Traveling Blues

Hey there! It’s Friday Rambles on Monsters and Mayhem…which means open mike night, so to speak.

In honor of the week I’ve had, I decided to do a post about air-travel. I travel a fair bit for work. Not anything like George Clooney in Up in the Air, but usually at least once every month or two. This week, however, has been the craziest week of travel I’ve ever had. Monday I flew from Dallas to Columbus. Tuesday night I flew from Columbus to Minneapolis (it was very cold there, yah). Wednesday afternoon it was a puddle jumper from Minneapolis to Nashville. Thursday it took TWO puddle jumpers to get me from Nashville back to Columbus via Chicago (I hate O’Hare, y’all). And today…today I fly home to Dallas.  *Sighs in relief*  But count ’em up folks — that’s SIX flights in five days. My body clock has no idea what time zone I’m in and neither does the clock on my laptop. I’ll be really glad to get home and hug my kids, kiss my husband, be ignored by my cats and sleep in my own bed.

With all that traveling, though, one is bound to run into a few peeves on the journey, so I thought I’d compile a list of things I saw/experienced for your amusement.

Kendra’s Top Five Air Travel Peeves

1.  Taking up the entire counter at the security prep line.  We’re all tired, in a hurry, and a little creeped out by the frisky looking TSA agent with the metal-detector wand. Spreading all your worldly goods out on the counter when ten people are waiting behind you just to get buckets for their shoes is a tad inconsiderate. It also might throw that really tense road-warrior-salesman-guy behind me into a rage and I don’t want to be collateral damage. So have a heart–scoot up and give us some room too.  I promise I won’t take your stuff.

2. Being a Germy Von Germstein.  I get it. It’s the middle of winter and people have colds. Heck, I do too. But…please don’t cough all over people on the plane, in the terminal or at baggage claim.  I’m talking to you, dude who coughed on my head while I was sitting in the terminal and you walked by spewing germs.  Can a girl get some Lysol wipes and vitamin C, stat?

3. Taking out a group of people to be first off the plane.  I totally understand if you have a connection and are in a real hurry. If you ask us, we’ll totally let you by. But former-linebacker-in-high-school-guy?  You don’t have to bowl over that seventy-year-old lady to depart the aircraft first. If you would’ve said please and thank you, you would’ve avoided the wrath of that flight attendant for your rude behavior.  Just saying.

4.  Hogging the baggage claim.  You know those people. The ones who stand right in front of the chute, ready to catch their suitcase the second it hits the belt?  Who cares if no one else can get close…they are getting their bag, by God! Yeah, just…don’t.

5.  Charging Station Hoarders  This is a new breed of icky traveler–the ones who sit in the seats with the electrical outlets and proceed to plug in every device they own. Ask if you might share one, and they’ll usually say, “Sorry, I’m using them,” in a tone that suggests you are gum on their shoe.  Because, obviously, your dead laptop that holds the presentation you’re delivering an hour after your flight lands isn’t important enough to allow you to use their outlets.

Okay, so this was a totally ranty post. Truly, I’ve had some wonderful experiences with my fellow travelers. If the plane is stalled on the runway, I’ve yet to experience mob violence. Instead, we all crack jokes about how much it sucks and laugh about it. We talk about our hometowns, our best vacations and what we’ll do when we get off the freaking plane.  Heck, a pilot once gave up his steak dinner (they ate from the first class menu) to the person who most closely guessed the total weight of the luggage loaded on our flight, just to keep us entertained during a mechanical issue.  The guy across the aisle from me–in coach–had a filet once we were in the air.

How about you? Good experiences? Bad ones? Crazy travelers?  Share in the comments — we want to hear them!

The Bumble

Greetings from Monsters and Mayhem!  It’s that time of year, y’all…the holiday season is upon us and that means..Abominable Snowmen!  Oh, they seem to be everywhere in Hollywood, ostensibly trying to ruin your holiday fun. But what are they, exactly?

From Wikipedia:

The Yeti or Abominable Snowman is an ape-like cryptid said to inhabit the Himalayan region of Nepal, and Tibet. It is believed to be taller than an average human and is similar to Bigfoot.[2][3] The names Yeti and Meh-Teh are commonly used by the people indigenous to the region,[4] and are part of their history and mythology. Stories of the Yeti first emerged as a facet of Western popular culture in the 19th century.

The scientific community generally regards the Yeti as a legend, given the lack of conclusive evidence,[5] but it remains one of the most famous creatures of cryptozoology.

(Note to self — do a post on cryptozoology.)

Ahem, moving on. What’s funny about these huge, white, furry, ferocious creatures is that they are frequently portrayed as lovable and misunderstood. Abominable from Monsters, Inc is one of my favorite iterations, what with his “lemon” sno-cones and hospitality. Today, though, I thought I’d take a look at an equally famous version — The Bumble.

You don’t know who The Bumble is? Oh, I’m sure you do…but here’s some video to remind you:

 

What a monster!  Still, it turns out this Bumble isn’t so scary after all…well, after he loses his teeth. Actually, that’s quite sad. Anyway, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer takes me back to my childhood, when this was event TV and the stop motion holiday shows were all the rage.  Nostalgia, sung by Burl Ives. : )

How about you? Do you have a favorite holiday monster? Jack Frost? Mr. Heat-miser? The magician in Frosty?

The Next Big Thing — Matt Archer Blade’s Edge

It’s Friday Rambles time on Monsters and Mayhem and today I’m participating in a fun author blog hop called The Next Big Thing. I was tagged for this exercise by the super-talented Teresa Frohock  (if you haven’t read Miserere: An Autumn Tale, what are you waiting for?!), and I’m excited to participate.

So, what’s my next big thing?  I have a sequel to Matt Archer: Monster Hunter coming out!

What is the working title of your book?   Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge

Where did you get the idea for the book?  I originally wrote the first book as a short story for my son that grew into an adventure tale about a teenager who fights monsters. The deeper I got into the “mythology” of the tale, though, I realized I had a series on my hands. But with all the “I love vampires” fiction out there, I thought it would be fun to have a straight-up “I’m going to kick demon butt” book aimed at YA readers, particularly the guys.

What genre does your book fall under? Young Adult Paranormal/Adventure

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Matt:  The younger version looks a lot like Joel Courtney from Super 8, but as he matures over the course of the series, he grows into someone more like Liam Hemsworth (at age nineteen).  If central casting can find an amalgam of those two guys, the movie for MA2 would be set!

Uncle Mike:  I’ve known who would play Uncle Mike from the get-go—Michael Trucco. His character on Battlestar Galactica, Sam Anders, partly shaped Uncle Mike’s personality.  It doesn’t hurt that Trucco looks almost exactly how I’d picture Uncle Mike.

Ella:  I need a redhead with a great smile and a somewhat no-nonsense attitude. Rachel Hurd-Wood fits the bill. She’s lovely, but the look in her eye says, “I might just be up to something.”

Mamie:  She’s easy – Hailee Steinfeld. There’s just something about the way she played Mattie Ross in True Grit that screamed “Mamie” to me. She’s tough, smart, strong-willed and goes her own way.  Mattie is certainly stronger and more outgoing than Mamie, but at the core, they are very much alike.  Plus, Hailee can rock a pair of pigtails!

Master Sergeant Schmitz: This might sound odd, but after seeing JGL play a cop in The Dark Knight Rises, I realized that Schmitz sort of resembled Joseph Gordon-Levitt in my head. He’s not a perfect match, but close, especially the mannerisms and the nervous energy.

Will:  He’s the tough one. I need a big, dark-haired kid who looks like he has it all, but doesn’t have a huge ego about it. I need a guy who would give his best friend the shirt off his back, the keys to his car…and help him hide a monster’s body in the woods.  And so far, I haven’t found the perfect actor.  Any thoughts?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Wow, lets see:

Saddled with a supernatural knife–and its consciousness in his head–Matt Archer’s fight against monsters, demons and other nasty creatures goes global, making his double life as a normal teen even more difficult than before.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  Self-published (late December/early January release)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The first iteration took me about six-seven months, but the editing, rewriting and polishing has taken much longer. I actually finished the first draft in late 2010, and here it is, two years later, and I’m finally wrapping it up.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? People have compared it to Percy Jackson, but the mythology, level of “darkness” and age level is fairly different.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? Primarily my son, and other tween/teen guys who weren’t interested in YA paranormal romance…but who wanted a fun adventure to read.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? There are really big revelations about the nature of the knife itself, along with some significant family drama and more romance in this book than in the first (Matt has a girlfriend!). There’s still a lot of adventure, including a few trips to India and Afghanistan to take care of some really freaky monster infestations. Matt has to grow up a lot, and it’s tough for him.

Next up, I’ve tagged five awesome authors to participate and tell you about their Next Big Things:

Kari Ramadori writes all kinds of cool stuff, include YA, middle grade urban fantasy, and science fiction.The first book in her Olivia’s Realm series, Olivia’s Field (Olivia’s Realm), is out now and later installments are on the way!

RebeccaHenderson is a YA writer I met through Crits for Water. I had the opportunity to read her wonderful YA From the Tea Village. She used her experiences living in China to write a gorgeous work about a young girl from a rural village seeking higher education. It comes out next spring — be on the lookout!

Sarah Gilman is a paranormal romance author with a thing for wings–Angels. Her debut novel, Out In Blue (Return To Sanctuary) is an amazing, romantic, sexy read.

Elizabeth Hull (writing as C.N. Lesley) is a romantic fantasy writer who is also one of my first critique partners from our days at OWW. She’s been a constant friend and teacher as I began working on the Matt Archer series. Elizabeth’s debut novel, Darkspire Reaches, is coming soon from publisher Kristell Ink. I read this novel in beta version, and it’s amazing. If you like sweeping romance, magic and Wyverns, add this to your “to read” list.

Kelly Jo Crawley   is a fantasy writer who just made her NaNoWriMo goal of 51,000 words in November! Whew, that’s a lot of words for a busy mom with a full-time job, but she made it!  She blogs about life with her kids and is a really fun follow on Twitter! Get to know this awesome lady!

Well, that’s it for me!  Until next week, stay safe and keep watch for monsters. : D

Sports Monsters

Howdy!

I trust everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I did…it was great to take a break with family.  But now, on with the show!

Today on Monsters and Mayhem, I thought I’d talk about a different kind of monster.  Growing up is tough business, but when you have an overbearing, high-pressure parent, it’s nine-thousand times harder. There’s a scene from Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge that I really loved, but ended up cutting, that shows this kind of monster in action. If anyone thinks Matt’s best friend, Will Cruessan, has it made…sometimes a gilded cage is still a cage.  Take a look:

 

Busted Plays

 

 The state football championship was held in Billings the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I snuggled with Ella under a fleece blanket, puffing out little clouds of mist with each breath.  The night was clear, the stars glittering cold in the dark sky.  Even if the metal bleachers felt like ice-blocks under my butt, it was the perfect night to watch Will prove to Helena West that Greenhill High wasn’t a bunch of suburban posers. 

Mamie sat on my other side, huddled in her own blanket.  She’d crammed a red watch-cap over her pigtails, but her teeth still chattered.  “W-w-what am I d-d-doing here a-again?  I thought I was f-f-football free after Brent left home.”

“Rooting for the football team one last time,” I said.  “Next year you’ll be holed up in the college library and can skip as much football as you want.”

“S-s-sounds like heaven.”

Ella laughed.  “You know what, Mamie?  We need to find you a boyfriend to cuddle up with.  That’d make it more fun.”

I gave her an incredulous look.  “I don’t want to hear about my sister cuddling with anyone.  She’s not allowed to do that until she’s twenty-five.  And married.”

“Y-you’re an idiot,” Mamie said.

“And a hypocrite,” Ella murmured, slipping her hand onto my thigh under the blanket.

Oh, yeah, I was a hypocrite, and I liked it.  How far was Ella going to let that hand drift?  I never found out, though.  The fun was cut short because Will’s dad came plowing our direction and Ella folded her hands in her lap, rather than mine.

Mr. Cruessan looked exactly like Will, just forty-five years old.  He had massive shoulders, thick dark hair, and a broken nose.  So far, Will’s schnozz was still straight, but if he played college ball, that would probably change.  Then he’d be an exact replica of his old man.

“Matthew!” he boomed.  He was the only man I knew who could out-shout General Richardson.  “Good to see you, son.  It’s been a while.”

I refrained from saying I was at his house more than he was.  “Good to see you, too, sir.”

He nodded politely to Mamie as he settled on the bleachers in front of us.  “Hello, Marguerite.”

Mamie’s face flushed bright red.  No one called her by her real name.  Mr. Cruessan didn’t seem to notice her reaction, though, and he didn’t acknowledge Ella.  When he turned to face the field, Ella tossed her hair as if to tell him he wasn’t important to her, either.  That made me smile.

Mrs. Cruessan and Will’s housekeeper, Millicent, followed in Mr. Cruessan’s wake.  Millicent had on jeans and a Greenhill sweatshirt underneath a tan coat, and her hair was wrapped in a scarf.  Will’s mom had on a mink coat and heels.  She’s the only woman I knew who could pull off wearing fur without getting chased down by PETA.  Her gray eyes flicked my direction, then she smiled. Her smiles were funny.  It’s like they pained her or something.  When I was in second grade, I called her Miss Frostybritches behind her back.  Things hadn’t changed much since then.  

“Matthew, so nice to see you,” Mrs. Cruessan said, her voice soft and cold.

I smiled at her, then waved at Millicent, who gave me a thumbs up and called, “So how’s out boy gonna do?”

“School record,” I said.  “Five sacks.”

“Oh-ho,” Mr. Cruessan said.  “We’ll see about that.”

It killed me sometimes, the way Will’s parents were.  If Will got five sacks, his dad would tell him he missed two.  His mom would’ spend the game on her phone with the hospital, talking about a patient, or reading medical journals, not knowing or caring how well he did.  At least Millicent and I gave a damn.

The teams ran onto the field.  Will had a look on his face I associated with battle.  I’d seen the same look the night he tackled a She-Bear in the woods.  Man, he was fired up.  This game would be one for the history books.

When Will got three sacks and recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the first half, I wasn’t surprised.  He ripped off a huge, growling yell as the team ran into the tunnels for halftime.  There was so much energy buzzing around the stands, my nerves felt a little ragged, too.  Listening to Mr. Cruessan dissecting all of Will’s mistakes didn’t help.  He’d made three sacks, but you’d think he’d rolled over and played dead based on what his dad was saying.  What a butthole.

Mr. Cruessan must’ve been sending bad mojo down to the field because in the third quarter, it all started to unravel.  Will missed his route on the first play and the quarterback ran in for a touchdown. 

Ella squeezed my arm.  “Look–he’s so upset.”

She was right.  Will stomped around the sidelines like a caged bull.  The assistant coach pounded him on the shoulder, but Will shook him off and everything went downhill from there.  Will missed three more crucial tackles, two of which resulted in touchdowns. 

We lost.

“Well, we’ve got some things to work on this spring,” Mr. Cruessan said, standing up.  “He needs to get off the line faster.  Think I’ll hire a coach to work on his explosiveness and his ability to cut upfield…”

I tuned him out while we waited on the stadium concourse for Will to come out of the locker room.  Will’s Mom drifted off to her Mercedes, phone glued to her ear, talking to someone about aneurysms.  Millicent stood silently by, her expression soft. 

Ella and I leaned against the brick wall of the concourse after Mamie bolted for the car with the excuse that she’d warm it up for us.  A few people from school hurried by and a familiar blond head came into view.

“Hey, Ella,” Carter said.  He was flanked by a couple of his basketball teammates.  He knew not to come around without backup or a room full of witnesses.

I stood up straight, looking him dead in the eye.  He smirked.  “Sorry about the game, man.  I’m sure Cruessan is feeling it, huh?”

Carter said it in a sympathetic tone, but I could see the glee in his eyes.  I balled up my fists, wishing I could siphon off whatever frustration Will had and pound it into Carter’s pretty-boy head.  

Ella tensed up beside me.  “Carter, you of all people should understand how disappointing this is for Will, right?”  She nodded at his posse.  “All four of you were wrecked when you lost in the first round of the playoffs last year.”

I could’ve kissed her, right then and there.  Those punks deflated, sagging like day-old balloons.  It was a thing of beauty.

Carter ground his teeth before saying, “Of course.  It sucks to lose like that.  Um, yeah.  I’ll see you around.”

He gathered up his friends, turned tail and slunk off.

“You know what?” I whispered, pulling Ella close. “You’re amazing sometimes.”

She smiled. “Only sometimes?”

“All the time.” 

We hugged each other with our foreheads touching  and I didn’t feel the cold anymore.  If anything, I was burning up.  When Will finally made his way through the locker room door, Ella took a few steps away from me, arranging her face in a sympathetic pout.  I did the same—it wasn’t hard.  One look at the pain in his eyes put a lid on some of my happy mood.

“You okay?” Ella asked him. 

Will was about to answer her, but Mr. Cruessan and Millicent walked over.  When Will saw his dad, he swallowed hard and dropped his eyes to the ground.  “Sorry game, wasn’t it?”

Mr. Cruessan sighed.  “We’ll just work harder, right?”

“Yes, sir,” Will said, still staring at the concrete.

Ella squeezed my hand so hard one of my knuckles cracked.  I couldn’t blame her.  I’d never seen Will look so whipped.  I stepped in between him and his Dad.  “Dude, you look like you could use a burger.  Want to come with us?”

He nodded.

“Yes, go out with your friends,” Mr. Cruessan said.  “We’ll talk more tomorrow, when things look better.” He gave Will an awkward chuck on the shoulder.  “Be home by midnight.”

As soon as Will’s dad headed for the car, Millicent glanced over her shoulder, then pulled Will into her arms.  “I’m sorry, honey.  You did so well!  I was proud of you—three sacks!  And you know, your linebackers weren’t giving you any help tonight.  Small wonder you got exhausted in the second half.”

You’d think the man who’d played pro-linebacker would’ve seen the same thing, but it took a housekeeper to point out the real problem.  Millicent gave him one last pat and hurried into the parking lot.  Will watched her go, then stared at the ground again.

Ella caught my eye.  “I’m a little chilly.  Think I’ll go hang with Mamie.”

When we were finally alone, he looked up.  “Do you think my parents had me because they wanted a new accessory?”

Headlights washed across the brick stadium walls as the Mercedes glided out of the parking lot.  Maybe it was a blessing my dad ditched us right before I was born.  Better to have nothing than never being good enough for one parent, and an afterthought for the other.  “No clue, man.  But I do know one thing.  You’ve got Millicent and you’ve got us.  We care what happens to you, okay?  We do, and always will.”

He blew out a long, shaky breath.  I knew he didn’t want to cry in front of me, so I walked to the car, hoping he’d follow me when he was ready. 

 *****

Anyone else ever had this kind of experience? I was very lucky not to, but I’ve known a lot of friends who did. There are times when you have to stop and say, it’s just a game.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Monsters and Mayhem!

 In celebration, I’ve included one of my all-time favorite scenes from the Peanuts’ holiday specials. Growing up before TiVo, the Peanuts holiday specials were “event TV” and we made sure we were home to see them.  This scene, in which Snoopy and Woodstock help Linus and Charlie Brown make a Thanksgiving “feast” never fails to make me smile, probably because it looks a little like the chaos in my own kitchen as we prepare our meal. Now, I’ve never accidentally put someone’s ear in the toaster, but my husband, mother-in-law and I managed to drop a 22 pound turkey on a garage floor (long story). We picked it up, dusted it off, and didn’t tell anyone until the next year! Yeah, my family’s pretty awesome.

Enjoy the video, and let me know if you have any wild/fun/weird family traditions for Thanksgiving. I love those kinds of stories.

I hope all is well with you and yours and that you have a wonderful holiday! (For my Canadian friends, belated Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!)

 

Cover Reveal and Excerpt: Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge

Greetings Earthlings!

I’m so excited about today’s Friday Ramble. Today, I get to debut the amazing new cover for MA2, aka Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge. There’s so much I love about this cover, especially the little hidden story details that will make sense once you’ve read the book. I won’t give any of that away here, but Glendon and the Streetlight Graphics team really captured the details of the story with this one. I’m absolutely ecstatic about it!

Without further ado, the cover:

 

 

It’s pretty badass, isn’t it? Hee!

The book should release in early January. Until then, here’s an excerpt from Chapter One. Enjoy!

*****

“Gentlemen, we’re going to be departing the aircraft shortly, so everyone get set,” Colonel Black hollered.

My breakfast rose in my throat. The colonel must’ve seen the look on my face because he chuckled as he drew a black watch-cap over his salt-and-pepper hair. The dude was six-five and solid muscle and, from the look of things, not the least bit concerned about jumping out of the plane…which made me feel like a wuss.

 “Oxygen on,” the jump-master barked. “Eight-thousand feet.”

I sighed and put on a mask like the ones you see in hospitals. We were jumping from high enough up that we had to breath pure oxygen from the plane’s air-system until we switched to the tanks we’d wear on the way down. Uncle Mike explained this was to keep us from getting the bends from the altitude drop.

 “So,” Colonel Black called to me, his voice muffled by his plastic breathing mask, “where are you this week?”

“Greece. Field trip for that ‘gifted and talented’ program General Richardson cooked up as my cover,” I said. “So far, so good. If my mom knew I was really jumping out of airplanes at high altitudes to hunt monsters, I think my number would be up.”

“Speaking of jumping…” Mike nodded at me. “You got that thing strapped on tight enough?”

My hand flew to the buckles and clasps holding my parachute pack to my back. “God, I hope so. Does it look loose?”

On my right, Lieutenant Johnson said, “Kid, the major’s just yanking your chain. You tighten those straps any more and you’ll cut off your own arm.” His laugh rumbled louder than the engine. “Stop worrying so much. You’re ready for this.”

“I’ve only done practice jumps, not combat.” I settled back against the wall and glared at Uncle Mike. “Just because you’ve jumped out of a perfectly good airplane into mountains doesn’t mean I have. I’m allowed to be extra careful.”

Mike’s brown eyes crinkled up at the corners. Mine did the same thing when I was laughing at someone else. “Chief, what did you think being part of the 10th Airborne meant? The word ‘Airborne’ kind of gives it away.”

Schmitz, my hunting instructor, piled on. “Hooah, Major Tannen. We live to jump, sir!”

“That mean you’re going second today, Master Sergeant?” Mike yelled.

“Amen to that, sir!” Schmitz danced in his seat a little. The smallest member of our squad, Schmitz was wiry and less than medium height, his hair a five-o’clock shadow barely hiding his skull. He also practically buzzed with energy. “You hear that, ladies? I get to go second.”

“Not sure that’s a good idea, man. You’re so short, we won’t be able to spot you in the snow and one of us is bound to land on you,” Lieutenant Johnson said.

Schmitz made a face but his retort was cut off because the jump-master stood to start the ready-protocol. Using a special set of hand signals, he motioned for us to prepare. The roar of the engines changed pitch and I felt the plane jerk as the pilots slowed so they could kick us out.

The jump-master gestured for us to stand and hook our parachutes to the anchor cable, shouting, “Green in ninety seconds.”

“You heard the man. Last check on equipment,” Colonel Black yelled.

My stomach did flips. “When do I go?”

“I’ll go first, then Schmitz, then you,” Uncle Mike said. He wasn’t kidding around anymore—his voice was tight and sharp. “Johnson will come behind you. Then the rest of the team.”

We took off our oxygen masks, lined up and clipped our chute lines to the wire suspended from the side of the plane. Schmitz was right in front of me, behind Mike, standing with his head bowed.

“Our Lady, bless us and keep us,” he murmured. “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” He did the sign of the cross then let loose a bloodcurdling “Hooooo-aaaahhhh!”

The praying didn’t calm me down much. Too late to back out now, though, because the ramps at the rear of the aircraft opened. The sky yawned through the wide-open hatch and sunlight glinted off the metal around the edges of the ramps.

The jump-master signaled “stand by.”

Oh, man, this was it.

Mike turned around, his face totally intense. “Yellow light. Masks on.”

I slapped my jump-mask into place on my helmet and a plastic smell invaded my nostrils as the oxygen started to flow from my reserve tank. Shouts of “Hooah” came from every which way, while my heart slammed around like a marlin caught in a net.

“Countdown!” the jump-master shouted. “In five…four…three…two…one. Green light. Go, go, go!”

Mike ran down the ramp, dragging his chute line, then leapt from the airplane with hands folded over his reserve chute’s ripcord. By the book. Seconds later, his chute opened.

Schmitz followed, screaming “Geronimo, you mother…!”

The last of whatever he had to say got drowned out in the howling wind.

Johnson gave me a shove. “Go, kid!”

I drew a huge breath and held it, ran, jumped, soared off the ramp just like I’d been taught in jump school. I braced myself for the pull of the chute as it slowed me down.

The tug never came.

My parachute didn’t open.

 

Matt’s Top Ten Monster List

It’s Monster Tuesday on Monsters and Mayhem, so I thought it might be funny to ask my favorite monster hunter what his favorite monsters are…

 

Hey everybody, my name’s Matt Archer…and I hunt monsters.  Heh, that sounds familiar.  Anyway, just because I hunt monsters doesn’t mean I don’t have an appreciation for them. Call it a professional curiosity, maybe. Just in time for Halloween, I’ve created a top ten list of my favorite monsters. Check ‘em out:

 10.      Frankenstein’s Monster:  Old school, sure, but the dude has bolts in his neck. Bolts! Plus, the guy was made over with spare parts and brought back from the dead by a lightning bolt. Pretty badass.

9.        The Loch Ness Monster:  A lot of people don’t think Nessie is real, but I know better–I’ve seen the intel. Um, oops, I probably shouldn’t have said anything. Moving on…

8.        Medusa:  Okay, this chick has snakes for hair. Now, I’ve seen freakish bed-head (my brother’s hair looks like something mice would nest in); Medusa takes it to a whole different level, though. And she can turn people into stone. That’s kind of useful.

7.        Freddy Krueger:  Retro, but awesome. Those claws and that melted face? I watched Nightmare on Elm Street with my friend Will when we were ten. We pulled it up on pay-per-view in his room when his folks were out and, oh my God. I couldn’t sleep without my closet light on for two weeks. (Please don’t tell anyone. Totally embarrassing.)

6.        Godzilla:  This guy is so freaking sick, he has his own theme song. Just saying.

5.        Flying Monkeys:  You know how some people say, “Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt?” If you watched the Wizard of Oz, I think you’d change your mind about saying that.

4.        Zombies:  They’re undead, and they want to eat your brains. I can’t imagine anything nastier than that, unless it’s…

3.        The Clown from IT:  I will never go to a circus again. Never. But, speaking of clowns…

2.        Just about everything in Poltergeist:  My mom made us watch it last Halloween, calling it a “Gen-X Classic Sream-fest.” I thought it sounded pretty cheesy. Yeah, not so much. The clown attacking the kid, the skeletons in the pool, the dude’s face melting, the girl talking to the “other world” through the TV? Crap almighty.

So what could possibly beat those? For me, that’s easy. See, I hunt earth-bound monsters. Ghosts might be a problem because I’m not sure the knife works on beings that aren’t solid, but they haven’t given me much trouble either way. What I’m not so sure about are monsters from another planet…

1.      The Alien You know the one—anything that can explode out of someone’s stomach then go on a rampage? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. You want to scare the crap out of me? Strap me in a chair and play the original Alien. I’ll never forgive my brother for making me watch that.

Ode to Firefly

It’s Friday Rambles time on Monsters and Mayhem, and today, I’m singing the praises of a show that changed the way I look at SciFi and television: Firefly.

When Joss Whedon’s Firefly first aired (during it’s one and only season–stupid Fox), fellow geeky friends of mine said, “You have to watch this show.” It’s a western. In space!” Well, I love a good Western (btw–if you haven’t seen Open Range with Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner, that’s your homework for tonight). And I love me a good space show. I’m old enough that I watched Star Trek: TNG when it was first-run on Sunday nights after the news. Yes. I really did.

Back to Firefly. It came out in September, 2002…and that’ s why I missed it.  In September, 2002, I had a toddler who, incidentally, now wears a size 7 men’s shoe and stands 5’5″ in his socks. But I digress.  In 2002, I was doing one of three things:  trying to keep said toddler from killing himself with a spoon, changing said toddler’s diapers, or working. If I had time, I slept. Then ate. Then read. In that order.  I wasn’t watching TV, because all the TVs in the house were auto-programmed to show The Wiggles. Moral imperative.

Fast forward nine years, when I had the time and energy to watch TV. I noticed Firefly was in my Netflix instant queue service. Half the people I run with on Twitter were always saying,  “Browncoat-this,” and “Serenity-that,” and “Jayne’s hat, LOL!”  so I decided to enlist my husband and figure out what the fuss was about.

We watched all fourteen episodes in less than two weeks. Yeah, we liked it. So what was it about this show that swept us up so completely, nine years after it went of f the air? Even though we knew once we finished watching those fourteen episodes, all we had left was a movie to tie things up. Why is there a special coming on this Sunday (November 11) night called “Browncoats Unite” on Scyfy, with a cast reunion, and it’s considered a National Geek Holiday in addition to an actual holiday (a huge shout out to our Veterans. Y’all rock!)?  Why did the Serenity panel at Comicon fill up the big theater–in 2012?

I have a theory–damn good storytelling.

“Earth that was.”

In that one line, I was sold on Firefly. I’d pretty much fallen in love, but that line solidified it. It’s just so simple, yet so dang perfect. In that one line you hear several things: 1) The Earth we know is gone. 2) The person speaking isn’t highly educated, and sounds a little bit like a West Texan. 3) There are humans alive in the future, but they live somewhere else.

Three words, and you have an entire backstory.

 That’s what impresses me most about the show–how complete it is. The world-building is extraordinary–no detail is missed. From developing their own slang (like calling space-travel “going out into the black”) to the mismatched technology between the Independents and the Alliance to costuming. Heck, I could devote an entire post to Jayne’s freaking hat. The costumers drew from Communist China, the American West, World War II and Samurai Japan for inspiration, and it made for a unique culture fusion that somehow worked. The clothing also added tiny details to the characters, from Inara’s gorgeous silks, to Simon’s stiff vests and wools, to Captain Mal’s brown coat to Zoe’s kickass leather vest. 

The writing is where the show really kills, though. The lines, delivered in perfect-pitch by a cast well-matched with one another, are genius. The incorrect grammar for the settlers, so reminiscent of Old West towns. The cold, cruel, indifferent lines of the Alliance soldiers.  And my favorite–the way the crew curses in Chinese. What a brilliant way to make a point, and get around the FCC (kind of like BSG developing the word “Frak” — which I tend to use). The stories are full of hope, danger, comedy and pain. And the show is quotable in the same way The Princess Bride is–there are multiple zingers, funny exchanges and oddball statements that leave a lasting mark.

Even the theme song is perfect. The first time I heard “The Ballad of Serenity,” I looked at my husband and said, “That was pretty cheesy. I hope the show is better.” I now acknowledge my blasphemy and find myself singing bits and pieces of the ballad in the car or the shower. I also tell my children, when they get a little wily, “You cain’t take the sky from me!” They have no idea what it means, but for some reason, it’s effective. You can take a listen here:

 

So now I’m a Browncoat, and proud of it. The funny thing is that I wrote a post-apocalyptic YA with western elements three years ago that I’m looking to bring back out. Fireflyshowed me that this genre-fusion can work. Thanks, Joss!

What about you? Have you watched Firefly? If so, what are your favorite scenes/lines?

The Girl and the Wolf: Interview with Kait Nolan

We have a special guest today on Monsters and Mayhem. Kait Nolan is an awesome writer, self-published author and generally kickass lady. Trust me, if you aren’t following her yet, you should be!

Kait’s here today to talk about her YA Paranormal novel, Red — in which Little Red Riding Hood falls in love with the Wolf and, as a result, creates a curse that follows her daughters down the family line to Elodie, the main character. I loved Red — great tension, lots of excitement and mystery, and a compelling romance–and I wanted to know more about Kait’s thought processes as she wrote about “monsters” both human and paranormal.

 

Q1:  Why did you decide to retell Little Red Riding Hood?

Well, I’m a big fan of fairy tale reboots that do something different and interesting, and I got to wondering first, what would happen if Red fell in love with the wolf and then found myself really interested in the consequences of that life choice—waaaaaay on down the family line.  And that’s how I got to Elodie.  So Red isn’t so much a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood as an extrapolation.

 

Q2:  Do Werewolves hold a special appeal for you? If so, why?

They do.  I love them.  Apparently.  I’ve got three books with them so far.  And honestly, I don’t know exactly what the appeal is.  I find wolf pack behavior fascinating, and I like the idea of mates being something that’s much deeper than attraction.  They seem a lot less, I don’t know, fickle than people.

 

Q3:  Your non-human characters often show more compassion than the humans around them. As a writer, how hard is it to portray the “monsters” as sympathetic?

Not hard at all really.  I have a harder time showing the humans as sympathetic, and I guess that’s because so often in real life people are very self-absorbed and caught up in their own stuff, not willing to look beyond their own prejudices or issues to trying to see the other person’s perspective.  If you take a so-called monster, they’ve always been the odd one out, so I find it easier to make that sympathetic.

 

Q4:  Smokin’ hot romance, Red’s got it. What are your thoughts on love scenes in YA? Is there a line you wouldn’t cross, or do you think anything goes?

There is a school of thought that there should be no sex in YA and that it should be some kind of moral or message that this kind of behavior is wrong.  First off, I think those folks are living on some planet other than reality.  Teens are having sex (whether they should or not isn’t really the point) and they’re going to likely throw those moralizing books at a wall.  With that huge surge of hormones and all the confusion involved with coming of age, I think it serves a far better purpose to show characters struggling with these issues, show them coping, considering, and making informed decisions.  I think it’s a reality that teens deal with and they need to see characters address the issue in a mature and responsible way.  I think the most important thing is not to trivialize the consequences, whatever they are.

 

Q5:  Elodie is a strong-willed main character–which I love. Do you think YA is showing a good trend toward female role-models?  What books would you recommend?

I think it’s a mixed bag.  Certainly there are a lot of fabulous strong-willed, smart heroines out there.  Like Meghan Chase from Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, Aria from Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky, Rachel from C.J. Redwine’s Defiance, Alina from Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, or Karou from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  There are scads of others.

But for every one of them, I think there are probably others with weak, rather whiny heroines that are trying to capitalize on the formula made so popular with Twlight.  So I think it’s our duty as writers to continue to show fantastic, unique, smart, capable heroines to counteract the Bella effect.  Not that all women have to be physically able to kick-butt or survive alone on a mountain, but they should all have the inner strength to stand up for themselves, for what’s right, and to demand to be treated with equality and respect in their relationships.

 

Q6:  Tell us a little bit about your journey in publishing Red.

Red was my first foray into YA.  My background is almost entirely in adult romance (paranormal, romantic suspense, contemporary) except for WAAAAAY back when I was a teen and was writing more of what I wanted to read.  It was a great deal of fun to write (even though Elodie kept frigging waking me up to talk about her issues at 3 in the morning) and has absolutely whetted my appetite for more stories about teens.  So much so that I have two other YA trilogies in mind as I move forward.  I chose to go ahead and self-publish Red as I had my adult paranormal romance because while I think it’s an interesting and different take on werewolves, traditional publishers all have one or more already in their pipelines and were not likely to be interested.  So it’s enabled me to really begin to build a second fanbase among the YA community, which I hope to boost my appeal when my agent pitches the first of those YA trilogies to publishers in the spring.  Fingers crossed!

Fingers crossed here, too!  Thanks for stopping by!

About Kait:

Kait Nolan is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all three of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. The work of this Mississippi native is packed with action, romance, and the kinds of imaginative paranormal creatures you’d want to sweep you off your feet…or eat your boss.  When she’s not working or writing, she’s in her kitchen, heading up a revolution to Retake Homemade from her cooking blog, Pots and Plots.

Kait is represented by Laurie McLean of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency in San Francisco.

A passionate believer in helping others, she has founded a writing challenge designed forpeople who have a life (aka we NaNoWriMo rejects who can’t give everything up for the month of November).  Please check out A Round of Words in 80 Days.

You can catch up with her at her blogTwitterFacebookGoodreads, and Pots and Plots.

 

I Know That Voice

Greetings from Monsters and Mayhem. It’s time for Friday Rambles, and I’ve thought about this post with great delight all day.

Today, you get to meet the men who could read the dictionary and send me into a helpless swoon. It’s time for Kendra’s top-five voices list!

 
#5.  This fellow has a very diverse career behind him, but he commands every scene he’s in. Not just because he’s an awesome actor (he is) but because his presence is so large. His voice is at once both bestirring and reassuring. Seriously, what did you expect from a man who played God? For your consideration: Mr. Morgan Freeman.

 

 

#4.  This man has voiced both Eeyore and Optimus Prime. His voice-work resume is longer than a gang-banger’s rap sheet and far more interesting….may I present Mr. Peter Cullen:

 

 

#3 Oh, he’s a newcomer, but he is…so amazing. He played a god, too–one who uses his voice and words to beguile as much as his magic. Reciting my favorite poem, is Mr. Tom “Loki” Hiddleston:


#2. A spaceship captain. A wheelchair-bound super-professor. A pirate. A Shakespearean. I imagine you don’t even need his name, but if Patrick Stewart were to promise to read me Hamlett, I’d clean his entire house. And then pay him for the privilege:
 

 

And finally,

#1.  He’s played villains and lovers, adulterers and professors. He can imbue more emotion into a single, scathing word than most of us can in a full sentence. He embodied Professor Snape and turned Colonel Brandon into a sexy, under-appreciated hero. And his voice, to me, is very near perfection. May I present Mr. Alan Rickman.

 

 

I know a few people will ask “where’s James Earl Jones?! Don’t get me wrong, the man’s voice is majestic. Who else could pull off Mufasa and Darth Vader. He’s amazing…he’s just not in my top five. It’s a personal preference, y’all.

So who else did I leave out? Who’s your favorite voice?

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