Monday, May 9, 2011

REVIEW: Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch

How can a sexy marketing manager join forces with an Alpha Centauri male in Armani to save the planet-using hairspray, a Mont Blanc pen, and rock n' roll?


She's Touched by an Alien

Marketing manager Katherine "Kitty" Katt steps into the middle of what appears to be a domestic dispute turned ugly. And it only gets uglier when the man turns into a winged monster, straight out of a grade-Z horror movie, and goes on a killing spree. Though Kitty should probably run away, she springs into action to take the monster down.

In the middle of the chaos a handsome hunk named Jeff Martini appears, sent by the "agency" to perform crowd control. He's Kitty's kind of guy, no matter what planet he's from. And from now on, for Kitty, things are going to be sexy, dangerous, wild, and out of this world.
Okay, so picture MEN IN BLACK gone Rom-Com and you're got a pretty good idea of what TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN is like. The heroine, Kitty Katt (who, no, is not a stripper), took the news that aliens landed some thirty years ago on Earth in stride. No, really. I mean, if this had been about vampires she would have freaked and there would have been questions about blood, immortality and souls, but aliens? She basically gives the equivalent of an emotional shrug and moves on to more pressing matters. Like the Bad Aliens trying to kill her. You ever read the ANIMORPHS series? Do you remember the Yeerks? Those slug-like things that would crawl inside people's ears and take them over? Well, imagine those except as jellyfish instead of slugs and instead of taking their hosts over these guys go for a timeshare. Yup, a time share. Well, if they actually manage to be successful, they go for a timeshare. If they're not successful...well, when these guys are in control they alter their host's form to look kinda like Frankenstein-gone-Animal-Kingdom so unsuccessful mergings tend to go, er, wild. When the latter happens, super secret alien agents are deployed to neutralize the buggers. If the former, the big bad hides, plots, fumes and next thing you know evil scheme is launched and super secret alien agents are deployed to neutralize the buggers. Like I said, very MIB.

And then there's Kitty. Like the back cover blurb says, she goes from mild mannered (HA! Not even!) marketing manager serving jury duty one day to BAM! being the target of alien assassins. Which is when the aforementioned super secret alien agents show up and Kitty's life goes the way of James Edwards, only with a SUCCESSFUL romantic plotline thrown in.

Now, just to be clear, I don't generally like Sci-Fi, but the sarcastic, funny tone Koch employs makes the whole alien thing inconsequential. It was a hilarious book and a great read. That being said, it wasn't a PERFECT book. Some of the events were just kinda...cliche. And at times Kitty just seemed too perfect, too smart, too everything, with everything lining up just a tad to easily. But overlook that and it's impossible not to enjoy it.

Best part? Hands down Kitty's first big battle where she faces off against the Superbeings for the first time. Totally knocks it out of the park and shows her mettle. You go girl!

Best line? "My crazy's working a lot better than your sanity."

My rating: /5

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Alright boils and ghouls, at long last, I've another interview to share with everyone, as promised, and this one's pretty dang awesome.

Ladies and gents, let's welcome the lovely Angie Fox, author of the Demon Slayer series featuring Lizzie Brown and her fantastically unbelievable Jack Russel Pirate. Once upon a time, Lizzie was just your average run-of-the-mill preschool teacher until one day she wakes up and BAM! Her dog can talk, her biker witch Grandma shows up and whisks her off to fight the good fight because, oh by the way, she's a demon slayer, and then a mysterious, yummilicious bad boy pops up complete with his very own hidden agenda and things just go downhill from there.

But why am I blathering on about this when Ms. Fox can tell you all about this herself!

So, now without further adieu, enjoy! (Oh, and y'all did notice the "giveaway" part of this post's title, yes? Stay tuned after the interview for the deets!)

(1) So, I guess I may as well start with the basics: how exactly did Angie Fox break into the publishing world?

Very slowly. I’d been writing for seven years. During first five, I produced two books. Then I decided to focus harder and wrote my third book in just under a year. I was writing mystery/suspense and having a tough time of it. I’d outline, I’d write pages and pages of character notes, I’d force myself to do those little note cards. And I hate note cards. In retrospect, I was fighting my voice. I’d write these serious, research heavy chapters and then sneak off to read the latest Katie MacAlister book, or giggle through a few chapters of MaryJanice Davidson. It took a while for it to click and for me to realize that hmm…maybe I should write the kind of books I love to read.

I had this spark of an idea about a preschool teacher who is forced to run off with a gang of geriatric biker witches and The Accidental Demon Slayer was born. Instead of a 20-page plot outline, I had a 5-page list of ideas, one of which included “but little did they know, all the Shoney’s are run by werewolves.” Instead of following the rules, I broke a few. Instead of painstakingly writing over the course of a year, I grinned my way through the book and had a complete manuscript in five months.

The opening chapters did well in contests and caught the eye of an editor, who asked to see the whole thing. That same editor bought the book less than a week after I finished it. And I didn’t write one single note card.

(2) Your current series, the Accidental Demon Slayer series, is about a pre-school teacher who one day has her terrier start talking, her biker-witch grandma show up and a mysterious hottie come out of the wood work. At this point, there are four books released. Do you have a definite idea of where this series is going? Tied to this and “it depends on my publisher/sales” aside, have you an idea how long the series will be?

I know exactly where the series is going. It used to drive my editor nuts because we’d be editing book 2 she’d say, “what about X” and I’d say, “Oh we can’t do that because Y happens in book 4.” And it would.

The books were very well plotted out because I wanted the main character to have a complete journey, to come into her own as a demon slayer, so I had to plan out how that would span the books. That said, I also made sure each book is a complete story on its own. It drives me crazy as a reader to pick up a book and then learn it’s a middle book of a series and I’m hopelessly lost, so I will not do that in my books.

Oh and to get back to your original question, there will be four books total in the Accidental Demon Slayer series. I’d originally planned for five (and I may still write book 5) but after my publisher started having problems releasing their books, I decided to give the series a satisfying ending after book 4.

(3) The aforementioned mysterious hottie turns out not to be a vampire or a werewolf or even a dragon but a griffin from Greece. Of all the critters bouncing about there, why a griffin? Why Greece?
Have you seen how many hot men there are in Greece? I was there in 2002 and was blown away. I knew I had to write about a hot Greek.

As for why Dimitri is a griffin, I wonder why more paranormal authors don’t write about griffins. They’re strong, sexy and griffins are one of the only creatures who mate for life. In fact, the griffin was a symbol of marriage and fidelity in the early Christian church because they are so loyal and focused on love and family. What better hero is there than a man who is dedicated to family and wants to find one woman to love?

(4) How about the story itself – how did you come up with the idea in the first place?
Out of my warped brain. Seriously, sometimes I’ll think of an idea or make a character do something and it seems pretty reasonable to me. Then someone will say, “How do you even think of that?” Whoops.

But I will tell you this – I’m a big believer in really thinking things through before starting a book. I can’t tell you how many decent ideas I rejected before saying, “What if you had this accidental demon slayer…” Because you have to be 100% invested and downright entertained by the book you’re writing. As a reader, I can always tell the authors that love what they’re writing. And those are the ones I buy.

When a writer is invested in a book, the story evolves from there. Like when I sat down to write The Accidental Demon Slayer, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But in the second chapter, when she’d learned she was a demon slayer and all hell was after her, she took comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, ‘This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’ Simple. I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where my heroine can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard).

It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, my heroine can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell Terrier. I think the most important thing when you sit down to the keyboard is to be willing to follow your story in new directions, because if you’re enjoying the surprise, chances are your readers will too.

(5) Tale of Two Demon Slayers takes place in Greece as oppose to the US; have you been to Greece yourself? How was it making such a drastic change in setting?

I’ve been all over Greece and I absolutely love it. It’s a gorgeous country where you are literally tripping over history everywhere you look. It was a perfect place for an ancient griffin clan to live.

The drastic change in setting – to Greece – in A Tale of Two Demon Slayers worked really well because it was different. It made the book unique and it drew in a lot of readers who wanted that inside look at life on a Grecian island (The majority of the book takes place on Santorini). Plus it was a hoot to take the biker witches out of their element (Southern US dive bars) and plop them down in an exotic locale.

I’ve spent a lot of time on Santorini, so the details – from the wine they drink to the way the sandy soil feels under their feet – are as real as you can get.

(6) Is there any research that goes into your writing? How does that go? What sources do you use most?

I’ve had a ball with research for the Accidental Demon Slayer series. The biker witches ride Harleys, and I’d never been on a motorcycle before. Plus, I had to figure out how to get Pirate the dog onto a bike.

I went online and learned about the Biker Dogs Motorcycle Club, made up exclusively of Harley riders and their dogs. I ended up meeting some of them, along with a few other bikers along the way. These bikers were so great to me. They hoisted me onto the back of their Harleys (with dogs in tow). They took me to biker rallies (note to self: don’t wear pink). And they laughed at me when I tried to put my helmet on backwards (I still say I was distracted by the Pomeranian wearing a tiny pair of motorcycle glasses).

After a few outings with my new biker friends, I was able to make my geriatric biker witch characters a lot more realistic. And I took home some great pictures, too.

(7) Is writing a full-time job for you? What’s a day-in-the-life-of-Angie-Fox like?

Yes, I’m lucky that this is my full-time job. My most productive time is in the mornings. That’s when I get 99% of my books written. I write in the same place – this green couch in our living room and I always have a Diet Coke on hand. In the afternoon, I head to my office to answer emails and do administrative work. Or sometimes I forget about that part and keep writing!

(8) On your site you’ve set a number of quizzes which tie into contests for your readers to be featured in some capacity in upcoming works. This seems like such an awesome idea, and yet not many authors would give such an opportunity. What made you?

My readers are just so cool – from the email “fuzzies” I get in my inbox every day, to the readers who send me chocolate and Australian Tim Tam cookies when I’m on deadline, to the readers who show up at booksignings every time I have a new release out. I can’t imagine not doing cool things for them. The quizzes and the contests are a way for me to have an extra bit of fun with my readers and to try and give back just a little of what they’ve given me.

(9) You’ve also recently had a short story released in the anthology My Zombie Valentine along with Katie MacAlister, Marianne Mancusi and Lisa Cach. Was it more difficult to write a short story compared to a novel?
Yes! Why didn’t anybody tell me that? When my editor first called me about writing a novella for My Zombie Valentine, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about: a lonely New Orleans voodoo mambo who is sick of dating the party guys she meets at her shop in the French Quarter. So she decides to voodoo herself the, “perfect man for her.” Only she forgets to specify that this hunk be alive. Turns out the perfect guy for her died 160 years ago and is buried in St. Louis Cemetery Number One. He shows up all hot and naked (clothes can’t be re-animated). He’s trying for one last chance at love, she’s trying to put him back in the ground. It was a fun novella to write, but it did take me longer than I thought to get it exactly right.

My brain is trained to think in terms of novel-length books, so it was a challenge to keep it short. I described it to my husband by saying that writing a novella is like cooking Thanksgiving dinner for one person. All of the elements are still there, just on a much smaller scale.

(10) Have you plans for any other works outside of the Demon Slayer world, or at least Lizzie’s POV? What’s coming next for you?

Yes. Actually, I just finished a novella for the So I Married a Demon Slayer anthology. This is the story of the one succubus who got away after the events in The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers. It was a fun story to write because I was able to explore the world of Shiloh, a sexy half-succubus and the demon slayer that she accidentally marries. That book is coming out in August of 2011.

I’ve also signed on to write a new series for St. Martin’s Press. It’s about a paranormal MASH unit. My heroine is a surgeon who has been drafted into the unit and the hero is a demi-god who is the commander of an elite military unit. He’s so sexy. I love it. The first book in that series is called The Monster Mash (for now, that title could change) and it will be out in 2012.

(11) What do you consider the most difficult aspect of writing? The easiest?

The hardest part is finding the exact right word or thought or character name. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

The easiest part is after it all comes together.

(12)Finally, some random questions about you:
a. What are your hobbies aside from writing?
I’m a huge reader. I love paranormals, mysteries, historicals, biographies and apocalyptic horror. My husband and I are also big theatre buffs.
b. Could you please describe your dream day?
What? You mean after the pool boys wake me up with breakfast in bed? Let’s see…after that, since I’d be in Greece, I’d head down to the beach with a good book. We’d be on Santorini, so I could look out over the caldera. Then it would be out with my husband for dinner and dancing, and maybe a late show.
c. If you found a genie, what would be your three wishes?
I’d like my own dog to be able to talk
I’d like chocolate to be a health food
Oh and did I mention those Greek pool boys?

And there you have it. Now, it's time for the giveaway! Angie has got to be one of the most generous authors out there. No. Seriously. Just swing by her blog, her website, her Facebook page and BAM! you're likely to win something! So, it's no big surprise that she's graciously offered to send one lucky commenter a signed first-edition copy of A Tale of Two Demon Slayers! So, what are you waiting for? Hit the comments and make with the discussing. Oh, and FYI, Angie herself will likely be dropping by sooner or later. CONTEST ENDS FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2011. Winners will be posted on Saturday.

Be sure to also swing by Angie's website for all the latest 411 on her past and future releases, not to mention whatever else may be going on over there. And also be sure to pick up her latest release, Last of the Demon Slayers, no doubt available at bookseller near you.

Although, you should probably be aware that there was a bit of an...incident and consequently print editions are just a little bit...tricky. I know, I know, I'm not being clear, but the explanation can be found on Angie's blog, as well as exact details on where you can find your very own copy of this exciting series' thrilling conclusion! (...I went way too TV commercial with that last comment. Sorry. Heh. ^^")

Okay, enough of me, GO. COMMENT. WIN!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sulkathon 2011

Hello my little lovelies, have you missed me? Yes, I know, once again real life has gotten in the way of our time together and I've been a bit (ok, ok, a LOT) MIA of late. But, don't despair! Because, yep, I'm back! Again!

For those of you out of the loop, this week is when some of North America's best and brightest writers, along with thousands of their loyal fans, converge in L.A. for the Romantic Times Convention. And then there are those who DON'T converge in L.A. for the Romantic Times Convention, such as yours truly. And I'm not alone. Stacia Kane, author of the incredibly original Downside series, decided to fight back by putting together SULKATHON 2011, where we prove we can have our own damn fun all by our damn selves. To can get the full scoop on her blog, but the gist of it is that those left out of RT and instead are left to wallow in disappointment and angst gather together on Twitter to sulk because, as you know, misery loves companies.

Oh, but did I mention the contests? The giveaways? The chatting in jammies into the wee hours of the morning under the hashtag #SK11? No? Well, maybe you should go check it out, don't you think? Like, NOW - Because this weekend we are redefining sulk and showing the world that we don't need RT to have fun!

But, WAIT! Before you go rushing off to check it out the awesomeness there's something you should know. On Saturday, you'll be able to find an interview and giveaway with Angie Fox right here on Calliope's Domain. And, yeah, way behind me will FINALLY be getting around to posting some reviews of the books I've read in 2011 as well as some other updates, so stay tuned!

That is all. You may now go check out the deets on Sulkathon 2011.

Seriously. Go. Now. ENJOY.

Monday, March 7, 2011


So, yesterday I went with friends to see BEASTLY and I have to say it was pretty much just OK. For those who don't know, BEASTLY is a modern-day take on the "Beauty and the Beast" tale where a New York teen is transformed into a hideous monster in order to find true love. Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE the story of Beauty and the Beast - hands down my favourite fairy tale and the Disney adaptation is my favourite animated feature. It's a virtual cornucopia of favourites. Well, the story is. This movie, however...well, it just doesn't hold up to expectations.

First, let me mention some of the good things. The make-up, in particular that of the witch, Kendra, and Kyle's Beast form, was original and creative. In lieu of fur, fangs, horns and claws, Kyle goes beastly with baldness, tattoos, unhealed scars and...well, ok, on his neck there were these ripples that made his skin look like tree back. I have no idea how to sum up that last one with a single word. Sorry. Anyway, point being, BEASTLY derives the Beast's ugliness from human characteristics rather than animal and in doing so gives the message that the "beastly" nature allude to in the title is all too human.

It was also great seeing some familiar landmarks. The film was filmed in Montreal so there were several scenes, in particular one shot at the train station in Hudson, that I recognized, which was a nice change from settings usually only familiar to me because of other movies.

Neil Patrick Harris gave a great performance as blind tutor, bringing a much need infusion of sarcasm to the film. Likewise, Alex Pettyfer's clueless actions when it came to wooing a girl unimpressed by expensive gifts threw in a nice dash of humour. I think it comes without saying that the romance element was pretty strong and for much of the movie was carried off with the air of doe-eyed innocence.

And that about dries up my "pro" list. Unfortunately, the movie was riddled with plot holes. Take, for example, the fact that, in keeping with the original fairy tale, Kyle gets the beauty, in this case a scholarship student from his private school named Lindy, to join him in his exile by blackmailing her father. Specifically, Kyle happens to witness her old man kill his drug dealer and snaps some photos on his cellphone. He then uses that information to coerce her father into agreeing to have Lindy go stay with a complete stranger (that would be Kyle) to protect her from the wrath of the drug dealer's brother. Lindy never learns of this. Seriously. He's walking around with photos of her dad and a dead drug dealer on his phone and she NEVER finds out.

Honestly, I spent most of the movie thinking she'd find out and run away, get caught by the vengeful brother of the rug dealer and Kyle, having followed after her, would end up being shot and that'd be when she'd make her declaration of love. I mean, Belle's Beast got killed by Gaston, didn't he?! He got stabbed in the back and almost fell off a parapet, for crying out loud! Not to mention backing up to where he was attacked and fought off a pack of wolves on her account. And that was on top of having fur, fangs, horns and claws! When the Beast got his "I love you" he had damn well earned it!

Kyle? Yeah, not so much.

Personally, I think y'all should hold out and pick it up on DVD. It's not a bad movie, but with movie tickets on average being over $10 these days (and I'm rounding down there, folks), it's not worth the expense, I'm afraid.

My rating: /5