Writer Wednesday – Janie Franz

1. Who are you?
Janie Franz
2. What type of stuff do you write?
I write fantasy and some archaeology-based adventure. I also have a couple of contemporary novels (romances for want of a better word)–one about Hollywood and one about the music industry.
3. What do you want to pimp right now?
My six-part Bowdancer series (The Bowdancer Saga and The Lost Song Trilogy).
4. What if your favorite book?
Besides my own? Seriously, unlike many writers I love reading my own work. As for other authors I love Stuart Clark’s Project U.F.L. trilogy and I really enjoyed NM writer Susan Slater’s Rollover. I’ve been a fan of Tony Hillerman and, yes, I LOVED the Harry Potter books.
5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I’m a retired freelance journalist, specializing in music. I’m currently a publicist for a NM music festival, and I do a lot of petsitting/housesitting in New Mexico. I’m a mother and grandmother. I used to be a radio announcer, taught yoga and relaxation, and was a booking agent and publicist for a jamband.
6. What link can we find you at? https://authorjaniefranz.wordpress.com
Words from the Author…
The first con I ever attended was a science-fiction conference in Fargo ND. The guest author at that con was Margaret Weis, the author of the Dragonlance Chronicles. Those were some of the first modern fantasy novels, other than Andre Norton’s work, that carved out a whole new niche for writers.
The thing that impressed me most about Margaret Weis was the fact that she was everywhere! She tablehopped when she wasn’t on a panel. She visited with everybody. When she came to sit at a table where I was visiting with a friend, I was impressed with how ordinary she was. She was a famous author, but she was also human and very funny.
For me as an aspiring writer, with a lot of starts in a drawer, I realized that being a published author was possible. People–real human people–actually did it. And that one way to market was by showing up and talking to people. It was a great eye-opener for me.
Many years later, as a published author with eleven titles out, I am following Margaret Weis’ example: Be Present. As a guest author of Imaginarium in Louisville this September, I hope to Be Present as much as possible.

Writer Wednesday – Bibi Rizer

1. Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
Bibi Rizer

2. What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
I write steamy to erotic romance, mostly in the New Adult category and in several genres.

3. What do you want to pimp right now? (May it be your newest, your work-in-progress, your favorite or even your first)
The first book in my Vikings of Vinland series. This historical New Adult series surrounds the adventures of twin sisters Gull and Katla Grimsdottir who, after being cruelly separated, face challenges and come of age in Viking era Europe and North America. The first book is called The Shieldmaiden’s Revenge.

4. What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
Literature – Cat’s eye by Margaret Atwood and The World According to Garp by John Irving.
Fun – Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings.
Smut – I love Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series, Delphine Dryden’s  The Science of Temptation series.

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I’m a cover designer and a busy mom

6. What link can we find you at? (One or two please; don’t go overboard here!)


On Writing…

I know it’s fashionable to be very supportive in our field, especially of beginners, but I’ve got to say, I’ve been asked for advice from a few people who seem to have no aptitude for writing whatsoever. I try to be nice but I’m often left wondering what on earth made this person think they should be a writer? They claim to be “passionate” about it (but often lack enough passion to do even very cursory research into the field) but where on earth does this passion come from? It would be as though I suddenly developed a passion for ballet dancing or playing Aussie Rules Football. I do think that writing can be learned (as can ballet and football) but surely that learning should build on some innate talent that it already there? I mean, this is why I took up writing.

People often ask me “why do you write?” They formulate this question in many of different ways, and I think there is a lot of dewy eyed fascination about writers and their “passion”. The truth is, many of the most successful writers will happily tell you they write because it’s the only thing know how to do, because it’s the best way for them to earn money and because they’re good at it. Why do I write? Because I’m good at it. I won the first short story contest I ever entered. I sold my very first screenplay for six figures. I got a two book deal on my first YA book.

I’ve tried a lot of other things I’m “passionate” about. I love psychology and helping people and I tried to be a counselor but I suck at it. I’m into business, computer programs all that office management stuff like Powerpoint and Excel but I suck at office work – I’m far too anti-social and disorganized. I love fashion but I can’t follow a pattern. I love love LOVE performing music, but I’m really not that great a singer.

But I’m a good writer, and late in life I’ve discovered that I don’t suck at book cover design. Who knew?

So my advice, not just to newbie writers but to everyone, is this: find something you’re good at, and be passionate at that.

Writer Wednesday – Lola Grace Stevens

1. Who are you? Lola Grace Stevens 
2. What type of stuff do you write? Historical Western Romance
3. What do you want to pimp right now? ‘The Redemption-Bren’s Story’, released on December 23, but I’d love to have my upcoming book mentioned ‘The Debt-Gavin’s Story
4. What is your favorite book? Harry Potter series, Anne of Green Gables series, Bridgerton Series- I’m a series junkie LOL
5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat? Wife and mother, also homeschool teacher for now.
6. What link can we find you at? Website- Home lolagracestevens.com & FB- Author Lola Grace Stevens
I learned how to read before I was even three years old. It was my way to escape from the world I was living in, which was filled with abuse and terror. Books were what saved me. I read a lot of books through the years, but one day I found a book that the library was throwing out. The cover was half-torn and the pages were yellow. It was crazy, because the book didn’t seem like it was that old. I decided to take it home.
My foster mother was furious, see as a foster child I wasn’t supposed to own my own books. At least the home I was in at the time. I was about eight years old. Anyway, this book was called ‘The Lottery Rose’ by Irene Hunt. It was the first book where I felt like I was reading about me in the beginning and then… I just saw this kids life change. It made me wonder if I could change my life too.
Could I overcome growing up in foster care? Could I overcome the abuse I had suffered, and find my own happy ending? Was it possible anyone could love someone who was as damaged as I was?
Those were questions I asked myself constantly as I grew older. My favorite brother died when I was 10 and I read this book again. I cried as I read about Georgie leaving his beloved rosebush at Robin’s grave, and I knew I was going to be all right. Maybe not that day, but eventually.
I made it through hell, and I came out on the other side stronger than I could have imagined. I have a wonderful husband, and three beautiful children. Books saved me life, but this book was different. In some ways I feel like it healed my soul.

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (HP5)
JK Rowling
US version Hardback – 2003

There is something especially quaint (ahem) about checking a children’s book out of the library that is so big and heavy you almost need somebody to carry it for you. But alas, here is the longest of the HP novels. Especially when there’s very little content in the book to talk about (side note – this is the shortest movie of all 8, which is saying something since its the longest book at 870 pages [US version]).

For Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts, the book starts out with Harry and his useless cow-of-a-cousin Dudley walking down the street when Dementors attack them just around the block from Privet Drive. He’s whisked away by a group of magical people that he knows mostly from school to the super-secret hideout of the Order of the Phoenix – Sirius’s house – where he discovers that he’s been watched all summer long, and of course his friends know more than he does.

We get to learn a bit about the Order, courtesy of Fred and George (or is it George and Fred?)’s magic ears invention, a bit about the Black Family courtesy of Kreatcher, a particularly annoying house elf, and the Black Family Tapestry – complete with shrieking Mother of Sirius, and more than a bit about the Ministry of Magic and Albus Dumbledore courtesy of Harry’s visit to the ministry on the matter of having called forth a patronus to get rid of the dementors trying to kill his cousin.

He should have let Dudley die, just sayin’.
Also, the ministry is corrupt, but we already knew that.
Oh, and Harry *must* be lying because there’s no way that dementors are out and causing trouble because Don’t-Say-Voldemort can’t *possibly* be doing anything whatsoever. Excuse me while I roll my eyes.

The kids go back to Hogwarts just in time to find out that they’ll have to take their OWLs at the end of the year, and for all hell to break loose at the hands of one Dolores Umbridge. We have a lot of her being cross and Harry getting in trouble – to the point that he’s banned from Quiddich forever. After all, he’s just a little freak who makes up stories.

Hermione still goes on about her stupid SPEW campaign (seriously, NONE of my friends like the SPEW story lines).
Umbridge’s insistance that you can learn defense THEORY and never practice it and be able to save yourself is not what the students want to hear, and so Harry and his friends start their DA practices (Dumbledore’s Army, which is a stupid title, but right up the alley of what a young teenager would come up with) in the Room of Requirement, which Dobby points out to them.

Oh, and Harry starts having bad dreams that aren’t dreams but a super-special connection with Voldemort and he gets to see what’s happening as it happens. Which means he then gets to train with Snape, who he of course doesn’t trust, to close his brain off to those attacks.

Ron’s Dad gets attacked, we learn about Longbottom’s parents, and meet Luna Lovegood.

Oh, and we spend way too much freakin’ time at the Ministry of Magic where we learn all kinds of things and fight the powers of evil. Also, Harry’s godfather, who he’s barely just had in his life, dies. But we sort of expected that because nothing good ever happens to Harry.

And love. LOVE is the reason why Harry goes back to being abused at Privet drive once a year.

*sigh* I’m bored writing this review. Which is sort of telling because, you know, I was bored reading the book. For the most part, NOTHING HAPPENS, and even though stuff happens, there’s not that much that happens, and there are seventy bajillion words in this book that we have to suffer through for very little. You could almost skip the book and be happy with yourself.
Also, I don’t like comparing these to the movies, but I’m going to for a short sec – all the emphasis on “educational decrees” and all that crap and there are only like four of them in the whole book. As opposed to the movies which have them hand over fist. It’s really weird.
I was annoyed with Hagrid’s giant brother, but the more I read, the more I’m annoyed with a lot of Hagrid’s story lines anyway. He’s not a bumbling idiot, but the more Rowling wrote him, the more he became a caricature of himself. I love Hagrid in, say, the first three books, but I’m starting to think that giving him the same stuff time and time again is getting old.
While the room of prophecies is kind of cool, having to slough through descriptions of half the damn BUILDING for the Ministry got old, too. Yeah, some of them were neat (I did love the fountain), but really. I haven’t complained yet about Rowling having a copy editor and not a content editor, but I should. Because, seriously, there’s like three pages in this book about Harry getting in a phone booth and talking into the receiver.

Really, the only things that happen in this book are: 1. OWLs, 2. DA, 3. Oh, Look, Voldemort’s back (which we’ve known for five books now, thanks), 4. Cho is cute, 5. Sirius dies. There you go.

So, when I say “book 5” to my friends, you get a table full of full-grown women complaining about how much they hated this book and how stupid it was and whatever else. I can’t put my finger on why, but I agree with them for a few reasons. Boring, like I said, unnecessarily long, like I said, and seriously, you really could skip it and continue with the series no problem. And because of *that* I’m giving it a 2/5. This book could be 200 pages and you’d get everything out of it you need to. So skip it if you don’t care that much, and certainly the only reason you’d need to read it is if you’re hell-bent on reading the entire series.

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (HP4)

JK Rowling



My re-read of the series continues with book four.  Which I could not read in any comfortable position due to its sheer size.  I can, however, kill intruders with it, so please feel free to break into my house any time between now and when I return it to the library.

Actually, with that I will start with my regular ongoing JKR rant.  It’s like, she had immediate awesome success, and then her editors decided they couldn’t possibly ever edit her for content or length.  Just let her ramble on and on forever.  With this one, depending on your version (UK/US, Hardback/Paperback), you’re clocking in at somewhere between 650 and 750 pages.  For a children’s book aimed at 12-14 year olds (supposedly.  The first one is RL5 according to Schoolastic, who grades those things in the US.  If she grew with her audience, a year at a time, like she says… ).

Okay, so, book 4 starts with an unfortunate incident in which the Dursley’s fireplace sort of explodes, followed by incredibly awesome seats at the Quiddich World Cup.  And tents that are bigger on the inside (Ahem, this is also the movie that featured David Tennant – make that bigger on the inside thing be exceptionally awesome, please and thank you.) where they camped in glorious style.  And with Krum taking the snitch but losing the match for Ireland, the festive atmosphere turns un-festive when somebody summons the dark mark.  Voldemort’s mark.

Now then, in my argument over stuff that should be edited, that paragraph was 200 pages in the book and about 15 minutes max in the movie.  Not that much happened for 200 pages.  But hey, we’re a quarter of the way through the book and haven’t made it to Hogwarts yet.

At Hogwarts, we finally get another sorting ceremony (oddly enough, because none of the characters of the new class seem to matter much), and we get a wonderful announcement that the Tri-Wizard tournament has returned.  Also, Mad-eye Moody is the new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher, and Snape glares and Draco et al are still annoying gits.

As the book progresses, Hermione is all up in arms about house elf rights and starts SPEW in an attempt to free them and get them salaries and better treatment.  It’s a bizarre side story line that, while it manages to further explain the differences in muggle/wizard lives, it does little to advance anything in the book.  But it wastes about 100 pages.  Honestly, I think it’s only in there because there wasn’t much going on for a lot of the year.

Between start of term and the Tri-Wizard Cup, we get a few faked homework assignments, a skrewt that blasts stuff out its rear end that affects human flesh, and an ongoing hatred of Harry Potter, extended because his name has come out of the cup.

We also meet Cedric Diggory, who is quite possibly besides Cho the only Hufflepuff student we ever really get to know.  And Rowling wonders why Hufflepuff gets a bad rap.

Blah Blah Blah.

Here’s the thing.  As a weapon or a doorstop, I’d give this book a five in a heartbeat.

But it’s a CHILDREN’s book, and it’s the size of Texas.  And *almost nothing happens*  We get one quiddich match (the cup), a dance at Christmas where Hermione *gasps* wears a dress because she’s a girl, and the Tri-Wizard where Cedric dies and Voldemort is revived with Harry’s blood.  Mad-eye turns out to not be Mad-eye and we’ve gone back to needing a DODA teacher come next year.

The story could have been told in about 300 less pages, and the book would have been better for it.

And the truth is that I was bored.  I read it quickly (just a few days while reading other books), but there wasn’t nearly as much quality for the quantity as that much of my time deserves.

All things considered (and the fact that the movie did this so much better – and I don’t generally like comparing movies and books), I’m only giving it a 2/5.  Moving on.

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (HP3)

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: JK Rowling
Format: Hardcover
Published: 1999

Our book starts quite eventfully at Number Four Privet Drive where Harry has been forced to endure a rather unpleasant houseguest – a relative of the Dursley’s who wants nothing more to abuse him, and who, of course, gets away with it. He tries to behave. Tries to do what he can to endure, but ends up accidentally inflating her and leaving her to float as he packs his things and rushes out of the house a week or so too early to go back to Hogwarts.
While outside, he gets picked up by the Night Bus, a large, purple bus (according to my Lego set) with two employees – the driver and the, um, steward? – and brass beds and crystal chandaleers. Harry pays a few coins to get a bed and gets driven to Diagon Alley, the only wizarding place he knows other than school, and the one he’s sure to be safe from the Dursleys at.
Several things happen, including some that make him once again paranoid (because, you know, when Voldemort is out to get you, the whole world is too. Ahem.) and he’s more than happy to spill all the information he knows to Ron and Hermione as soon as he can. Most of this conversation is told in the inn that he ends up staying at alone (because all 13-yr-old boys should be left alone at wizard inns) and then more later on the train to Hogwarts (yay, they made it this time!) while in a train car with the new DoD teacher. Because, this being Hogwarts and all, the teacher is sleeping, so he could never be listening in. (Note, no, he didn’t listen in, but this was Hogwarts, and that was out of character for everyone involved.)
As the story progresses, we have to deal with Ron and Hermione fighting, her new cat who is trying to eat Ron’s rat, and some new force ready to kill him. Cause, you know, He’s Harry Potter.
It would seem that some horrible terrible criminal, Sirius Black, was out to get him. And although no information is given to Harry about him, he manages to overhear just enough to be dangerous about it.
Add in Hermione having too much homework, Hagrid having some dangerous terrible creature that can kill you, the Malfoys being, well, Malfoys… You know, all the stuff that happens as much (actually more) than breathing in these books.

You’ve probably read the book already, but in the off chance you haven’t in the last dozen years it was out, I’ll skip the spoiler for the ending.

Overall, I think this is easily my favorite book out of the first three. We miss the sorting hat again, but Rowling really managed to balance general life at Hogwarts with Harry the chosen one and his band of scoobies. Even though I have a stack of books here, I couldn’t wait to get to this one and read it in a couple nights before I could continue on.

I still think there are a few fundamental flaws with Rowling that she never really did overcome, and this is book three of a series = which actually proves the old notion that for some reason one is good, two is crap, but three is awesome – so I’m going to give it a four out of five. Easily readable without the rest of the series, but do you really want to own it if you don’t have the rest?

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: JK Rowling
Format: Hardcover
Written/Published: 1999

The re-reading of Harry Potter finally continues with book two of the seven part set.

After spending most of summer at the Dursleys’ with none of the owls from his friends getting to him, the Weasleys finally liberate him in a flying car that their father had charmed.  He spends a couple blissful weeks before the obligatory Diagon Alley stop – where Harry uses floo powder for the first time solo and ends up one street over in the bad part of wizard town, where he of course sees Lucius Malfoy being sneaky and evil – and then off to Hogwarts (Hoggy, Warty Hogwarts).  Except that Harry and Ron can’t get on platform 9 ¾, and actually smash head first into the wall when they try.  With no other options, they do the only logical thing that 12-year-old boys can come up with, and steal the flying car, which they crash most spectacularly a bit before the school, and have to walk the rest of it, heavy trunks in tow. They’ve missed the sorting ceremonies, lost the car, and, of course, are in trouble even before the school year begins.

Okay, so I’m going to stop right there.  Mrs. Weasley doesn’t get on the train with Ginny.  The boys missed it by about five seconds.  So shouldn’t she have been right back out there looking for them?  Why is such an obvious plot hole missed?  Also, back to the floo thing, why, exactly, is Harry flooing on his own to somewhere like Diagon Alley?  Couldn’t they have done a test run somewhere?  And why, for somebody so into muggle studies and everything about them, doesn’t Mr. Weasley ever remember that they have to explain everything to Harry?  I’m likening the scene to telling a country boy that you’re taking the subway through New York and telling him to get off at lower Broadway without pointing out which of the many Broadway subway exits you really need.  Just guess, you’ll be fine.  *obligatory condescending pat on the head*

So back to the summary.  At Hogwarts, the new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart, is a celebrity – you know, flashy smile, perfect hair, girls swoon – and utterly annoying.  A first form, Colin, thinks Harry’s a celebrity and follows him around taking pictures and making sure to speak to him every time he sees him.

The only thing they learn in DADA is that Lockhart is an idiot, and he can’t even control the pixies that he unleashes on the class early on.  So of course, the dark arts once again attack Hogwarts, and of course, being totally unprepared, the kids have to figure it out on their own.

The attack is bizarre.  A note painted a wall of the school tells that the chamber has been open.  And the cat has been petrified, right there next to it.  Taking refuge in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, Harry, Ron and Hermione all set out to figure out what’s going on.

Until Hermione gets petrified, too.  And Colin, and a couple others and…

Also somewhere in there is Tom Riddle’s diary, which Harry uses to write back and forth to Tom until it’s stolen from their room.  Of course Harry doesn’t mention the theft, so the relatively simple answer doesn’t ever get explained until the very end of the book when the villain reveals way too much.

We also, at several points in there, meet Dobby the house elf, who does very little but try to repeatedly save Harry’s life, in several wonderful manners that make Harry want to just chance things.  (It’s Dobby, for instance, that stops all the letters from Harry’s friends, and stops platform 9 ¾ from letting them in.)  And Harry, of course, tricks Dobby’s owner, Lucius Malfoy, into freeing him in the end.

There’s also a ridiculous scene where the boys end up in the forbidden forest (they seem to think the word forbidden means please, come in), talking to a bajillion spiders, the two large ones, of course, trying to decide if they should eat them, even though they’re friends of Hagrid’s.  I mean, surely Hagrid wouldn’t have suggested they go into the forest if his really-creepy creature friends were going to eat them, right?  *sigh* Hey, at least we find the car that’s been missing since this point, has now gone a bit feral (is it a cat?!), but saves them, because apparently we need an action scene now, so Rowling gives us one.

And even though the book is over a decade old already, I’ll ease up on the spoilers. By the time the book is over, we’ve learned great big secrets from Hagrid, Lockhart and Ginny Weasley.  We’ve also been introduced to Mandrake, which looks remarkably like little potato people with plants coming out of their heads, and we learn that the plant takes a maturing course much like humans (when you plant the saplings, the babies cry, and when they try to move into each other’s pots, you know they’re mature).

We also get to learn a few more plot holes.  For instance, why don’t Ron and Harry visit Hermione in the sick wing any time sooner than they do?  Whenever Harry or Ron need the sick bay, their friends are always at their side as soon as they come to.  But when Hermione went, it was quite a while before they went to see her.  Why?  Besides the fact that Rowling wouldn’t have had a book otherwise, of course.

Also, why was there nowhere else anywhere in the wizarding world that they could get mandrake without growing it in the greenhouse?  Besides the fact that Rowling wouldn’t have had a book otherwise, of course.

Another question that bothers me – why don’t muggle-born Hermione’s letters ever come via post office?

In the end, of course, Harry (with the help of Dumbledore’s Phoenix), saves the day, everyone gets unpetrified, Hagrid gets his name cleared, and Harry returns back to Privet Drive, where he can be a miserable, abused child again until the next book.

So, here’s the thing.  Because the boys are doing everything they shouldn’t be doing, they miss the sorting/welcome feast, Quiddich gets canceled halfway through the book, etc.  The problem I’ve ever had is that the stories themselves are a lot of hype for an okay story, and it’s only because of the world she built that they’re so big and popular.  So in this book, we get none of the world, several plot holes, and not a lot else.

I’m only giving this a three out of five.  Don’t bother if you’re not reading the whole series.

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