Best Halloween Movies – 2018 Edition!

It’s my favorite time of year again! Fall, particularly October have always held a special place in my heart, which is probably why I wanted to get married in this spookiest, most mysterious of months.

But, this is NOT the time for romance, but for thrills and chills. So, here is my 2018 edition for great movies to watch leading up to Halloween.

If you want to check out my previous Halloween movie post, click here.

The Haunting (1963): Forget about the dreadful 1999 remake and stick with this glorious addition to the haunted-house genre. This is the way ghosts stories should be told! Spooky noises, little to no visual evidence of an actual presence, and leaving the viewer in doubt whether all that’s happening is REAL or if the main character is nuts.

And, as a bonus, pick of the original book by Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House

 

Young Frankenstein: A classic parody of the monster movie. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder made this a classic. So, if you’d rather have a laugh than a scream during Halloween, check this one out.

Bonus read: Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

 

The Craft: I probably shouldn’t advocate for this movie since much of the witchcraft is pretty off. BUT it does give a much more nuanced view of witches than most movies. Plus it’s such a fun 90s romp through the occult that I can’t help but love it.

Bonus read: Though The Craft wasn’t base on Sherryl Jordan’s The Juniper Game, Jordan’s book does explore the consequences of teens messing around with forces they don’t fully understand.

 

What Lies Beneath: Another fantastic example of how moviemakers SHOULD create a ghost story. It has everything listed above, plus a very human twist that ups the suspense. Brrrrr!

Bonus read: Again, not a perfect companion to the movie, but a chilling little YA thriller that features a female protagonist pitted against a ghostly female apparition with vengeance on her mind.  The Accident by Diane Hoh

 

Sleepy Hollow: This next trailer will seemingly contradict everything I just said above about ghost stories. But the fact that Tim Burton made this somewhat of a parody excuses the excessive gore – at least to my way of thinking. And Burton does such a nice job of creating atmosphere that, even during the funny parts, you get a delicious shiver down your spine.

Bonus Read: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving

 

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: To go along with the entry above, I’ve included this delightful cartoon that featured prominently  in my childhood. Mr. Toad is sort of an add-on here, since we’re really interested in Ichabod, Disney’s version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” A little spooky, a little funny, and all early Disney animation.

Bonus read: same as above

 

Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Despite the title, this movie doesn’t really adhere to the original book. BUT, that’s a good thing in my opinion. I found the book drippy in its sentimentality and two-dimensional. However, Francis Ford Coppola managed to create a Dracula that was completely horrifying, and completely human – the best sort of bad guy. And, notwithstanding Keanu Reeves’ horrid British accent, this was well acted, incredibly costumed, and the music… that in itself is a horror movie for your ears – in a good way.

Bonus read (just ’cause I didn’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t): Dracula by Bram Stoker

 

The Worst Witch (1986): Again, forget the remake and stick with this little gem. Yeah, yeah the special effects were super corny (typical of the 80s), but you’ve got Diana Rigg, Charlotte Rae, Fairuza Balk, and… Tim Curry!  I didn’t put the trailer because it gives away WAY too much. So here’s a little clip instead.

Bonus read: check out the original series by Jill Murphy

 

Poltergeist (1982): I’ve said this a lot in this post, but, really, just root out the original of a movie and enjoy it. Most remakes are pale shadows and not worth the time you’d invest in them. This is another example that proves that point. If you can handle a bit more scare, Poltergeist delivers without resorting to gore and gratuitous violence.

I don’t really have a bonus read for this. But there is a novelization out there written by James Kahn, if you want to check that out.

 

The Watcher in the Woods (1980): OMG, the trailer still gives me the creeps. Even though this was a Disney production, it really amps the spook factor. However, I’d like to offer a little caution, if you get the DVD, don’t watch the included alternate ending. Just stick with the original theatrical ending. It’s much more mysterious and satisfying. The alternate ending is silly – much like the ending of Stephen King’s IT.

Bonus read: If you want to subject yourself to the badly written original material… The Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall

Dear The Neverending Story…

I recently read Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in her Life by Annie Spence as part of my 2018 reading challenge. And I was intrigued by the idea of going through the various books in your life and reflecting on what they’ve meant to you. It’s kind of funny because, in some ways, the books, stories, and poems that I write are love letters to various people, aspects of myself, or to the world in general. I’m not divulging names. Don’t ask.

Anyway, I just loved this idea and thought I would give a shot to writing letters to the books in MY life. As I am a librarian, (though lapsed) I feel no compunction about stealing Spence’s idea to use subject headings to introduce my books.

And so, here is my first letter.

FICTION – Ende, Michael

– Fantasy

neverending

– Childhood Obsession

– Peanut-butter and Jelly Sandwiches

Dear The Neverending Story,

It’s been about 30 years since I first read you. Oh jaysus, did I just say 30 YEARS?! Shit, I need a Mylanta.

Okay, yes, I read you the first time when I was about seven or eight. We had just moved to Greenwood, IN and, until that time, my consuming love for your movie adaptation (the first one, not the crummy sequels), had taken up 90 minutes of every day. Like, seriously, I watched that damn movie EVERY DAY. For years. I had the dialogue for the entire thing memorized. Ask my mother, she would put the movie on for me and then sneak away to take a nap.

Well, when we moved to Greenwood, my mother decided it was time for me to read the source material. YOU. So, she took me to our local library (Ha-cha!) and we asked the librarian behind the adult reference desk (yes, in those far-gone times, you were shelved in the adult section rather than in the YA department), and she took us right to you.

You were so beautiful, even though the plastic wrapping your dust jacket was grimed around the edges and curling at the corners. I hugged you to my chest and we took you home. When I opened you up I was enchanted to see that, instead of plain black script, you were printed in alternating red and green ink. Damn, your hardcover editions must have cost a butt-load to print! I immediately set out on my journey.

Neverending Story interior

I can’t remember exactly how long it took me to read you that first time. All I remember was asking my mother for peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches to eat in my room (just like Bastian in the movie version) while I lay on my bed and turned your pages. I also remember being pearl-clutchingly shocked when Gmork said “damn.” Naughty creature of darkness!

Holy hell! You were like what I imagine LSD would feel like (notice I said imagine. I’ve never tried LSD). You were so wise and crazy and playful and tragic. When I got to the point where the Childlike Empress climbs up to the Old Man of Wandering Mountain to demand he read her The Neverending Story, which would unravel all the story told thus far and necessitate him writing it again, I actually threw the book across the book. Not out of anger, but because I was so wigged out.

To me, you are the epitome of fantasy. Nothing can top you or outdo you for sheer brilliance. And I often go back to your pages to relive those startling moments when Atreyu approaches the Southern Oracle, or confronts Gmork, or when Bastian is ensnared by the traitorous Xayide.

But, even more than your adventure, dynamic characters, and lovely prose you taught me that it’s possible to go on after life kicks you in the teeth. And that dreams aren’t something you should leave behind in childhood. I still use my imagination all the time – I’d be lost without it. I firmly believe the world would be a better place if we fostered the expression of imagination throughout people’s lifetimes.

For one Christmas after I first read you, my parents gave me this small, blue duffel bag with yellow handles filled with books (still one of the all-time best presents I’ve EVER received). And your paperback edition was among them. True, the paperback had all black ink instead of the enchanting red and green, but you were filled with just as much magic and discovery as ever. I now own both your hardback and paperback editions and treasure them both.

Anxiously awaiting that other story for another time,

RL

The Neverending Story Dream Cast Part 1

No, this isn’t my dream cast for In the Blood. That would take too long to write.

I am currently re-reading The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (my absolute favorite book). When I was a kid, I used to watch the 1984 movie everyday. And I mean that literally. When my mom wanted to take a short nap, she would lay me down on our living room floor with my pillow and blankie and pop in The Neverending Story videotape and I would watch it everyday. I still have all the dialogue memorized.

Anyway, since I was re-reading the novel and it honestly feels like a completely new book – one of the magic things about certain books – I was thinking about whether Hollywood would ever attempt a remake of the 1984 movie or reinterpretation of the book itself. That got me thinking about who I would cast in key roles. So, here it goes (this survey covers only the characters in the first half of the book. I’ll get to the 2nd half at a later time):

Bastian Balthazar Bux – Gaten Matazzaro

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 27: (EDITORS NOTE: This image has been digitally altered) Actor Gaten Matarazzo from Netflix's 'Stranger Things' poses for a portrait during the 2016 Television Critics Association Summer Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 27, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Maarten de Boer/Getty Images Portrait)

This kid is so damn cute! And he’s got some acting chops. I think he could definitely handle the awkward Bastian of the book’s first half.

 

Carl Conrad Coreander – Tommy Lee Jones

tommy-lee-jones

 

 

 

 

Famous Hollywood curmudgeon alert!  That man is the embodiment of Mr. Coreander with that scowl that hovers between bored and ferocious. I can just seem him barking orders and criticisms from a wing-back chair.

 

Atreyu – Milli Bobby Brown

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 11: Actress Millie Bobby Brown attends the premiere of "Stranger Things" at Mack Sennett Studios on July 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Before anybody loses their sh*t, remember that this is just a personal fantasy cast. It’s not like any film producer is going to ask my opinion even if a Neverending Story remake was in the works. Also, I’m usually a purist when it comes to book-film translations. However, after seeing this young lady in Stranger Things, I know she would absolutely kill it as the young warrior Atreyu. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that she would manage to transcend the role and make it Oscar-worthy.

 

Childlike Empress – Isabella Furhman

isabella-furhman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isabella definitely has the timeless, ethereal look as described by Michael Ende, but she also has a strong charisma and the ability to portray multi-layered characters. Though the Childlike Empress does not appear in the story (like actually in person) until near the middle of the book, she saturates it with her invisible presence. In a movie, you need an actress who can live up to that kind of build-up. And I think Isabella could.

 

Voice of Gmork – Andy Serkis

andy-serkis

 

 

 

 

A pioneer in the motion-capture film world, Andy is also just a very talented actor. He can transform his his voice at will and I think he would make an especially creepy black werewolf. Gmork in the 1984 version was certainly scary, but he lacked that gleeful menace that Ende put into his original character. Serkis would be great at reintroducing that quality.

 

Voice of Falkor – Idris Elba

idris-elba

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone who has seen Zootopia, knows that Idris has the voice to bring a character to life. And Falkor is such a complex personality: funny, with an almost childlike temperament, but also caring, wise, and brave. It would take a very talented actor to do justice to such a key player and I think Idris, with his nuanced portrayal of Chief Bogo, has convinced me that he could knock Falkor out of the park!

 

Voice of Uyulala, the Southern Oracle – Birdy

birdy

 

 

 

 

 

 

This young woman’s voice just gets more haunting and nuanced as she gets older. Imagine what kind of melodies she could bring to Uyulala’s poetry, which, until now, we’ve had to imagine for ourselves. Those of us not blessed with the gift of music need a bit of help.

And interesting coincidence, Birdy has a new video up for a song she did with Sigma that stars Milli Bobby Brown. It’s meant to be!

 

 

Voice of Morla – Dames Helen Mirren or Judi Dench

helen-mirren judi-dench

 

 

vs.

 

 

Either of these ladies would be fantastic as the long-lived and world-weary Morla. Their voices have power and presence and the capability of portraying both wisdom and the blasé attitude that so defines the Aged One.

 

Cairon (physician centaur) – Don Cheadle

don-cheadle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cairon’s role in the story is relatively small, but it is he that sets The Neverending Story in motion. He is dignified, wise, and brave. Don Cheadle has played a host of different characters in his career and has the gravitas to make Cairon a stand-out in a very short amount of time.

NaNoWriMo is HERE!

It’s National Novel Writing Month again! Are you excited? I’m excited! I’ve got my novel all set up on NaNoWriMo’s site and a daily word goal in mind.

Because my husband and I made a deal back at the beginning of September, my total word goal is a bit different. In September, he challenged me to write 100,000 words by the end of November (three months to write 100K). If I succeeded, I would get money to take horse back riding lessons, something I’ve desperately wanted to do for YEARS. Well, as of today, November 1st, I have a little over 34,000 words. So, for November, my goal is 64,280 words (that’s a little over 2,100 words a day).

I think I can do it. Last year I managed to write about 72,000 words in November alone. When the stories hot, I don’t have a problem churning out a daily average of 2,500 words.

So, ready, set, NaNo!

My Takeaway from WorldCon 2016

This was my first year attending WorldCon (aka MidAmeriCon II). Since the Hugos are such an historic thing in fandom, I was super excited to attend and see what all this was about. Here are some positive things I took away from WorldCon 2016.

WorldCon is an amazing way to discover new authors: one of my major takeaways as far as new writers go is the discovery of several speculative fiction poets and literary magazines catering to speculative poetry. We all know about The Odyssey, The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost, Beowulf, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Virgil’s The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy,  and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These are ancient texts – many of them written for holy/sacred reasons. But they have also become precursers not only for our modern versions of epic fantasy but for amazing speculative poetry. Two of the poets I was most excited to learn about this last week were Rose Lemberg and Mary Soon Lee – two amazing poets and storytellers. Other authors I’m excited to read now are Robin Wayne Bailey, Alyssa Wong, Mary Doria Russell, Nnedi Okorafor, Hao Jingfang, Nick Wood, and Naomi Kritzer.

rose lemberg   robin wayne bailey   mary soon lee

 

Conventions are so much more fun if you have a compatible buddy to share it with. I was very fortunate to have a roommate for my stay in Kansas City. Not only did it cut my trip costs, but I got to have a super-fun time! Lyn Godfrey and I stayed at a hotel off-site and so had a short commute to and from the conference center. Usually, I would think of that as a big inconvenience. But, this time the drive and staying off-site gave me the opportunity to get to know Lyn better. She and I were in a now defunct writers group together a while ago but never learned very much about each other. WorldCon more than made up for that as we explored Kansas City together after hours, had a blast eating delivery in our hotel room while watching Big Bang Theory on television, giggling over the silly puzzles the WorldCon committee put in the Hugo Awards brochure, and cat-fighting over the Darth Vader cosplayer who flirted with us in the hallway (he actually flirted with me, but Lyn doesn’t agree). So, my advice would be get a roommate for these things. If nothing else, it will help defray expenses. And you have the opportunity to enhance your Con experience and make deeper friendships.

 

WorldCon is also a great place to discover new artists. Along with new authors, I also got to find out about new artists. I went prepared to ooh and ahh over Kinuko Y. Craft, award-winning fantasy artists and one of the main reasons I became a fan of Patricia A. McKillip. And, while I DID get Craft’s signature (on a 2017 calendar and her rendition of Beauty and the Beast), my biggest find was a potter who produced the pieces pictured below. Her studio is called Mudcat Studio and she creates the most amazing stuff. I walked by her booth in the Dealer’s Room several times, afraid to stop and look, though her work caught my eye every time, because I knew it would be expensive. But, I finally did stop and found the mug and bowl below. Let me tell you, this is quality pottery: heavy, well-made, gorgeously decorated and glazed. I use the mug everyday (the picture I took of the mug does NOT do it justice. It is so much prettier in person)and the bowl now sits on my Mega Desk. I look at it often while I write and draw a lot of inspiration from it.

The thing is, she has no retail space – either physically or online. CRAZY, I know! I spent five minutes encouraging her to get on Etsy because I would definitely start collecting her pieces if they were readily available. But she said she was fearful of technology as it confused her. If you like the pieces below (and, unbelievable as it might seem there were even more beautiful things there), click on the link for the name of her studio and you will find her business phone number as well as the studio’s address. Call her, mail her and let her know that she would have business if she set up an online store. If a web genius out there is willing, maybe you could help her set up a basic, easy-to-use website with a store option.

IMG_0195 IMG_0196

 

 

Fandom has pretty thoroughly embraced the need for welcoming EVERYONE into its gates. I think this year’s Hugo Awards made it pretty clear that SFF fandom is ready and willing to embrace new voices and viewpoints. The sad/rabid puppies once more tried to load the Hugo ballots with their slate of authors/artists they felt upheld traditional SFF (whatever the hell that means since SFF has always been about breaking traditions and pushing known boundaries). But, when the awards were handed out, it became clear that the fandom who voted for these winners was done with that nonsense. Despite what the sad/rabid puppies think, we chose authors/artists based on the quality of their work and not some bullshit PC agenda. It was a very proud moment and I am glad I was there.

So, that’s my takeaway from my first WorldCon. I won’t be able to attend next year’s since it is in Helsinki, Finland. Although, that would be an AMAZING event. So if you have the means to get there, please go and support the Hugo Awards and the fantastic artists and authors who make our world just a little more magical.

 

So You Want to Be a Writer…

So you want to be a writer? Delve into that heady, intoxicating world of make believe. Invite others into your secret worlds and be admired for having imaginary friends. Ahhhh! The writing life. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Get ready to become a pathetic version of Jekyll and Hyde. There are weeks I am THE most brilliant writer I know. Everything I touch turns to f**king gold. Everyone loves me and I’m on my way to super-stardom. Those weeks come along about once every two years or so. Sometimes a bit more often if I’m lucky. More often I’m doggedly swimming against a current because I love what I do and am determined to find SOMEONE, ANYONE who agrees with me. And then there are the dark times. When the only thing talking me down from tearing the world into a million pieces is copious amounts of junk food and reruns of The Office, Golden Girls, King of the Hill, and Archer.

Be happy with less. Because writing don’t pay. Unless you’re one of the rare and beautiful comets that streaks across society’s sky, blazing with golden light, you ain’t gonna make much bling. Certainly not enough to quick your day job or not be subsidized by a spouse.

Prepare yourself to get kicked in the nuts/vag at least once every six months (and the odds are likely it will be way more often). And those kicks come from everyone: agents, editors, reviewers, readers, your family, friends, and especially yourself. It astonishes me that any writer can have any arrogance at all.

Practice stoicism. My husband is a student of stoicism and often treats me to mini-lessons on its virtues. Basically, train yourself not to give a f**k because there will crap you cannot control. And if you react/lose it/invest too much in said crap, you will lose your freakin’ mind.

If there are hearts to be broken, break them: An Interview with Gail Carriger

_GailCarrigerHeadShot_VanessaApplegate

Photo by Vanessa Applegate

During this exciting week here in the world of the Witchbreed, I have the great pleasure of welcoming steampunk star, Gail Carriger to my online home.

Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urbane fantasy. Her books include the Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in 18 different languages and has 13 NYT bestsellers via 7 different lists (including #1 in Manga). She was once an archaeologist and is overly fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.

 

RLM: What age were you when you decided to pursue writing as a career?

GC: I was already an adult. (And no, I won’t own my age.) I had a successful career in archaeology. A year after Soulless released, I realized I might actually have a career as a writer. I still haven’t recovered from the shock.

 

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RLM: Would you describe yourself as a “pantser” writer or a “planner?”

GC: I am definitely a planner. I schedule out my daily tasks, when to write, and my social events. I also outline my books and stick to them as rigidly as possible. I like to say that “I obey my outline overlord.”

 

 

RLM: You write in the often slippery steampunk subgenre. What draws you to steampunk? And what do you think are the essential elements of the genre?

GC: My Mum is a tea–swilling ex–pat. I was raised on British children’s books (Tom’s Midnight Garden, The Borrowers, The Water-Babies, Wind in the Willows) and I spent many a youthful summer in Devon, some months as a PA in London, and two years of graduate school in Nottingham. It was this, plus the fashion aesthetic, that first drew me to steampunk – the beauty of 19th century clothing but with a less rigid everyday feel.

There is a delicate balance to steampunk. Writers must research the language of the day. However, getting too flowery and Victorian can make a story inaccessible to the modern reader. It is hard to make everyone happy. There are always going to be readers who want hard science–orientated steampunk and others who can’t wade through all that techno–babble. I like to say I write steampunk–light – a gateway drug, if you will. I also feel you can’t go wrong with comedy, that’s always lacking, even in the broader genres of SF/F, romance, horror, and mystery (steampunk has been classified under any of the above).

 

etiquette and espinoageRLM: Can you describe your daily (or however often you do write) routine?

GC: I conduct business in the mornings and then write from 2 to 7 pm every weekday – with breaks for tea. My policy is simply to hurl the nearest movable object at anyone who disturbed me. They eventually learn, even the cat.

 

RLM: Because many of your books contain strong romantic elements, I’d love to know what you believe is the key to creating a convincing and satisfying love story?

GC: Both characters have to be real and have flaws, and both need to have powerful personalities. My couples bicker but they also laugh. Because that’s what we all do in relationships.

 

Prudence

 RLM: Upon publication of Soulless, you became a major player in the fantasy genre. What has most surprised you in the wake of your success?

GC: Everything. I never stop being surprised. Nothing is ever as bad as I anticipate, or as good as I had hoped.

 

 

RLM: What do you want to have accomplished when you’ve come to the end of your career?

GC: I’d like to be at least one person’s favorite author. And I’d like to leave knowing I cheered people up and made them smile. I don’t think I could ask for more.

Learn more about Gail and her work via her website as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

And makes sure to scoop up Gail’s forthcoming title:

2Imprudence

 

 

Announcing #FicFest 2016!

Feather Image by EL Wicker

 

All us in the creative arts now how hard it is to get our work into the hands of those who can, in turn, get it out to the widest audience possible. One of those people with the “keys to the kingdom” is an agent. Agents are your offensive line, your center forwards, your battalion of foot soldiers storming the castle. Sheesh, I suck at these sorts of analogies!

 

Long story short (ha, yeah right!), agents can often make or break a literary career. And so, I am very excited and pleased to announce the inauguration of a new contest, called #FicFest, geared specifically towards hooking up writers with agents.

So, what is #FicFest? Well, to quote the contest organizers:

“#FicFest is an online writer’s contest which helps put manuscripts in front of literary agents. This contest, unlike most, is open to manuscripts in ALL genres (including those usually excluded such as Paranormal Romance or Erotica) in the categories of Picture Book, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult.

“#FicFest mentors are structured into fifteen (15) teams. Each category [listed above] has three teams. Each team is comprised of a team leader, and two (2) team members. Once the submissions open, each team will choose three (3) finalist manuscripts and one (1) alternate manuscript to advance to the agent round. This means that an equal number of manuscripts for each category will move to the agent round, guaranteeing that one category does NOT overpower another when it comes time for the agents.

“45 manuscripts total move to the agent round, with 15 manuscripts being held as alternates in case one of the main finalists drops out of the contest for any reason. This is one of the things #FicFest [organizers stress] because most contests are overrun with Young Adult. In many contests, they may advance 40 manuscripts to the agent round, but the problem lies in the fact that 30 of that 40 are all Young Adult. That won’t happen with #FicFest.

“Nine manuscripts from each category will make their appearance in the agent round. No more, no less. NINE each. [To reiterate]: in the agent round, you will have 9 Picture Books, 9 Middle Grade, 9 Young Adult, 9 New Adult, and 9 Adult. Everyone gets a fair chance.”

Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? And unlike many fiction contests out there, you don’t have to pay any entrance fees, reading fees, buy the judges cake and ice-cream fees. All you need is a spectacular submission – polished, edited, copyedited, and ready for reading.

 

Here’s the timeline the organizers have set up:

March 20, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST

Guidelines & Theme Revealed on the Host Blog

March 27, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST

Meet the Team Leads & Their Members on the Team Lead Blogs & Host Blog

April 3, 2016 @ 6:00 PM EST

Agent List Announced on the Host Blog

April 17, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST – 10:00 PM EST

Q & A with Team Leads & Host on Twitter – Using #FicFest

April 24, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – April 25, 2016 @ 11:59 PM EST SUBMISSIONS accepted

April 26, 2016 – May 3, 2016

Teams will chose their finalists and alternates

May 4, 2016 @ 10:00 AM EST

List of Finalists and Alternate Revealed on the Team Leads Blogs

May 5, 2016 – June 30, 2016

Chosen submissions undergo suggested revisions

July 8, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – July 14, 2014 @ 11:59 PM EST

Agent Round

 

You can bet your sweet ass I’ve got a book under my pillow to send in.

How ’bout you?!

 

 

 

 

Songs in My Hands: An Interview with Francesca Lia Block

Francesca_Lia_Block

It’s been a while since I’ve done an interview. And, to be honest with you, I thought I would not do them again. But then I really began to miss meeting other women authors and finding out what strides they are making in science-fiction and fantasy. So, I’m back with another fascinating author.

Today, I’d like to introduce Francesca Lia Block (whom you should know already unless you’ve been living under a rock!). Block has written more than 25 books of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in her long career. She has also edited two  short fiction collections that stretch the boundaries of what we know as fantasy. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Spectrum Award, the Phoenix Award, the ALA Rainbow Award,  and the 2005 Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

RLM: Tell me about your background and what first drew you to writing.

FLB: My father was a painter and my mother, a poet. They read to me and exposed me to fine art from an early age. There were books everywhere in our house. I liked to draw, paint, dance, design clothes and write poetry.  My strengths were in writing and I soon  began to focus exclusively on that. I think the medium is less important than the basic self expression.

 

Pretty dead

RLM: Almost all of your books draw on, or directly retell, classic myths and legends. What about these stories first inspired you to use them as the basis for your own work?

FLB: Not all of the but I love those stories. My father told me The Odyssey as a bedtime story and showed me paintings and sculptures depicting Greek and Roman mythology. I always loved fairy tales as well. These stories have so much to teach us and each of us can interpret them in our own unique ways. I also rely on them for story structure.

 

Rose and the BeastRLM: Besides writing fiction, you also teach the craft of writing. Do you ever find that teaching writing interferes with your ability to create your own stories and characters?

FLB: It can be very inspiring to teach, to be around that “beginner’s mind”  energy. I also love breaking down craft because it helps me strengthen my own. The only downside is that I spend a lot of time reading student work and at the end of the day I am often too tired to read for pleasure and growth, or to write my own books.

 

RLM: In a recent blog post, you talk about how David Bowie has influenced your writing – specifically Weetzie Bat. What other literary/cultural influences can be found in your work?

FLB: Punk music, song lyrics, fashion, surrealism, magical realism, film, poetry  and, as mentioned, Celtic fairy tales and Greek myths.

Love in the time of global warming   The island of excess love

 

RLM: Love in the time of Global Warming and The Island of Excess Love tackle a lot of hot-button issues including gender identity, same-sex relationships, and teen sex.

FLB: I don’t write to impart a message; I just write the stories I need to tell. I do believe that we are all equal and should be treated as such. I think teen sex is a complicated issue and as a mother I would hope that my children wait as long as possible. However, I often write about the subject as I think it is relevant and often enhances the story.

 

RLM: A great deal of your fiction focuses on young adults. How do you stay connected to this age group so your characters and situations remain authentic and relevant?

FLB: We were all  young once. I’m in touch with all parts of myself. I am interested in writing and publishing exclusively for adults now. Much of my  early work was actually written for people in their twenties but was published for teens.

 

Dangerous Angels

RLM: Tell me more about Fairy Magick Zine Workshop. How did the idea first come about?

FLB: I had done a workshop on the Muse with Amanda Yates Garcia, the Oracle of Los Angeles, and we wanted to do something else together. I am interested in fairy energy (they tend to frequent  my garden) and, as mentioned, [I love] fairy tales and she is very well versed in all kinds of magic so we  put the workshop together from our respective classes.

 

RLM: In another blog post, you talk about the use of social media to promote creative works. What lessons have you learned in your career regarding self-marketing? What one piece of advice would you give to creatives just starting out in their career?

FLB: This advice is about promotion, not about the creative process itself: try to touch one person at a time, but touch them with integrity, focus, kindness and care. Your network will grow exponentially.

Love magick   rough magick

 

RLM: You recently edited an anthology called Rough Magick (companion to Love Magick, published in 2011). How does the role of editor compare to writer? Which would you say you prefer?

FLB: I enjoy both for different reasons. I want to help my friends and students promote their work. Supporting one another is essential!

 

Psyche in a dress

RLM: What’s next for you? What are you working?

FLB: A memoir about finding the Muse.

 

To find out more about Francesca and her incredible work, visit her website. She’s also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

Best Books of 2015

One of my goals for last year was to read 52 books. So, about 1 book a week. I ended up exceeding that goal by about 4-5 books. Now, when I say I read 52, that means books that I finished. There were TONS more than I started and could not get into. I’m not going to rehash all of those because it’s a waste of time and… I don’t really remember them anyway. Probably why I didn’t finish them. What I want to talk about are the BEST of the BEST. These were the books that made my 2015 reading adventure a blast. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend you pick them up and add to your 2016 reading list.

They’re listed in no particular order.

SAvage Breast

Savage Breast by Tim Ward

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction. Just not my bag. But I do ocassionally find a book that rivets me as effectively as  good novel. Tim Ward did that with Savage Breast. It is his personal journey to discover the history of goddess worship throughout the ancient world. He stays mainly in the Grecian area (and some eastern Europe), which provided PLENTY of material for one book. I would love it, though, if he did a similar book with goddesses from India and then on east. And then another volume on the goddesses of  middle and western Europe. And then one all the goddesses of the Americas. Seriously, this would make an amazing series if done in his personal, travelogue, memoir style.

 

goblin emperor

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

In all honesty, I started reading this book because of the fascination I had with the whole Hugo Awards debacle. This was on the shortlist for best novel and it sounded the most interesting so I checked it out from the library. My God, t is wonderful! And you wouldn’t think so if I gave you a blow-by-blow account of it. There is little to know action, no romance, now high-drama. But Addison draws her main character, Maia, with such depth and such feeling you can’t help but be drawn into his story.

 

six of crows

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Hands down one of the top three books I read this last year. I had never read anything by Bardugo before (now I am set to read all her Grisha books) and she made an instant fan of me. Incredible character development, masterful pacing, tight storyline. Everything just WORKED here. It actually received one of my rare 5-star ratings on Goodreads. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

 

Tiny_Beautiful-680Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Okay, this one was so good, I bought copies to give my sister and mother for Christmas. Yeah, it’s like that. And I really, really hope they read it. I hope everyone reads it. It could change your life, that’s how good it is.

This was also in my top three. I cried every time I opened it to read another letter.

 

the girlThe Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

I’ve heard this one is being made into a movie and I’m torn. While Carey writes with cinematic flair and this story is definitely worthy of translation to film, I know how the movie industry can be. They often screw up wonderful books for absolutely no reason.

But, back to the actual book. Heart-pounding, tear your throat out thriller/adventure/dystopia. Carey keeps everything very human, though, and the characters, not one of them, is easily pigeonholed. This is literary fiction when done by a genre writer. Gorgeous, wrenching, and just a damn good tale.

 

RadianceRadiance by Grace Draven

I’ve got to hand it to her: Grace Draven is a force to be reckoned with in both the romance and fantasy genres. She blends the best elements of both to make something tender, exhilarating, sexy, fascinating, and incredibly fun. If all indie authors were producing this kind of quality, traditional publishers would be going out of business for good.

 

the shiningThe Shining by Stephen King

I’ve been fascinated with The Shining for years, long before I finally read it. I saw the Stanley Kubrick film version and thought it one of the most disturbing, mind-bending movies I’ve ever experienced. But it didn’t capture the real spirit of Stephen King’s horror masterpiece. I say that because in Kubrick’s version Jack Nicholson, while wonderful at putting on the crazy, never convinced me he actually cared about his wife and son all that much. And that is the true horror of the book. That a man, who genuinely loves his wife and child, could be driven to do unspeakable things to them. King masterfully depicts the three main characters and because they are so “real” their terror became my own. Amazing book, just amazing.

 

Kraken

The Kraken King by Meljean Brook

One of the best romance novels I’ve ever read. And do you know why? Because Meljean Brook doesn’t write like a romance writer. She writes like a fantasy writer or an adventure writer. She highlights the desperation of the circumstances with the romance. But doesn’t let her characters or the story become consumed by it.

 

A monsterA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Wow! What a moving and creative way to look at the grief process. Ness takes a topic that is too often cluttered with Hallmark sentimentality and off-base religiosity and makes it accessible and meaningful. Ness writes beautifully and blends elements of fantasy with middle-grade fiction so seamlessly. This is definitely one of those books that, though written for kids, transcends generations.

 

InvasionThe Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

This was one of the more brutal books I read in 2015. I read the first installment and walked away thinking, “Meh.” So, the only reason I gave the sequel a shot is because I found an Advanced Reader Copy for sale at the Friends booth of my local library.

It was almost instantly obvious, though, that Johansen had received MUCH better editing advice on this book than on The Queen of the Tearling. All of the things that really irritated me about book 1, were fixed in book 2. Johansen is not kind to her characters but she also makes them strong, believable, smart, and vulnerable. A vast improvement on her earlier work and makes me eager for book 3.

 

So, those are my top reads for 2015. Anyone got some of their 2015 choices they want to share. Drop ’em in the comments!