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Locklear Library: The Prince by Sylvain Reynard (@sylvainreynard)

Morgan and I recently benefited from good book release timing. As we were finishing up our year-long read of Dragonfly in Amber, we realized we would have the perfect opportunity to read the first novella in The Florentine Series before moving on to the next book in the Outlander saga. We read through The Prince in just a couple of evenings and found it an intriguing introduction to the underworld of Florence, Italy.

In case you haven’t read one of our Locklear Library posts before here is how it works. This will be a written conversation between us about our experiences and impressions of the book. We do our best not to disclose spoilers, but we will be talking about the story, and we have no idea what we’ll be asking each other about until now.

Jennifer will go first…

 

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JENNIFER: We’re both long time readers of Sylvain Reynard’s stories, and I know you’ve been curious to see what SR could do with a supernatural series. After reading The Prince what are your first impressions? What do you think of SR’s vampyres and their world?

MORGAN: Did you spell vampyres with a ‘y’ on purpose? SR told me many years ago that he wanted to write a vampire novel and I knew then that he had a dark side just waiting to get out. The Prince was even darker than I had expected. The Prince is savage, and worse yet, unreasonable! I didn’t know if I liked him or loathed him and I tend to enjoy reading complicated characters like that. As you know, I am a fan of creating and re-creating lore. What did you think of how SR used established rules and the new ones we hadn’t heard of before?

JENNIFER: Yes. I did spell the word with a ‘y’ on purpose out of respect for the world created in the Florentine Series.

I remember that we both were excited by the idea that the Prince had the ability to keep others of his kind away from his villa by making them feel physically ill whenever they strayed too close to his home. I have to admit that power could really come in handy sometimes.

A lone figure lurked in the shadows outside the Prince’s villa, which overlooked the city of Florence. From the villa’s windows, one could enjoy an incredible view of the skyline – even at night.

Not that the figure was able to enjoy that prospect.

The Prince used strange magic to repel others of his kind, or so the figure averred. Half a block from the villa, which was more like a fortress, he felt nauseated and uneasy, his muscles twitching. No wonder the Prince had ruled the city for so long. No one was able to set foot inside his gates, let alone challenge him physically.

Much of the vampyre lore I observed in The Prince was not unfamiliar, but I did enjoy how SR put a special twist on some of the usual vampyre rules. The moment when the Prince visits Santa Maria Novella and the Spanish Chapel stands out in my memory. I found myself replaying that scene over and over as I read The Raven. To me, it was an outstanding opportunity to study the true character of the Prince.

I heard you chuckling quite a bit whenever the Prince offered his unsolicited opinions about my beloved Professor Gabriel O. Emerson. May I ask what was so funny?

MORGAN: It was clear to me that SR was making the conversation between the Professor and Julia sickeningly sweet and I liked how it annoyed the Prince. I related to his character in those moments by wanting to kill them myself. I’m glad you brought up the “warding” of places to keep other vampires away. It was a cool bit of writing that I had never encountered before. I get the feeling that Aoibhe will have a bigger role to play in future books. What do you think about her?

“How does it feel to be dead, my lord?” Aoibhe addressed him in English as she entered his private rooms near the Council chamber.

He was seated in a tall wingbacked chair, perusing a leather-bound volume of Machiavelli and listening to medieval music, which he found soothing.

“A better question would be how does it feel to be dead again?”

Aoibhe laughed.

“There are many kinds of death. The littlest of them is my favorite.” She gave him a heated look.

He lifted his eyebrows but said nothing.

“I see you have yet to go into hiding.” She regarded his lavishly decorated apartment with appreciation.

“I wished to retrieve a few items.” He pointed to some books and a couple of manuscripts that he’d placed on a nearby table.

“When was the last time you fed, my lord?”

“Why?”

“I have procured sustenance for you. Someone lovely.”

“This is irregular.” The Prince’s eyes narrowed. “To what do I owe your generosity?”

“I’m glad you’re still alive.”

The Prince took a moment to examine her features.

She was beautiful and strong and very, very ambitious. He wondered if she resented Niccolo’s elevation. At the moment, it seemed clear she wanted something: he simply wasn’t able to discern what it was.

JENNIFER: This is probably a good time for us to mention that while I went on to read The Raven, you haven’t yet had the time to do so. There are a few things I know about Aoibhe now that you don’t, and yes I would say your instincts about her are correct. A few weeks ago, I mentioned online that I thought Aoibhe was a scene stealer (along with who knows what else). She is a fascinating character and, truthfully speaking, I’d love to see a novella that focuses on her. She is cunning and ambitious and I think she has a deeper hold on the Prince that he’s willing to admit to anyone, even himself.

Having read the Gabriel’s Inferno series, we’ve become more familiar with Florence, Italy over the past few years. What did you think of SR’s decision to expand on the setting by populating it with an underworld of vampyres?

MORGAN: He used his setting well, and didn’t just describe its beauty, but its grit. An historic and art filled city, Florence makes for a great place to tell any story; but this one in particular was aided by its magnificent backdrop. It was the Prince who stole the show, however, with his consuming arrogance and his insurmountable power. He captivated me. He is bloodthirsty, and not just because he’s a vampire. There is a rage inside him, a need for satisfaction even though his logic is unjustified. I’ve been wanting to ask you questions about The Raven and whether or not the Prince gets called out on his mindset, but since this is a post about the novella, I’ll restrain myself.

Do you like this new direction SR is taking as a writer, moving from romance to life and death supernatural drama? Does his exploration of evil up the ante for future books?

JENNIFER: I’ve been a fan of supernatural stories for most of my life, so I’ve been looking forward to The Florentine Series for a while now. Although it was tempting to devour the story, I forced myself to read The Raven slowly. There is so much I’d love to talk to you about, so I hope you get the chance to read it soon. I can say with confidence that if you enjoyed your introduction with The Prince, then you would definitely like The Raven. In the novella, the Prince witnesses a private moment between the Emersons that stays with him and this begins to influence his choices during The Raven. I find the complexity of his character absorbing. The Prince’s vampirism is a trait that cannot be ignored, but I see it as merely one aspect of a very complicated individual. There is still plenty of romance within the story, so fans of the Professor shouldn’t be disappointed in that regard; and yes, I think SR’s exploration on the themes of justice and mercy have made for a compelling read. I’m very much looking forward to the next two books.

If you’ve enjoyed our talk today and would like to look up Sylvain Reynard and his works, here is the Goodreads link for you to check out.

Please also feel free to friend us on Goodreads to see what else we’re reading and to share your recommendations with us.

Morgan  Jennifer

See you soon and thanks for reading!

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Wordslinger: 1st Person vs. 3rd Person

Wordslinger first began in December 2011 as a monthly series of writers’ essays for the Bookish Temptations website. In this column, Morgan explores the many elements of fiction and offers tips on how to get the most out of the proverbial pen. After three years, Morgan wrote his final Wordslinger post in 2014, but we’ve decided to take a walk down Memory Lane and re-post the column here. The pop culture references may now appear dated, but the writing advice is timeless. Enjoy!

 

Originally posted on the Bookish Temptations website,  January 2012:

 

This is my second post to Bookish Temptations and my first as a monthly contributor.  I am very excited to begin and my goal with these continued submissions is to explore the things that matter to us as readers and writers.  To that end I have chosen as my first topic of the new year:

1st person vs. 3rd person

Some writers like to tell stories from a more personal point of view, while others like to introduce details and insights that a single person might not notice or record in their narrative.

Readers likewise have habits and desires concerning how stories are told to them.  For some the narrative style is mandatory, for others it is barely noticed.  I will therefore referee three rounds between the two most commonly used styles.

Before I begin I would like to share my methodology with you; I regularly write in both 1st and 3rd person and although I studied literature at Portland State University, I will mostly be using research and interviews I’ve done for this project alone.  (I wanted to make sure that current trends were accurately represented and PSU was a looooong time ago).

Round One: Definition

Even if you already know the definition of the three types of literary narrative styles, please indulge me as I frame it up.

1st Person storytelling speaks from the “I” point of view, as in, “I grabbed the monkey bars and wondered if my small hands would hold me, let alone carry me across the imaginary lava pit I had installed just that morning.”

3rd person storytelling speaks from the “he/she” point of view, (omniscient if you will) as in, “She held his face to the gravel with her unlaced boot.  His smirk was now painted on the rocks in a bloody tribute to her rebellion.”

There is of course a 2nd person storytelling style and that is speaking directly to “you”, as in, “If you want to get the best tasting watermelons, choose ones with a yellow bellies; This insures that you have chosen melons that have not been disturbed as they ripened.”  As you can see this

style of writing is seldom useful outside of toy assembly instructions and the hokey pokey.  Interestingly enough, these “Wordslingers” submissions tend to lapse into the 2nd person style from time to time.  (Reread the first sentence under Round One header, it starts with 2nd person and ends with 1st person yet it is a completely acceptable sentence structure).

By definition alone, 3rd person storytelling allows the writer more avenues to explore and therefore puts the them in the best position creativity.  This is merely a matter of access to information that can be shared with the reader.  So, while the fight is not over, round one goes to 3rd person.

Round Two:  Application

Using a personal method of telling a story like 1st person gives the writer more access to the kind of intimacy that makes characters seem completely real.  And while the same level of depth can be achieved in a 3rd person narrative, the confined emotions of one person will always jump off the page with greater charge.

1st person has a way of drawing the reader in and putting them at ease because they can usually assume that the storyteller will make it through okay.  (Ironically, that’s only sometimes true).

Writers want to create a world for the reader to get lost in and telling a story in 1st person is the equivalent of having an arm around the readers shoulder as you share an eye witness account.

It also lends credibility to the story when it is coming from a witness, even though the witness is also fiction.

Therefore, round two goes to 1st person.

Round 3:  Communication

Writers not only need to convey depth of character but they need to tell a story and that must remain key.  If you lose your story you lose your story.

Characters in 1st person stories are all to often forced to “find out” things the writer needs the reader to know and this can become very transparent and hurt your story more than it helps.  Sometimes the best thing to do is to find a way around it altogether or turn it into a moment of discovery for reader and character alike.

While 3rd person may not be able to delve into the sorrows of one single character as efficiently, it can communicate story points far easier and readers do not appreciate being confused.  3rd person also has the authority to jump in and out of characters and paint a more vivid emotional picture.

3rd person is certainly more difficult to master.  A writer can get themselves tangled in all the information that is available to share.  I myself am like a goldfish in that way and find 3rd person writing sometimes overwhelming.  It also and promotes writer’s block more than the 1st person style does.

Still, round three goes to 3rd person because in the end we need to communicate as effectively as possible.

It’s not a knockout and some of you may still maintain that there was never even a reason to debate the issue but 3rd person is the winner of the match.

More importantly, 3rd person is what is most commonly used in the big leagues.  90 percent of all novels are written that way and must be mastered if one is going to write professionally.

Stephenie Meyer is a recent example of how there are always exceptions and it shows that in the end this is all just personal preference.  Like our taste in music or pie it should remain un-judged and accepted.

I prefer writing in third person but seek out 1st person opportunities because of the challenges they offer.  As I mentioned in last month’s post, I have even written a story told from the perspective of a cat because I enjoy telling stories from interesting perspectives.  (I heard that the movie War Horse is told from the horse’s perspective but I’m not certain if it’s true).  3rd person appeals to me more often because I like giving the reader information that my characters don’t have.  It can create a very interesting relationship between the reader and the people they are following through the story.

As long as you choose to celebrate fiction you are making the wise decision as far as I’m concerned and just because more people do something one way doesn’t make it right for you.  Read what makes you feel good, write what you makes you feel good and you will be get more out As long as you choose to celebrate fiction you are making the wise of your fiction in the end.

Also, that was not a bunch of crap about choosing good watermelons.  I know it’s not the season yet but you’ll thank me next summer when you are eating juicy yellow bellied melons.

Your Pal,

Morgan Locklear

Locklear Library: Dragonfly In Amber by Diana Gabaldon

It’s hard to believe but, it’s been a year since our last Locklear Library installment. We really enjoy this segment and have wanted to do much more with it than we have; but therein lies the problem. Those Outlander books are big!

We read books together, which is to say that Jennifer reads them aloud while Morgan plays stick figure golf on his phone. Dragonfly In Amber, the second book in the Outlander series, is big enough to be mistaken for a family bible and we also had our hands full with the editing and publishing or our own novel. Needless to say, it was a long year that went by in a short time but during that time we have made a ton of Outlander (and OutMANder) friends.

To refresh your memory (and ours), this post will be a written conversation between us about our experiences and impressions of the book. We do our best not to disclose spoilers, but we will be talking about the story, and we have no idea what we’ll be asking each other about until now.

Morgan will go first…

 

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MORGAN: Before we began reading, you warned me that Dragonfly In Amber was written differently than Outlander. This is, of course, due to the fact that the story is bookended by narrative that takes place in two different times. How did you find this change in tone and tense served the novel?

JENNIFER: It was a bold, yet essential decision for the saga to include third person narrative in addition to the continuation of Claire’s first person perspective. The plot broadens so much in Dragonfly In Amber and goes far beyond Claire’s supernatural experiences and her love story with Jamie. Claire’s limited perspective couldn’t possibly cover all of the important plot points that occur in the second book. I also think the change in narrative style sets the perfect tone for Voyager, the third book in the series.

“Roger followed Brianna toward the front of the room, watching the curling tendrils that escaped from her braid to coil damply on her neck.

All that remained now at the front of the kirk was a plain wooden ledge above the hole where the altarstone had been removed. Still, Roger felt something of a quiver up his spine as he stood beside Brianna, facing the vanished altar.

The sheer intensity of his feelings seemed to echo in the empty space. He hoped she couldn’t hear them. They had known each other barely a week, after all, and had had scarcely any private conversation. She would be taken aback, surely, or frightened, if she knew what he felt. Or worse yet, she would laugh.”

As we progressed through Dragonfly In Amber, I noticed your attitude toward Roger (Mackenzie) Wakefield shift significantly throughout the story. You definitely had varying reactions to his character, so I’d like to hear your thoughts about him.

MORGAN: I was getting pretty bored with the first several chapters of Dragonfly In Amber. I wanted to get back to the story in the past, and Roger’s character didn’t exactly jump off the page at the beginning. However, when Claire told her tale to Roger and Brianna, and then revealed how his own past was wrapped up in the story, I was thrilled to see the future world of the story finally connect with the past. Roger is a dry fellow, and I wonder how much more we are going to see of him and his ancestors.

Speaking of ancestors, I was surprised to see how Geilie fit back into the story. Dragonfly In Amber ended well with her having a big moment that (for me) changed everything. What do you think of her? Does Claire finally get a BFF?

JENNIFER: Having read a bit further into the series than you, it’s possible I already know the answer to that question. And you know me; I don’t like to post spoilers. I would simply say that all the characters (Claire included) held a certain level of distrust for Geilie and that should probably be kept in mind going forward.

It was fun watching your reaction to Geilie’s re-appearance in Dragonfly In Amber. As someone who doesn’t know happens after the end of Book Two, I’m curious to hear what your theories are about her?

MORGAN: Well, I am currently processing the fact that when Geilie went through the rocks in 1968 she arrived in the past BEFORE Claire got there, even though Claire went through in1947. I predict that both Claire and Brianna will go back together and Roger might even accompany them, owing to the perceived bad parenting decision to take one’s daughter to Rapeville.

No matter what happens, I know I’ll be hooked because the author, Diana Gabaldon, has really found her voice and is crafting some of the most interesting historical fiction I’ve read since Ken Follet’s, Pillars of the Earth. Has Outlander become your new favorite series, outstripping even Twilight and Harry Potter?

JENNIFER: I have so much personal emotional investment in my Twilight reading experience that I think I just have to put that series aside completely in order to objectively answer your question.

I loved reading the Harry Potter books, but I could finish them and walk away not worrying too much about what else I might be missing out on. I do think Outlander will stand out as one of the best books series I’ll ever read simply because I was immediately willing to go back and re-read these books with you. And this is no slight commitment. It took us over a year to finish reading the first two books and we’re only a quarter of the way done with the series. So, I think it’s fair to say we’ll be investing a lot of quality time reading this saga together. That’s bound to be a far reaching memory for both of us.

During Dragonfly In Amber, we were introduced to more of Jamie Fraser’s family. I noticed that Simon Fraser (Lord Lovat) to be of great amusement to you. Do you want to comment on some of the ways in which humor was effectively used by Diana Gabaldon to craft a more compelling story?

MORGAN: Ah yes, Lord Lovat, the old false teeth wearing bastard that dared to blackmail Jamie with threats about his new wife’s continued virtue. Jamie burned him good with his reply, and it was only one of the many good belly laughs I had while reading this book with you. I always think that a bit of humor is valuable in a story, and the Outlander series is almost as funny as it is everything else. Most of the light moments come during Jamie and Claire’s disagreements, but there was some political humor in this book as well as some snarky observations of historical irony.

I raised my arms, reaching behind my head to gather my hair into a bun. Suddenly Jamie leaned forward and grasped my wrist, pulling my arm into the air.

“What are you doing?” I said, startled.

“What have you done, Sassenach?” he demanded. He was staring under my arm.

“Shaved,” I said proudly. “Or rather, waxed. Louise had her servante aux petits soins – you know, her personal groomer? – there this morning, and she did me, too.”

“Waxed?” Jamie looked rather wildly at the candlestick by the ewer, then back at me. “You put wax in your oxters?”

“Not that kind of wax,” I assured him. “Scented beeswax. The grooming lady heated it, then spread the warm wax on. Once it’s cooled, you just jerk it off,” I winced momentarily in recollection, “and Bob’s your uncle.”

“My uncle Bob wouldna countenance any such goings-on,” said Jamie severely. “What in hell would ye do that for?” He peered closely at the site, still holding my wrist up.

“Didn’t it hur … hurt … choof!” He dropped my hand and backed up rapidly.

“Didn’t it hurt?” he asked, handkerchief to nose once more.

“Well, a bit,” I admitted. “Worth it, though, don’t you think?” I asked, raising both arms like a ballerina and turning slightly to and fro. “First time I’ve felt entirely clean in months.”

“Worth it?” he said, sounding a little dazed. “What’s it to do wi’ clean, that you’ve pulled all of the hairs out from under your arms?”

A little belatedly, I realized that none of the Scottish women I had encountered employed any form of depilation. Furthermore, Jamie had almost certainly never been in sufficiently close contact with an upper-class Parisienne to know that many of them did. “Well,” I said, suddenly realizing the difficulty an anthropologist faces in trying to interpret the more singular customs of a primitive tribe. “It smells much less,” I offered.

“And what’s wrong wi’ the way ye smell?” he said heatedly. “At least ye smelt like a woman, not a damn flower garden. What d’ye think I am, a man or a bumblebee?”

What did you think the relationship between Jack Randall and Claire, and how it changed from Book One to Book Two? I didn’t expect them to even want to be in the same room but they enter into a kind of uneasy agreement for peace. Do you think it will make a difference in the end?

JENNIFER: As a writer, I can answer that the truce in their relationship was absolutely elemental to serve the overall story. As a reader, it certainly created a new layer of drama and it allowed me to appreciate the complexity of both characters just that much more. No matter how we feel about Black Jack Randall, we know he must exist and do certain things to ensure the existence of Claire’s first husband, Frank.

Speaking of poor Frank, the TV adaptation of Outlander debuted while we were reading Dragonfly In Amber, and I was so pleased to see how Frank’s character evolved on the show for a couple of reasons. Unlike many readers, I didn’t find his early scenes with Claire in Outlander boring or off-putting. I always believed Frank loved Claire, but that due to the extraordinary circumstances their marriage was forced to endure, they simply didn’t know one another like they should have.

I liked that the television series shows us the agony that Frank goes through when Claire disappears through the stones at Craigh na Dun. I also think that when you compare Frank’s character to that of Black Jack Randall, it makes Jack’s treachery all the more evil in contrast. I think by shining a bigger spotlight on Frank in the TV show, it ultimately makes Jack Randall a more effective villain.

Were there any elements of the TV series that you felt enhanced the story as you know it?

MORGAN: Like you, I’m thrilled that Frank Randall has been better developed. Tobias Menzies certainly has landed himself a juicy dual role. It took me a while to get used to Jamie, but I really love the casting. It helped me keep some of the clansmen straight as well. I’ll also admit I was pleased that the TV show was just as sexual and exposed as the book was.

Didn’t you say Book Three has been your favorite so far? Care to give me a hint as to why?

JENNIFER: Well, since we read the first chapter of Voyager together last evening, I don’t think it won’t spoil anything to say that we get to know more about Jamie Fraser in Book 3.

We’ll experience Jamie from something other than Claire’s perspective, and as a result I think there will be some truly eye-opening moments. I really can’t wait to have that discussion with you. You’ve already experienced so much by reading the first two books, but you haven’t seen anything yet…

MORGAN: I remember a scene from Outlander where Jamie got his first real thrashing from his father and afterward he was told to go into the house to let his mother comfort him. When he protested, his father told him something like “It’s not for you Lad, it’s for her.” I liked the parts we read about Jamie’s life before Claire and if book three is going to dip us into that again I will no doubt like it as much as you.

As Jennifer mentioned, we have already begun Voyager, (7% complete according to the Kindle), and will write up our feelings in another edition of Locklear Library as soon as we’re done.

In the meantime, we will be posting another discussion on Sylvain Reynard’s novella, The Prince, in the next few weeks. We read it to cleanse the palate between Books Two and Three of the Outlander series.

If you’ve enjoyed our talk today and would like to look up Diana Gabaldon and her works, here is the Goodreads link for you to check out.

Please also feel free to friend us on Goodreads to see what else we’re reading and to share your recommendations with us.

Morgan  Jennifer

See you soon and thanks for reading!

Pop Talk: Fifty Shades of L.A.

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Quite unexpectedly, we were invited to attend the Los Angeles screening of Fifty Shades of Grey last weekend. Although the trip away from home was spontaneous, we decided it was the perfect way to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and Valentine’s Day all in one swoop. So, we drove to the Portland airport and hopped a plane last Thursday.

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The hotel we stayed at downtown had a multi-level Japanese garden so we spent our first morning roaming around on a rooftop oasis in the midst of skyscrapers and at least one cathedral. It reminded us of a similar garden Morgan created in a story called Brutte Parole. It also brought back some fond memories of working together when we were just finding our feet in fiction.

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Later in the day, we ventured to Hollywood, where there are more size twelve thigh high glitter boots than anywhere else in the world. Morgan always likes to purchase new music any time we travel and he had no trouble selecting a few albums at a huge store called Amoeba. He picked up a few here-to-fore difficult finds for his extensive LP collection, and then it was back to the hotel to gussy ourselves up for the big night downtown.

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It was a major and pleasant surprise to run into no less than ten people we’ve gotten to know in this online community. After picking up our movie tickets from Will Call, the group ventured across the street to the Ritz Carlton. We enjoyed cocktails and appetizers from the 24th floor bar. We were able to place faces with names and enjoyed a fantastic view of the city as the clock ticked ever closer to showtime.

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The theater was electric. People were buzzing like eager chainsaws to see the movie and the sense of comradery was like that of a Comic-Con. We stopped short of locking arms and singing “Single Ladies”, but it was truly a night of goodwill and well wishes all around. Morgan noted that he had the men’s restroom all to himself and Jennifer got a chance to deepen her relationships with already beloved friends in her Twitter feed.

When the lights went down, the crowd cheered. As the movie’s title appeared over the cloudy skies of Seattle while Anne Lennox sang “You’ve Got a Spell on Me” we knew we were about to see something fabulous.

As the characters were introduced to us, we both agreed the movie was quite funny. The humor throughout the film was a welcome relief as the stakes were raised for the seemingly mismatched lovers. The chemistry was clearly as thick as Jell-O between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. His coolness mixed with her shy warmth made a strong tea and the aroma wafted through the large theater.

We were instantly taken back to those long ago days of reading the story chapter by chapter as E.L. James’ updates nearly broke fanfiction.net and rendered Twitter a virtual ghost town every week for about two years. It didn’t take long for the film to intensify as the relationship between Christian and Anastasia deepened. The sex scenes were hot and the acting was fierce. Danny Elfman’s score was perfect in tone and instrumentation as the characters discovered one another. We were all getting hooked on this captivating love story once again.

Many people (who have probably never bothered to read the books) declare that this is a story that degrades women and must therefore be avoided. We feel that it is a story of a man who takes control to maintain his own sanity and who simply doesn’t know another way until he meets a woman who refuses to play by his rules. If that isn’t a story about how strong women can be, we don’t know what is.

By the end of the movie, we were left breathless and wholly impressed with the efforts put forth by the production team. The film looked amazing, hit all the good points in the book, and will put Dakota Johnson at the center of a bidding war for her talents for a long time to come.

Jamie Dornan was good as well. Not that we ever considered Fifty to be a robot, but he was always so intense and so focused on having all the control, that it was difficult to picture him as any kind of normal. Christian came off much colder in the book, and we liked seeing his humanity shine through in the movie. It made it easier to realize how Ana could truly fall for him and care so much about his well-being despite his quirks. Jamie Dornan played his steely persona with skill and according to all the ladies present, had a very nice butt.

(Now who’s being objectified).

Fifty Shades of Grey was always going to be good for us given our history with the story and its author; but it far exceeded our wildest dreams and we will be seeing it again when it comes to our hometown theater.

Those who don’t like it frankly have higher expectations than could ever be met. Even for those who haven’t read the book (maybe especially for those who haven’t read the book), the movie is a powerhouse of performances that will stick with you long after the lights come up.

We wish to thank E.L. James for her continued generosity as a friend and send more hugs to those who we met in Los Angeles. The weekend was as memorable as it gets!

The other two movies have been greenlit, so we will now eagerly await the completion of these sequels. In the interim, we’ll just have to satisfy ourselves with the DVD release, which we predict (hope) will have an unrated version of the film.

Thank you for reading and enjoy your experience watching Fifty Shades of Grey!

Morgan and Jennifer

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Random Fan with Rumer Haven (@RumerHaven)

This month’s Random Fan is fellow Omnific author, Rumer Haven. Rumer recently published a fantastic novel entitled “Seven For A Secret” and we were thrilled to have the chance to chat with her about it.  You can purchase the ebook or the paperback here.

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Morgan and Jennifer: Seven For A Secret is a paranormal romance, but that’s labeling it pretty simply. What else would you like readers to know about the novel?

Rumer Haven:  Great question, as this story isn’t easily placed into any one bucket. While it does have a paranormal element, the ghost’s main function is to join the present with the past, connecting two stories that are more human than supernatural. My publicist has described it as “Great Gatsby meets Bridget Jones,” as it’s half historical fiction and half contemporary, and whereas the historical half is full of drama, the contemporary half is romantic comedy. It’s filled with contrasts like this, I guess, from swept-off-one’s-feet romance to self-deprecating reality. And while young twenty-something and teenage characters drive the story, it’s arguably the old folks who save the day. These opposing elements all interrelate, though, balancing the story out to provide a little bit of everything for everyone. So you don’t have to be a fan of any one particular aspect to still (hopefully) enjoy the overall book.

Rumer Haven: Exposure is such a richly rendered story of stardom and scandal, “exposing” the human element behind the Hollywood facade and paying nice homage to cinematography. Is the industry of special interest to you? What inspired this context for your story?

Morgan and Jennifer: Like most people, we’ve always been interested in pop culture. Movies, television, books and music are all things we enjoy, but we would never say we’ve been obsessed with the celebrity culture. Morgan has spent much of his life actively involved in live theatre and was able to take those human experiences and transfer them to our fictional movie set, but the entire novel generated from just one image in Jennifer’s mind. Specifically, it was the moment when Shaunna Noble quits her job as Kyle Petersen’s publicist, storms out of his movie trailer and tosses all of his clothing to the fans gathered nearby.

Jennifer didn’t really understand who Shaunna was or why she was so angry at the movie star, but it was obvious that the blow up was taking place on a movie set. The rest of the novel was developed around that one moment – finding out what events led up to the outburst, trying to understand how someone could be driven to such rash action and wondering about what would happen to Shaunna in the aftermath of such an explosion.

Morgan and Jennifer: Your novel jumps between the 1920’s and the 2000’s. Do you have a particular fondness for the Roaring 20’s? Why did you choose that era specifically?

Rumer Haven: The Great Gatsby has always been one of my favorite novels, so while I couldn’t aspire to Fitzgerald’s talent, I wanted to attempt a similar atmosphere. I’m also fascinated by the New Woman who emerged during that decade. There’s the iconic flapper, of course, who really pushed the envelope by shortening her hair and hemline and partying like a rock star. But women at large had also just earned the right to vote and were generally shedding the corset of Victorian mores to make more choices for themselves regarding work, education, and sexual freedom. And let’s face it, the fashion was exquisite! As was the architecture—I knew I wanted this story to be my homage to sweet home Chicago, and there are so many structures that were in their heyday back then that are still standing now. They provide an ideal bridge between past and present, and Capone’s Chicago is a classic backdrop for decadence and dodginess.

Rumer Haven: Your novel is perhaps the first I’ve read that was a collaboration of two authors–and a husband and wife, no less. You two clearly make a brilliant team in writing something so uniform and seamless, so I can’t help but ask how you approach this process! What role do each of you play in crafting the content and composition?

Morgan and Jennifer: Those who know us often describe us as a case of Opposites Attract. Morgan is extroverted, while Jennifer is introverted. But despite the extremes in our personalities, we have a lot in common. Writing fiction is something we both feel deeply connected to, and as such we’ve discovered that we work well together.

As a team, we’ve always outlined stories together through the process of collaborative brainstorming. When it comes to composition, Morgan tends to be focused on providing the unexpected, yet essential details within scenes, while Jennifer tends to be fixated on the bigger picture, making sure all the elemental plot points are addressed. Beyond this, Morgan lends more of his humor to the writing process, while Jennifer enjoys drawing emotion out of both the characters and the reader. Overall, it seems to make for a good balance.

Jennifer: As someone who works in a non-profit visitor facility, I recognized much of the behind the scenes action at the Planetarium in your story. I’m curious to know if those sections of the story are based on real life experience?

Rumer Haven: Yes! I used to volunteer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. For the record, the volunteer coordinator was not a ho-bag like Vicki but a very lovely, respected member of staff. 🙂 But I did assist the education department with the sorts of activities and events that Kate manages and loved the experience and institution (and Atwood Sphere!) so much. I was actually a finance professional at the time, but working with the public at Adler inspired me to become a teacher. So in homage to the memories and meaning that place holds for me, I wove it into the book.

Morgan: What is your favorite celestial body in the universe?

Rumer Haven: Just…stars. The whole lot of ’em. Like us, they pass through a cycle of life, yet even when they die, they shine on through time and space. They give us something to wish on, to create pictures and stories out of, and they can guide our way home. Our closest star gives us life and keeps us warm in the daytime, and at night, all the distant stars bedazzling the sky make me feel at once infinitesimal yet integral to something greater than I can comprehend. We’re all made of stardust, lest we forget. 🙂

Rumer Haven: Given my great fondness for Exposure and you lovely folks, I cannot wait for your next book. Anything new in the pipeline?

Jennifer: Speaking of stardust and planetariums … I’m writing a story I’ve entitled Constellation.  It’s a May to December contemporary romance set in Central Oregon. The story begins with the two main characters, Jack and Kathleen, having just given in to the temptation of mutual attraction.  The rest of the novel explores how this one spontaneous event will alter how Kathleen perceives her universe. When I initially began the story I thought Jack would be a man of mystery, but the deeper I get into the story  the more I realize that Kathleen is the one with all the secrets.  I’m halfway done writing the book and realizing I actually have a series in the making. I can easily envision two more books and that has me very excited right now.  I’m hoping to publish the first book later this year.

Morgan: I am currently editing a book that I wrote for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November of 2013. It’s a ghost story called Connection and it takes place mostly on the N train in New York City. I establish new rules for ghosts while reinforcing some of my old favorites and, believe it or not, the whole thing is a tender romance.

Wordslinger: Putting the Y in Twilight

Wordslinger first began in December of 2011 as a monthly series of writers’ essays for the Bookish Temptations website. In this column, Morgan explores the many elements of fiction and offers tips on how to get the most out of the proverbial pen. After three years, Morgan wrote his final Wordslinger post last month, but we’ve decided to take a walk down Memory Lane and re-post the column here. The pop culture references may now appear dated, but the writing advice is timeless. Enjoy!

 

Originally posted on the Bookish Temptations website, December 17, 2011:

**Introduction by Jennifer Locklear**

During the closing months of 2009 as my husband was beginning work on his first original story, I discovered the world of Twilight FanFiction.  It was the first time I had read stories online, and as my time in front of the computer screen began to increase (significantly), he took notice.

When I explained how I was spending all my free time, he took an interest in the fact that not only were people posting stories online but they were also able to receive immediate feedback from readers.  I introduced him to several of the stories I was reading, and within a few days our lives took an interesting turn as he began to consider  posting a story of his own.

One evening after I arrived home from work, my husband announced he had begun writing his own FF. He asked me to read what he had written that afternoon and to let him know if I thought it was worthy of posting.

What I read blew me away and I immediately signed on to be his beta.  I had to see where his story would take me.

Morgan Locklear quietly posted the first chapter of his epic turn of the century tale on Valentines Day 2010.  To our delight, Bella Voce quickly earned readers because his profile page acknowledged that he was writing with an extra pen in his pocket and many females in the Fandom wanted to see how a man wrote our beloved Edward and Bella.

Although I knew he had a talent for music and songwriting, his skills as a storyteller took me by surprise. Not only did Bella Voce include ornate imagery, depth of character and an interweaving of history, Morgan continually amazed me by writing several thousand words each and every week for the better part of two years.

Now that Bella Voce and its sequel, Brutte Parole, have been completed, Morgan is looking forward to returning to that original story he started a couple of years ago.  But thankfully for those of us who are fans of his work, he won’t be leaving the Fandom anytime soon.

 

Putting the Y in Twilight

with Morgan Locklear

 The experiences I have had as a man in the female dominated Twilight Fandom all started because I’m a reader.  I think that if a man does not read for pleasure he stands little chance of understanding the Fandom. But even as a reader, Twilight was nowhere near my radar despite the fact that I had already enjoyed the Mortal Instruments series.

The Twilight Saga (I hate that it’s called a saga by the way) is a decidedly female oriented story, as evidenced by the first person narrative from Bella.  Therefore, it is seen by most men as another romance novel and rightfully so.

I saw the first film and still had no desire to pick up the book (although I did like the casting and the music and Billy Burke was a riot).  Also, I knew that Robert Pattinson was a star right away.  At the time, I did not remember him from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (and when my wife told me it blew my freaking mind), but I could tell that the kid was the kind of actor who, like another beautiful Robert, could end up directing one day.

I am referring to Robert Redford.  He was a gifted and popular young actor who looked too good to be respected until he proved himself with a career rich with wise choices and an unfaltering self-identity.

Pattinson will be up there with the likes of Tom Hanks in everyone’s eyes by the time he’s forty.  I will even risk a few words about the very polarizing Kristen Stewart. Even though she is not my type, she is beautiful. But before I jump off the wooden actress bandwagon I would like to point out that she was cast, like Robert, because they shared many social traits of the characters they played.

So, was she stiff or too good?  DON’T ANSWER YET!!!  I can tell that I haven’t convinced many of you who are determined to hate her and that’s cool, but please listen to one other argument:

Keanu Reeves was a Shakespearean stage actor in Canada who was regarded as the best of his age. (Not kidding).  After a small role in a movie (filmed in part in my sister’s car on the Oregon coast) he was cast as Ted “Theodore” Logan in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

He played his part so convincingly that he found himself only being cast in similar roles.  Has he had some bad movies? Of course.  Has he proven that he is way better than we all thought? Yes.  Don’t believe me? Watch The Devil’s Advocate opposite Al Pacino.

I think Kristen has some things to learn, but that’s why we are called human BEINGS. It’s because we are never done “becoming” who we are.  Don’t believe me?  I’ll tell you what, I’ll put all my eggs in her new Snow White movie.  I can tell she is trying to prove something just like Rob did in Remember Me. And, like Rob, she will turn in a stunning performance.

Okay, back to the Fandom…

The only reason I even considered reading Twilight was because I had decided to start writing a small book.  Because mine was also written in first person, my wife innocently suggested that I might find the Stephenie Meyer books helpful.  I often take advice from my wife – she is smart and witty and has good taste in both books and movies (and men), so I read it.

I gobbled up all four books in a few weeks.  As a man, I found the pacing good and the characters effortlessly drawn.  There was tension but not too much gooey angst and that was good.  My favorite book was Breaking Dawn for one simple reason – it was the first book that Bella stopped constantly bitching about being turned into a vampire.

What can I say, the books lingered in my mind.  I became distracted from the book I was writing (a zombie story) and suddenly switched to writing a story about a beautiful young vampire named Bella. She was living in Paris during the 1890’s but had been turned several hundred years before when she was a nineteen year old nun.  I wrote a prologue that introduced a human named Edward, who fell in love with her when he attended one of her concerts at the theatre she owned. Bella spied him in the audience and intended to feed on him, only to end up falling in love with Edward as soon as they were introduced backstage.

I showed the prologue to my wife and she suggested that if I write the story as fan fiction I would get feedback and perhaps become a better storyteller.

What a great idea.

When I decided to challenge myself with the task of posting the first chapters even though I only had the vaguest idea of how the story would end, I upped the ante and put myself on a weekly posting deadline.  It was the single biggest challenge in my life.  (And this is coming from the legally blind father of two children).

During the past two years, I stopped reading other books almost altogether so I could devote my time to writing and now I am anxious to complete reading a few Fandom stories as well as finishing a few hardcovers that are still sitting on my shelf with movie stubs as bookmarks.

 

Two years later, Bella Voce and it’s sequel, Brutte Parole, are complete. Somehow I also found the time to record an original soundtrack to go along with the stories and I have made literally thousands of friends online.

I can honestly say that it was being a man that probably brought most of my readers at first but like I told my wife, the writing has to keep people coming back for more because the novelty of having a Y chromosome will wear off long before my story is done being told.

I dragged my shy lurker wife into the spotlight with me as she was my very skilled beta and she has since written a short story of her own.  We are now working on a story together that I am very excited about.  It will begin posting on her FanFiction page (RandomCran) in early 2012.

She came up with this cool idea that takes place partly on a movie set and has some great twists and asked me to write it with her.  We have had a good time and I get to write a really bad guy (which I love).  It’s called Exposure and it’s one of three things I have planned for 2012 to stay active in the Fandom despite my biggest project being put to bed.

 

 

Top Ten things I’ve learned since I’ve been in the Fandom.

1.    Women are way more horny than I ever knew about.

2.    Strangers are way more generous than I ever thought possible.

3.    There are hundreds of unpublished writers on fanfiction.net who could go pro today.

4.    Sam Beam (A.K.A. Iron & Wine) is a genius!

5.    I’m not the only man in the Fandom (and I’m talking straight guys too!)

6.    My wife is a better writer than I am.

7.    Seriously, women are waaaaay more horny than I thought.

8.    Everyone just wants to be listened to sometimes.

9.    T/J means Tweet Jack.

10.  French

 

I would like to address negativity as well because not to would be ignoring a factor that has had a lasting influence on me.  One other thing I learned is that some people hate for the sake of hating and fighting back will only make things worse, especially when your opponent is anonymous and ignorant.

I was targeted by a hate group last year because I defended another author they were bullying and so they turned their limited sights on me.  My thread posts were reposted out of context to make me look arrogant (well, more arrogant anyway) and when I went to their blog to annoy them and play the part of bad guy, I offended other people reading and not just the perpetrators.  I thought my tactics were obvious but it backfired and some  people wrote me off that day without ever getting to know the truth.

We all know the truth now, that so called group was another fic author and a few followers.  But it made a lot of people paranoid and ruined a lot of good fun, so I guess she got what she wanted, (except that book deal).

Yes, it still bothers me that people were willing to bash so many others just because a self-proclaimed hater told them to, but I like to think the Fandom will chase off the next one off together.

Regardless, this Fandom has brought my wife and I closer together than ever before and that alone was worth the trip. But there is so much more that we have gained during our time here.  We have friends for a lifetime now, many we have met in person, and we are making more every day.

We have also been a part of many different worthwhile fundraisers and continue to be overwhelmed by the generosity by the people who call Twilight their obsession.

We are currently involved with the Fandom Against Juvenile Diabetes fundraiser and I have just completed a very original story that is told from the point of view of a house cat named Edward (an ECPOV, if you will).  It’s called House Rules. Please visit the blog: fandomajuvdiabetes@blogspot.com and donate what you can to read many, many wonderful stories from some of the best authors in the Fandom.

Our fifteen year old son has Type One diabetes, and believe me the medical field is close to finding a cure.  With your help, it will happen within his lifetime.

I hope this has been an entertaining look at my somewhat foggy view as someone who could have stayed an outsider if not for all the hugs that have pulled me in.  From my wife and I, thank you for that.  If you do not know us, please find us on twitter and say hello (@MJLocklear and @RandomCran). We are chatty, especially with each other.

And now back to my tawdry little pirate sex romp coming soon: “Arg Isle: Search for the Treasure Trail.”

Your pal,

Morgan.

 

http://www.fanfiction.net/u/2252775/Morgan_Locklear

Works In Progress: Los Angeles Festival of Books & More

Happy New Year, Everyone!

We hope your holiday season was a warm and wonderful one. Things were a bit up and down for us, but we did manage to get the Christmas tree up and enjoy some quality family time.

We’re looking forward to several upcoming events as we continue to write our new stories and wanted to share the latest news with you…

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be represented at the 2015 Los Angeles Festival of Books, which will take place at USC on April 18-19. While we won’t be there in person,  Exposure SWAG will be made available to attendees there. If you happen to be in the area and plan to attend, be sure to stop by the BOOK fri-ENDS booth to receive yours!

On January 10th, we’ll be stopping by the Book Boyfriend Junkies facebook page for an Author Takeover from 1-2 PM.  Our good friends at BBFJ are celebrating 3,000 Likes on their page and we’re honored to be included in the celebration. There will be shenanigans and giveaways of all kinds, so be sure to stop by and join in on the fun!

Speaking of 3,000, we’re excited to celebrate a similar milestone of our own. We’re very close to reaching 3,000 followers on our twitter account (@MJLocklear)! We’re celebrating the big moment with a giveaway, and so one lucky winner will receive a signed paperback of Exposure. At last check, we were only 12 follows away from drawing a name, so be sure to enter yours into the running now before the giveaway ends.  You can do so here.

We’ll continue to make online appearances to promote Exposure and will be sure to keep you up to date via this site as new developments occur.

Stay Tuned and Take Care,

Morgan & Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exposure Giveaway!

We’re approaching 3,000 followers on twitter and we want to celebrate this awesome milestone!

We’ve opened up a Rafflecopter giveaway and one lucky winner will receive a signed paperback of Exposure when we hit the mark.

 

exposure paperbacks

This offer is open internationally, so give us a follow, share this post and enter our giveaway.

Best of luck to you and thanks for your awesome support this year!

Take Care,

Morgan and Jennifer

 

PS We are now on tsu. If you are there too, come over and friend us!

 

 

 

 

 

Works In Progress: December events

christmas books

Welcome to December, Everyone!

This time last year, Morgan and I were in the midst of editing our first novel, Exposure, and wondering what 2014 would hold in store for us.

Since the novel’s release in June, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind and we’ve been so happy with how the book has been received.  Being accepted into the Omnific Publishing family has been such a joy for us, and having our very first novel distributed by Simon & Schuster has exceeded our expectations.

Yesterday morning, The Book Bellas, posted their 4.5 star review of Exposure. You can also visit their blog to enter a giveaway for the ebook.

This Wednesday (December 3), we’ll be taking over the Book Boyfriend Junkies facebook page at 8:00 PM Eastern /5:00 PM Pacific. We hope you can take a few minutes to join us for some fun.  We’ve been looking forward to this event for a while now and who knows what will happen? Be sure to give their page a Like.

On Friday, December 5 at 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific, Jennifer will be stopping by the Naughty Under the Mistletoe holiday party, hosted by Lit4Ladies.com. With a name like that, you know things may get a little crazy.

Last but certainly never least, you can also join us for more holiday party fun on Saturday, December 13.  We’ve been invited by the ladies at Hopelessly Devoted 2 Books to join their Hopeless Devoted does Christmas facebook event. Meet us there at 3:00 PM Eastern/12:00 PM Pacific for an hour of Hollywood holiday fun!

We’re looking forward to bigger and better things in the year to come. We’re both back to writing. Morgan is working on a paranormal romance set within the New York City subway tunnels, while I’m writing a contemporary May to December romance set within our home state of Oregon.

We’re working hard to make sure these stories can be made available soon and hope you’ll continue on with us in the months to come.

Take Care,

Jennifer & Morgan

POP TALK: The 80’s Called, They Want Their Music Back

I’ve felt like a teenager again these past few months because there have been a flood of iconic 80’s bands releasing new material. Information Society, (one of my all-time favorites), put out their first new album in 20 years; and on the very same day, Erasure also put out a new CD.

Before I review the aforementioned albums, I should also mention the release of not one, but two new records by Prince. I’ve been tempted to break out the Gumby earring and jump Hammer pants first into the bubble gum decade that raised me.

Spoiler alert: All four albums are good. In fact, some of their best works respectively. Prince especially surprised me with his Lenny Kravitz-esque funk feel. (Incidentally, Lenny also released a new album, and it too is a worthy addition to his already hearty catalog).

If you ever wondered why Prince changed his name to a symbol for a few years here, in a nutshell, is the reason. He was feuding with his then record company and refused to give them any more of his music. However, they technically owned his name so he released material on a different label without it until his contract ran out.

Prince1

One of the two new Prince releases was written and recorded with a new partner in rhyme, 3rdeyegirl, whom I had never heard of but who has clearly been given a high position in the New Power Generation. Their CD, Plectrum Electrum, does not play out like a corny duets album, but instead has an effortless blend of both their talents. The style is all Prince but the addition of 3rdeyegirl adds a valuable and enjoyable layer to his brand of sexually charged songs.

There are moments of pure wisdom as well. I site a line from the song, Aintturninround, where they sing “Maybe the hand you’re looking for is at the end of your arms.”

Most reviewers have preferred the more upbeat and produced Plectrum Electrum, and Lord knows my 80’s ear loves the catchy tunes and bleep blorpy treatments mixed with a healthy dose of solid Prince guitar, but it’s his solo album that I think is the stronger of the two.

Prince2

Art Official Age is just the sort of random album title I would expect from Prince, and the motif of the third eye is carried through this twin release. Prince explores several different musical styles, but funk and soul seem to be his flavor at the moment. (If his hair is any indication he’s reliving 1979.)

Overall, both albums are strong and fun to listen to. Prince is clearly enjoying his rebirth and only time will tell if the radio stations reward his efforts.

 

Now on to Erasure’s new CD, The Violet Flame. It’s their 16th studio album which is impressive enough, but when you remember that Vince Clarke also founded Depeche Mode and had a two album career with Alison Moyett as the band Yaz, it becomes down right impressive.

Erasure has embraced the more aggressive production styles of late and their low end is represented well enough to give the kids something to thump in their car stereos (if any kids even know who Erasure is). At times it’s laid back, but at others it sounds more like the violent flame and I’m happy to report that there isn’t a single dud on the entire album.

Erasure
Andy Bell is in fine voice and it has the best overall flow of all four records. This was of great relief to me because I tend to get very disappointed when good bands produce bad albums. Not this time.

 

Finally, the longest break between new recordings came from Information Society, whose new collection of songs called, _hello world, has one foot firmly planted in the past while the other is stepping into the future of their music.While there are a few unsuccessful attempts on this album, the eight or so songs that I do like are wonderfully layered and jam-packed with interesting sounds and bold beats. I have always liked Kurt’s vocals, and he doesn’t sound like he’s aged a day. (But the photo on the back of the album shows a trio so ugly they could be honorary members of the Traveling Wilburys).

Many good bands are filled with gargoyles. Yes, for instance should have never included photos of the band members because people kept thinking that they were looking at a team photo of the 1988 Boston Celtics.

INSOC

Although I skip around from song to song on the new Information Society album, I find myself putting it in more than the others. The music is just that exciting and makes me want to explore more of it. I hope all of these acts receive enough success and encouragement with these new projects to keep them artistically inclined because I would love to hear more from all of them. (And I don’t want to wait another twenty years to do it).

It’s the simple fact that none of these acts tried to re-invent themselves that makes these albums good. They did what they do best and had fun doing it. As a result, I’m having fun listening.

Your Pal,
MOG