Monday, January 11, 2021

Disaster Series, Best Movies of 2020, Best Albums of 2020, and Love and Monsters Review

Disaster Series with Chrys Fey

Alex Asked: What’s the disaster in A Fighting Chance? TELL US!

Chrys Fey’s Answer: Yup. This is the first book in the Disaster Crimes series that doesn’t reveal the disaster in the title. Or in the blurb. Or the tagline. The tagline even says “a surprise from Mother Nature.” It says that because it is a surprise. The disaster is not the main event in this story as it is with Books 1-5 (Hurricane Crimes, Seismic Crimes, Tsunami Crimes, Flaming Crimes, Frozen Crimes). In those books, the disaster is something that takes place during a large chunk of the story, and we experience the aftermath. This is not the case with A Fighting Chance. The disaster literally is a surprise. It’s not even totally shown on the cover, although you could probably guess what it is.

Okay…so I stalled long enough. I’ll spill.
The disaster is…a tornado. To be specific, a EF3 tornado in Florida.

*A FIGHTING CHANCE is Book 6 in the Disaster Crimes series, but it’s a spin-off featuring a new couple, so it can be read as a standalone.*
Thorn has loved Amanda from afar, giving her whatever she needs as a survivor of abuse—space, protection, and stability. He yearns to give her more, though, to share his feelings, kiss her, love her, but he's worried the truth will frighten her away.v And Amanda is afraid. She’s scared of her attraction for Thorn. Most of all, she’s terrified of her ex-boyfriend, who is lurking nearby where no one can find him. When she grows closer to Thorn, Damon retaliates, jeopardizing their happy ending.
Up against an abusive ex and Mother Nature, do Thorn and Amanda have a fighting chance?

Links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes


Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes

Author’s Note: I wrote The Disaster Curse to answer a few lingering questions readers may have after reading A Fighting Chance, and to tie the whole series together with a neat, shiny, perfect little bow. Plus, there was one disaster that I hadn’t written about yet. *wink*

The Disaster Crimes Series:
*The Crime Before the Storm (prequel)
Hurricane Crimes (novella, #1)
Seismic Crimes (#2)
Lightning Crimes (free short, #2.5)
Tsunami Crimes (#3)
Flaming Crimes (#4)
Frozen Crimes (#5)
A Fighting Chance (spin-off, #6)
The Disaster Curse (short story, #7)
*Free exclusive story to newsletter subscribers.

***LAUNCHING A WEBSITE*** is a website dedicated to domestic violence and sexual assault awareness. Inspired by the Disaster Crimes series.


Prizes: Hurricane Crimes (Disaster Crimes 1) and Seismic Crimes (Disaster Crimes 2) eBooks (mobi or epub), Hurricane Crimes Playing Cards, Girl Boss Sign, and a Volcanic Blast Scented Candle
Enter here

Chrys Fey is author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept that blends disasters, crimes, and romance. She runs the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Book Club on Goodreads and edits for Dancing Lemur Press.
Author Links: Newsletter, Website, Facebook Group, Blog, BookBub, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon

Movie Review

Love and Monsters
From the IMDB - In a monster-infested world, Joel learns his girlfriend is just 85 miles away. To make the dangerous journey, Joel discovers his inner hero to be with the girl of his dreams.
Staring Dylan O’Brien, Michael Rooker, Jessica Henwick, Dan Ewing, and Ariana Greenblatt
Released in October of last year, we actually caught it this weekend as a rental.
Overall, it was really enjoyable. The lead was a bit of a wuss (although fortunately not a complete idiot) but I really liked the dog, Boy. Michael Rooker was excellent, as always, as the surface wanderer who knows how to survive.
The creature effects are quite good and there is a big variety of critters from small to very, very large.
The pacing is good and there are some great action scenes along with a few very human ones.
This one surprised me and was definitely worth the rental!

Best of 2020

While that might seem an oxymoron, there were some great albums and good movies released last year. We’ll start with the movies. I went with a top five instead of ten since there were so few out in the theaters last year and a lot of dumping in the streaming services.

5 – Bill and Ted Face the Music
Not as good as the other films but good to see the band together again.

4 – Enola Holmes

Came out of nowhere and I was thoroughly entertained by its humor and charm.

3 – 1917
Tough, gritty, nail-biting film from start to finish. (Almost forgot this one came out January 2020)

2 – Wonder Woman 84
Again, not at good as first but a fun superhero movie.

1 – Tenet
One of the few films I saw in a theater and I’m so glad I did – it blew me away.

Unlike movies, music seemed to boom last year. Here is a top ten of prog rock/metal/hard rock of 2020.

10 – Ayreon – Transitus
As a concept album, it loses points for the confusing narrative, but the music is still amazing.

9 – Kvelertak - Splid
Little concerned as it was a new lead singer, however this is their best since their debut.

8 – Allen/Olzon – Worlds Apart
Russell Allen is the man and pairing him up with former Nightwish singer Anette Olzon makes for a great listen.

7 – Armored Saint – Punching the Sky
These guys have been around since the eighties but the album isn’t retro or old school, it just kicks ass.

6 – Novena – Eleventh Hour
The side project from Haken’s lead singer is a killer prog album and I look forward to more.

5 – John Petrucci – Terminal Velocity
Not only showing that he’s the greatest guitarist in rock or metal but the songs are catchy and captivating.

4 – Katatonia – City Burials
It doesn’t stray from their signature sound and I have no problem with that – this album is amazing.

3 – Haken – Virus
Named before the pandemic hit, Haken continues to put out one prog masterpiece after the next.

2 – Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Totally took me by surprise, this disc is one great song after the next and it’s criminal these guys aren’t more well-known.

1 – Countless Skies – Glow
Take one part Insomnium, one part Devon Townsend, and one part While Heaven Wept, mix it all together and you have a mellow-death-prog-doom masterpiece.

Have you ever experienced a tornado? Seen Love and Monsters? What movies did you enjoy last year? What were some of your favorite albums?
Thanks to everyone who volunteered to co-host the IWSG – we are set until June.
Don’t forget the IWSG Twitter pitch event, #IWSGPit, takes place on January 20.
Next Monday is a holiday here, so I will be offline. I’ll catch all of you on January 25!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Dark Matter: Artificial, WW84 Review, Jo Wake’s Tribute Blogfest, and New Releases

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the January 6 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise - Fundy Blue!

Want to know more about the IWSG? Operation Awesome recommends it and has a post up about it this week. Check it out!

January 6 question - Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

Characters I don’t care about. That’s a deal-breaker. Oh, and way too much exposition. I don’t want pages and pages of description.

IWSG Anthology winners!!!
Dark Matter: Artificial

An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Discover dark matter’s secrets…

What is an AI’s true role? Will bumbling siblings find their way home from deep space? Dark matter is judging us—are we worthy of existence? Would you step through a portal into another reality? Can the discoverer of dark matter uncover its secrets?

Ten authors explore dark matter, unraveling its secrets and revealing its mysterious nature. Featuring the talents of Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, C.D. Gallant-King, Tara Tyler, Mark Alpert, Olga Godim, Steph Wolmarans, Charles Kowalski, Kim Mannix, Elizabeth Mueller, and Deniz Bevan.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a journey across time and space. Prepare for ignition!

Release date: May 4, 2021
Print ISBN 9781939844828 $14.95
EBook ISBN 9781939844835 $4.99
Science Fiction: Collections & Anthologies (FIC028040) / Space Exploration (FIC028130) / Genetic Engineering (FIC028110)
Movie Review – Wonder Woman 1984

We watched this Christmas Day on HBO Max and will see it again this Friday in the theater.
Not as good as the first one, but expectations were super high as the first was a near-perfect origins story.
I liked the chemistry between Gadot and Pine. Felt genuine. Kristen Wiig was also really good as Barbara/Cheetah.
The action scenes were great, especially the desert car chase.
On the downside, it was a bit too long – some scenes could’ve been cut. It also needed a little more Wonder Woman, although I get they were focusing on Diana’s development. Also, Cheetah’s real origin story is much more interesting.
It may sound like I am really knocking it, but if the first movie wasn’t out there, I wouldn’t be so picky. It’s still really enjoyable and entertaining film. I look forward to seeing it again and any other sequels they would like to give us.

New Releases

Rain by Lisa Buie-Collard

The past is not an easy force to be reckoned with.

Find it on Amazon

Arranging a Dream: A Memoir by JQ Rose

Follow this couple’s inspiring story, filled with the joy and triumphs and the obstacles and failures experienced as they travel along the turbulent path of turning dreams of being entrepreneurs in the flower business into reality.
Find it on Amazon

Beware the Jade Christmas: A Christmas Ghost Story by Roland Yeomans

Audible Audiobook – Unabridged

Welcome to New Orleans, Christmas Eve, 1946.

Find it on Amazon

Park Avenue Blondes by Ruth Harris

For fans of Nora Ephron—Women’s Fiction Meets Cozy Mystery in the Big Apple.

Find it on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Google Play.

In Honor of Jo Wake

A very dear friend passes away on December 16 – Jo Wake at Jo on Food, Life, and a Scent of Chocolate. She was part of the Dragon Fellowship, known as Grandma Dragon to us, and we have decided to do something in her honor.

On February 6, share a recipe that brings them warm memories of friendship and love in honor of blogger Josephine “Jo” Wake who passed away December 16, 2020.

Ready for Dark Matter: Artificial? Picking up some new books? Participating in Jo’s tribute blogfest? Seen WW84 yet? And can you help co-host the IWSG in the next few months?

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Insecure Writers Support Group, Sweetheart Movie Review, Plunge by Liesbet Collaert, and December Movie Preview

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming About Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre!

The Writer’s Digest nominations for 101 best websites is open! If you think the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is worthy, please go nominate it. We’d love to see it back on that list.

December 2 question - Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

I’m probably more productive in the winter months. Or anytime from October through February. Probably just a lot to do outside the other months. And I think better when it’s cold.

Which is why I am through editing CassaDark and am looking for critique partners! If you are familiar with the Cassa universe and like my style of space opera science fiction, please leave a comment. Willing to return the critique, of course! But I’d like to have it ready by early spring to send to my publisher. Thanks!

Prepare those pitches!
#IWSGPit is next month - January 20.
See the site for hashtags and details.

IWSG Goodreads Book Club

Our book club is changing things up!

We will have quarterly book selections now, giving us more time to read. We will also have one fiction book selection and one writing craft book selection. Members can read both or choose between them. Finally, we won’t be offering 5 optional discussion questions anymore. Instead, we will be utilizing the polls that our members enjoy, so there will be one poll question for the fiction book and one for the non-fiction book on Discussion Day.

Our December/January/February reads are…
Ghost Light by Joseph O'Connor, a book written in second person. Since many readers haven’t read a book in second person, and many writers haven’t written in second person, we figured this is a great chance to explore something new.
Preparing to Write Settings that Feel Like Characters by J Lenni Dorner. This will be our writing craft book, with a focus on settings.

Discussion Day for both books will be February 24, 2021!
JOIN US at IWSG Goodreads Book Club.

Movie Review – Sweetheart

Jenn washes ashore on an island and soon realizes there is something that comes out of the water at night.
At just under ninety minutes, the film doesn’t overstay its welcome and is the perfect length. It builds in dread and suspense, providing some creepy scary moments.
Kiersey Clemons stars as Jenn and she pretty much carries the whole film. We watch her go from a scared, clueless young lady to a tough, resourceful, and brave woman. The creature effects are good and they show just enough to make it threatening and scary.
Despite the odd title, this is a solid creature-horror film.

New Release

Plunge by Liesbet Collaert

Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs.

Find Plunge on Amazon Global, Amazon UK, and Goodreads

Liesbet Collaert is a bilingual freelance writer, translator, editor, and photographer from Belgium who has been writing and traveling her entire life.

Find Liesbet at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blog, and Amazon

December Movie Releases

Here are the upcoming theatrical releases for December! As always, descriptions courtesy of the IMDB. Snark provided by me.

4 –

After getting hired to probe a suspicious death in the small town of Wander, a mentally unstable private investigator becomes convinced the case is linked to the same 'conspiracy cover up' that caused the death of his daughter.
Director: April Mullen
Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Tommy Lee Jones, Katheryn Winnick, Heather Graham
Wander will make you wonder why more films don’t start with W.

11 –

The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee
Paul Hogan is reluctantly thrust back into the spotlight as he desperately attempts to restore his sullied reputation on the eve of being knighted.
Director: Dean Murphy
Stars: Paul Hogan, Luke Bracey, Mel Gibson, Chevy Chase, Luke Hemsworth
If you’re not sure this is a knife movie, Paul Hogan will be sure to clarify it for you at some point.

18 –

On the cusp of fatherhood, a junior mechanic aboard an interstellar ark to New Earth must outwit a malevolent cosmic terror intent on using the spaceship as a weapon.
Director: John Suits
Stars: Cody Kearsley, Bruce Willis, Rachel Nichols, Kassandra Clementi
The only real suspense is seeing if Bruce Willis is in more than five minutes of this film.

25 –
Wonder Woman 1984
Fast forward to the 1980s as Wonder Woman's next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Stars: Gal Gadot, Pedro Pascal, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Chris Pine
Looking forward to WW2020 where she spends two and a half hours kicking Covid’s butt!

This movie will also debut that day on HBO Max, so if your theaters are closed, you can watch it at home!

When are you most productive with your writing? Looking for a critique partner? Seen Sweetheart? Picking up Plunge? And what movies are on your radar for December?
Merry Christmas, everyone! I will be back on January 6 for IWSG post day and the announcement of the IWSG 2020 Anthology Contest winners.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Science Fiction Tropes, Movie Inspirations, Top Christmas Horror Films, and Armored Saint: Punching the Sky Review

SciFi Trope: Space Travel is Easy

Sci-fi tropes can help us get to the heart of the story by sweeping issues like the difficulties of space travel under the rug. Unless a core element of a science fiction story is about space travel, it makes the most sense to deal in one of the trope methods.

Einstein-Rosen Bridges aka Wormholes aka Gates:
According to various articles, this may be the most scientifically plausible scifi form of travel. Seen in: Stargate, The Expanse, Thor, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Galaxy Quest, and Interstellar.

Closed Time/Space Bubble: Within a space bubble, the traveler can go anywhere on his or her own timeline. Most notably seen in Doctor Who with the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space). This is close to the wormhole idea.

Warp Technology/Bending Space: By contracting space in front of the ship and expanding it behind, the ship rides a wave forward. Seen primarily in: Star Trek. This idea of bending space also shows up in Dune.

Hypderdrive/hyperspace/lightspeed/traveling through sub-space: While not considered plausible, this space travel trope shows up in Star Wars, Valerian, and Halo. The Starbursts in Farscape could fit here, too.

Jumpdrives/Teleportation: This takes out the “travel” factor by teleporting space ships or people from one location to another. Seen notably in: Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek (Beam me up, Scotty!) and The Cassa Series by Alex J. Cavanaugh. (Thanks, Tyrean!)

What would be your space travel method of choice?

Liftoff: The Rayatana Series, Book 1

A spaceship in disguise,
An Earth girl searching for a sense of home,
And a Thousand Years’ War between alien races,
All collide on a summer afternoon.

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9889933-8-9
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9889933-9-6
Publisher: Wings of Light Publishing, Gig Harbor, WA, USA
LINKS: Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads

About the Author: Tyrean Martinson is an author and teacher from Washington State. As a former fencer and kickboxer, she enjoys writing fight scenes in fast-paced novels and novellas. As a teacher and writing tutor, she loves to get students writing and reading comfortably by any means: talk-to-text, short writing assignments, short stories, novellas, and adventures. She wrote her latest novella, Liftoff, for herself during COVID, but realized it also fits a dream she’s had for a while: to create a short, fast-paced read for teen/YA readers who love popcorn movies, adventure, and sweet romance.
Author Links: Blog, Newsletter, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

Elle Cardy’s Movie Inspirations

With the release of Well of Ash, a YA fantasy novella, Alex invited me to share my inspiration for the story in movies.

The Princess Bride:
My favorite film of all time. It’s full of adventure, excitement, and bravery. And it still has time for a little romance.

The Dark Crystal: Another favorite. A dark power across the land, brave souls overcoming difficult odds, a gorgeous setting. A mystery to unfold, and plenty of adventure.

The NeverEnding Story: A happy, helpful dragon.

The Game of Thrones: Magnificent dragons as companions to a powerful woman. I like the concept.

Well of Ash:
No one knows who built the Great Wells across the world or why. To linger near makes the skin crawl and the mind drift in nightmares. Yet this one calls to Ash in whispers that pull her closer. Soon she’s caught in a mystery that can kill. She must find the answers before she loses her sanity, or worse, her life.

If you like dragons, magic, and a fierce heroine with a mystery to unfold, then you’ll love Well of Ash, a YA Fantasy novella by Elle Cardy. Available now as an eBook and paperback on Amazon. OR, for a limited time, pick up a free copy when you join Elle’s VIP newsletter club.

Elle Cardy’s hang-outs: website, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads

Top Ten Christmas Horror Movies

The holidays and horror aren’t as far apart as you might think. And some of the best horror films have been Christmas-related. These often play on underlying family issues and stresses, with the jovial feel of the season counterbalancing the horrors on the screen.

10. Jack Frost (1996): Just saw this one for the first time last year, and it’s one psychotic ride. Unexpected and cheesy. While there’s humor in it, I wouldn’t put this in the same category as other horror-comedies mentioned.
9. A Christmas Horror Story (2015): Unlike the other films on this list, this one’s an anthology of shorter horror stories wrapped into an overarching story line. The Santa in this one is a bit different than the norm. Each of the stories is a slow burn, so sit back and enjoy.
8. Better Watch Out (2017): A terrifying home invasion turns out to be something completely different. While babysitting a young boy, the babysitter has to deal with a crush she doesn’t reciprocate while arguing with her boyfriend via text. Strange things start to happen, including noises upstairs in the house. It’s not Santa up there. Soon, a twist reveals itself.
7. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984): An orphan who saw his parents murdered by a man dressed as Santa is required to play Santa at the toy store where he works, bringing back bad memories and trauma that spur him into a murderous spree. A classic that you should watch at least once, it has its cheesy moments, but all horror should have a little cheese.
6. Anna and the Apocalypse (2018): It’s a Christmas Zombie Musical, you guys. Funny, sometimes gory, with real heart behind it all, it’s a fun watch for the holidays.

5. Rare Exports (2010):
This Finnish film involves a boy finding Santa’s tomb, only Santa isn’t the man you think he is. With bits of humor and plenty of horror, this one is all about finding the children going missing.
4. Scrooged (1988): Though not strictly horror, this is certainly a dark comedy. Bill Murray is the Scrooge in this situation, a television producer (I believe), who has a blackened heart of coal. The ghosts, including a hysterically psychotic Carol Kane, visit him and show him what will happen if he continues on in this way. Set against the backdrop of a ridiculous Christmas special with scantily clad dancers, an employee who’s been fired and loses it, and a lost love.
3. Gremlins (1984): Who doesn’t love Gremlins? A small town is beset by gremlins, who get into everything, wreaking havoc and mayhem. Phoebe Cates’ character delivering a dramatic monologue about her chimney is a top moment, but the pure ridiculousness of these creatures who kill with glee and sense of humor is not to be missed.
2. Krampus (2015): I saw this one in theaters, which was perfect. The film itself is tongue-in-cheek, while dealing out some real frights. A young boy struggling with his parents’ rocky marriage and the invasion of nasty relatives tears up his letter to Santa and makes a wish that comes true in the worst ways possible. The opening montage of a mall leading up to Christmas is crazy and sets the mood for the rest of the film.

1. Black Christmas (1974):
This film features Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussey as students in a sorority. Kidder’s role was a lot of fun, with her being on the naughty list, while Hussey’s character is decidedly at the top of the nice list. A caller keeps calling to harass them, with the girls being picked off one-by-one. The caller’s voice and the things he says are maniacal and raised goosebumps the first time I saw it.

I hope you enjoy at least one Christmas horror film this year. While you’re at it, check out my holiday horror collection of short stories! Releasing November 20, it will be widely available online. You can pre-order the Kindle version now!

Find Happy Ghoulidays: A Collection of Holiday Horror Short Stories on Amazon
Find Shannon at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon author page

Armored Saint – Punching the Sky Review

Armored Saint is one of those blue-collar bands that earned a rep for no nonsense straight up hard rock. They are a criminally underrated band that has been making music since 1982 (minus a six or so year split while lead singer John Bush joined Anthrax).
I became a fan in 1991 when they released ‘Symbol of Salvation” which earns a place in my catalog because it’s a beast. So many catchy tracks! I lost track of them for a time after they reformed in 1999, but I’m so glad I rediscovered them. These guys know how to write a great song. So, thirty-eight years since they formed (let that sink in for a moment) they have just released their eighth studio album and it does not disappoint.
This is not an old band just phoning it in, this feels fresh and crackles with great musical energy. “End of the Attention Span”, “Bubble”, “Do Wrong to None”, “Fly in the Ointment” and “Never You Fret” are killer tracks. Hats off to the band for their commitment to creating quality tunes that stick in your brain. These guys are passionate about their craft with great musicianship and quality production. Here’s to thirty-eight more years of rock from Armored Saint.

What’s your favorite way to travel through space? What movies have inspired you? Favorite Christmas horror films? Fan of Armored Saint?
To my American friends, have an awesome Thanksgiving. I will see you again on December 2 for the next Insecure Writer’s Support Group posting – last of 2020! (Feels good to say that, doesn’t it?)