Claimed by the Warlord— a quick review

WarlordRecently, I read a science-fiction/fantasy romance by Maddie Taylor entitled Claimed by the Warlord. Overall, this novel was a good read, but some reviewers gave it a thumbs down due to the “discipline” used on the heroine. And, I totally get that, as the character didn’t really do much to warrant that behavior on the part of the alpha male. On the other hand, I read (some years ago) the science fiction series by Sharon Green which begins with The Warrior Within (Terrilian Book 1) wherein there is one heck of a lot of love/abuse in the tumultuous relationship between the heroine and her lover. I’d call this one “Sharon Green lite” in terms of spanking. There’s not much else for the “me, too” set to object to. However, this novel does have other, somewhat graphic, scenes associated with the precarious situation that sets the action of the novel in motion. Indeed, the author’s ability to describe the effects of terror inducing situations upon Princess Aurelia is the best part of the novel.

As many stories do, this one begins in medias res, where the Princess has been captured, auctioned to the highest bidder, and awaits her fate at his hands. There is intrigue and treachery aplenty, and the plot does have some twists and turns. Although this is more romance than science fiction or fantasy, it has enough suspense to keep readers swiping the electronic pages. The author does have a way of making the cold seem colder, the hot seem hotter, and the terror seem, well…I’m sure you get the picture.

For readers who like a blend of steamy hot romance, a dash of space opera, a good sprinkling of fantasy, and some scenes that are not necessarily comfortable (but totally fictional) then Claimed by the Warlord is a good read. For readers who are made of sterner stuff, Sharon Green’s Terrilian series is now available in eBook form, as well as in  vintage paperback.

 

Wedding $

A while back, I was in Target, shopping for some trinkets for the kids, and I saw a couple of “bigger kids” who were obviously getting married. The young woman was trying to keep her groom to be under control as they went around the store, with a handheld bar code scanner, generating their wedding registry. In one way, it was sad, watching this guy scan games and other items which had no real place on a registry. To him, creating a wedding registry was obviously like making a list for Santa Claus—on steroids. The young lady seemed more interested in finding items that they might actually need. As I watched them, I chuckled, hopefully silently, watching this guy run around the store, trying to pack as many of his preferred items onto that list before his bride wrested the scanner away.

Today, however, there might be a better plan—Amazon. There are some great benefits to this program, including a huge selection of items, the ability to share with friends and family who might not live near a chosen brick and mortar store, free shipping, 180 day returns, and Amazon will even generate a “Thank you” list. And, yes, the groom can list his favorite video games as purchase options. Hopefully, with some time to think about it, the bride and groom can pick items that help them create a new household, without the wrestling match over the bar code scanner.

I’ve noticed that my own kids, who are now young adults, would much rather order anything online. My daughter will pore over the toppings offered by Pizza Hut, sometimes taking a quarter of an hour to build the perfect pie. Truly, I am amazed at the way the internet has altered the shopping experience. I live near a “Carvana” facility, and I simply can’t imagine buying a car without a test drive, but they will gladly bring a nicely detailed used car right to the customer’s door.

Weddings are bigger business now. Venues charge in the thousands for a few hours of their time, and catering and a d.j. are the norm. At least, with Amazon’s wedding registry, guests might be able to provide appropriate gifts, with a minimum of hassle.

Backup Camera and more!

AutoVoxx2If you have a newer car, it has a back up camera, courtesy of federal regulations. But, if you drive an older one, as I do, you might want to add that functionality. Sadly, I decided that I needed both forward and rear recording capabilities also. That’s sad, because no longer will the testimony of a sound witness hold up in court. In the age of security cameras, body cams, and cell phone videos, people (such as cops and juries) demand video and audio confirmation of actions and words. So, rather reluctantly, I opted to purchase a mirror/backup camera which also records my driving front and rear. Here’s a link to the current unit that I had installed in my ride: AUTO-VOX X2 Mirror Dash Cam and Backup Camera

Like any other purchase, there are pros and cons, but overall, I am quite pleased. The unit fits over the original rear view mirror, which is good—but it is considerably darker than my original mirror, which is not so good. When he drives the car, hubby just activates the rear camera, which is easy to see in the screen, which is actually slightly larger than my original mirror. As the screen is reflective, but dark, I mostly use the side mirrors for a rear view, however, the mirror does display very accurate speed via gps, so it is handy even when not being used as a screen for the rear camera. When I do back up, the unit provides a good view behind my car, making parking lot maneuvers much easier.

The dash cam has very good video resolution of the road in front of the car, and while the rear resolution is less than the front, it is acceptable. Until I reviewed some of the rear footage, I didn’t realize how much one misses while just driving. Sometimes that rear footage is funny, such as seeing the driver behind my car picking his nose when we were both stopped at a red light. I have also gotten video of deer crossing right in front of the car, which seemed a lot more dramatic when it happened than it did when I watched the recording. Fortunately, I haven’t had any accidents, but the camera is always on, just in case. Left alone, it will eventually record over previous footage, but it is easy to keep old recordings by transferring them to a computer.

A few months ago, I was stopped by the local gendarmes when driving home from church, and my rear camera captured the incident, both audio and video. Reviewing the recording convinced my husband that I deserved legal representation. I preserved the footage by simply popping out the mini SD card, and that way hubby could look at the video and hear what I said, as well as what the deputy said. Without that footage, I might have had to pay that ticket, so this camera has already helped me quite a bit. If you have an older car, check it out.

DeputyJ

Still shot taken from the video recorded by the rear camera of my AutoVox unit.

Romantic movies revisited

LoveValentine’s Day is coming soon, a fact brought home to me by a visit to the local Target, which is festooned with candy in heart shaped boxes and more versions of artificial roses than I knew existed. Instead of truffles, which just like to linger on my hips, or roses, that usually end up in the compost heap all too quickly, I like to celebrate with romantic movies. And, old ones are fine, actually! Here’s my top five favorites in that category:

#5 Beauty and the Beast (voiced by Robby Benson and Paige O’Hara) is the best “cartoon” I’ve ever seen. When my daughter was small, I think we wore out a VHS version, and I remember pausing to watch the ballroom dancing scene, regardless of what household task I was doing, while my dear little one was engaged by the film. Of course, this story has seen many iterations, and I really liked the television series with Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman, but as this post is about films, I will just link to a previous post on that topic.

#4 Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Yes, it is retelling of the Cinderella story, and it is fairly dated now. Still, there are some seriously cool scenes, such as Roberts doing a sing-a-long with Prince, while teasing the audience in that foam covered bathtub. Or the end, with Gere doing a modern-day knight on horseback in standing in the sunroof of a large limousine, is a wonderful scene as well.

#3 Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Honestly, I had not watched this iconic film until a church friend mentioned that she wanted very badly to see a live version of this musical at our local playhouse. So, merely as research, I watched it. Although it is also quite dated, the music and the choreography is fabulous, and the romance is certainly sufficient for it to make my short list.

#2 The American President with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. If the script had been a little less political, this would be my #1 pick, as the romance between the widower President of the United States and the up and coming lobbyist is both touching and quite funny at times. This film has a really great supporting cast, too, with Michael J. Fox at his very best, along with Martin Sheen (who later took on the big guy role in The West Wing on television) and Anna Deavere Smith is amazing in her role as the press secretary.

My #1 is Shakespeare In Love, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes. This production has it all— an amazingly detailed setting, glorious costumes, a witty script, and memorable performances, both in the framework, and in the “good parts” version of Romeo and Juliet, which plot suggests was inspired by Shakespeare’s fling with a noble maiden with whom he should not have been socializing. Along with great performances by Paltrow and Fiennes, Judi Dench does a great job bringing an aging Queen Elizabeth to life, and Ben Affleck is such a hunk when he does “Mercutio.”

Obviously, there are many other really wonderful romantic films. These are merely personal favorites, which I am happy to share. If you have others that you like, you are certainly welcome to comment.

How to read Pamela J. Dodd’s books

ToT_cover_final_webLGI suppose there is a bit of a “duh” response to that title. Just buy them. Right? However, both Trinity on Tylos (the Whiskey Creek Press print book) and The Gift Horse (the Booklocker print book) are out of print, although some copies are still available from internet booksellers. Oh, and I have a few tucked into a box in the closet, and I would gladly sell them, but realistically, print is out of fashion these days. I seldom buy print books myself.

Instead of print, there are ways that modern readers can access my novels. Trinity on Tylos (the second, Kindle Direct version) is available for purchase or “free” for those who have a Kindle Unlimited reading subscription. The Gift Horse is available from the Kindle store as well as being available in ebook format from the original publisher.

And I am happy for readers to either buy or read via their Kindle subscription, because I get a bit of cash either way. Yes, my royalties for these are often in pennies, but I have zero expenses, which was certainly not the case when I had to buy books, drive to a venue, sit at a table and then hope someone would want to fork over $15 bucks for an autographed copy. Those were often money losing days!

My other author persona, Pilar Savage, makes more money, and she has never sat around hoping to sell her books, as they are only available as Kindle books via Amazon. The way to success as an author has certainly not changed—write something good enough that someone else will want to read it. But the method of delivery has changed quite a lot since I began publishing fiction.

For Honor We Stand— quick review

51buujujxsl._sl250_I’ve enjoyed this series by H. Paul Honsinger, a trilogy that begins with To Honor You Call Us (Man of War Book 1), as a space opera for fans of David Weber or others in that vein. Lots of authors try this sub-genre (and my Trinity on Tylos dabbles in it for a few chapters), but most such efforts don’t hold my interest. Honsinger’s universe and characters are well thought out, and therefore more entertaining than other authors.

His villains (the Krag) are truly obnoxious, and his hero, Captain Max Robichaux, has the right stuff to be a hero, but isn’t perfect, which is an unfortunate side-effect of being too heroic. Authors much achieve some balance, and Honsinger does that quite nicely. The captain’s side kick is Doctor Sahin, who is a bit like Dr. Watson’s being a sounding board for Sherlock Holmes. The situation is dire, for the enemy and the lengthy war have affected the human race in negative ways, such that surrender is unthinkable and victory an uncertain quest.

For Honor We Stand  is the middle book in the series, so I hope to read the final book soon, and I’ll try to post a more through review of the trilogy. I read the first book as a Kindle reading freebie, then I bought the Kindle version of book two. Unfortunately, the price for each one keeps rising, but I’ll spend my Amazon credits on that third book, because I want to know how this war ends (or if it does.)

Anxious for Nothing— brief review and commentary

A friend told me how much she is enjoying her study of Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for Nothing, so I bought the Kindle version. Quite frankly, her comments were so positive that I did not want to wait to pick up the physical book. I’ve read several of Lucado’s Christian living texts, and they have all been easy to read and helpful, and this book fits that mold.

The title says quite a lot. Modern people have too much information coming at them, much of it negative, so being anxious is almost a modern plague. This plays out in all sorts of ways: addiction, suicide, failed relationships, etc. Lucado discusses the whys, and then gives some very good solutions to our problem thinking. One of my favorite passages says this: “There is a reason the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror. Your future matters more than your past.”From my own experience, over thinking the past— the coulda, woulda, shoulda— is very damaging. When I counsel students, who almost always want me to allow them to “make up work” or “try again” I tell them to do better going forward. I even use the windshield analogy. But I like Lucado’s take on it.

Okay, his writing lacks sophistication; but not substance. Anxious for Nothing can be a quick read, but there is sufficient food for thought for study, too.

Classic YA fiction by Elizabeth George Speare

I was watching the grandkids play and perusing a shelf of older books. A title, Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare, caught my eye. Before long, I was reading and glancing over at the kids from time to time. When I taught middle grades (long, long ago) I used Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond as one of my class novels. I’m not sure that all of the students liked it, but I did. Calico Captive, like “Witch” is an historical novel, with a young adult protagonist.

Nowadays, many novelists write for younger audiences, and the readership is quite broad for such novels. Everything from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to The Hunger Games (Book 1) to The Princess Diaries  are squarely aimed at YA, but caught on with adults and movie audiences, too. Speare’s novels are very well written and could have a varied audience of entertained readers. Instead of re-cycling old television shows, maybe some film makers will decide to put Elizabeth George Speare’s tales into production. This novel would make a great movie!

Calico Captive tells the story of a young woman, Miriam Willard, living on the frontier in the 1700s; first captured by Indians, then held more or less as a prisoner of war by the French, during what historians now call the French-Indian War. According to my research, this is Speare’s debut novel, and it is based on a real life story. Miriam and her fellow captives are portrayed in a manner that held my interest. Okay, it is not quite a page turner, as it strives for some historical accuracy meaning that this all takes a while to resolve, but this story also helped me learn about a period of history that I don’t know well at all.

Readers who love history and are looking for a well written novel with adventure and a hint of romance will really enjoy this story. Speare’s later, better known works, are good reads also, but I have genuinely enjoyed this window into another time.

Netflix? Hulu? Amazon? Come on, let’s get these stories into production!

Found Girl— review and commentary

For me, the works of Pauline Baird Jones are hit and miss. My favorite of her stories is the first one I read (The Key, also known as Project Enterprise, Book 1). I’ve read several other of her novels, and her style is generally a blend of snappy dialogue, kick-butt heroines, romantic suspense, and sufficient action to keep the reader entertained.

My most recent read is billed as Book 6 in the Project Enterprise series. The main character is Arian Teraz, a young woman whose place in the universe is destined to be an arranged marriage a tilling some farmland on a rather primitive planet. Right before she must marry, a mysterious ship lands in front of her and invites her to take a chance on another life. As the ship leaves her home planet, they are attacked, and somehow she steers the ship through a wormhole. On the other side of that is a pilot named Cooper. This is where fans of Project Enterprise novels will see how this story fits into the series.

Found Girl contains the snappy dialogue, action, and Jones’ trademark blend of science fiction and fantasy elements. I read the Amazon Kindle version, which is $4.99 at this writing.

Rebel Princess by Blair Bancroft

The title of this yarn isn’t particularly original, as it makes me think of Princess Leia, but the story doesn’t lean on Star Wars very much. As the book opens, with a war game going on, rather like Star Trek— The Wrath of Khan, I was wondering if the author was going to borrow heavily from that story, but not really. Actually, Bancroft uses lots of science fiction and fantasy elements, but this is theme and variation, then more variation. As a writer, a reader, and an occasional viewer of science fiction, I see this story as fairly original, and since there truly is “no new thing under the sun” that’s a complement.

Oh, there are some aspects of the story that I don’t like. Most of the “alien” characters have an odd apostrophe in their names. I’ve come to view that artifice as trite, as so many science fiction and fantasy writers employ it. There are times when the narrative drags a bit, and the author tends to use too many sentence fragments. Especially. At times of high emotion. Oh wow. Get it? And, at least half of the main players have two names, because some are masquerading as someone else, which can get a bit confusing. Indeed, the author has a list of terms on her website, just to explain some of what’s going on in the story. Mostly, I didn’t need that, but it was nice to take a look at them all to see if I had guessed correctly.

Still, this story has lots to like, including a heroine (Kass Kiolani) who is brave but not at all prone to throwing caution to the winds. Since she was brought up as a royal heir, she thinks everything through. The hero (Tal Rigel) is mostly heroic and a lot less cautious than Kass, but vulnerable enough to be likable. Minor characters tend to be stereotypical, but there is some character building, especially the main character’s brother, who has some interesting “gifts.” The world building is better than some novels in the romantic science fiction genre, perhaps because this is the first in a series of novels set in this universe.

As of this writing, Rebel Princess is also dirt cheap, at 99 cents or free for Amazon Prime members.