As a book blogger, I try to use my literary superpowers to spotlight incredible independent publishers and their novels. Unfairly pushed to the side and ignored, many of these books are assumed to be unworthy of a reader’s time, and I hope to crush that perception today. Indie/small press publishers have the unique ability to take on books that will appeal to specific audiences. Experts in their genre, they take chances on higher risk novels, cultivate intense relationships with their authors and readers and publish some of the best books I’ve ever read.
As the year begins to wind down, allow me to introduce you to my favorite indie picks of 2011, presented in no particular order. Each one comes with The Next Best Book Club’s seal of approval. Here’s to keeping these bad boys from flying under the radar!
Lori Hettler's Top 10 Indie Picks of 2011
Us by Michael Kimball (Tyrant Books)
A beautiful, heart-wrenching novel about a man whose beloved wife is in a coma; it packs a lasting punch. Michael uses sparse sentences and first-person narration to work his spell on the reader. Us is a story that celebrates life as it teaches us how to deal with death.
Damascus by Joshua Mohr (Two Dollar Radio)
Brilliantly written by an extremely talented indie writer, Damascus features a rag-tag set of incredibly flawed and fantastic characters who leap off the barstool and into your life. From cancer to the Iraq War, bathroom hand jobs to a filthy Santa suit, this book has it all.
Volt by Alan Heathcock (Graywolf Press)
Volt is a collection of stories that takes place in a small town called Krafton—a bad luck, backwoods-y sort of place that reeks of tragedy and mischief. Heathcock has mastered the art of emotionally torturing his characters.
Prize Winners by Ryan Bradley (Artistically Declined Press)
These well-written short stories expose humanity, vanity, struggle and curiosity at an extremely personal level. Still, there's nothing extremely dark or sadistic here. Bradley captures the painfully embarrassing dysfunction that follows any intimate relationship—whether it is new, old or over.
The Bee-Loud Glade by Steve Himmer (Atticus Books)
Would you give up life as you know it to live as a decorative hermit in some eccentric billionaire’s backyard for $5 million? That is the premise of Steve’s book, where the existence of God, vows of silence and free will are all explored.
Go the F*ck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach (Akashic)
A bedtime story for adults that expresses all of those horribly awful thoughts you think as you attempt to put your restless child to sleep. Have you heard the audio? It’s absolutely perfect!
Alt.Punk by Lavinia Ludlow (Casperian)
This novel is edgy, angsty and right up your alley if you are a middle-class hypochondriac who hates sex. Ludlow reveals the imperfections and ugly truths of life on the road with a punk rock band, as told by an emotionally stilted and sarcastic leading lady.
Zazen by Vanessa Veselka (Red Lemonade)
An incredible first novel that knocks the wind out of you, Zazen is unapologetic and honest. Veselka creates a world where emotions appear more real than the actual situations her characters find themselves in. It's a story that ebbs and flows, that's felt rather than read. It's impossible and totally plausible at the same time.
Piano Rats by Franki Elliot (Curbside Splendor)
From page one, Elliot’s honesty and ability to drop an F-bomb in a poem won my heart. This collection of prose poetry follows a woman who is no stranger to love: She’s suffered its beauty, its jealousy and its brutal end. She makes me want to get behind the pretty words people throw around and find the beauty that hides inside the pain.
My Father’s House by Ben Tanzer (Main St. Rag)
Dealing heavily with one son's worry, anxiety and grief over the slow cancerous death of his father, this novel can be almost too uncomfortably intimate. This departure from Tanzer’s previous work features lighter-hearted looks at socially awkward 30-somethings in a pop-culture saturated world—and should should come with its own Kleenex warning.
Lori Hettler is founder and moderator of TNBBC. She has been buried beneath indie and self-published review copies for more than four years. Her passion for supporting the independent and self publishing communities has driven her to spread the word about publishers, authors, and novels you've never heard of. Find her on Twitter and Facebook. Visit her review page to see the reviews for each of the books she has listed.
Readers: What was YOUR favorite book published in 2011. Let us know—and be entered to win 10 books in a genre of your choice.
Dennis Palumbo is a former Hollywood screenwriter-turned-psychotherapist. He's also the author of the Daniel Rinaldi mystery series, about a psychologist who has a knack for solving murder cases. Book one in the series, Mirror Image, came out a year ago, and book two, Fever Dream, is out today! Below, Palumbo tells us what working as a psychotherapist has to do with writing mystery novels. Turns out, they have a lot more in common than you would think.
guest post by Dennis Palumbo
I must admit, I’ve had an interesting career journey. For many years I was a Hollywood screenwriter, after which I became a licensed psychotherapist specializing in treating creative types in the entertainment community. Now, after 24 years listening to hundreds of people’s most intimate stories, I’ve fulfilled a life-long dream and begun a series of crime novels. The first, Mirror Image, featuring psychologist and trauma expert Daniel Rinaldi, appeared last year. The sequel, Fever Dream, comes out in November.
Which begs the question: What, if anything, does a Hollywood psychotherapist and a suspense novelist have in common? Actually, quite a bit.
For both a therapist and a crime novelist, it’s the mystery of character itself that intrigues, puzzles and continually surprises. As a therapist, I’ve borne witness to the awful suffering, painful revelations and admirable courage of my patients—many of whom have survived unbelievable abuse, neglect and loss. Not to mention those whose lives have been marred by substance use, violence and severe mental illness.
How people cope with these issues and events, how well or poorly they meet these challenges, goes directly to the heart of the therapeutic experience. My job as their therapist is to help identify self-destructive patterns of behavior, and to empower them by providing tools to address these patterns and, hopefully, alter them.
So much for my day job. Moonlighting as a suspense novelist, I find myself doing pretty much the same thing with my fictional characters. As a mystery writer, I believe that crime stems from strong emotions, and strong emotions stem from conflict. Kind of like life. Which means the secret to crafting satisfying thrillers lies in exploring who your characters are (as opposed to who they say they are), what it is they want (or think they need) and the lengths to which they’ll go to get it.
Like the therapist, the crime novelist swims in an ocean of envy, greed, regret and desire. As a therapist does, the crime novelist must relate to his or her characters. Must be able to understand and empathize with their wants and needs. Must, in fact, go inside their heads and think as they think, feel as they must feel.
Since most of my patients are in the entertainment industry—writers, actors, directors, etc.—they present a broad canvas of creative passions, lofty ambitions, wild yearnings and devastating defeats. They love and hate deeply, with an artist’s fervor, and this extends beyond career considerations into the most intimate aspects of their personal lives.
So too the crime novelist must create and endow his or her characters with out-sized passions, hopes and dreams. How else can things go so awry in their lives? How else can things lead, as if inevitably, to treachery, blackmail, murder?
All the things, in other words, that make reading a crime novel so satisfying!
Thanks for stopping by The Book Case, Dennis!
A former real estate agent in a small town near Nashville, D.B. (Debbie) Henson had dreamed of becoming an author since she was a girl. When she wrote her first novel, a murder mystery, her husband read the manuscript and assured her that it was good—but still, she hesitated. Was it good enough to send to literary agents? Instead, like many authors in today’s fast-changing book business, she decided to take a different route. That choice brought her surprising success in eBook sales, a call from a noted literary agent and a contract with a major publisher. In a guest post for The Book Case, Henson tells us how the non-traditional path she followed helped her achieve a lifelong goal of one day holding her very own book in her hands.
I completed my first novel, Deed to Death, in April of 2010. Like most aspiring authors, I had researched literary agents and made a list of those who represented books similar to mine. While searching the Internet for help in completing my query letter, I came across the blog A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, written by Joe Konrath. Joe, who writes the Jack Daniels mystery series originally published by Hyperion, wrote of the success he was having as a self-published author on Amazon.
Prior to reading the blog, I had never even considered self-publishing. However, the more I thought about it, the better it sounded. I knew that it would likely take months to query all the agents on my list, and I might only end up with a pile of rejection letters. I wasn’t even sure my novel was good enough to submit.
I decided to upload the book on Amazon mostly as a test. I hoped to sell a few copies and get three or four reviews. At the time, that seemed the best way to find out what — if anything — readers liked about the book and what needed to be changed. I crossed my fingers and hit the publish button.
I was shocked when the novel landed on the Kindle bestsellers list and went on to sell more than 100,000 copies. Since it was selling so well, I decided to leave the book on Amazon and write and submit my second book to literary agents. I assumed that Deed to Death would exist only as a self-published eBook.
The day after Christmas, I received an email through my website from someone claiming to be literary agent Noah Lukeman. The email stated he had read my book and was interested in discussing representation. I was already well aware of Noah and his stellar reputation. In fact, the month prior, I had written a blog post recommending his book The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile. The day I wrote the post, I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to one day have an agent of his caliber.
Convinced the email was a prank, I laughed it off and didn’t reply. A couple of days later, I contacted my author friends asking which one had pretended to be Noah Lukeman. When they all denied sending the email, I decided to reply. I still didn’t believe it was really Noah who had sent the note. Why would an agent who had represented celebrities such as Gene Hackman, Fran Drescher and even His Holiness the Dalai Lama be contacting me?
The next day, my phone rang. When I saw Noah’s number on the caller ID, I nearly fainted. After I pulled myself up off the floor, we had a wonderful conversation about my book and my writing career.
I signed with Noah the first week of January 2011. Three weeks later, he sold Deed to Death to the Simon & Schuster imprint Touchstone. The novel I was too afraid to send out to agents would be published by one of the largest publishers in New York. To this day, even holding the book in my hands, I still have trouble believing it’s real.
When I met Noah for the first time in New York, I told him about the blog post I had written right before he contacted me, and how I found it bizarre that he was reading my book at the same time I was studying his.
I’ll never forget his next words. He said, “In life, there are no coincidences.”
I’m inclined to believe him.
Thanks, Debbie! We're happy to report that Deed to Death is just as thrilling as the author's personal success story. Readers who have already enjoyed it will be delighted to hear that she's at work on her next book.
Now that you've heard about our interviews, the parties and the panels, it's time for a look at the Southern Festival of Books from an author's point of view. Panelist Sandra Brannan was a first-time author attendee, in town to discuss Lot's Return to Sodom, her second Liv Bergen mystery. Below, she shares her impressions of the Festival.
Standing on the marble steps of the limestone building of Nashville's Legislative Plaza was overwhelming for this fourth-generation quarrier. Being there in the colonnade amongst fellow book lovers made my first time attending the Southern Festival of Books even more memorable.
I met so many wonderful volunteers and staff who made me feel like I was part of the beautiful community known as Nashville and am grateful to all the sponsors, donors and local businesses who made the Festival fun. The gift bag and hospitality room for us authors was so great, and although tempted to sample the goodies before my panel (particularly the Jack Daniels), I resisted the urge so I could share with my family when I got back to the hotel. Three days of awesome hospitality and wonderful accommodations were the perfect recipe for all us readers, and I for one had a great time meeting mentors, fellow authors, fans and many new friends.
With my fellow panelists—J.T. Ellison and A. Scott Pearson—and our expert moderator, Deb Thomas, discussing our sleuths with four dozen readers and fans, I glanced down at our table and realize the crest indicated we were in the legislative hearing room for the Department of Agriculture. How cool is that for this native South Dakotan, a state where the top four industries are ranching, mining, farming and timber? The wonderful Festival attendees—mostly fans of J.T.’s and Scott’s, of course (aren’t we all?)—had so many interesting questions that made our discussions real and personal. I actually ran into one longtime attendee who flies from South Dakota to Nashville specifically for the Southern Festival of Books as his annual vacation destination.
Although the entire experience—from getting my picture taken with Llama Llama to meeting new friends from all over Nashville, Tennessee, and the South—my favorite part by far was seeing all the smiles on the friendly faces of fellow book lovers, a community I am so fortunate to consider myself part of. My only regret is that I missed the first 22 Festivals!
Daniel Nayeri's innovative collection of novellas for teens, Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow — written entirely on an iPhone — will be published by Candlewick Press on October 25. A native of Iran who has worked as an editor, filmmaker, librarian and even a pastry chef, Nayeri tackles a different genre in each novella, from mystery to science fiction.
Using his background in film production, Nayeri has created four "commercials" to promote the novellas — and, yes, he calls them "commercials" not "trailers." Take a look at the commercial for the novella "Brick House," a detective story that features a squad of "wish police" and a team of unlikely detectives:
Obviously, Nayeri elected to do something quite different from most book trailers (you can watch his other three commercials after the jump). We asked the author to tell us more about his approach, which he calls the "Geico method," after the famously appealing insurance company commercials. He obliged with a guest post for Book Case readers.
The underlying problem with book trailers
Guest post by Daniel Nayeri
I've become fairly convinced that there is an underlying problem with book trailers. First of all, it's a video trailer that's usually made by people who have never made a video trailer before. But there are plenty of people in the book world who have film experience, or they make fantastic videos, so it's not just a practical issue. I think there is also the theoretical side. Book trailers as they are now, try to cram 300 pages of story into 30 seconds of video. And since they have the word "trailers" in them, most people expect them to show--in some way--the core elements of the story.
I think that's impossible. It's hard enough for video editors to take two hours of amazing summer blockbuster footage and turn it into a coherent Hollywood trailer. It's downright Herculean to have zero footage to begin with, zero budget, and a massive story that spans hundreds of pages. But that's what trailers are.
So we end up warping the medium to our needs. We make videos that scroll text all over the screen (mostly just the description copy from the back of the book). And we place interesting imagery behind it.
To put it another way: Any decent author probably needed all 300 pages of the book to finish the story. And the best way to experience the story is to sit down in a little reading nook with some hot cocoa and a bunch of cushions, while it rains outside, and . . . you get the idea. The worst way to experience the story is a truncated version in a 2 x 3 YouTube window while you're scanning Facebook. And the most horrible aspect is that people think they have a good idea of the book based on this artificial experience.
Now, a lot of books have such a brilliant premise that all you need is for someone to describe it in a YouTube video. But that doesn't exactly take advantage of all the amazing things commercial filmmakers can do. They're shoehorned into a very tight space.
When it came time to beg a few colleagues of mine to create the Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow trailers, I was still puzzling over this idea. I told them that I don't want them to retell the stories in video form. I don't want them to even think of calling them trailers. They were commercials. And this may come off as blasphemy, but I wanted them to think of the book as a commodity. That way, they're never tempted to rehash the story in a medium that isn't suited for it.
For example, you can't give people the experience of soap—the smell, the feel, etc.—through a TV screen. You just make a commercial with beautiful waterfall imagery, or a funny Old Spice guy bit, or whatever, and then you show a picture of the soap. No one gets the artificial feeling that they've experienced the soap.
That was our approach. We called it the "Geico method," because, well, Geico makes crazy off-the-wall commercials that have nothing to do with insurance, but everyone knows them, and likes them for some reason.
Each of these commercials tries to give a sense of the tone of each story. I tried as hard as I could to keep my nose out of it. The Plywood Pictures guys are pros. They've done this for companies WAY bigger than me. So I said my peace and got out of their way. I love what they came up with. I'd love to see more book commercials, instead of trailers. From a writer's perspective, they didn't mess around with a story that I spent years laboring over. They made their own thing.
Thanks, Daniel! Readers: Does the "Geico method" work? Watch the other three commercials he created for Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow and let us know if they make you want to read the book.
Commercial for Straw House
A Western sizzling with suspense, set in a land where a rancher grows soulless humans and a farmer grows living toys.
Commercial for Wood House
This science-fiction tale plunges the reader into a future where reality and technology blend imperceptibly, and a teenage girl must race to save the world from a nano-revolution that a corporation calls "ReCreation Day."
Commercial for Blow
A comedic love story told by none other than Death himself, portrayed here as a handsome and charismatic hero who may steal your heart in more ways than one.
“My wife is going to a mystery convention,” my husband told a friend. The confused reply: “She doesn’t know where she’s going, or what it’s about?”
It’s about books. And it could be almost any place. Take your pick, there’s probably one near you. For two, three or four days, you gather with other readers, writers, librarians, book dealers, literary agents, editors, magazine publishers–all of whom are seriously in love with the mystery and crime genre.
The biggest is Bouchercon, held in a different region each fall. Just past: Bouchercon XLII in St. Louis. Next up: Cleveland, then Albany, NY, Long Beach, CA, and Raleigh, NC. Left Coast Crime is held somewhere in the west, early in the year. In March 2012, LCC rocks Sacramento, and in 2013, it invades Colorado Springs. Malice Domestic, founded in 1989, celebrates the traditional mystery in Bethesda, Maryland, in late April or early May. Attendance at the "big three" ranges from several hundred to 2,000 or more. Smaller one- and two-day fan conventions are scattered around the country.
Yes, of course there’s a dealers’ room, with new and old books by attending authors. Registrants receive sturdy bags stuffed with free books, bookmarks, postcards, magazines about mysteries, magazines filled with mysteries, even audio books. My keychain still sports a plastic skull from my first convention—I tell any mechanic who gives it a strange look that it’s from the last guy who worked on my car.
Panel discussions dominate the programming. Topics may be humor in mysteries, the search for justice, use of landscape, forensics in fiction—the possibilities are endless. Another popular feature: interviews with the American and international guests of honor. Recent honorees include Laura Lippman, Laurie R. King, David Baldacci, Robert Crais, Lee Child, Val McDermid, and Colin Cotterill. Other events have included a live radio play, short film debuts, movies set in the host city, mystery theater dinners, and tours of mysterious local haunts.
Each “con” gives awards. Another tradition is an auction, benefitting a local library or literacy program. Typical items: signed books, character names, themed baskets crammed with books and goodies from a region or related to an anthology.
Although you couldn’t swing a dead anything without hitting a writer, these are not writers’ conferences. They are fan conventions, and the fans are the stars. Most cons celebrate a fan guest of honor—a librarian who’s championed the genre, magazine publishers, past convention planners, or other readers who make the mystery world a better place.
And everywhere you go—the coffee shop, bar, restaurant, elevator, the necessary rooms, even the airport shuttle–people are talking about books. About mysteries and crime novels of all kinds: thrillers, cozies, thrillzies, police procedurals, P.I. novels, Irish crime novels, Scandinavian crime novels, Antarctic crime novels, original e-books, short stories, nonfiction about the mystery, classic novels and graphic novels, and on and on. It be mysterious, it be game.
For the obsessed reader, it is heaven. And while most mysteries and crime novels do have a dead body—or 10—you don’t have to die first to go to a mystery convention.
I hope to see you at one, soon.
Leslie Budewitz is a lawyer and an unabashed mystery fan. Her book, Books, Crooks, and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books, October 2011), aims to help writers get the facts about the law straight while telling a killer story.
1. Humbert & Dolores (Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov)
Setting aside all platitudes that "age doesn't matter," this great-granddaddy of illicit fiction reminds us that, when the ages are 12 and 37, indeed it does.
We all want a love that transcends time. But then there come those scenes when middle-aged Henry is canoodling with 13-year-old Clare—"breasts and legs and hips, all newly minted"—all alone, with her feet on his shoulders. The gentle reader can't help but get a case of the heebie-jeebies.
The guilty pleasure of reading The Lover comes from its setting in 1929 Saigon. So she's 15 and he's 32. Maybe everyone did that kind of thing back then, over there. We sure hope so, because no book has any right to be this sexy if it's actually creepy and gross.
What, you think his romance is with Bella? Sadly, you've got it all wrong. Sure, the 109-year-old Edward spends the entire series getting high on the pheromones of his 18-year-old girlfriend. But it's his forever-17 body, evocatively described in every third paragraph, that causes wolfpacks of 40-something moms to turn up at midnight for the movie premieres.
She's a free-spirited artistic type; he's big for 15, with that "prizefighter" look. But when the narrator goes all Linda Tripp on her "friend" Sheba and turns her in, the implosion proves much more satisfying than the affair.
Rebecca Coleman is the author of The Kingdom of Childhood (MIRA Books), which goes on sale today. It chronicles a most improper teacher-student relationship that results in a spiraling obsession. Coleman lives in suburban Maryland with her husband and their four young children. Watch a trailer for The Kingdom of Childhood here, or read our review of the book.
From earthquakes to hurricanes, it seems like weather has been on everyone's mind lately. Here in Nashville, it has literally gone from 100° and sunny to a chilly mid-60s in a matter of days. In a guest post for The Book Case, thriller writer Laura Caldwell—creator of the Izzy McNeil series—explains how she uses weather to her advantage in her novels. She also describes how—any why—she ages Izzy. (Izzy's latest adventure, Claim of Innocence, is available now.)
Readers: In the series that you love, do you notice changing weather, or how characters age?
Everyone grows old, right?
But what about your favorite fictional character?
by Laura Caldwell
The Wall Street Journal published an article this summer entitled "The (Really) Long Goodbye" about mystery authors aging their detective protagonists. From Michael Connelly to Ian Rankin to Lee Child, most writers wished they’d made their characters younger when they created them, or aged them slower.
When I wrote the proposal and first few chapters of Red Hot Lies, the first in the Izzy McNeil novels, Izzy was in her early 30s. My editor, Margaret Marbury, urged me to make her younger. She pointed out that if the books kept going, and I intended to age the character, I would want a lot of room to grow. So I re-thought Izzy and dropped her back a few years to age 29. This suited the novel well, because Izzy was bordering on a new stage in life—about to get married—and having her bordering on a new decade added to the feel of being on the brink.
As the Izzy McNeil books are set in Chicago, weather was a natural tool to use for timing. Chicago has the battiest weather—it listens to no one, hears no prayers, but it can really pull out the stops and be downright heavenly. Take this past Labor Day weekend for example. In a four day span, we here in the Chi have experienced everything from torrential rain to tropical sunshine, mid-90s temperatures to this morning’s mid-50s. The first three Izzy books, Red Hot Lies, Red Blooded Murder, Red White & Dead, were published as a trilogy and spanned six months, from a crisp October to a sunny June. Izzy four, Claim of Innocence, begins a few months later in steamy August. Jump ahead to the chill of late fall for Question of Trust, the fifth Izzy book, as it takes place in frosty, rainy November. The sixth book, Art of the Matter (tentatively titled), isn’t written yet, but I’m feeling a blizzard coming on.
If I keep exploring the ever-changing weather like this, Izzy ages approximately 18 months in six books. Which feels right, because I do want Izzy to grow, not only in number of months or years, but emotionally as well. That growth might not always be in the right direction. Like all of us, Izzy takes a few detours and wrong turns. And I know she’s definitely heading into some trouble of her own making. Like the Chicago weather, I can just feel it.
August is all about debuts here at BookPage. We introduced you to 11 new authors this morning, and now we're back to spread the word about another: Tammy Kaehler, author of Dead Man's Switch, the first of the Kate Reilly Racing Mystery series.
Dead Man's Switch is about a racecar driver who is suspected of murder—but the mystery's not all that will keep you turning pages. Kaehler takes you behind the scenes of the American Le Mans Series series, and here she shares how she became such a racing expert. Just for fun, she also lists a few of her favorite cars in literature.
Readers: Do you have a favorite car from a book? Let us know in the comments!
Facing fears at 117 mph
guest post by Tammy Kaehler
Ten years ago, I knew nothing about automobile racing. Today, I’m the author of a mystery about a female racecar driver—told from her perspective, behind the wheel. In between . . . you can bet I did a lot of research.
I chose to write about a lesser-known, top-tier racing series, the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), for one reason: I had access. A company I was working for decided to sponsor a racing series, and I traveled to races to entertain our customers. What I found was a fascinating world I never knew existed—one I thought others might be equally interested in.
That’s when I started asking lots and lots of questions. And watching lots and lots of racing on television. Once I understood the intricacies of the sport (and it does have them), and once I knew some of the back stories, I was hooked. I went to as many car races as I could, talked to everyone and read scores of books, magazines and web sites.
There was still an elephant in the room, however—and that was racing school. I knew I had to go, had to be behind the wheel of a racecar. But I’m a real chicken. In the end, I screwed up my courage and went to a three-day school run by friends of friends (at the ALMS home track). I was terrified. I was slow. I wasn’t good. But I did it, and I learned a lot about what it feels like in the car, as well as what a driver needs to think about behind the wheel. (That’s me in the #8 car.)
In the end, I can say that racing school was one of the toughest experiences I’ve ever had, because I had to push past my fear and perform. To this day, I’m proud that I not only survived the course, but also had fun doing 117 mph on the backstretch!
Just for fun, here are a few of my favorite cars in literature:
James Bond, Aston Martin DB5. Granted, I know more about 007’s car from the movies, but the movies originated as literature, so I’m counting the Aston Martin DB5—with or without the gun barrels behind the front indicators. James Bond was the epitome of smooth, and this was his car, outfitted with whatever gadgets his predicament required, courtesy of Q. And the car is the perfect 60’s cool design. Nuff said.
Mrs. Merdle, Lord Peter Wimsey’s cars. He called them all “Mrs. Merdle” after a Dickens character who “hated fuss.” They were sometimes Daimlers and always expensive. Wimsey inevitably racketed about the countryside in them, scaring children, bicyclists and his own passengers. The cars suited the slapdash, careless behavior he affected to hide his incredible intelligence—the cars perfected that image. And they just seemed cool. I wanted to be driving one.
Nancy Drew’s blue roadster. The make of Nancy’s car was never really pinned down, and I was surprised to go back and discover that her car color changed after not very many books in the series. But Nancy’s blue roadster was as important to her character as her two best friends (Bess and George) and her somewhat remote—yet still caring—father and boyfriend (Carson and Ned). Is it reaching to consider Nancy Drew a feminist icon or a role model? Perhaps. But consider that I, and many other young girls, read stories in which a female was always the focus, always the primary actor in the unfolding events and always the hero! I’m positive Nancy influenced my understanding of what was possible for me to achieve. Sadly, my roadster isn’t blue, or as cool as hers, but I do have one . . .
[Thanks, Tammy! For more news from this author, visit Tammy's website. And pick up Dead Man's Switch—on sale today!]
If you are already familiar with Caridad Piñeiro’s The Sins series—we reviewed Sins of the Flesh in November 2009 and gave away a copy of Stronger Than Sin in November 2010—you'll be excited to learn that the author has a new paranormal series in the works.
Book one in the Sin Hunters series is available today, and Piñeiro joins us again on the blog to tell us about an unusual work habit—she watches movies and TV as she writes. Here, she explains why—and what—she watches.
Readers: Where do you take inspiration for your creative pursuits?
Movies that set the mood
by Caridad Piñeiro
When I set out to create the new Sin Hunters paranormal romance series, I wanted to do something very different from the vampires and demons populating so many stories in the genre. I also wanted the mythology to be thought-provoking to readers by creating a concept that would have them thinking about whether or not it was possible that a race like the Hunters could actually exist.
Adam Bruno, the hero in The Lost, is descended from the Light Hunters, one faction of a race of energy gatherers whose destiny was forever changed by the arrival of the Conquistadors in the Americas and the illnesses they brought to the indigenous people. Adam does not know of his origins nor does he truly understand the power at his fingertips—literally. You see Adam’s affinity is lightning, and he can control anything electrical because of that ability as well as a host of other powers.
It took time to build a mythology and history for the Hunters and The Lost. To do so, I took inspiration from various history books, as well as studies regarding the control and enhancement of life forces and energy. I was also inspired by trips along the Jersey Shore and the connection I felt to the ocean and nature.
Because I’m motivated by visual things, I take lots of photographs of the various locations in the books and I will almost always write with the television on while I am working. I’ll play movies and television shows that fit the mood of what I am writing.
Here are five of my favorites that I hope you will enjoy as well!
KING ARTHUR with Clive Owen and Keira Knightley. Honorable hero and a gang of friends who each bring something different to the mix at the round table. A kick-butt heroine in the form of a warrior Guinevere. Amazing action scenes with one of my favorite sword moves.
UNDERWORLD with Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman. Tortured kick-butt heroine, honorable hero and an ages-old battle of vampire versus werewolf. Futuristic-type action sequences and weapons ramp up a traditional vampire mythology.
TWO WEEKS NOTICE with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. What can I say: The sight of Hugh Grant flopping around on a mattress like a fish pulled out of water is classic. Humor. Even in the darkest paranormal there has to be that hint of humor that humanizes both hero and villain.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER television series with Sarah Michelle Gellar. Tortured, kick-butt heroine (are you noticing a theme?) and unexpected heroes in the form of Spike and Angel. The Scooby Gang of friends. More importantly, amazing metaphors, story arcs and word play that is as sharp as any punch that Buffy might throw.
A WALK IN THE CLOUDS with Keanu Reeves. Lush cinematography brings to life the California wine valleys and is so real you think you could step into the landscape. A sweet romance filled with amazing sexual tension and the conflict of both cultures and expectations.
[For more from Piñeiro, visit her blog. And pick up The Lost—on sale today!]