Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Media Roundup

 It's once again been a while. School keeps me busy, as does life these days. But I'm trucking along, and I'm still reading every night. I kinda' have to if I want to have any chance at sleeping.


The Glass Forest, by Cynthia Swanson

A mystery about a disappearance and a...suicide? Murder?

The author wraps in a character's story leading up to her disappearance, interspersed with the current investigation of her husband, found dead in the forest behind their house. Skillfully done. A story that will touch your heart and fold you into it as you try to figure out what's actually happening. But sometimes the secret keepers are really good at keeping those secrets.

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, by Robert Kolker

This one was fascinating, not just for its study of a family where a majority of their kids have schizophrenia, but because of the glimpses of history it gave me of the city I live in. I couldn't help but feel deeply for the mother, left to deal with all these kids, many of whom had schizophrenia in varying degrees of severity, by a man who was more intent on getting what he wanted than caring for the family he had. The story of this family is truly heartbreaking, but the studies done on them have and will help future generations.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold

The research that went into this is astounding. A truly human look at the canonical five victims of Jack the Ripper. If you're looking for a book about Jack, this isn't the one. This is a set of mini biographies about the victims, most of whom were wrongly stereotyped as sex workers. The author pulls no punches, giving an honest look at the troubled lives of these women. The streets of England were cruel, even without a homicidal maniac running around. How anyone survived is beyond me.

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction, by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson

This is a collection of mini biographies of the women who shaped horror and speculative fiction. It includes recommendations of books each one wrote, plus similar books if you'd like to explore more. 

Lucky Man: A Memoir, by Michael J. Fox

I grew up with Michael J. Fox on TV and in movies. This book traces the discovery of his Parkinson's Disease, but also his arrival in Hollywood and the shape it took. It's honest and raw. A good read if you're a Fox fan.

Mexican Gothic, by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

A gothic horror novel set in Mexico, it's a different spin on the genre. Though it took me some time to get into the main character, Noemi, I realized that what I struggled with about the character was the very thing that made the character so real: her ability to act flighty and fickle, because that's what others around her expected. Creepy, with a setting that's a character, the book takes the reader to different world.

The Women of Brewster Place, by Gloria Naylor

Powerful. Stunning. Heartbreaking. Amazing.

This one caught me by the fingernails and dragged me along with it. The stories of several from a certain neighborhood revolve, some of them coming into contact, to give an unabashed look at the lives and struggles of black women in a troubled era. Raw, real, beautifully written. I wanted to know more.

Angel Falls, by Tess Thompson

Actually written by two women (Charlene Tess and Judi Thompson), it's a romantic suspense that focuses more on the romance, I'd say. The characters are good, especially the main character's abuela. Definitely a different spin on the usual romantic suspense. Magdalena runs a troubled resort plagued by issues. When one of those issues becomes a body in the water tank, it's clear things have escalated to a new level. Then Russell walks in out of the mountains with a backpack full of secrets. It was a little more romance than suspense for me, but once it picked up further along in the story, it grabbed my attention. Lots of little twists.

Night of the Mannequins, by Stephen Graham Jones

It all starts with a prank perpetrated by a group of teens. They dress up a mannequin and sneak him into the movie theater to trick the theater manager. But at the end of the movie, Manny gets up and walks out. Now they're dying off one by one. Is it Manny or something else? A nice, short piece of horror that will twist you up and horrify you.

Flipped: A Jillian McElroy Flipping Mystery, by K.A. Olgren

A cozy mystery that takes place during a house flip. Jillian McElroy knows what she wants, and she's determined to make it happen. But a villainous neighbor wants to stop her. What happened to the previous owner? What's the neighbor after? There's a great sense of humor and a fun cast of characters.


The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
(Amazon Prime)

This film is delightful, but also sad once you get down to the background. Two teens are stuck in a time loop, repeating the day over and over. Each must figure out why it's happening and try to get back to normal. Of course, plenty of shenanigans must first ensue.

Walk of Shame
(HBO Max)

I found this under "NSFW Comedy," so take that as you may. There's nothing truly naughty or dirty in it. Elizabeth Banks plays an up and coming newscaster who gets caught in the ultimate walk of shame. After getting trapped on a fire escape outside a club, having had a few too many shots, she gods home with the bartender. Sneaking out before he wakes up, she discovers her car's been towed and she has no way back in the building, because there aren't any names on the bells, just apartment numbers. Plus, the door's locked. She must find her way through the big city in the middle of the night, with nothing but her car keys since her purse was in the car and she's left her cell phone in his apartment. Mistaken for a sex worker, she gets into progressively more trouble, chased by the cops and an angry cab driver, etc. A funny, if irreverent movie.

Irma la Douce
(Amazon Prime)

This was funny, adorable, and ridiculous. Perfect for a mental escape. I'm a bit late to the game since this came out in 1963. Starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, he's a too-honest cop and she's a sex worker. But when he gets fired for busting the police chief in a den of iniquity (whoops), he somehow ends up as her pimp. But he wants her to himself and devises a plan with an accomplice to keep her from sleeping with other men. Eventually, it leads to a lot of trouble. A Billy Wilder film, which probably tells you some of what you need to know.


Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel

An at times overdramatic look at the Cecil Hotel and it's history. The Cecil is where Elisa Lamb met her mysterious fate in the water tank atop the hotel. Footage of her behaving oddly in the elevator is truly chilling every time it's played. They get down to the real details and the official call. 

The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch

A "documentary" about investigating the background of Skinwalker Ranch and the reason behind all the strange events that happen there. I put documentary in quotes, because it was very dramatic and silly in some ways, but an interesting watch. If you can get past the cheesiness of the cast, it's worth a watch.

Call Me Kat

A cute, lighthearted show where Mayim Bialik's character regularly breaks the fourth wall. The owner of a cat cafe, Kat gets into shenanigans on the regular.

The Crew

A Kevin James show where he's NOT the buffoon. You heard me. It's a pleasant change. Does he get into dustups? Of course, but the buffoon comedy comes from a couple costars instead of him. My husband and I dipped our toes into this one with trepidation, but are both enjoying it. It's set in a NASCAR garage, with Kevin as the crew chief. The driver's an idiot, but he's good at his job. Along comes the owner's daughter, fresh out of business school and rearing to change everything. Kevin's the dinosaur who has to balance her out.

(Disney +)

Quirky fun that gets darker and more serious as the series progresses. Wanda and Vision are stuck in an alternate reality of some sort. Each episode of this show occurs in a different era, beginning with black and white and parodying the types of shows from each decade. The first episode is a bit Donna Reed and it keeps on going up through the last episode, which was very Modern Family. There are plenty of easter eggs for Marvel fans (many which I'm sure are escaping me). It'll be easier to watch if you're caught up on the Avenger series of films. I'd only seen the last one once, so it took me a bit of catching up at times. If you're familiar with the comics, I've heard there's tons in this show that play off the original stories.



An amusing podcast with co-hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett. I happened across this one accidentally, and I'm glad I did! Each episode one of them brings on a guest that's a surprise to the other two, and they come up with interview questions on the spot. Their guests include actors, comedians, and even a politician, so far.

I know I've watched other movies, but I can't for the life of me remember. What have you been watching or reading lately?

Monday, February 8, 2021

Rivals Cover Reveal

Title: Rivals
Author: Jennifer Lane
Genre: Sports Romance
Release Date: March 19, 2021
Cover Design: Dan Irons, Designs by Irons

“I embrace my rival. But only to strangle him.”
~Jean Racine

After landing her dream job as head volleyball coach at Ohio State University, Lauren Chase’s career has become a nightmare. Her only hope of saving her job is to recruit a star player to her team. Too bad the player’s twin has signed a football scholarship for OSU’s chief rival, Michigan. And too bad Michigan coach, Jeremy Trent, sends sparks through Lauren every time they cross paths. But no way will she pursue an attraction to a man who represents the university she hates.

Jeremy detests his boss, and he hopes that signing the nation’s #1 recruit is the ticket he needs to become a head coach himself one day. Lauren Chase is already a head coach, and Jeremy has to admit that she intrigues the hell out of him. He wants to know why her performance has tanked after winning a national championship. He wants to see beneath Lauren’s fast pace and dirty mouth. But he can’t get with a Buckeye, right?

Maybe rivals don’t have to remain enemies. Maybe they can learn to appreciate their opponent’s strengths. And, if they’re lucky—if they excel at the game—maybe rivals can bring out the very best in each other.

Psychologist/author (psycho author) Jennifer Lane invites you to her world of sports romance and romantic suspense with a psychological twist!

Jen fell in love with sports at a young age and competed in swimming and volleyball in college. She went on to become the Honda Award Winner for Division III Athlete of the Year. She still gets high from the smell of chlorine and the satisfaction of smashing a beautiful volleyball set.

Jen’s latest novel is Rivals, a romance between coaches from rival universities. Her Blocked trilogy also explores the transformation from hate to love. Particularly in this time of division, Jen’s favorite theme is finding common ground.

A romantic suspense trilogy (The Conduct Series) and a psychological thriller (Twin Sacrifice) complete Jen’s collection of stories. She calls Ohio home and shares writing space with her two trusted feline collaborators: Tuxedo and Tessa.

Whether writing or reading, Jen loves stories that make her laugh and cry. In her spare time, she likes to exercise and visit her amazing sisters in Chicago and Hilton Head.


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

IWSG - Is Change in the Air?

 It's time for the February Insecure Writer's Support Group, and boy am I insecure. 

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG exists for writers to gain support and get support. Anyone can participate by signing up at Alex's blog or the IWSG site. It's more fun if you go around and visit old friends and new alike.

Speaking of friends, the optional question for this month is: Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It's often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere? 

Of course! When I first created my blog, it was because it was recommended for the big "P" word for writers just starting out (platform). What I didn't expect was to find these great things called blog hops (and the fun things that branched out from those), which led me to the AtoZ Challenge, which I got to co-host for a while, and then to the IWSG, which I also got to be a part of for a while. Both these led me to so many great friends, a couple who I've gotten to meet in real life at writing conferences. Hopefully there will be many more of those opportunities in the future. I was looking forward to meeting one of those bloggers at Stoker Con this year, as it's being held in Denver, but they're still holding it in person before most people have gotten vaccinations, which means I'm likely not going. We locals had sort of hoped the in-person would be delayed until next year, with an online one taking its place this year, but it doesn't look like that will happen. Hopefully next year's is somewhere I can afford to travel and a place I'm willing to go alone since I don't have a bunch of local horror friends to travel with me there as I might have for another different type of conference.

Thank you to this month's co-hosts:  Louise - Fundy Blue , Jennifer Lane, Mary Aalgaard, Patsy Collins at Womagwriter, and Nancy Gideon!

My insecurities from the last few IWSG posts have followed me into this one, and I've done a lot of thinking, with plenty more on the horizon. Some of it has involved a possible change of direction. But thanks to a surprising burst of support from editors lately, both past editors and ones I got recent rejections from, I will try to maintain my current path for a bit longer. In the meantime, I'm considering some options, including a change in genres and lengths. 

That seems like a good time to segue into my monthly stats, which I do to keep myself accountable and find the encouragement to keep submitting. In January:

10 submissions (all on the 29th and 30th when I took a night off to do some major editing and submitting to get caught back up after school took up all my time.)

0 acceptances

8 rejections

0 releases

19 stories currently on submission (this *may* be a record number of stories out at one time)

1 full MS requested and currently under review

1 novel query unanswered, but not yet at the point where I'm to consider it a no

Not much to the stats this month, but that's okay.

Because I keep squeaking my blog posts out with little time, I'm going to try to do a monthly round up of places open to submissions in the next month, so they'll all be in a single post. It just takes too much time these days to try to go through and find them each week then get all the necessary info for each post. So look for that later this month.

What are your insecurities? Have you made any friends in the blogging community? Have you been writing and submitting? What are your stats?

May you find your Muse.