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Friday, August 28, 2015

FRIDAY FIVE: Summer Sci-Fi

Although I'm more of an autumn person, there are a ton of things I love about summer--sunshine, storms, ice-cold lemonade, fireflies, reading in a hammock. Plus all the science-fiction television shows that come around. I read a lot of fantasy, but I tend to watch more sci-fi. Maybe it’s because sci-fi shows are easier to find. Maybe I haven't been reading the right sci-fi. Whatever the reason, one of my favorite things about speculative fiction in general and science fiction in particular is that a lot of it remains grounded in humanity. Even though the settings and plots are outlandish, the characters and relationships are ones we recognize and connect with. This summer, my favorite new spec-fic shows were Fox's Wayward Pines and AMC's Humans. In honor of the summer sci-fi tradition, here are some of my all-time favorites.

The 100
This is a gem of a show. I discovered season one on Netflix halfway through the airing of season two and scrambled to catch up. It starts a bit slowly, but once it gets rolling, boy, does it get rolling! 97 years after a worldwide nuclear war, the last of the human race survives on a giant space station called the Ark. Air is running out faster than they thought, and they send 100 underage delinquents down to Earth to see if it's habitable. The kids face threats from each other, nature, and Grounders, the humans who managed to survive on the surface for nearly a century.Along the way, the show asks big questions, like what it means to be human and whether they can hold onto their humanity while fighting for their survival.

That girl in the middle up above is Clarke Griffin. Even though this is an ensemble show, she's the main protagonist, and she's awesome. She's smart, bossy, courageous, and an all-around badass. Her season two arc, in which she takes on the burden of protecting her people and fully realizes the consequences of it, is exceptionally complex and heartbreaking. The rest of the main crew--Octavia, Raven, Bellamy, Lincoln, Lexa, and more--is just as compelling. In a show with no black-and-white morals and no true "heroes," it's easy to root for nearly everyone (with the exception of the Wallaces, of course).

Orphan Black
Orphan Black's opening scene is one of my favorites of any TV show. Sarah Manning gets off a subway at night, makes a phone that does not go well, and then hangs up and sees a woman taking her shoes off and setting down her purse. The woman turns and looks exactly like Sarah. Then she jumps onto the track. Talk about a hook!

The first two episodes are chock-full of suspense as quick-thinking small-time grifter Sarah snags the woman's purse and takes over her identity. Until she finds out that, rather than having a long-lost twin sister, she's in fact part of an illegal cloning experiment. Then the story gets kicked into high gear, and we're introduced to Alison, Cosima, Rachel, Helena, and others, all played by the superb Tatiana Maslany. It's about women joining together to take ownership of their bodies and lives, and it's great to see a show with an ensemble cast that's mostly women (even if it's all the same woman), all distinctive and interesting in their own right. Solid all around, the show's at its best when it gives in to dark comedy.

Battlestar Galactica
I've told this story a bunch, but I'm going to tell it again. I took a class in undergrad on Renaissance drama at the same time the last season of this show was airing. Every Monday before class, my teacher, a classmate, and I would discuss Friday's episode. And then she'd find away to talk about it in class and relate it to the Renaissance plays we were reading. The lesson I walked away from that class with was: stories last because, despite their period trappings, they're about human beings. The space trappings are wonderfully designed, and the characters will all have you rooting for them in different ways, but BSG's greatest strength, like The 100's, is in raising the question of what it means to be human.

Fringe
This is such a wacky and engaging show. It centers on Olivia Dunham, an FBI agent who is drawn into the Fringe Science division following a biological incident on an airplane. She enlists the help of Dr. Walter Bishop but needs his son, Peter, to act as a handler of sorts as they solve cases. The mythology deepens and the story arcs become longer as the seasons go on, culminating in a shorter fifth and final one that revolves around the Bishop/Dunham family and their fight for their future. Throughout the many imaginative developments, such as parallel universes and alternate timelines, the relationship between Olivia and Peter anchors the story.

 

Chuck
Definitely the most lighthearted show on this list, Chuck is about a regular guy who works as a Nerd Herder computer repair guy at Buy More until his ex-best friend sends him an email that downloads a government super computer into his brain. Enter NSA agent John Casey and CIA agent Sarah Walker, sent to protect him until they can get the secrets out. It's an outlandish premise but one that works because of the strength of the characters. Chuck and Sarah's will-they-won't-they relationship is the heart of the show, and Chuck's lovable family--sister Ellie, brother-in-law Devon, and best friend Morgan (who takes a little while to grow on you)--round out an endearing cast.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Year-Long Challenge

I meant to get this up a couple weeks ago on my birthday, but I was busy with last-minute school responsibilities and then my laptop died. But July 1st is as good a day to post this. I put together a list of professional, personal, and academic goals to work on over the next year. I might add or change things as I go, but I'm going to try to get as many done as I can. I'll update when I can strike things off the list.


Professional
01. Finish train short story
02. Finish mermaid short story
03. Finish wedding short story
04. Finish monster short story
05. Finish superhero short story
06. Finish millennia short story
07. Finish flat tire short story
08. Write a dragon short story
09. Finish bed and breakfast UF novel
10. Start/participate in a group blog
11. Finish ballet novella
12. Outline time travel adventure
13. Outline a superhero novel
14. Write a rough draft of a superhero novel
15. Attend a convention
16. Write an hour-long podcast drama
17. Write an hour-long movie or web series (twelve five-minute installments)
18. Query agents
19. Submit at least two short stories for publication
20. Write ten poems


Personal
01. Dye my hair
02. Get another ear piercing
03. Organize my CD collection
04. Eat healthier
05. Exercise regularly (four-five times per week)
06. Complete one full month of Hip Hops Abs
07. Complete full Hip Hop Abs program
08. Complete one full month of Insanity
09. Complete full Insanity program
10. Build a little free library
11. Build a piece of furniture
12. Build that model rocket I’ve had lying around for a year
13. Go to a baseball game in a stadium I haven’t been to yet (six out of thirty)
14. Learn a new song on the piano
15. Learn a new song on the guitar
16. Learn how to use my Traveler 120 and take lots of photos
17. Take lots of photos in general
18. Learn karate or boxing
19. Join a rowing team
10. Build a terrarium
21. Join a softball team
22. Reach my 10,000-step Fitbit goal every day for a week


Academic
01. Start learning Latin
02. Refresh on Polish or Russian
03. Write an article on genre fiction/heroines to submit to the Journal of Popular Culture
04. Study for and take the GREs
05. Apply to doctoral programs

Friday, June 26, 2015

Excerpt--TOR MADDOX 3: MISTAKEN


TOR MADDOX 3: MISTAKEN

Eight leotards and a ball gown—that’s what Tor Maddox packed for her summer ballet intensive in New York. Pity she never arrived. Kidnapped once by the good guys and once by the bad ones, Tor finds herself involved in a high seas adventure featuring princesses and pirates, a wedding ring, and the guy she thought she’d never be allowed to see again, junior man-in-black Rick Turner.

Tor’s employee ID promises “Your Fantasy Starts Here.” It couldn’t be more mistaken.

Grab a flotation device and welcome aboard for more shenanigans, villainy, and romance.

An Excerpt From MISTAKEN:

 

I sank into the soft embrace of twenty-four inches of buttery, gray leather. The first class cabin was everything I’d ever dreamed. Before we even buckled, the flight attendant Jock handed me a blanket—and not one of those thin-as-a-T-shirt disposable ones from the normal people section—a real blanket.

Rick passed him the Starbucks cup he was clutching. “Can you please warm her coffee?”

“Sure thing, honey,” Jock replied. “Back in a flash.”

“Honey.” I giggled as I elbow-nudged him. “I think he meant you.”

Rick eye-locked me, his Mediterranean-blue to my plain old brown. “I know,” he whispered. “Jealous?” Amusement danced in his gaze. He was himself again.

With our heads pillowed on the dovewing leather, eyes communicating on some other level, I felt a rush of premonition, like years from now we’d be lying on a bed together backflashing this moment. I smiled at him with lips that remembered a thousand kisses that hadn’t happened yet.

Rick smiled back. “Torrance Olivia Maddox, what is going on in there?” He knuckled my forehead gently. “I’d give a million pennies for that thought.”

“Do you have a million pennies?” I honestly didn’t mean for my voice to come out as husky as it did. I knew I shouldn’t be encouraging this.

“I’ll get back to you on that,” he teased. “Can I get an answer on credit?”

“No way.” I shook my head coyly. A cocoon of intimacy spread over us like a blanket fort. Hmm. File that idea for later, much. I cozied in closer.

And then our private walls were breached with a cheerful, “Here y’are. One warm latte for the lady. And for you, sir? A complimentary cocktail before late dinner? Wine? Beer?”

“Just a ginger ale, please,” Rick replied.

As Jock moved on to row seven, I whispered, “You could have. He thought you were old enough.”

Rick raised an eyebrow. “I am.”

“Oh. You had a birthday.”

Somehow that broke the spell. It shouldn’t have bothered me, but honestly, it did. Not that he was old enough to drink, or that technically I was more than four years away from legality myself. However, this marker of maturity was more than symbolic. The time gulf couldn’t have been made plainer.

Mind the Gap, as they say on the London subways, or you’ll injure yourself, and don’t hold us responsible. We told you it was there.

What was I doing? How could I replace a real, trained agent? Was I recruited for this job only because Rick missed me? I couldn’t crush the more-than-a-smidge of doubt that this could be a huge mistake.

We weren’t just at different stations on the track of life, we were in completely different trains, chasing each other through dark tunnels. Foreboding seized my heart. Until further notice, our occasional meetings would only be collisions, with screeching brakes, shredded metal, personal injuries, and disastrous consequences.


Pre-order MISTAKEN, and visit Liz's Amazon author page.


About the Author 

 

Liz Coley’s internationally best-selling psychological thriller Pretty Girl-13 has been published in 12 languages on 5 continents and been recognized by the American Library Association on two select lists for 2014 including Best Fiction for Young Adults.

Liz’s other publications include alternate history/time travel/romance Out of Xibalba and teen thrillers in the new Tor Maddox series. Her short fiction has appeared in Cosmos Magazine and numerous anthologies.

Liz invites you to follow her as LizColeyBooks on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Facebook, and visit her website at LizColey.com.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Photos - St. Peter's


I've been trying to get back into photography, although I haven't yet been able to drag out my camera or fix up the one my grandma gave me a few months ago. Last weekend, I visited the historical church of St. Peter, which was built in 1845 on the site of the first mass ever held in Pennsylvania. I love going to historical sites because I generally come away with either an idea for a story or a cool place for a setting.


 
 

the view from the choir loft





  The stairs leading up to the loft. They're built clockwise so defenders at the top can fight with their right hands and attackers ascending are forced to use their left.

the cemetery overlooks the town

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

COVER REVEAL: Tor Maddox: Unleashed by Liz Coley



INTRODUCING

Tor Maddox, a heroine for our times

“I know that one day, I’m going to have to live in the real world. I’d like it to be a decent one.” - Tor

Book I Tor Maddox: Unleashed

When sixteen-year old Torrance Olivia Maddox, self-confessed news junkie, figures out that the mysterious and deadly New Flu is being spread by dogs, she has one question—if the danger is that obvious to her, why hasn’t the government revealed the truth and taken action?


Her search for the answer will take her farther than she ever imagined. But then again, she never imagined that man’s best friend could become public enemy number one, that men in black might show up in her cozy suburban neighborhood, that she’d spend her sixteenth birthday as a teenaged runaway, and that her effort to save one dog would become a mission to save them all.

About the Author

Liz Coley has been writing long and short fiction for teens and adults for more than ten years. Her short fiction has appeared in Cosmos Magazine and several speculative fiction anthologies: The Last Man, More Scary Kisses, Strange Worlds, Flights of Fiction and Winter's Regret.

In 2013, psychological thriller Pretty Girl-13 was released by HarperCollins in the US and UK. Foreign translations have been published in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Czech, Slovakian, and Chinese (simplified and traditional).

Her independent publications include alternate history/time travel/romance Out of Xibalba and teen thrillers in the new Tor Maddox series.

Liz lives in Ohio, where she is surrounded by a fantastic community of writers, beaten regularly by better tennis players, uplifted by her choir, supported by her husband, teased by her teenaged daughter, cheered from afar by her two older sons, and adorned with hair by her cats Tiger, Pippin, and Merry.


Liz invites you to follow her as LizColeyBooks on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and visit her website at LizColeyBooks.blogspot.com.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month! In honor of NPM, I’m sharing a poem from one of my favorite authors, Edna St. Vincent Millay. I chose it because of its very appropriate title and subject matter.

Northern April
O mind, beset by music never for a moment quiet, —
The wind at the flue, the wind strumming the shutter;
The soft, antiphonal speech of the doubled brook, never for a moment quiet;
The rush of the rain against the glass, his voice in the eaves-gutter!

Where shall I lay you to sleep, and the robins be quiet?
Lay you to sleep — and the frogs be silent in the marsh?
Crashes the sleet from the bough and the bough sighs upward, never for a moment quiet.
April is upon us, pitiless and young and harsh.

O April, full of blood, full of breath, have pity upon us!
Pale, where the winter like a stone has been lifted away, we emerge like yellow grass.
Be for a moment quiet, buffet us not, have pity upon us,
Till the green come back into the vein, till the giddiness pass.

Read more about Edna St. Vincent Millay and about National Poetry Month.

When I was in the Peace Corps, I took a lot of walks, especially in the summer. My village was pretty tiny, and I often ended up at the rechka (little river). I’d sit on the bank, take the little black notebook out of my back pocket, and jot down some verse. There’s nothing like writing out among nature.

The view from the bank of the stream
Since I’ve been in my MFA program, though, I haven’t written much poetry. However, I wanted to include a theme of oral history in my novel, so I’ve been able to incorporate some poems and songs. Most are unfinished “extracts,” but here’s a sample that I wrote after one of my classmates convinced me to try a sonnet.

In fields of gold the chosen heartfriend lies.
The sun burns bright behind his clos├ęd eyes.
An answer to the queen he soon must give
Of how or not together they will live.
But fear can be a mistress strong and cruel
Who lives to make of all men wretched fools.
And so the heartfriend waits for words divine
To clarify the way his path will wind.
The queen looks down upon her chosen one.
“We’ll carve upon our hearts each other’s truth.
As one, not two, we’ll fly into the sun
And in the flames discover what we’re worth.
So take my hand. As two together bloom,
In heav’nly fire our souls will be consumed.

This has been good for me because it’s helped me get back into the rhythm of poetry, but it lets me stretch those writing muscles without being bound to writing a full poem. Because I can fit these into the context of the story, I can get away with just writing snippets—besides the above poem, of course. I hope to get back to writing poetry once I graduate even though I don’t have a stream on whose banks I can bask in the sunlight and ponder, through verse, the meaning of life and whether steppe cats are as big as my fellow volunteers said they were.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Let's Talk About Edith Wharton

I believe in soul mates, sort of, for authors and readers, the kind of reading relationship that even lifelong readers find only once in a blue moon. You read a handful of pages and have to stop because it’s like this writer was inside your head while penning this book. Your ideas of and outlook on life sync up so well that it becomes impossible to remember a time before you’d discovered this writer. And it’s reciprocal, because, after gleaning all the wisdom and empathy possible, you go out and recommend this book and this writer to all your friends. You can’t stop talking about it. It sneaks into every conversation.

For me, that author is Edith Wharton. It's her birthday, so let me tell you a little about her. Edith Wharton was a literary bamf. In addition to over 20 novels, she wrote poetryshort stories, and nonfiction like The Decoration of HousesItalian Villas and their Gardens, and In Morocco. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for The Age of Innocence and was the first female recipient. She moved to France and did relief work following WWI. She wrote novels of manners (think: Jane Austen), but used them to expose the hypocrisy of it all and how trapped you could be in your life. It's brilliant. She's brilliant. And the awesome news for you is that most of her stories are in the public domain!

Some of my fave EW books and stories:

Roman Fever - It's short and so worth your time.

Xingu - A bit longer, but very zinging.

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This book is so short. You could read it in an afternoon. It's about a love triangle between Ethan and his wife, Zenobia, and her cousin, Mattie. It will mess with your emotions, but in the best way, in the Edith Wharton way.

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About Lily Bart, a 29-year-old socialite who has declined to marry. When it becomes clear that she needs to in order to keep up her lifestyle, she attempts to find a husband suitable to both society and herself. My first EW book. A masterpiece. Glorious. I've read it about half a dozen times, and I'm listening to it again now.

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This is a rom-com EW style! you've got a marriage of convenience, missing cigars, and dubious morals. What's not to love?

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Ah, this is probably my favorite novel. EW left it unfinished when she died, but Marion Mainwaring, a Wharton scholar, finished it in the '90s. It's about love and friendship (inspired by her own friendship with her governess) and growing up. Weirdly, it's probably one of her happiest books.

Some of my fave EW quotes:
"‘The greatest mistake,’ she mused, her chin resting on her clasped hands, her eyes fixed unseeingly on the dim reaches of the park, ‘the greatest mistake is to think that we ever know why we do things. …I suppose the nearest we can ever come to it is by getting what old people call “experience.” But by the time we’ve got that we’re no longer the person who did the things we no longer understand. The trouble is, I suppose, that we change every moment; and the things we did stay.'" - The Buccaneers

"I don’t know if I should care for a man who made life easy; I should want someone who made it interesting."

"There is one friend in the life of each of us who seems not a separate person, but an expansions, an interpretation, of one’s self, the very meaning of one’s soul."

"In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways."

"We can’t behave like people in novels, though, can we?" - The Age of Innocence

"There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."

"Ah, there's the difference--a girl must [marry], a man may if he chooses." - The House of Mirth

"What is truth? Where a woman is concerned, it's the story that's easiest to believe." - The House of Mirth

"Half the trouble in life is caused by pretending there isn't any." - The House of Mirth

"If only we'd stop trying to be happy we'd have a pretty good time."

"Life is always either a tightrope or a featherbed. Give me the tightrope."

(Rest of the sources to come, since a lot of these I collected on goodreads or in word files.)

Some interesting EW tidbits:
- She wrote ghost stories.
- She moved to France later in life (and wrote about it). The street on which she lived is now called rue Edith Wharton.
- She was given an honorary doctorate from Yale, and the Yale library has a collection of her letters and manuscripts.
- She was good friends with Henry James.
- The Mount is thought to be haunted. Ghost Hunters filmed an episode on it.
- She was rewarded the Chevalier Legion of Honour for her relief and refugee work in France during World War I.

Oh, yeah, and she designed her own house:
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The Mount - It's in Massachusetts, and it's gorgeous! Go visit!
In conclusion: Happy Birthday, Edith Wharton!