Tuesday, July 31, 2012

DEAD: The Ugly Beginning, A Review

Zombies are everywhere these days, from the usual b-movies, to TV, to short stories, and lately even in novels. A lot of novels. But with such a deluge, authors are being forced to do the impossible: Reinvent a classic. Even traditionalists, honest-to-god-Romero-lovers are faced with the difficult task of surprising an audience that has been overwhelmed with pretty much the same beat-up story.

It is in this rarefied ambience that DEAD: The Ugly Beginning sets out to start a very ambitious saga. From the get go we are warned that we’ve been treated to the first of what will be a set of twelve books relating this particular zombie apocalypse. Then the action starts. The first third of the book is strong, plunging the reader right into the middle of the action. The characters are interesting, complex, and likable. Simply amazing. And the one-liners, Jesus! Brown is really at his best when crafting spunky dialog. The plot moves fast and there’s so much action, we can’t stop from turning the pages.

Brown’s characters are intelligent and act in a way consistent with their different backgrounds; they also make mistakes and pay for them dearly, which is a wave of fresh air in and out of itself. I found I was never able to foretell the next character that was about to die, adding to the fun.

As the story progressed, there were a few issues that took away from my original excitement. First, there are too many characters, some appear for a brief moment only to be dispatched by the undead, others are staples of the book which back stories are spread so far apart from one chapter to another, that we struggle to remember what was happening with them last time we came their way.

Also, whenever a character goes into a flashback, there is no change in the grammatical tense (say, going from past to present, for example) or point of view, and whatever is written in italics tends to change size from word to word, making the reading experience a bit confusing.

Now, I think there are enough clues pointing to a certain evolution in the zombie, though it is never clear and the characters don’t seem to pay attention to these changes. Is it possible that zombies can learn and are actually conscious, to some degree, of their situation? This would mean they have a low, but still threatening, degree of intelligence. It would certainly be a game changer and may send the surviving pieces of Human Race into a second purge that could very well end with it all. So looking forward to learn how well I read in between the lines!

Finally, I feel like I need to warn all the readers-to-be about the ending of DEAD. No, not spoiler alert should be issued, I’m not going to spill the beans about what’s going to happen to the most important character or ruin any possible plot twists. I just want you to know that DEAD, like so many serial books of our times, doesn’t have a neat ending with some sense of conclusion. It simply ends, leaving all plot lines open to continue in the second book of the series. And while it is a great selling strategy for your already captured audience, I wished we could leave this trend behind. What is it so unappealing about giving the readership some sense of resolution and still letting the door ajar just a bit so we can fathom what adventures may still await?

All nip-tuck aside, DEAD: The Ugly Beginning is a highly entertaining book. I loved the references to paramount pictures or phrases in the Zombie Lore, the sarcasm and intelligence of the narration, and the interesting plot ram-packed of action. I will be reading the second book in the series, waiting anxiously to know the fate of those fantastic characters I grew to love. Definitively a book to be read by every zombie fan who wants a bit of the classic with a lot of spark.

For more details about the book, click on the link.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

About Inspirations and Awards

I know its a bit last for my usual post, and not a new review, but I spent most of my afternoon actually writing! I'm beyond excited since I'd spent most of the summer doing everything but writing, so immediately I knew I had to dedicate this post to this very special afternoon.

First, let's talk about inspiration. Few of you would know that my husband is actually quite a creative and artistic soul. I usually don't talk about my family life in here, but today I think it bares being told. Early in his life, he took music classes and I don't know if those awakened his artistic side, or it is because he already had a creative mind that he pursued music like more than a passing hobby. However, becoming a musician was not in his stars and after dedicating a good part of his teen years to compose his own music, along with his cousin and a group of alike teens, he let it go. At the same time he was actively drawing and writing, in fact he finished a novella and wrote the first half of a novel, then he started working and all those things went away.

After more than ten years without touching his ms, which I read way back when, we have been toying with the idea of re-writing it. Both of us, as coauthors. He's not sure he has the time to commit and wants me to take his project, infuse it with my own spark, and finish it, but I want him to be an intrinsically part of it. It is his baby, after all, and his vision is very special, so I don't want to mess with it.

But with all this in my mind, and thinking that I wanted to share with you something more beside another review, I decided write what was supposed to be a flash piece of less than 300 words. As I put pencil to paper--this time I did it the old fashioned way and loved it!--his old short story kept coming back to my mind and it inspired me to write a piece outside of my realm, though still supernatural. This flash? short?-- I still don't know until I type it and know the word count--is a lot more philosophical and romantic.

I love it, though I realize there is a lot of work ahead for it to be ready, but the first draft is done! In one afternoon! It feels so good to be back writing, really.

I'm sharing with you a snippet of it and then we'll be moving along to the next piece of happiness but, please, any comment is appreciated. I know these are barely a few lines, but thinking it will be, at the most, 700 words long, you should get a good feel about the tone, style, and maybe the theme, but I'm trying to keep that a bit of a mystery.

"Does God really exist?" I used to ask myself back when life was complicated with divorce threats, bills unpaid, and no time but to work. --My name. What is my name?--

Then, it all ended. The wake of a world in flames. No more failed relationships, nor time to complain.

At the end of another day in this dead earth, he came. Cloaked in black, I could not see his face. In his hands a glass ball like those I used to stare at novelty stores, but there was no quaint landscape inside. The snow was gray like ash, nothing left but blackened timbers instead of a house. --My name, oh, sweet God. Why can't I remember?--

He glided toward me, letting the putrid air carry him; and though I felt fear, I did not move, waiting for him to deliver the news.

~Extract of WINTER IN A GLASS BALL by Georgina Morales.~

Hope you like it!

Now, the awesome Paige Lollie from The Dream Words was so sweet to remember my name when a couple of new awards came her way. First of all, she deserved the awards and I hope you take a few more moments to stop by her place and check it out. You'll love it!

Now, as far as I understood, all I have to do is thank her--duly noted--and nominate six blogs myself. So, my nominations for the Fabulous Ribbon Blog and Be Inspired Awards are:

Thanks to all of you, guys, for being friends and lead with your own hard work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Back to Our Regular Schedule...

The first review after the end-of-school-craziness is Midnight Movie Creature Feature, a b-movie inspired anthology edited by TW Brown featuring amazing monsters I thought were long dead, but are still surprisingly entertaining when its human counterparts live--or die--intelligently.

There are great stories in this anthology, but first I have a confession to make: I'm not a b-movie fan. In fact, I hate b-movies. I find them silly to the point of ridiculousness. I just don't find appealing movies that you watch in a theater full of people yelling and laughing at the screen. My kind of horror is the sort that robs you of your breath and makes you jump out of the seat at the slightest provocation.

There it is, I've said it. Now, you might be wondering what could have possessed me to read a b-movie inspired anthology. Well, for one, I've been hearing a lot about this sub-genre as many small publishers are currently taking submissions for their own anthologies. That got me curious, of course; how do you write a campy b-movie story? But, above all, I'm a consummate professional (well, maybe not so much but you can't blame me for trying). When it was required of me to review the book, I wasn't about to say no, but to tackle it with professionalism. I know what makes a good story, even if I don't like it, I can see it is well constructed, edited, and thought off. So I jumped in hoping I would learn more about this about-to-bloom horror twist.

Guess what, it won me over. I still hate b-movies, but these stories had me yelling at the characters on the pages more than once and my heart skipped a few beats (fine, lots). So I guess this should be good enough a commendation, right? Still, being a consummate professional (see?), I will go through the details of what makes Midnight Movie Creature Feature so good and, as always, I will choose the three stories that I enjoyed the most to specifically review. Hope you enjoy.

And the Dark Growls Back by Aaron Dries: This was the first story that truly grabbed me. It starts with a bang, we know something bad happened and our heroes are, firstly not so much heroes, but most importantly, their on the run. The pace of the story never slows down and the characters are appealing and well fleshed out. I won't ruin it for you but this story is quite different from the rest of the pack, which truly works for the best because it becomes like a final twist that I thought was brilliant.

From Rebirth to Reburial by M. W. Williamson: This is one of those stories that got me yelling "hell, yeah!" by the end. I was so pumped up! It might just be my eagerness to see more of the main character, but I think there's hope for a series out of Williamson's tale. And I'd be the first one in line to get the whole lot. The story is scary, twisted, and very human at its core. The pace fluctuates between ups and downs that play havoc with our hearts, and the backstory hints at a very complex character that we understand, though we are just scratching at the surface. Kudos to Williamson for crafting a simple monster story that, in the end, is much more than the sum of its parts.

North by M. J. Wesolowski: Now, as far as crafted tales go, I'd say North is the one that outshines the rest because of how quiet it is. It could very well held its own among the likes of T. W. Wright and Charles L. Grant, and if you add to the mix the fact that there is a monster at the core of the story, it is quite an accomplishment. The story develops slowly, building suspense as it goes and leaving you unable to breath until the whole thing ends and you are horrified by the final realization. The images described are beautiful, Wesolowski does an amazing job at letting us experience the isolation of the environment and uses it to its maximum potential, digging for the deep rooted need for societal secureness and fear of darkness inside us all. My absolute favorite of the whole.

All in all Midnight Movie Creature Feature is a very interesting read that won't let you feeling cheated out of your money. I did find a couple of stories that didn't resonate with me, one that I actually hated, but I'd say the anthology as a whole was well worth the hours I took out of my family time to read it. Look out for more of the authors and TW Brown, the editor of this anthology, who does an amazing job at selecting the stories and editing them. While it might sound as a given, these days finding not one typo and a good editorial job is less common that it should be. And gratefully acknowledged.

If you love the genre, get your copy and stock on the popcorn; if you don't, give it a try. You might find yourself stuffing your mouth with candy out of pure joy.

For more information on the book click here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Origin of Superstitions: Friday the 13th

Being this is such an infamous day, I decided it would be fun to dedicate part of the Friday Fun's post to superstitions and where they come. There are many famous superstitions and weather you believe in them or not, we all try to avoid actions deemed as 'unlucky' not because we believe, but because of 'what if...'. I don't throw salt over my left shoulder, nor have I lived in fear after breaking more than my fair share of mirrors throughout my life, but I also am sure to knock on wood when I'm talking about the possibility of some unfortunate even befalling my family and beloved. I don't truly believe anything will change because I knocked on wood, but then again, I'm not hurting anybody so I keep doing it.

Superstitions are long engrained into our subconscious, just as the concept of luck, as a mechanism of defense; a way, an illusion, of asserting some control in our lives when the majority of events are simply out of our hands. Back in the days when most everything was either an act of God or the devil, when science didn't exist, superstitions brought small peace to the incertitudes of everyday life.

Many moons have passed since then and in the light of the Internet era, most people will keep quiet their superstitions from their friends, maybe only in sports are they still condoned as part of the trade. Still, those old wive's tales live on and are worth reading about, if for no other reason, because they talk to us about our past, about what living in those early years felt like. They paint a better image into the humane psyche than any history book can ever tell.


What people say: Don't start a trip on a Friday, you'll encounter misfortune. Never change your bed on a friday, it'll bring you nightmares. Ships that sail on a Friday will encounter bad luck. If you cut your nails on a friday, you cut them for sorrow.

History: Friday has long been considered unlucky. In Judeo-Christian tradition, it was a Friday that Eve offered her companion the fateful fruit back in The Garden, the same day they were spelled from Paradise and the same day when, later on, Adam repented, died, and was buried. The Great Flood is traditionally told to have happened on a Friday, the tower of Babel fell on a Friday, Solomon's Temple was destroyed on such a day, and have I mentioned Christ was crucified on a Friday (Good Friday)?

Beyond religion, in pagan Rome, Friday was execution day, later known as Hangman's day in Britain. And then there was October 13th, 1307; "a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune" when "officers of King Philip IV (Philip the Fair) of France carried out mass arrests in a well-coordinated dawn raid that left several thousand Templars--knights, sergeants, priests, and serving brethren--in chains, charged with heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. None of these charges was ever proven even in France, and the Order was found innocent elsewhere, but in the seven years following the arrests, hundreds of Templars suffered excruciating tortures intended to force 'confessions', and more than a hundred died under torture or were executed by burning at the stake." (Katharine Kurtz, Tales of the Knights Templar, Warner Books, 1995).

Need more? Well, there's the story of H.M.S. Friday. At some point during the 19th century, as an attempt to dispel the superstition that beginning a voyage on Friday brought bad luck, the British Royal Navy commissioned a ship named H.M.S Friday. Its, crew was hired on a friday, its keel laid on a Friday, and its captain was a man named James Friday, who set sail for its maiden voyage on a Friday. And she was never seen or heard from again. 

Only, of course, this story is known to be untrue, but how sweet it sounds when retelling it in the right context, doesn't it?

Number 13.

What people say: If thirteen people sit to dinner together, one will die within the year. If you have thirteen letters in your name, you will have the devil's luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy, and Albert de Salvo. If your name can fit here, too, please unfriend my Fb page). 

History: Number 13 has also a long and dubious history. It is the number of Death in the tarot deck, of steps on a gallows, of coils of rope on a Hangman's noose, the number of witches on a coven, and the number of dinner guests of the Last Super. But for such a renown well of unluckiness, 13's story started as being a portent of good things.

The ancient Chinese regarded the number as lucky, as did the Egyptians who believed life was a quest for spiritual ascension which unfolded in stages, 12 in this life and the 13th in the eternal afterlife. And so it was that 13 was associated with death, not in the doom and gloom kind of way, but as a celebrated and desirable step to ascension. As the Egyptian civilization disappeared, the positive significance of death did, too, and with it 13 found its way down to Great Great Grandaunt Gertrude's kitchen fire.

13 was the representation of the Great Goddess since times immemorial. There are 13 lunar (menstrual) cycles in the year; when Chinese women make cake offerings to moon gods, there are 13 in the plate; 13 is the number of blood, fertility, and lunar potency. Yes, 13 is the ultimate female numeric representation, and when the patriarchal religions in the early west world took over, it gain a bad rap. But there's also the ancient hindu belief that it is always unlucky for 13 people to gather in one place, a belief that is echoed in Viking religion where it is said that 12 gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla, a banquet that Loki, god of Mischief, crashed only to raise hell, causing the death of one of the gods. Where have I heard something similar before? Oh, yes! The Las Supper! Hmmm...

Well, whether you believe or not, when the 6th day of the week gets together with 13, the sight of a calendar causes more than one pair of eyes to open wide, a few hearts to skip a beat, and sever foreheads to drip. Now, you know why.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Different Tuesday, The Five Best Pixar Shorts to Date

I usually do book reviews every Tuesday but ever since those vacations up in Mexico, I've been chasing my tail trying to go back to my usual rhythm. Unsuccessfully, I should add.

With the kids out of school and in the house, I'm still trying to develop a new routine that will fulfill everyone's idea of a happy summer: Mommy's time to write and read, kid's fun stuff, house chores, and new puppy's training... easier said than done. But I'm happy to report I'm half way there. Today I sent a new review to Dark River Press, I'm finally reading another of the books I committed to review, and I'm writing for the blog, so I guess a happy dance is in order. And though I can't post my usual review here (since I'm behind my reading schedule), I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite Pixar shorts. These always make me smile and will go perfectly with my happy dance.

Hope you enjoy.

The Five Best Pixar Shorts To Date.

5. Jack Jack Attack.

Jack-Jack Attack. from gabrielhalivon on Vimeo.

4. Lifted.

Lifted - Pixar Short from Will Fletcher on Vimeo.

3. Partly clouded.

Partly Cloudy from Kristien Coteur on Vimeo.

2. Knick Knack.

knick knack from aplady on Vimeo.

1. Presto.

Presto from ithang on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Another Insecure Writer's Rant

I took a long time from my writing duties as I escaped back into the arms of vacation. After two years, I went to visit family and friends in Mexico City where I found the city's traffic impossible and the problems of the city much of the same. I enjoyed the company of many members of my family who don't have the means to visit us in the US and the girls had a huge dose of pampers that will cost me years to undo, but hey, what are grandparents for if not to spoil their grandkids?

All in all it was an awesome trip that we as a family deserved. We even got a cute little addition to our family in the form of an adorable two month old beagle the kids named Luna. It was all worth it and from the most unexpected of places I also won a life lesson I won't be forgetting anytime soon.
Luna and the two cutest monsters you'll ever meet.

You've all heard how the insecurity is in Mexico, how dangerous it is, how unsafe. Well, I'm Mexican and I thought I was above feeling insecure in my own house. I thought I was above having to look where I was going into, or looking above my shoulders. I refused to give in to those alarmist reports and brazenly stepped into areas my own compatriots warned me against. I was this close to pay dearly for that mistake and I risked the lives of those I love the most. I won't go into the details of it, it'll take us way too long and off course of my point. I'll just give you the basic setting: It was both of my parents, my two girls, and me on an SUV trying to escape a sports car with two armed men bent on getting us. All on a small highway about four hours from the city. Let's just say I haven't been more scared in my life and I've never seen the barrel of a gun up so close.

I don't blame Mexico's situation, not even the drug cartels, I blame me and my hardheadedness. I should have known better that to risk my family's safety just to spite those who call my country a dangerous one. Sadly, they are right.

Anyway, the reason why I bring this up for our monthly Insecure Writer's Support meeting is because it made me reflect a lot about my life and my priorities. I've complained in the past for not having enough time to dedicate to my writing, for having way too much to do with two very young kids in the house. Well, in that split moment when I feared at least one member of my family would die, my writing was the one thing that din't flash before my eyes. I thought about not seeing my kids grow old, about living without my parents, about my husband being alone to raise our girls, but my already published book, its lack of outstanding sells, and the numerous pieces I'm working on didn't even register in my mind.

So many of us spend so much time unhappy about the state of our writing career that we loose sight of how important are the things taking most of our time! I do love writing, but I want my epitaph to say "Loving Mother and Wife" not "Dedicated Writer". Think about this, where your heart truly lies, and next time you feel depressed because of how little your career has advanced, picture that epitaph on your grave. What will it say? What do you want it to say?