Full-Circle, or How to Roll When Your Past Writing Goodness Boomerangs Back to You

“And last, and most certainly least…” Devereux motioned toward the last member of the group. “This handsome devil is my little brother, Parris.”

This must be what a deer feels like right before the car hits, Kate thought to herself as she looked at the young man standing up in front of her. To call Parris Devereux handsome was an unbelievable understatement. The man was gorgeous, beyond gorgeous. His hazel-blue eyes were framed by miles of dark eyelashes, and Kate thought it might be physically possible to drown in them if she looked for too long. His jawline was square and covered by a well-kept growth of beard, a sensual mouth with soft full lips finishing off his face. He was slender, but athletically built, though Kate noticed his hands were like those of a musician as he offered one to her.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Gardener.” His voice was soft, yet decidedly masculine, and had that deliciously well-educated RP cadence that was so highly sought-after by thespians and politicians alike.

“Likewise.”

Excerpt from “De Profundis”, Kate Gardener Mysteries #2

It’s funny how you often come full-circle. In life, it can mean going back to your home town, or returning to the arms of your first love. In writing, it usually means coming back to something that was in those first drafts and notes months, even years ago.

In the early days, when Kate Gardener was born (around 2002-2005), the stories and characters went through several incarnations. There was even a brief period when the story was going to be set in London 1893. Eventually, the story came back to modern times, new characters were added and the storylines took shape. At one time, I literally had five 13-episode seasons worth of story blurbs, plus character bios and everything!

Back to the full-circle topic. Back when KGM was just “Yard Work”, and the year was 1893, a character named Doyle was born. Doyle was young, 18 to 20 years old, and a street-smart Glaswegian who jaunted about London and into the life (and eventually, bed!) of Kathleen Gardener.

When the time and such changed, Doyle moved forward, becoming an Irishman with a great talent for undercover work, languages and generally fucking-up his life. He and Kate met as a one-night-stand, and became close friends throughout the course of the series, though the physical relationship did not continue. Doyle was from an upper-class family, despite his grubbiness, and was very well-educated. He was a very heroic character, and I knew that people watching “Yard Work” as a TV show were going to love him.

Now that I’ve moved on to adapting the scripts and outlines into books, I’ve found myself sifting through the notes and bits I made over the past 15 years, looking for goodness that can be worked back into the overall story arc. I wasn’t planning on creating anything new, but sometimes when you start writing, you find something, or someone, and it just clicks. Kind of like real life.

When I was working the other night on the chapter that contains the passage up above, I started out just writing up a simple scene that originally focused only on Kate and barrister Jerome Wilkinson. The context: Kate goes to question Wilkinson about cigars at a cigar bar. As I developed this chapter, Wilkinson went from being alone to being out with some former school mates from Oxford, members of a club (think Bullingdon or “The Riot Club”). This club, and the members, could possibly turn up in future stories, so I wanted to make sure that they made suitable impressions in appearance and personality. I “cast” them in my head and proceeded to introduce them to readers as they are, in fact, introduced to Kate. And it all went along normally until I hit the last intro…

And it was like really being thunderstruck by a real person… And in a split second, I realized that this character was not only going to be important to future stories, but to Kate on a personal level. I realized that, in a strange way, I had circled back to those early drafts set in 1893… back to the original “Doyle”. Sure, the new character of Parris is decidedly not poor, but his youth and charm, as well as his easy way of stepping up to Kate’s side whenever needed, were totally the original version of Doyle. Will the other version of Doyle make an appearance in time? Possibly. He’s still a good, likeable character and if the story requires him to make his entrance, it would be difficult to keep him out.

Another fun note: When I cast Parris Devereux and his brother, Oliver, I kind of pictured two specific actors — Douglas Booth and Tom Hiddleston. Then, what should show up on my Pinterest page?

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Funny, huh? I don’t know if my description of Parris truly does Douglas justice but…

<sigh> Sorry, I just drifted into the cougar zone there for a moment… down, girl… Okay, what was I doing? 😉

Back to work! Chapter 11 calls!

 

Review of “Ice Blue” (Lord and Lady Hetheridge #1) by Emma Jameson

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So, there I was early Monday morning, 4:20 AM, finishing up “Ice Blue” by Emma Jameson… I who was going to be woken-up by an eager four-year-old in about three hours with choruses of “Breakfast! Breakfast!”. The last time I completed an entire book was this past spring, and it took me weeks to get through it. Not so “Ice Blue”! A fast-paced read, the lead characters held my attention and interest right from the start, and the crime itself was quite a shocker, to be sure.
Back to the characters… I found them all extremely interesting, well-developed, and very realistic in their behaviors and dialogue. The interactions between Tony (Lord Hetheridge) and Kate (the future Lady Hetheridge) are the awkward dance of attraction right from the start, and listening to these two as they try to figure each other out, and figure out their feelings for each other, was an engaging trip. DS “Paul” Bhar was a trip as well, a funny and endearing partner-in-investigation for Kate… Some of the things he says… honestly!
So, plot… Had some great twisty elements, but not overly complex. This is by no means a negative. You realize right from the get-go that the cases are not the most important part of these books; the relationships are, especially the title characters These books are about Lord and Lady Hetheridge, and I truly look forward to following them through on their way to marriage and beyond.
Overall, I’m giving this a high rating because it was a great time! I spend most of my time writing (articles, screenplays, books) and, with a child around the house as well, rarely have time to read. I like a book that can pull me in, keep me hooked, and pays off in the end, and “Ice Blue” did just that.

Review of “Trueheart” (Portland After Dark #1) by Mel Sterling

 

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If you’re only experience of “the fae” is Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, you may be a little shocked to meet the real thing here. But Mel Sterling’s “Trueheart” brings the true mythology of the fae folk to gritty life. (although, if you did read Peter Pan, you known precious Tink was pretty cruel and calculating, actually).

Okay, so I preorder this one and read it in less than 24 hours… I simply couldn’t put it down! Overall, the pacing was great… Clean writing, with an obvious depth of research into the subject matter to make the mentions and details of characters and lore of the fae world very believable and acceptable. The good guys (Thomas and Tess) were appealing, well-drawn, and had a wonderful chemistry right from their first meeting. The bad guys were suitably menacing, though in decidedly different ways. My only complaints are that it ended at all and that I have to wait until 2017 to continue the journey.

Review breakdown below (Possible Spoilers, though I’m trying to avoid it)

Plot: The plot can be divided into three parts that involve the main characters.
Thomas, the lead male, is a human/ fae who was captured and enslaved by the seductive Queen of Faeries more than 200 years ago. Striving to be free from his bondage, Thomas does what the Queen wants, including the current assignment to find out who is stealing from her. As to what is being stolen, and why, you’ll have to read to find out.
The second plot track involves Tess, a social worker who is trying to find out why so many young men are showing up in her care with delusions about “green men” and such. Some are reduced to catatonic states, others withering away and dying. Tess’ quest to help her patients leads her to the Underbridge market, and into the path of Thomas.
The third plot is the romance element of the story, and the author does such a wonderful job here. The credit goes to shaping such believable, and lovable, characters. Both have flaws that must be overcome, but the acceptance of one for the other is so beautiful that you find yourself really feeling for them, rooting for them to succeed.

Characters:
As mentioned above, Thomas and Tess are so wonderfully drawn and filled out. You feel what they feel, want them to succeed and be happy.
As to the “bad guys”, which are all of the fae world, their is a wide variety of creatures guaranteed to frighten and amuse. The main bad guy, Hunter, is described very visually (in fact, you get a glimpse of him in costume on the beautiful front cover), but you also sympathize with him in some ways, as he is also bound to the Queen.
The Queen? Vicious and vibrant, bad and beautiful, clever and cruel… We’re don’t learn her “truename” during the course of this book, but hopefully we will in the future, when somebody takes the b*tch down. 😉

Quality of Writing:
Smooth writing style, clear and clean. The depth of research done on the subject of the fae world and its lore was obviously extensive and brings a authenticity to the story that is necessary in a genre piece. In addition, the knowledge of the city of Portland and the surrounding area is also extensive. I don’t know if the author has ever been to those places, but based on her writing she would never get lost if suddenly dropped there. I am now looking at large grass-covered mounds in an entirely different light.

Originality:
I am a newcomer to the paranormal romance/ urban fantasy genre so for me this was a very original piece. My limited experience with anything resembling faeries prior to this consisted of Peter Pan and Tara Janzen’s Chalice trilogy, so the subject matter was fresh and fascinating to me. I found myself looking up things like “kelpies” and “trow” so that I knew what I was reading about.

Cinematic Quality:
The categories I used for this review are based on screenplay reviews I used to do, so that’s why I’m throwing this one in. I think when you read a book, you see it. Like a movie in your mind. And the movie I saw with this book was SPECTACULAR!

So that’s it… Five stars for sure! And I can’t wait for the next installment, “Ironbound”.

Review for “Marking Time” (Book 1 – The Immortal Descendants) by April White

A couple of points to start out here:

I have read all four books (so far) in The Immortal Descendants series, and will be posting reviews for the other four books as soon as I can.

I also want to give anyone reading a heads-up… I will try to keep these reviews spoiler-free for those that are bothered by it (I don’t happen to be one of those people), but I can’t make any concrete promises. Quite frankly, my reviews tend to be pretty detailed, and taking note of some specific reasons why I liked the book so much are kind of necessary for me.

To say that I absolutely love these books is something of an understatement. The last time I was so invested in a series of books was about ten years ago when I accidentally discovered Tara Janzen’s (Glenna McReynolds) Chalice series. I was so in to those books, I actually adapted the first book into a screenplay and sent it to her. Incidentally, she was really cool about it, read it and even gave me some great feedback on my writing that I’ve continued to use to this day.

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Okay… Marking Time… here we go…

I picked up this book because A) author Elizabeth Hunter was recommending the fourth book, Waging War, when it debuted a couple months ago; and B) because it was free. I started reading it and was completely blown away! From the minute the story opens, right in those first few pages, I was drawn into the world that April White has created, and I never wanted to go back.

Saira Elian has lived her seventeen-plus years like a gypsy. She and her mother, Claire, have moved every couple of years since Saira was a small child, and the friendless girl has occupied her life with solitary activities, tagging in tunnels under the city and practicing free running/ parkour as well. I loved this aspect of Saira’s character… While many girls/ women do parkour/ free running, it is more associated with guys, so her engaging in it actually told me a lot about her personality right from the start.

The catalyzing event happens right away… Saira’s mother goes missing, and Saira is whisked away to the family’s ancestral home just outside London, England. Saira’s absentee grandmother, Millicent, tries to rule with an iron hand, but Saira is having none of it and does what she’s best at… escape.

Saira soon finds herself being pursued by a group of nefarious dudes, as well as encountering a handsome and mysterious young man in an Aston Martin. She escapes into the Tube, landing at Whitechapel Station… in the late 1800s. Here she encounters Jack the Ripper, a familiar face from the future… and her mother.

The characters in this book are definitely not cookie-cutter! The minor characters, nearly all of which are connected to the school where Saira is sent, are all well-drawn, interesting, and well-developed. The circle of friends that Saira acquires there are all unique, funny, fascinating, and important. No characters here just to fill space… Everybody has a purpose. The teachers at the school are also very appealing, especially Mr. Shaw and Miss Simpson.

If you’ve every read my blog, you know about how I feel about Archer. From the minute he drives into the story in his silver Aston Martin, through the time we spend with him in the past, he captures your heart. Ms. White has taken a standard paranormal/ fantasy character types and made him so well-balanced, so dynamic, that you almost forget what he is.

As for Saira, I found her to be one of the most charming, refreshing and engaging female characters I’ve read in a long time. She doesn’t suffer fools easily, doesn’t need rescuing, is flawed and funny… Some might find her acceptance of her new life a bit pat, but I think it would be a mistake to judge her in that way. Like a real person, Saira doesn’t always say or do the right thing, doesn’t always make good choices, but her loyalty and love for her mom and the new family of friends in the present and past help her to learn to open her heart to the prospect of not being alone any more. You feel with Saira… her frustration with her mother and those around her as they reluctantly share information with her is palpable… her struggles with adjusting to having friends and faculty who value her presence and care about her is uncomfortable at first… and her relationship with Archer is real and rewarding.

The quality of the writing in this book was, to me, outstanding. Fast-paced and incredibly visual, I loved the author’s technical style and easy dialogue. The text was very well-researched, but the descriptions and background information is fed to you in an engaging way, never overwhelming, whether it is historical or scientific. The time travel element is handled very well, and the author use headings as well as characters reflecting on their surroundings to easy you into the changes smoothly. All the relationships in the book were written very well. I like the way the friendships between male and female students were handled, with very realistic banter and even slightly sexual subtext that most readers will identify with readily. The romantic aspect was also handled very well… Naturally, Saira is only seventeen when this series begins, so it has to be clean, but the author manages to build a wonderful, slow burning romance between Saira and Archer that has incredible emotion and intensity.

When I reviewed screenplays, one of the categories for review was “Cinematic Quality”, and boy does this book have it! As I read it, page after page, I kept thinking, “Someone make this, please!!!” According to her bio, author April White used to be a film producer, so it really comes as no surprise that the story “looks” so good. Having read the other three books following this one, I’d have to say that the series would be better served on television (one book covered each “season”, maybe 8 episodes each) … There’s so much goodness in this book, and the others, that a movie simply wouldn’t do them justice.

So there you have it… “Marking Time” is an incredible debut work! A solid plotline, with plenty of bread crumbs to lead you on into the series; memorable characters; snappy dialogue; well-crafted relationships; a unique mythology; smart historical reference and scientific background info… It’s all here!

A solid five stars!