W is for Wanderer/ Wanda

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8465.JPGWanderer, later called Wanda, is the main character of The Host by Stephanie Meyer. Yes, that Stephanie Meyer.

It’s a light science fiction book about a race of parasites that go to various planets and inhabit the host species. The parasites are motivated by altruism. On Earth, they felt that humans were destroying the planet, and that they could do better.

These parasites (they call themselves “souls,” but they fit the definition of parasites) take over human bodies, and the consciousness of the human vessel is supposed to vanish. This is just what they do on all the planets they inhabit, and they don’t think anything negative about it.

Wanderer inhabits the body of Melanie, but Melanie won’t give up her consciousness. Wanderer eventually goes in search of Melanie’s brother and her boyfriend, who are living in a small, hidden camp of human survivors.

At first, the humans are understandably vicious to Wanderer. She doesn’t tell them that she and Melanie are still sharing the body because she figures they wouldn’t believe her.

But as time goes on, Wanderer is accepted into the group of humans. No matter what happens to her, she’s kind and gentle. Eventually, she realizes that maybe the humans have a right to be so angry.

She’s called Wanderer because she’s lived on many planets, never finding one that was home, and never settling down. But she grows to love Earth and her human family.

I love Wanderer because she’s relentlessly positive. She believes the best about people, is hard working, loving, and best of all… isn’t afraid to change her mind.

The movie was fine, but nowhere near as good as the book. This is one of those cases where they really couldn’t have matched it, because part of what made it so great was the internal arguments between Melanie and Wanderer.

So, have you read it or seen the movie?

 

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M is for Mark Watney

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8378.JPGMark Watney is the main character of The Martian, by Andy Weir. It’s technically a science fiction book, and people who know science fiction said that the science is mostly realistic. Even though natural sciences aren’t my thing, I do think it’s important for the science to be accurate. If I can spot the science problems, it takes me right out of the story.

Even though this is science fiction, for me it was much more about the psychological struggle of a man deserted on a planet where he knows he will probably die.

Mark is part of a team of astronauts who landed on Mars. When an unexpected storm happens, Mark is blown away from the rest of the team and presumed dead. When he wakes, and realizes what happened, he goes through the predictable stages, even contemplating suicide at one point.

But, of course, he doesn’t give up. He’s the botanist and the engineer, but he was also chosen for the mission because of his optimistic nature and his sense of humor. Those features really shine through throughout the book.

It could have been just a book about a guy surviving. But instead, Mark is a guy who’s doing his best to live. He complains about being stuck with only disco music (his commander’s personal items were left behind), and laughs at himself when he screws up.

There’s a reason why solitary confinement is considered the worst of the worst punishments for human beings. Being alone does wear on Mark, but his sense of humor is a constant. Even though he expects to die, he never gives up home.

I’m sure some people loved this book for the marooned on Mars aspect of it, and yeah, that was great. But I loved the human aspect of it. It’s not touchy-feely, hitting the reader over the head with what a great guy Mark is or showing him lamenting all the things he left behind (as I think some authors would have been tempted to do). Instead, Mark leaps off the page with every problem he solves and the way he interacts with others.

Oh, and the movie was good too.

Did you read the book or see the movie? What did you think?

K is for Dean Koontz

Unknown-4.Anyone who knows me, knows that Dean Koontz had to show up in this list.

I read my first Koontz book when I was 12.  I happened to pick up Watchers off the rack in some store, probably K-mart or the grocery store.  The book amazed me.  It had everything I could have imagined wanting in a book: romance, a dog who could communicate with people, science-fiction, and horror, with undercurrents of philosophy.

From then on, I was hooked.  I read everything I could by him, and bought his hardbacks when they were released every November.  I praised them and recommended them to anyone who’d listen.

Koontz was the first author I’d read who blended genres.  He was considered a horror author, but he really wasn’t.  His stories did evoke fear and dread at times, but there was almost always some sort of happy ending.

Koontz usually has multiple “parts” to his books, and starts them with a quote or a short poem.  While I loved all those quotes, my favorite was when he’d quote The Book of Counted Sorrows.  In the pre-internet days, I drove myself crazy trying to find that book.  In 1992, Koontz publicly explained the the book didn’t exist, but I didn’t hear about it until many years later.

Searching for this non-existent book was something I didn’t give up on.  Oh, I didn’t think about it every day or anything, but it popped back into my consciousness with regularity.  When I finally found out it wasn’t real, I felt let down, like I’d lost a friend.

I moved on, and through the magic of the internet, was able to find the collected quotes from the books.

I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember.  But Koontz helped me figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be.

I want to be someone who writes uplifting stories, sometimes about dark and strange topics.  I want to write across genres.  But mostly, I just want to tell a good story.

“Not one day in anyone’s life is an uneventful day, no day without profound meaning, no matter how dull and boring it might seem… Because in every day of your life, there are opportunities to perform little kindnesses for others, both by conscious acts of will and unconscious example. Each smallest act of kindness… reverberates across great distances and spans of time… because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away.”

-Dean Koontz, from

 

I is for In Death

Unknown-2JD Robb has written 53 books in the In Death series in the past 21 years.  That’s a huge number of books.  (Some of these are novellas that appear in anthologies, but it’s still impressive.)

The books center around Eve Dallas, a police lieutenant in the New York Police Department, and her husband Roarke, multi-billionare businessman and former criminal. There are also multiple supporting characters that make regular appearances.

Each book centers around one or more murder that Dallas must solve.  As the series has continued, Roarke assists her more and more often.

I love reading these books, but I’ve also started studying them from a writer’s perspective.  If you’d ask me, I would have told you I didn’t think that a character arc could span over 53+ books, but I would have been wrong.

Dallas and Roarke have continued to develop, as a couple and as individuals.  Though the focus tends to be on them and their relationship, the other characters in the universe are interesting and often experience character growth of their own.  I love the fact that a married couple can continue to be the subject of a series; too often the curtain drops just after the wedding, but that’s not real life.  They argue, they compromise, they have past lovers, and yet they navigate it together.

Each story shares characteristics, but they’re not formulaic.   There are multiple series subplots, like Dallas’s past, and information about these is doled out over time.  It’s masterful the way Robb keeps my interest in these subplots.  She drags them out for just the right amount of time so that they never get stale, but also never turn into an info dump.

The books are thrillers with elements of romance and science fiction, and while the science fiction might not please hard-core sci-fi fans, they’re always a good story.

More than anything, I want the stories I tell to be compelling and interesting.  I think that’s the best rule for any author: tell a good story.

“Life is never as long as we want it to be, and wasted time can never be recovered.”
― J.D. Robb

In Death, a Review

On Throwback Thursdays, I review older books.

The first “In Death” book was published in 1995, and #41 is scheduled to be released this fall.

Naked in Death is the first in the series, and it introduces Eve Dallas, a hard edged “murder cop” in New York City, circa 2058.  Dallas is the main character throughout the series.  Each book has her conducting at least one investigation into a murder.  In this first book, she must investigate the murder of a senator’s granddaughter.  She also meets Roarke, an Irish gazillionare with a secretive past.

The books have a little bit of everything: romance, mystery, intrigue.  Amazingly, JD Robb has not repeated the same story twice.  They’re new and interesting.

One of my favorite things about this series is that Dallas and Roarke get together over the course of several books and (spoiler alert) eventually marry.  However, we’re not left with a happily-ever-after romance book ending romance.  They argue like real married people, have conflicts, and continue to learn more and more about one another.

Dallas develops friendships and builds relationships, and some of these people stay a part of the world.  Her relationships with others are complex and interesting.  While you could pick up any book in the series and enjoy it, I think they’re much more enjoyable as part of a series.  The people within the pages of this book have become my friends; people I can root for and really enjoy seeing triumph.

Don’t get me wrong; all the characters have flaws.  But that makes them even more real and endearing to me.

If you like a little bit of everything, mixed up and tied together with a good murder mystery, this may be the series for you.

Magic

Skagway, Alaska Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Skagway, Alaska
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Since I was a little girl, I’ve believed in magic. My understanding of it has changed over time, but my belief in it has persisited. When I was a child, I called that magic “Santa Claus,” “Easter Bunny,” “mom,” and “dad.” As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned other names for it, like “love” and “friendship.” Some magic I’ve learned about can’t be named, only felt. I feel magic in certain secret places in the woods, near water. I feel it brush along my skin when I hear poems that speak to my soul.  I feel it in the warmth of bonfires and in the coolness of an autumn evening.  I see it in the white fur on my dog’s face, white fur that wasn’t there before.  I taste it when a new flavor melts on my tongue.  I hear it in my grandfather’s voice, long gone, but not forgotten.

One type of magic that has never changed for me is that magic of books.  Before I continue, I want to be clear that I’m not talking in metaphors here.  I literally mean magic, which is defined as “1.  Of, relating to, or invoking the supernatural. 2.  Possessing distinctive qualities that produce unaccountable or baffling effects.”

Science fiction talks about transporters and tardises, of teleportation and apparation, but only books transport you somewhere else, somewhere you can really feel the wind on your face, the sun on your skin.  I’ve smelled smoke and caramel.  I’ve heard birds sing and voices speak to me.  When I finish a book that really means something to me, I can tell that I’ve changed.  The magic that is contained within the pages is hard to describe to someone who’s never felt it.  To some people, books are just books, and words are just words.

I’ll admit that not every book contains magic.  I’ve read some where the spell flickers and fizzles, and some where I never even get a whiff of any magic at all.  It can be hard to tell which ones will have magic by the cover.  Sometimes a book I thought would be utterly ordinary weaves a spell so intricate that it never quite lets go.  And other times, a book I was convinced would show me new things was merely a bunch of pages and words after all.

That’s why I write.  I feel the magic in my fingertips at times, and can almost capture the feelings of prisms in my brain.  There are times when I write that I’m transported and transformed at the same time.  There are times when I hear music in my head, and my senses are on hyper alert.  And there are other times when everything fades so completely into the background that I’m not really sure where my body is anymore.

Because I pay attention and believe, I sometimes find magic in surprising places.  That doesn’t mean that it isn’t there for everyone, just that we all have choices on what to see and what not to.  Magic is easy to ignore, and if you ignore it, sometimes you start to believe it’s no longer there.

My understanding of magic has changed, but luckily, just as much continues to be a mystery.  Magic should never be separated from mystery.

Where do you find magic?

Metal Hurlant?

thThis is an anthology series in which each episode is a self-contained story set in a different world, with all stories linked together by an asteroid called the Metal Hurlant, which is passing close to the planet that is the focus of the current episode.
This is a weird little show that vaguely reminds me of what would happen if Night Gallery were to meet Twilight Zone, if that reference is applicable at all anymore. It is foreign and some of the voice work is dubbed and well that is odd when other characters are speaking English and then some secondary character is speaking and the words are not matching up.
The stories are fun to watch because each story is different and as a viewer you are never quite sure where it is going. I have to say in this age of rather obvious television this is just foreign and weird enough to keep me watching. So if you are looking for something quite a bit different, this may be just what you have been looking for. The folks over at Syfy are really doing their due diligence to keep the fans happy. It is finishing up its second season Monday night but it is available On Demand and on the Internet.
Enjoy!