18 December 2012

Book Review and Interview: JOANNE RENAUD

  A Question of Time by Joanne Renaud
Book Blurb:
Years later, successful author Celia Cavalotti is still mourning the death of her favorite teacher, who died in a car crash in 1989. But when a car accident of her own hurtles her back in time to the week of his death, she has a chance to change the future.
    Finding herself in the 1980s is a shock to the extremely modern Celia-- but even more shocking is seeing her dead English teacher, Alan Forrest, alive and well before her very eyes. Alan is far more handsome than she remembers, and she can't resist the urge to flirt. After all, they have so much in common, like writing and a shared love of science fiction. Celia knows she's falling in love with him-- but can she use this opportunity to prevent his tragic death? What is happening to her? And why can't she seem to stay in one place and time?

Book Review:
 A Question of Time  is an intriguing time-travel romance.  I thoroughly enjoyed this journey, starting with the musical references and mentions of television shows, books, and other touchstones. [In fact, Ms. Renaud put together a playlist to set the late 80s mood, starting with Debbie Gibson.] Celia is no longer a geeky teen but a woman of passion who falls for a man she knows will soon die. Alan Forrest is a teacher who cares about where his students are going in their lives, making his impending death even more tragic. There are sparks and romance and yes, Celia questions whether she should act on her feelings for a man who was her teacher. The reader begins to wonder which scenario is reality just as Celia does but without the usual discussion of the time-travel paradox conundrum. As the tale unfolded, I feared Ms. Renaud would twist it a little too far, but she didn't. I found the ending quite satisfying and can honestly say I highly recommend  A Question of Time.
 Interview with Joanne Renaud:

1. A Question of Time is a lovely time travel story with a fabulous twist. How difficult was it to keep track of where your characters were and how they could end up where you wanted them?

Thanks, Jude! It helped when I diagrammed and made outlines of everything. At one point I actually made a diagram of the various alternate timelines that occurred. I should probably scan it in at some point, but there might be spoilers for future books... 

2. You hit on all the touchstones of Geek Life: Star Trek, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, even knowing the secretary's name on Moonlighting. Were you a serious nerd in high school?

Very much so. I liked SF, but I was more into fantasy-- I was a regular reader of Dragon Magazine (the official publication of TSR, before it was bought out by Wizards of the Coast). I liked Bradbury and Asimov's short stories, especially "Nightfall," but I could never grok the Foundation trilogy. I loved, loved, loved fairy tale retellings, especially anything by Angela Carter, Tanith Lee and Robin McKinley.  I also had a serious hard-on for ancient Roman history. And as you can imagine, I loved any kind of time travel story, whether it was SF (like Bradbury's "Sound of Thunder") or YA fantasy romance (like Eileen Goudge's "Swept Away" series).

As for TV, I preferred cartoons like "Gummi Bears" and "Pirates of Dark Water." This was not something I talked about with anyone, since a high schooler liking cartoons in 1989-1990 was not really considered Cool (even by the nerds). I have since discovered from an old high school friend that I was well known around school as a major Disney fan-- I guess I was, though I didn't really think of myself as one at the time.  

3. Music plays an important supporting role in A Question of Time. How would you describe your personal musical taste and how is does--or doesn't--affect your writing?

Oh it does-- hugely! In fact, I put together a special playlist for A Question of Time, which you can listen to hereon YouTube. 

4. Are there any genres you love to read but won't attempt to write?

I love Regency romances but I would never write one-- I don't think I can really do period comedy of manners. Ditto mysteries. I'm pretty sure I would be unable to come with a satisfying whodunit-- Raymond Chandler I am not.

5. You also have  a historical fable entitled The Ash-slave, a retelling of Cinderella from an ancient Persian perspective (which I thoroughly enjoyed). Which would you say is more difficult for your muse, writing historically accurate fiction or sci-fi/fantasy? And what do you find more personally satisfying to compose?

I'm such a history nerd that, in the past, when I've tried to write historical fiction I've ended up tying myself in knots, like, trying to figure out details of ancient Phoenician costume or 1640s battle logistics. With contemporary SF romance I seem to have hit upon a way of actually avoiding that.

I would love to return to historical fiction someday though! I have several unfinished novels (one set during the English Civil War, the other set in ancient Lebanon & Assyria) that are begging me to get back to them… 

6. Randomly choose two people from this list with whom you could talk for two hours and tell us about the conversation: 
  Elizabeth Taylor
  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  Cyrus the Great
  Gene Roddenberry
  Elizabeth I
  John F. Kennedy

Elizabeth I and Gene Roddenberry, possibly? I can imagine sitting down and talking to Mr. Roddenberry about his opinions on the current state of the union and what he thinks of the latest shows, etc, and how shocking it is how little support there's been for NASA over the past twelve years. As for Elizabeth, it's hard for me to imagine her even deigning to notice my presence; but, if I can imagine myself as a reporter allowed unprecedented access from beyond the grave, I would pick her brain about her childhood, her feelings about her mother, what she thinks about the Stuarts and what happened to the country after she died. 

Now, if I could change that list slightly, I would PAY to see Elizabeth I and Malcolm X launch into each other. I would record it and post it on YouTube. 
[Whoa, that would be something to see, wouldn't it?]

7. What's coming up for you in the near future? What direction do you hope to take your writing in the next few years?

I just finished a "side-quel" to A Question of Time; after that, I'd like to continue the series. I have the next two installments planned out (for the most part).  They would involve the adventures of women traveling in time; but one would go almost fifty years into the past, and the other would go far into the future. Let's see what happens!

Thanks, Joanne! Wishing you great success with your writing!

Buy Links:
 A Question Of Time is available from
Champagne Books


The Ash-slave: www.amazon.com/The-Ash-Slave-ebook/dp/B005CLDEBY

03 December 2012

Srsly? R U 2 LA-Z 2 Type?

I hate text speak. If that marks me as an old crab, so be it. Isn't there enough ignorance in the world without encouraging the deliberate proliferation of abbreviated gibberish?

Yes, technology demands now that thoughts be expressed in Tweet bites of 140 characters. And I realize that many more people now send text messages rather than speak live to another person. The Japanese write entire books in these shortened hieroglyphics specifically for their "smart" phones. But as someone who loves language and word combinations, extensive use of text-speak makes a terrible impression of either ignorance or laziness.  Are we truly that pressed for a few seconds of time to not type a few more letters?

Over the past thirty years, I have seen information forms increasingly filled with more and more misspelled words. Not just medical terms, which I can completely sympathize with someone not knowing how to spell, such as cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) or renal lithotripsy (using sound waves to break up kidney stones).  No, I'm talking about "hedach" for headache and "berfday" for birthday.  Emphasis on correct spelling has diminished in our educational system to the point that "speling fonetikly" became perfectly acceptable a number of years ago. When a child begins to learn to read and write, phonetics are, indeed, the first step--but the child should grow beyond that with an expanding vocabulary that they learn to spell correctly.

Now with text messaging great becomes "gr8t", later is "L8R", cutie is "QT"--and no one bothers to abandon the abbreviations when they aren't using their phone.  Posts on Facebook and Twitter encourage limitation of whole word usage. In reading posts, one has to wonder if some folks have any actual knowledge of the real words those combinations of letters and numerals have supplanted.

I will admit to using a "LOL" or a "ROFL" here and there myself. But generally, I think it's of vital importance to use whole words when sending a text message or posting on social media--especially for a writer. Words can be lyrical and beautiful, or nasty and hurtful, but they are every writer's main tools.  As such, they must be handled masterfully, with skill and precision. Deliberate misspellings can be used to convey ignorance--do you honestly want to project that as your own?

Back when I was first learning to send text messages (before phones had keyboards or became "smart"), my son impressed me with a statement I had never expected to hear from a pre-teen:

"Text-speak is trash. Good grammar is sexy."

I was stunned--and extremely proud. To this day, we both try to always compose literate, whole word messages with one another as much as possible (barring arthritic fingers hitting multiple keys or typing in the dark without glasses).  Sometimes it takes me a good amount of time because the T9 Word function never comes up with the word I want so I type each letter individually, but hey, that's what I do anyway as a writer.

So think about what your messages say, and what they say about you to others.