Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review--Lucy the Wonder Weenie

Lucy The Wonder WeenieLucy The Wonder Weenie by Nina Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anyone who's ever been owned by a dachshund will appreciate the tales of Lucy the Wonder Weenie. These small dogs with big attitude pack a lot of love and intelligence into their sausage-shaped bodies.

Lucy eats magic beans which transform her into Wonder Lucy, who helps fight bullying and shows a lot of love to the children in her neighborhood by covering them with wet doggy kisses, turning their tears to giggles.

The illustrations by Sara Pulver are dynamic and vibrant, and the story by Nina Clark captures the essence of diva dachshunds. The only thing that kept it from getting five stars was it's too short! I would love to have seen Lucy's amazing powers in action more in this volume, but hope that it's just the beginning of a lifetime of adventure (and magic beans) for Lucy the Wonder Weenie.

Disclaimer--this book was sent to me by the author, who knew I have my very own diva dachshund. She also gave Lucy's tale two paws up.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review--The Third Bullet (Bob Lee Swagger #8) by Stephen Hunter

The Third Bullet (Bob Lee Swagger, #8)The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bob Lee Swagger appears to come full circle in The Third Bullet. His first adventure, Point of Impact, involved an assassination with a patsy who was cast in the Lee Harvey Oswald role. Now a much older Bob investigates the Kennedy assassination itself, and gets caught up in events beyond a conspiracy theorist's wildest fantasies. However, Bob's age is also a factor. He can't keep pushing 70 and still take down Special Forces Ops forever. I hope Hunter will continue the adventures with Bob's offspring, but perhaps it's time to retire the old man. At least if he is retiring, Bob Lee's going out with a bang.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 25, 2013

Boskone 50, or "How I Spent My Winter Vacation"

Boskone 50 is a regional SF convention held in Boston in February. If it wasn't for this being such a fabulous convention (and the opportunity to see my sons who live up North), I can assure you I would never board a plane to leave Florida and go into Nor'Easter country in winter. But I've been doing it for ten years now, and even with the occasional blizzards and travel delays, it's still one of my favorite trips.

I flew to NYC and took the Acela train to Boston, as usual, and marveled again at how comfortable train travel is these days compared with flying.  The conference was at the Westin Waterfront, as it has been for most of the past decade and will continue to be in the near future. It's a nice hotel, a short taxi ride from South Station. In fact, last year the weather was so pleasant that I walked, rolling my suitcase behind me.

I didn't have any panels scheduled Friday night so I got my credentials and hung out with people, catching up on gossip, then heading out to supper. When we returned the Art Show and reception was in full swing, and I got to view some truly fine SF art, mostly covers from books and magazines, along with adorable, macabre and whimsical sculptures by artist Guest of Honor Lisa Snellings. I covet those sculptures, and have since I first saw them at Boskone 40. It was a lovely reception, with great food and magnificent desserts, plus as a program participant I got a free drink chit. Good times!

Saturday morning was when my work began in earnest. I had a reading at 11:30 and chose a selection from the WIP, [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby. I also learned it's difficult to say "multiplication" aloud multiple times, but I got the reading done and answered questions about the novel, now about 85% through the first draft.

I headed down to the Hucksters Room where I discovered Old Earth Books was delayed in setting up, but Larry Smith Books graciously agreed to sell my novels until Mike at Old Earth arrived. I love the spirit of cooperation in fandom. I didn't buy anything on Saturday, but made note of items I might return to later in the convention.

My first panel was "Going Graphic in the e-Book Age" with agent Joshua Bilmes, artist John Picacio and author Christopher Golden. I was the moderator for this panel and we discussed how epublishing is affecting the graphic novel industry. Are tablets going to be the medium for most graphic novel authors in the coming decades? Can you appreciate a graphic novel when it's displayed on a tiny phone screen? It was a lively discussion and I enjoyed it as a graphic novel fan.

Right after I had "Humor in the Stuff We Read", and I felt I could contribute both as a SF/Fantasy reader and author of historicals with more than a little humor. We talked about some of our favorite authors, including Terry Pratchett, Connie Willis, Douglas Adams and how they use humor to convey serious ideas. The panel was Justine Graykin, Craig Shaw Gardner, Paul G. Tremblay and Daniel M. Kimmel. It was a fun time with lots of zingers zipping past and audience participation as well in the form of questions and comments.

Lunch in the consuite, schmoozing with friends, a tea break, then my final panel of Saturday, celebrating the "Silver Anniversary of the Liaden Universe". Hard to believe it's been 25 years since Agent of Change was first published, and I'm thrilled for the following and acclaim that Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have earned since then. Our moderator was Bob Kuhn who not only led the panel beautifully, but had the foresight to pare it down from its original unwieldy size. I knew, as did the other panelists, that the audience was there to hear mostly from Steve and Sharon and we were happy to help facilitate that discussion.

Did I mention there was a blizzard on Saturday? I wisely chose to stay in the hotel for supper, grabbing a bite in the Irish pub and chatting with other con attendees, meeting new people. This Florida girl doesn't venture out into freezing, blinding white stuff if I can help it.

Later that evening was the annual MaltCon convention-within-a-convention for devotees of Scotland's finest export. My contribution was a flask of Glenfiddich 15, the Solera. I took notes on the beverages I tasted, chatted at length with other single malt fans, and washed glassware since I knew the organizers were shorthanded this year. MaltCon is a delightful (and educational!) break in the middle of Boskone.

Since this was Boskone's 50th anniversary the program team pulled items from past Boskones and ran them again. That's how I ended up on the Sunday panel "The Spirit of the Place", which I'd also sat on at Boskone 48. This year the panel was myself, Margaret Ronald as moderator, Sharon Lee and Steven Popkes. Each of us features specific cities or locales in our work, and Sharon, of course, has to build entire worlds for her Liaden books. For a Sunday morning panel we had a good turnout and kept the conversational ball rolling with the help of infusions of caffeine.

Some of the program participants scheduled for Sunday couldn't make it because of snowed in conditions. This is a problem that we've encountered before with Boskone, and I just plan accordingly, knowing I could be stranded by weather in transit or at the hotel as I was at Boskone 40. On the other hand, they get good rates at hotels in Boston in February, especially compared to summer rates.

I attended other panels between my own: "Harassment and Fandom" on Friday, with further discussion of this important issue as convention runners try to make safe spaces for all. There was also "Companion to Genius: Sherlock Homes and Doctor Who". I confess that I'm a latecomer to Dr. Who, but I enjoyed hearing the panelists discuss these two characters, particularly how they've changed over the years--the Doctor through his various incarnations, and Sherlock in his own incarnations. I also attended a Kaffeeklatsche with author Melinda Snodgrass, who has some fascinating movie deals in the works.

Finally, I volunteered for a shift at the Program Operations desk. SF conventions run on volunteers, and I like to give back when I can.

Overall this was not only a good Boskone, it was one of the best I've attended, both in the quality of the programming and the fun times I had with friends and fans. I'm very much looking forward to Boskone 51 next year in February 2014.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Julia sniffed. “I am impressed you can recite poetry, Washburn.
Rather like a counting pig at the fair. One watches in amazement,
wondering how an animal can do that.”
“Oh, now that hurts, darlin’! I can say pretty things, too!”
He crossed to where she stood beside the bed, and took her hand in
his. His touch was warm, and she gave an involuntary shiver that had
nothing to do with the night air.
He stroked the ball of her hand with his thumb, soothing over the
nicks and calluses raised by the chores of daily farm work. He took his
other hand and lifted her chin, looking deep into her eyes.
“Y’know how when you whack the woodpile, and all them big ol’
palmetto bugs come scamperin’ out? Your eyes are just as brown and
shiny as a palmetto bug runnin’ in the sunlight, darlin’.”
--Smuggler's Bride

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope your day with your special sweetie is filled with love, chocolate, and no palmetto bugs*.

This is the cover of the German edition of Smuggler's Bride. Nothing quite says "Hot lovin' on the Florida frontier!" like a killer pink flamingo looming in the background. I adore this cover.
*Palmetto bugs are giant, flying cockroaches. Google them at your own risk.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Boskone 50 Schedule

I'll be sitting in on some of the wonderful program items offered this year, but here's my schedule. If you see me at Boskone, please say "Hi!" I love meeting new friends and seeing old ones each February.

  • Reading: Darlene Marshall (Reading), Sat 11:30 - 12:00, Independence (Westin)
  • Going Graphic in the e-Book Age (Panel) (M), Sat 13:00 - 13:50, Burroughs (Westin)
  • Humor in the Stuff We Read (Panel), Sat 14:00 - 14:50, Carlton (Westin)
  • Silver Anniversary of the Liaden Universe (Other), Sat 17:00 - 18:20, Burroughs (Westin)
  • The Spirit of the Place (B48) (Panel), Sun 11:00 - 11:50, Harbor I (Westin)

My books will also be on sale at Old Earth Books in the Hucksters Room.
Boskone is Feb. 15-17 in Boston. I'm packing my snowboots and mittens and I'm good to go!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review--Queen's Hunt

Queen's Hunt (River of Souls Series, #2)Queen's Hunt by Beth Bernobich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ilse Zhalina's tale continues in Queen's Hunt, and the second River of Souls book lives up to the promise of Passion Play. The tale is expanded to introduce more characters (and more POV), but the author manages to keep juggling all the narrative balls without dropping any.

One of the best parts of the book for me was the development of strong female secondary characters, especially in the scenes where three women are traveling together, depending on each other and their own skills rather than on a man's assistance. It's a fantasy trope we don't see often enough.

My favorite line from the novel regards Ilse and her lover, Raul: "He does not come to rescue me. He comes to deliver me weapons."

Hunky, and not clueless. Now, that's a hero!

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Rest of the Story

The Writers Alliance of Gainesville (WAG) featured my upcoming March 10 presentation on the front page of the WAG Digest. They included this line from my biography: "Darlene lives in North Central Florida, a convenient location for researching sites of great historical significance...." but didn't include the rest: "...that also happen to be at the beach and serve mojitos."

I mean, give me credit for having some standards!

Anyway, the March 10 talk will be at the Millhopper Branch Library in Gainesville, Florida, at 2:30. I will have books with me and the title of the talk is "I Love A Happy Ending--The Allure of Publishing's Most Profitable Genre". You can read the full WAG Digest at their website.