normal time, the breath between the storms. Yet for the characters themselves, the time is filled with personally momentous occasions as children grow, kingdoms rebuild, communities knit back together. The business of waging peace isn’t as exciting as conducting war, but it is demanding and busy, just the same. And even my characters know in their hearts that the good times must also come to an end someday…

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here:

www.AscendantKingdoms.com

Trick or Treat: Enjoy an excerpt from The Sworn, Book One in my Fallen Kings Cycle here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/books/the-fallen-kings-cycle/the-sworn/the-sworn-chapter-one/

And a bonus excerpt from Ice Forged, Book One in my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/books/the-ascendant-kingdoms-saga/ice-forged/an-excerpt-from-ice-forged-book-one-in-the-ascendant-kingdoms-saga/

And a second bonus excerpt from Raider’s Curse, the first of my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures short stories here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/short-stories-and-more/the-jonmarc-vahanian-adventures/raiders-curse/excerpt-from-raiders-curse/

***

I’ve never regretted letting Gail take over the blog, and this post is a prime example why- always interesting and illuminating! Don’t forget to check out the full list of celebrations as listed on Gail’s official site; there is a massive amount of things going on! :-)

Many thanks to Gail for writing this excellent guest post, and for coordinating this post along with Gemma at Orbit – I’m definitely looking forward to the next Days of the Dead, as I’m sure you are!

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

P.S. You wanna see something EPIC? Follow this link. ;-)

 
 

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TV Show Review: Gotham

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A few months ago when I first saw the trailer for this series, my heart skipped a beat and butterflies created hurricanes in my belly and all other palpable feelings of excitement ran amok through my synpases. It looked dark and gritty – as it should – it looked slick and sexy, and best of all, we were going to get the origin stories of not one, but many of the Gotham city heroes and villains. I was particularly thrilled by the prospect of the latter, which is not something you often see in these sorts of comic book adaptations. With the exception of Marvel’s Loki, I can’t really think of too many films/shows where they’ve given significant motivation and character development to the bad guys. (Please let me know if you have) Gotham promised to do all this and more.

Finally, the Fall TV season started and I couldn’t wait for Gotham to air. I watched the pilot fresh out of a White Collar addiction – by addiction I mean, I watched all five seasons in three weeks and then proceeded to start rewatching it because I was that hooked and did not want to watch anything else except more White Collar and Gotham was the first series I’d attempted since my love affair with Neal Caffrey, just so you understand my state of mind. That said, the two shows couldn’t be more different so I don’t think my opinion would be coloured or clouded by the debonair conman.

The pilot of Gotham started out great. Beautiful cinematography, a really cool retro vibe to the city, gritty and dark as anticipated, this was going well. Then things went awry and the pilot rolled to a close leaving me feeling disappointed. Perhaps it was simply a case of having too high expectations for a show that could never have lived up to the hype, perhaps it was a lack of White Collar snide humour, but I wasn’t convinced Gotham was all that.

Problem 1) Predictability. I was kind of hoping for a new approach here since it’s all about the origins of the characters, but it didn’t feel fresh at all.

Problem 2) Fish. I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen Jada Pinkett Smith act in anything, but her acting in this drove me crazy. I’m not sure quite what it was, but her performance felt forced, almost to the point of pastiche – intentional or not, I couldn’t say.

Problem 3) I did not relate to Gordon. Felt nothing for him. Couldn’t care less what happened to him and he’s meant to be the leading hero of the show. At the end of the pilot, I was most enthralled by Selina Kyle, finding her alluring and delightfully feline I’ll admit in a somewhat sexy kind of way.

My conclusion? Gotham had put style before substance, and while it pleased the eyes, it wasn’t really satisfying my inner comic geek in the ways I wanted it to, in the ways that Arrow and The Flash have. But it was only one episode so I gave it another go, especially because I was really interested in young Catwoman.

Now I knew Catwoman would be young in this show, but I did not expect her to be thirteen. THIRTEEN!? Are you freaking kidding me!? See photo below.

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I’ll be honest, that made me feel weird. Maybe I’m projecting my previous knowledge of Catwoman ala Halle Berry style onto this kid, but it makes me a little uncomfortable that there’s a certain amount of sexualisation happening to a 13-year-old.

That aside, and despite my previous disappointment, I have to say the second episode got better. The third got way better and now I’m officially hooked, tuning in for my weekly dose of all things Arkham. However, my initial problems with the series haven’t been assuaged. I’m still not a fan of Fish, and I’m still struggling to feel much of anything for Gordon. Right now, I’m watching for Penguin and that in itself is perhaps proof of Gotham’s genius because the writers have made me feel the most connected to and the most sympathy for – perverse as it is – a major villain!

As the plot thickens and we start heading ever closer to Arkham Asylum, I find myself increasingly engrossed by this series and strongly recommend it for fellow comic geeks and fans of shows that are as much eye candy as they are story substance. Gotham scores 3.5/5 ink splats from me, but that rating may increase as the show progresses. I hope so. There’s so much to love here!

3.5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Guest Reviews, Reviews

 

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Short Film Spotlight: Merv – Directed by Matt Inns

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. :-)

Please take a look at this great post-apocalyptic SF short film – Matt Inns got in contact and asked me if I would help to get the word out about it, and after watching and enjoying it I knew I had to. :-)

Great, eh? A fun soundtrack that perfectly fits the tale – great acting, especially when the actors are still wearing their masks, plus a great set and some cool filming all combine to make this a fun, memorable short film. :-)

Looking forward to more  from Matt!

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2014 in Short Film, Spotlight

 

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TV Show Review: Forever

I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for procedurals. JAG, CSI, Lie to Me, House, Castle, Criminal Minds, Mentalist, Bones, Elementary, White Collar… – I have watched and loved them all! Give me a procedural with a speculative aspect and I am in my uber happy place. Shows like Blood Ties, Moonlight and even Tru Calling really did it for me. So I was delighted to discover the brand new TV show due to air this Autumn on ABC. It’s called Forever and stars Ioan Gruffudd, an actor I had a mega crush on when I was a kid and addicted to the Hornblower series. Gruffudd’s soulful eyes and accent aside, Forever made me all kinds of excited and it certainly wasn’t because of the IMDB description:

A 200-year-old man works in the New York City Morgue trying to find a key to unlock the curse of his immortality.

Forever

When I first read that rather dry one-liner, I went ‘nah’ and moved on to the next new series of Fall 2015, but then reviews started dribbling onto the net and I saw some promo pics and I realized that there was a hell of a lot more to this story. See, that 200-year-old man, Henry Morgan (Gruffudd), isn’t some creepy janitor mopping the mortuary floors and getting cozy with the corpses, he’s the NYPD’s medical examiner! He’s a highly intelligent doctor with a savant-like eye for detail, a somewhat brooding countenance and a dry wit to boot, and his days aren’t spent pondering his immortality so much as they are running around New York City with an ultra slick female Latina detective, Jo Martinez, who is as badass as she is beautiful. She’s a strong, independent female character in a male dominated field who could give Kate Beckett a run for her money and I find her an interesting and compelling character, if not quite as interesting as Mr Immortal. So, the show’s description probably should’ve read something like this:

A 200-year-old man works as a crime-solving ME in New York City while trying to unlock the secret of his immortality before a know-it-all stranger threatens to destroy his carefully constructed world.

Now that sounds exciting and is far closer to the gist of this story, which is equal parts police procedural and sci-fi mystery – yup, there’s a whole immortal sub-plot lurking in the background and I know it’s going to be unnerving and awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed the pilot and have remained captivated through the other episodes that have aired. This is due in part to Ioan Gruffudd owning the screen with his portrayal of a sometimes arrogant, often endearingly naive, always quirky character as he navigates the modern era with his sexagenarian side-kick who provides comic relief and food for thought. While certain aspects of the show seem a little familiar – hard to avoid given that this is a police procedural after all – there is enough of an emphasis on the science fiction aspect – or arguably fantasy aspect, we’re not sure yet – to make this series seem fresh and unique when compared to the bevy of other procedurals currently on air.

My biggest gripe about this show? The bloody voice-overs! I point my fingers at the CW for turning this into a trend. Voice-overs have always been a lazy, but easy way of conveying exposition to an audience, be it words scrolling on the screen or the main character dictating a screed of ‘stuff you need to know.’ I have NEVER been a fan of this trick so pervasive in SF/F film, and I’m even less of a fan with it on the small screen. Shows like Arrow, The Tomorrow People and now The Flash are all guilty of it and the whole ‘my name is’ formula is getting old fast. While I could forgive the voice-over in the pilot of Forever as a way to set the scene and explain the main SF concept to those perhaps expecting a more mundane crime show, I am fast losing my tolerance for it in subsequent episodes. Thank goodness they seem to be sticking to an intro voice-over and an end of episode wrap-up comment with a slightly philosophical tone. Any more than that and I think I might put my fist through the screen. Still, this is a trend I wish would die a sudden death!

In conclusion, Forever is great for fans of procedurals with a sci-fi bent who enjoy quirky characters, more thinking/less action, and slower pacing for subplots. If it weren’t for those damn voice-overs, this might’ve scored 5 ink splats from me because this show has just about everything I look for in smart, entertaining TV. Alas, it only gets 4.5 splats.

4.5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Guest Reviews, Reviews

 

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Film Review: Space Station 76

sq_space_station_sevensixDescription from Amazon: Welcome to a 1970s’ version of the future, where the pants are wide, the music is groovy, and the new frontier is interplanetary. When a new assistant captain (Liv Tyler) arrives on the Omega 76, tensions spark, and more than asteroids collide. This smart and quirky film-festival favorite stars Patrick Wilson, Jerry O’Connell and Matt Bomer. Take a journey on an out-of-this-world adventure.

Looking at reviews and IMDB ratings of this film paint a pretty bleak picture. It has not been well received and that is absolutely the fault of how this film has been marketed. Erroneously described as a ‘spoof’ of 1970’s sci-fi, initial press for this film raised certain expectations, expectations of camp hilarity, which were somewhat reiterated in the trailer. Honestly, the trailer manages to cram in just about all the funny bits of the film – and a few scenes that didn’t even make the final cut – in a two minute teaser that completely ignores context and undermines what makes this film both smart and poignant.

Like so many others, I went in expecting comedy – which is a genre I rarely enjoy and usually avoid, endured here only because it was a) science fiction and b) starred Matt Bomer who was breath-taking in The Normal Heart. Given my distaste for comedy, this movie was a wonderfully pleasant surprise because I didn’t find Space Station 76 funny at all. Instead, this film is quite tragic, a soap-opera allegory with scattered moments of pitch-black humor. Oddly, this type of wry, even off-colour humour, appealed to me a lot more than the type of comedy the trailer and promos led me to believe were in the film.

Back to the bit about it being an allegory. This is where the film shows off that ‘smart and quirky’ personality, delving into the trials and tribulations of upper middle-class suburban life aboard a space station floating through a region of the galaxy devoid of any other ships, inhabited planets or signs of life. It’s this pervasive sense of isolation that becomes a recurring theme as we meet the motley crew of characters, each suffering some sort of emotional disconnect, not only from the rest of the station’s crew, but from themselves as well. The themes present in this film are universal and relevant today despite the retro setting, which is used to highlight the disintegration of the ‘American’ dream. Although this is set in space, the film presents itself like a slice of American apple-pie life: good-looking on the surface but rotten to the core.

These characters broke my heart, but none more so the leading trio of the captain, lieutenant and Ted played by Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler and Matt Bomer respectively. Wilson’s role in particular was as morbidly amusing as it was incredibly sad as his character struggles with issues of identity and the complication of trying to love someone when you hate yourself. Liv Tyler plays the strong female character threatening Wilson’s already compromised captaincy with her estrogen and new ideas for running the station. She in turn catches the eye of the other males onboard and the scorn of their wives, struggling to make friends while maintaining her independence in a psychological paradigm where women should be subordinate nurturers, not career-driven astronauts! And of course Matt Bomer shines no matter what role he’s given. His portrayal of Ted the welder comes across as extremely authentic with many raw moments on screen – especially between him and his character’s young daughter. Ted highlights the lack of emotional integrity in those around him, overcoming the sometimes gauche elements of the film.

While I did enjoy the movie, I found the ending a little abrupt and disappointing, as if they’d made their point and decided to leave it there instead of providing some sort of thematic resolution. I think the writers/director could’ve dug a little deeper, but I guess the 90 minute mark rolled around and they had to yell cut. So be it. Rather leave me wanting more than wishing the movie was an hour shorter!

So… Don’t watch Space Station 76 expecting a slick, CGI-tastic sci-fi movie – although the same team who did the effects for the original Star Wars films, worked on the set of this one! Similarly, don’t go in expecting a raucously funny Austin Powers-esque romp. This movie is neither and so much more. It’s a study of human nature and family drama, the secrets we keep from our loved ones and the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive the daily grind of existence. This scores 4/5 ink splats!

4 inksplats

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2014 in Guest Reviews, Reviews

 

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A review of NIGHT WITCHES by L. J. Adlington

Hi everyone, I’m new to the blog *waves* Thank you Dave for inviting me over to review some super cool speculative fiction. I’ll mostly be reviewing YA books, but I’ll also review the odd film or two. I have a quirky taste in books and films so I hope my reviews will introduce you to lesser known but no less awesome SF/F stories.

 

About me in a nutshell:

My name is Suzanne and I’m a tattooed story-teller from South Africa, but I currently live in Finland where I hibernate during the long winters writing, reading and watching everything under the speculative fiction banner – except horror, because I’m a wuss. I have a peanut butter addiction and a shibu inu called Lego. You can find out more about me and my books at my website. And instead of giving you a picture of my face, I thought I’d show you the cover of my forthcoming YA novel, I HEART ROBOT, because this cover is so much prettier ;)

You can also hang out with me on Twitter or Facebook if you’d prefer.

 

And now for the review…

A supernatural thriller-romance set in an all-girl teenage bomber-pilot regiment, combining witchcraft and legend.

TWO NATIONS AT WAR. ONE GIRL CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE. Rain Aranoza is a teenage bomber-pilot from Rodina, a nation of science and fact ruled by the all knowing Aura, where the belief in witches or any type of superstition is outlawed. Rain’s regiment is made up of only teenage girls and their role is vital to the war effort against the Crux, a nation of faith and belief, where nature and God are celebrated and worshipped.

But Rain is struggling with another battle. She’s always had a sense that her nature is different from everyone else’s, and that a dormant power threatens to burst out of her.

When she encounters a young Scrutiner she falls in love with him, but is torn between what she has been taught is right, and what feels right. As her understanding of her latent power grows, the enemy threatens both her friends and her love. She can no longer ignore the power but she must choose how she uses it … But what will she lose in the process?

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When I reached the end of this novel, four words came to mind: Brilliant! Amazing! Original! Enthralling!
 
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up at the library. The cover immediately caught my attention (hooray for a person of colour being on the cover!) and then that blurb. Teenage bomber pilots? Sign me up! This book was astonishingly good, the perfect blend of science and fantasy starring a sympathetic MC who I adored. That said, it was the secondary characters who stole the show here, and one of the secondary characters was even genderqueer.
 
This book scored lots of points for diversity. What really had me captivated though wasn’t the MC, or the cool planes, or the love interest with tattooed eyelids (creepy and awesome), but rather the world. The author weaves a rich tapestry that pits religion against science, humanity against artificial intelligence, and nature against machine using appropriate vocabulary and teenage slang born from the fantastic world the characters live in. This all added a most authentic feel to the book and had me fully immersed in the story world from cover to cover.
 
What sealed the 5 ink splat deal for me was finding out this story was inspired by the real night witches: all-female fighter pilots from the Soviet Union who became a rather formidable force during WWII. The fact that this bit of history is woven into the story, including thematic material gleaned from Stalinist philosophy, added an extra dimension to the book, one which I found fascinating and terrifying, especially considering the YA demographic for which this book is intended. It was a brave move by the author and one she executed flawlessly.
 
I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for a strong YA science fantasy featuring diverse characters in an incredibly well-constructed world. This book gets 5/5 ink-splats from me! Right, I’m off to find more books by this author.

 

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Review: No Return by Zachary Jernigan

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. :-)

It’s been a while since I posted a review, I know, but I’ve been focusing on writing my second novel and time is always a problem! But I’m back with a review of the first novel set in the World of Jeroun – No Return.

This novel is brilliant. The world of Jeroun is incredible and terrifying – a world where the skins of a dead race can be used for power and protection; where mages use their magic to enter into the planet’s orbit; where a god looks down on Jeroun and wrestles with a decision that could mean the end of everything and everyone.

There is so much going on in this novel! As a writer I was astounded by how much Zachary managed to pour into this tale – as with Erikson’s massive narratives, the myriad stories taking place on Jeroun are all memorable and intriguing, adding not only a sense of vast time and history to the world but also managing to echo in the thoughts of the characters, giving them even more flesh and emotion. The people of Jeroun are inherently terrified of their world and the god above them, and how this terror and stubbornness exists alongside the excellent world-building is truly something sublime to explore.

But Zachary’s characters are the stars, here – Vedas, Churls, Berun, Ebn, Pol and even Adrash shine in each chapter they appear in. Vedas seems to be the lodestone of the narrative, but really only when taking the climax into consideration, but each of the others also play very significant roles throughout the tale, managing to stand on their own, for their own unique reasons. I’m actually terrified of what some of them could achieve – and here I’ll make another comparison to Erikson: as when a particularly powerful mage in the Malazan world unveils his or her warren or warrens and the reader is astounded at the level of power and capacity for destruction, the same applies here. Psychologically, these characters are incredibly complicated, and how some of them interact with each other gives the novel its heart and emotional centre. Zachary manages to explore a great variety of subjects through his characters, another reason why this novel works on many levels.

In fact, I want to re-read it before the next book, Shower of Stones, is released – not to refresh my memory, but to learn as much as I can from Zachary’s writing – he has, alongside Steven Erikson, become a writer I know I will learn a lot from. But forget about that – No Return is at once a twisted, dirty-mirror echo of the kinds of fantasy that has come before it, and also something new, bold and visionary. Hell of a read.

10 / 10

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Check out Zachary’s site for all the info you’ll need regarding how and where to order, as well as more information about his short stories (I’ll be reviewing Bottom of the Sea next) and his other work.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Reviews

 

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