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Dammit Jim, I’m a Doctor not a machine… March 28, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Uncategorized.
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Dear Bloggy,

This is the first day of the rest of my life…

That’s what I keep telling myself, as I go i nto the next month and a half of paper prepation, test preparation and other not-so-fun processes to wrap up the classwork portion of my PHD. Soon I will be able to gleefully utter McCoy’s famous line when I don’t want to do something, yay! Alas it doesn’t work yet. I wish it did, studying for hours and hours at a time is enough to make anyone wish to be an Android for a while .

The worst part of it all is my two paper ideas and my dissertation are something I’m looking forward to, all being on topics that interest me but trying to fit those in with everything else is frustrating.

In the meantime a sleepless nightmare-filled night about forgetting everything I’ve learned in the last 5 years allowed me to wake up and start a Connor Grey book. The third of book of the series is his best yet, kudos Marc Del Franco! The big problem is going to be managing not to ignore test prep to read it! Only 1 chapter breaks allowed, Captain!

Enough strangeness from me….

Happy Easter, enjoy reading…

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Friday Flashback: Hunky heroes and hellions March 26, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Friday Flashback.
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Repost from Feb 19,2008.

I’m a ‘character’ lover, just like the USA show says: characters welcome. What really intrigues me with a book, a series, a movie or a television show tends to be a great, unique and quirky character. I’ve also discovered I have a passion for the ‘anti hero’ or the noble villian (provided, of course, they don’t spend all their time whining! No Pips or Viktor Frankensteins need apply!). I love Moriarty as much as I adore poor lonely Sherlock Holmes. So today I thought I’d focus on some of my literary hearthrobs for those of you ladies looking for a good adventure and a dashing gentleman to spend it with!

So here’s a few that come to mind randomly from books I’m reading or have read…

  • Radcliffe Emerson (Amelia Peabody Series) Radcliffe, or the “Father of Curses” is a bear of a man, dashing, passionate, utterly devoted to his wife and prone to pouts when he doesn’t quite get his way. He treats his wife like an equal (when she’s not in danger or in need of saving, of course). His tirades are as equally endearing as his clumsy but heartfelt compliments for his wife.
  • Ramses Emerson (Amelia Peabody Series): Emerson and Amelia’s son. He’s swarthy, handsome, utterly devoted to his true love, Nefret, honorable but he has a darker side. He’s an excellent spy and has a penchant for getting in trouble and a nature more brooding than his ebullient father. Ramses is my personal favorite.
  • Sethos (Amelia Peabody Series): The ‘Villian’ of the series, or the Master Criminal. He has a talent for disguise, a sense of nobility even in his thieving and a flair for the dramatic. He pays Amelia elaborate compliments as he tries to steal her affections for the ‘dark side’ of archaeology. I love Sethos’s mysterious entries into the story and his dashing rescues of Amelia, which happen as often as he comes into conflict with the Emersons.
  • Murray (VI Warshawski Series): Murray is your typical hard boiled reporter, fast talking and always out for the next big ’scoop’. I adore how he calles Vic “She who must be obeyed” and his irreverant loyalty to her. He’s always ready to bend the rules to help Vic solve a crime.
  • Colonel Joshua Chamberlain (Killer Angels): He’s a poet, a hero, a warrior, and a scholar which I immediatley love. He gives us a lot of intellectual commentary on the war, and we see his real suffering as he watches men under his command die. We also truly feel his loyalty for his wife, and how he depends on her esteem and advice in his life.
  • Jean Claude (Anita Blake series): JC is always my favorite of Anita Blake’s characters. I stopped reading her series after about book 8, when the focus turned from storytelling to sex but up to then I enjoyed the series. Jean Claude is arrogant, knows what he wants out of life, powerful and dashing and handsome. He knows how to be equally charming or terrifying, which pushes him sometimes to the side of villian. He has his own sense of honor, even if it doesn’t quite match the heroine’s. JC is fun for a dark hero, or a lighter villian.
  • Numair Salmalin (Wild Magic): Numair is your typical absent-minded wizard with a heart of gold. He’s one of the only Black Robe Mages in the world so he’s also powerful, but since he fled his country and had to live impoverished he’s humble as well. Numair is protective and loyal, and one of the best scenes in the series is when he uses a ‘word of power’ to protect Daine from certain death.
  • Don Quixote (Alonso Quijana): Don Quixote is a very romantic figure, who sallies forth into the world to right wrongs, win acclaim for his honored lady and battle evil. He’s irrepresibly optimistic and you begin cheering for him, even in his misguided attempts to see the world through romantic glasses.
  • Harry Dresden (Dresden Files): Harry is cynical, chivalrous to a fault, accident prone and perpetually battling evil. I like how Harry does occasionally drift from the noble hero to some dabbling in the darker side of magic and the personality. Harry has a touch of danger always surrounding him, but he tempers it with being committed to the ‘good guy’s team’.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: Ah Cyrano… one of the greatest examples of French romantic writing. Cyrano is intelligent, charismatic, witty, romantic and debonair. He’s also an excellent swordsman and a noble soldier. But alas, poor Cyrano was born with an incredibly long nose, and so he has difficulty earning the affections of women. He tragically agrees to help another man, who lacks his abilities in wit, to woo the woman he loves…

Friday Flashback: Co-authoring challenge March 19, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Friday Flashback, Writing Craft.
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Repost from Jan 31, 2008.

A question that’s come up recently was what it’s like to co-author books with someone that lives several states away?


       Truthfully it can be a giant pain in the butt.  To co-author anything takes a committment to clear communication and compromise. Co-Authoring a 150,000 word draft, 95,000 word book, is even more of a challenge.  We find we have to stay in pretty close to daily contact with each other which we do over email, IM and phone and we have to stay organized.  Whispers has been five years in the making, but it’s been the last about six months that we strapped in and got serious about it.  An updated outline helps a lot and then exchange of files back and forth with both of us keeping a copy of the master file and syncing it up at least once every couple of weeks.  As long as we gently keep each other on the ball we tend to do just fine, but it’s definately not for the weak of heart or the impatient.  Arguments sprout up often because text can be read in so many different ways and depending on the mood of the reader and how sleep deprived they are, so we make sure that when things get heated we take a step back and sort out what is a difference of perception and what is actually at the heart of the matter.  The other key is that we take time to goof off together so that we have casual friend time too.  No matter how compatiable you think your writing styles may be never co-author with someone you don’t like, because by the end you’ll kill each other if you don’t have a solid base to go on.  🙂  Trust us.  We know.


     ~J

Book Review: Rosemary and Rue – Seanan McGuire March 17, 2010

Posted by Realitybypass in Uncategorized.
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Recently the husband and I went to DisneyWorld for our anniversary celebration.  As we were going through one of the security lines the cast member looking through our bags stopped at the pocket which was full of books and said, “Why do you have all these books, you’re on vacation?!?”

I suppose for many people reading is seen as something you only do when you must, not a part of a vacation at Disney.  For us we wouldn’t do any vacation without at least a handful of paperbacks.  This trip I finished almost five.  🙂

One of the books I took on was Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire.  This is a good book to talk about for St Patrick’s day since it’s all about fairies and changelings and that’s a land with a rich history of both.  Part of what I loved about this book was the focus on just the fae.  It was nice not to see a vampire in sight and instead dealing with a wide range of fairy and changelings each type with specific rules that were familiar from myth, but with their own special twists.

October Daye is a Changeling, the daughter of a mortal man and an immortal Sidhe woman.  She is a knight and a defender of her lord’s realm and…umm…has been lost in a pond for fourteen long years.  When she finds herself again her world is very different.  Her daughter is a teenager who wants nothing to do with her.  Her mortal husband is in the same boat.  Then October’s friend, Evening, dies and binds Toby to find out the nature of this death…Toby has no choice and the past and the present collide.  This is a story of a woman finding herself all over again and deciding what parts of her past are something she wants to find again and what things are better left in the pond.

It was a fast read and while there were a few moments where I wanted to slap Toby around, mostly I understood why she was doing what she was doing and I feel like the information pertaining to the mystery was well paced.  There are many of the secondary characters who I’m really hoping to see again in future books, as I feel like they have strong stories to tell and Toby is made stronger by having them there for the most part.  Connor I want to slap to sleep, but maybe that’s just me.

I’ll be getting A Local Habitation (book 2)…I’m sure there are more trips coming up!

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Age:  16+

Content: Violence, mild sexuality

Overall: 4/5  paws

Honest Trouble March 16, 2010

Posted by Realitybypass in Uncategorized.
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So this morning I came to work, as is usual.  I noticed a lot of people sitting in their cars outside and several emergency vehicles.  They seemed to be crowded around a bike which was lying in the road, so I figured there had been an accident but the police and paramedics had everything well in hand.  I’m a First Responder, but the general rule is to get out of the way of the authorities and one more rubber necker doesn’t help.  So I wander in and get settled down…and notice that there isn’t ANYONE else in the building which is kinda of odd for an accident.  Now I’m wondering if there was a bomb threat or something, but I also can’t find any of the previously mentioned authorities in the building either and about the time I’m ready to go look outside someone else walks in.  Apparently there was a fire and I’d been sitting here for fifteen minutes while they were still clearing the last of the building.  I’d gone up a flight of stairs when the firefighters were going down.  Oops.  Fortunately everything is okay, but it leaves me pondering as to how I read the situation.  My experience said get out of the way of what looks like an accident.  The truth was fire and I likely should have stayed in the car for another few minutes, but I didn’t see smoke and wasn’t told anything.  The quick path into honest trouble.  I’m glad it didn’t get any more dramatic than it did.  🙂

So goals for today include staying out of more honest trouble, editing 5 chapters of the WIP, working up a book review for the blog here and signing up for the local produce co-op.

What are your goals?

Jana

Kitties! March 7, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Uncategorized.
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*makes inarticulate sounds of cuteness reaction*

Nuff said:

Whatever happened to pick-up lines? March 6, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Life, Musings, Rants.
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I played hooky from my work, my house cleaning and my class-reading Friday night to test a theory. What is the theory? Well dating advice suggested that single women will never meet men out and about if they’re even with one other woman. The suggested reason? According to the study, men are too uncomfortable to be rejected in front of even one other person.

Fie I cry! If men are allowed wing men, why can’t we have wing women? Fie! More Patriarchy! (Said in her most saber rattling voice!)

But more seriously, I decided, why not. The study suggested to bring a book to a bar  to go read, and I brought my new Mini-laptop instead and settled down at my favorite upscale coffee and wine bar and began working on grading exams. There were 5 men around my age, several rather good looking. 3 were enmeshed in a cutt-throat game of Connect 4. I watched them a little and smiled and kept working. After 30 minutes one of the men on the other couch in the far corner approached (unsteadily) and drunkenly sat down. Already swing…. and strike out. But the conversation wasn’t even an amusing attempt at drunken pick-up lines. He asked if he was bothering me, asked me my job… and then promptly asked me for my age. His even drunker buddy returned and asked me how much money I make. They then inform me how bad the Carpentry industry is currently, otherwise they’d have more money and thus be drunker. In the space of 5 minutes they’ve informed me they’re complete lushes, rude when drunk and have no money. I am grateful when Less-Drunk-Harry (names changed to protect the inept) tells More-Drunk-Dave that they should leave and they stand to leave. More-Drunk-Dave however leans in and grabs for my computer, asking me if it’s a ViOS. I move it out of the way. I don’t even like my FAMILY to touch my computer! AGH! He asks me, “What’s your name again and can I call you some time?”

Maybe when hell freezes over! (So that’s what I should have said, according to my girlfriends… I just politely informed him I was seeing someone, but I was flattered thank you.)

So then another young man walks over, this one is tall, dark haired, swarthy looks and I’m wondering if the night has improved. He asks if he can sit down at my table, and I agree. The moment he sits down I get a lungful of stale cigarette smoke. Ugh! I hate cigarette smoke period, but stale…unwashed out of clothing… smell is just awful and I can smell it from across the table! Swing and strike.  But maybe he’ll be an interesting conversationalist, even if I don’t date smokers.

But Smoke-stack-Joe (name changed) manages to completely move from ‘smoker I won’t date’ to ‘complete loony’ when he informs me in the space of 5 minutes that:

 1) He’s jobless and highly sensitive to being asked, and not really looking.

2) He dropped out of college because of personal reasons

3) He really shouldn’t go out because he “hates f* people”

4) He uses highly rude expletives every other sentence (he calls them explicatives and feels they give his speech emphasis. I feel more like my great-grandfather, cursing shows a lack of vocabulary)

5) His family is involved with the mob and he feels that the mob has the right idea, we’d not have so many “f* idiots if the credit card companies killed people for defaulting on loans.

6) His father, who was in the mob, went crazy and had to be committed.

While I have some sympathy and the PHD in me was analyzing how father issues would definitely cause a lack of direction in adulthood, the woman in me was screaming in terror. Bad manners, no ambition, bad language, bad genetics and violent tendencies…. um no.

Maybe the pick-up-line was created to allow women to gauge a man’s verbal skill and creativity! Or at least… maybe they have to be sober enough to remember it…

But the moral of the story, I was very happy to go home to my computer, my cats, a nice book about a man with manners, and some Angry Chick music on my Ipod. My question for blog-land though, is there a ‘too nice’ when it comes to obnoxious bar flies?

Oh…. yes, forgot to mention, earlier I met a charming 64 year old at my favorite sushi place. He was good company, shared stories of eating oysters in his childhood and suggested some nice upscale clubs downtown. And that…. was the best conversation and prospect of the night, someone my grandfather’s age.

No more bars for … maybe… ever. Jeez.

Friday flashback: Youthful chills and thrills March 5, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Book Series, Children Books, Friday Flashback, Musings.
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Today I wanted to start one of our new “regular”, or in our case “semi-regular” postings. Wednesdays have always been our book review days, and Friday is going to be a Friday Flashback. We’ve noticed that our previous blogs from past years are being commented on over on blog.com, so Jana and I decided to re-run some of the former blogs on Fridays.

So without further ado, the first Friday Flashback: Youthful thrills and chills.

I was thinking the other day about how I ended up with a fascination for sci-fi, fantasy and the darker side of literature. My Dad reads mostly John Grisham and Michael Crichton political thrillers. I read them too, but in a book store my feet just naturally carry me into the fantasy section (or the mystery section too, but we’ll get to my other addiction another day.) Now Dad will watch fantasy and sci-fi with me, but it’s not his first choice. My mother describes all science fiction as “It’s all depressing, with all those ugly people!” Vulcans! Ugly!? Gasp!

So how did I end up loving Star Trek and tales of vampires?

It just happened.

In his book, On Writing Stephen King wrote “I was born with a fascination for the unquiet grave” (paraphrased). That really rang true with me. My youthful reading consisted of Bunnicula (a vampire bunny rabbit) and as many ‘Scary Stories to tell in the Dark’ as I could get my hands on. It didn’t matter that I spent as much time with the covers pulled over my head as sleeping, I couldn’t get enough of the thrills and chills.

One book I particularly remember was called ‘Wait til Helen Comes’. I read it 5 or 6 times as a kid, and it scared me every single time. I should go back and read it again, see if the youthful terror still gets me!

Inevitably reading turned to creating and my younger siblings became research subjects as I experimented with my own ghost and goblin creations. They, and the neighborhood kids, soon joined me in my terror filled sleepless nights and I found that being the agent of that terror was fun! Apparently they did too, since they kept coming back for more.

There’s something magical about a “scary story” that brings us back to Halloweens of our youth when familiar trees became a little more sinister, every bridge might just hide a troll and the strange house down the street hides witchy secrets. It bypasses the mundane and makes reality just a little more fantastic.

So my ‘writer’s advice’ or ‘reader’s advice’ for today is pick up some of those children’s books and young adult books you loved as a child (or some you managed to miss out on).

My list:

  • Scary Stories to tell in the Dark (Horror, elementary)
  • Wait til Helen Comes Mary Downing Hahn (Horror, upper elementary)
  • Bunnicula series James Howe (Horror, upper elementary)
  • Anything Roald Dahl, Especially The Witches (Horror/Macabre)
  • The Redwall series, Brian Jacques (Fantasy)
  • The Wild Magic series Tamora Pierce (Fantasy)
  • The Dark Moon series Meredith Ann Pierce (Fantasy)
  • Anything RL Stine. (Maybe not the best writer, but definitely some creative work) (Horror)
  • In a dark dark Room Alvin Scwartz (Children’s ‘spooky’)
  • I’m Going to Eat You Matt Mitter (Children’s ‘spooky’)

 

Wednesday Book Review: Mutineer March 3, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Book Series, Critiquing, Friday Flashback, Science Fiction.
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This is a re-post from the launch of our blog 2 years ago, going along with some of the Friday Flashbacks we’ll be reposting some of our book reviews for your reading pleasure, with updated rating.

Today’s review is Mutineer by Mike Shephard

Genre: Science Fiction/Militaristic

Age: Teen, adult

Content: Violence

Overall: 1/5  paws

Review:

The plot of Mutineer had good promise. Kris is the daughter of a wealthy political family on the planet Wardhaven who rebelled against her parents by joining the military, something a respectable daughter doesn’t do. In the meantime, Kris is having to prove herself truly dedicated to the military while also avoiding multiple assasination attempts. As the plot goes on, the ‘Society of Humanity’ also is on the brink of Civil War with the outer colonies fighting against Earth and the inner colonies.
The cons:  The character development was thin and cliched, at best. The plot was slow to get into and you were left with a sense of ‘yeah right’ as Kris, a green Ensign, manages to out think her commanders, outfly a computer and outwit a group of criminals who had managed to defy several teams of planetary police. In the meantime, the action of the rescue is jarred by flashbacks to Kris losing her brother to a kidnapper many years previously. Unfortunately, the emotion is so thin that it’s difficult to feel compassion for Kris and the flashbacks seem trite and contrived to justify the heroine’s mental vacilations over rescuing the girl. The ‘rich kid rebelling’ theme is done to death, with commanding officers, politicians and even university students in a bar deciding to ‘shun’ Kris because she’s a ‘Longknife’. (Although cool name!) They constantly force her to prove herself, even though her family has a very long military history. In addition, Kris’s family is enough to make me scream. She has grandparents who she has to nearly break laws to visit, parents who are barely friendly and she describes her family as essentially a political battlefield. You have a tough time understanding why Kris would ever even bother to speak to her parents.

The pros: About halfway through the book the plot manages to pick up. I enjoyed the plot itself after Kris gets sent to a planet where she has to help with relief. Kris still manages to ‘save the day’ and show up everyone around her, but I was able to accept the idea more because her commanding officers had been assigned there mostly as punishment for screwing up or lackluster work, so their lack of efficiency was believable. The book allows for some reconciliation between Kris and a couple of her family members, but for the most part the characterization is fairly static. The main thing Kris learns is to take responsibility for how her decisions affect other’s lives, but personally and professionally she starts out a Super Soldier and ends a Super Soldier.

The Verdict: Shepherd’s plot managed to save the book, but his characterization and the emotional depth of his characters is thin, at best. I didn’t mind the read, and I’m glad I forced myself through the first half but I’m not sure I’ll be picking up any others of the series.

Tuesday Teaser Answer March 2, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Musings.
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Here’s the answers to the Tuesday Teaser from February 2:

Alexander the Great — Bucephalus — Roxana, Statiera, Parysatis

Robert E. Lee — Traveller — Mary Anna Custis

Ulysses S. Grant — Cincinnatti — Julia Dent Grant

Christopher Colombus — Niña, Pinta, Santa Maria — Doña Felipa Perestrello y Muniz

George Armstrong Custer — Vic, Dandy, Comanche — Elizabeth Clift Bacon

Sir Malcolm Cambell — The bluebird — Marjorie Knott, Dorothy Whittall, Betty Nicory