Last week I reviewed Tiana Warner's killer mermaid book Ice Massacre. I then sent her an email asking for an interview, thinking that I either wouldn't get a response or would get a polite refusal. (This is still such a tiny, new blog, lurking in its dark little corner of the internet, I honestly didn't think she'd bother.)
Surprise! Ms. Warner agreed to be interviewed! Because she's just awesome that way. So without further ado, let's get this party started. But, uh, leave your crossbows at home.
I’m going to ask the question that every author hates: what inspired you to write Ice Massacre?
I like this question because my answer originates in Disneyland.
So I came up with the idea of flesh-eating sea demons while visiting the happiest place on earth. At the time, the “real” legend of mermaids hadn’t been explored much – the one where they use their supernatural beauty to lure sailors to their deaths. While running around wearing mouse ears, I thought, what would happen if the dangerous kind of mermaids existed? What if an island had to share its surrounding water with a population of these mermaids? And so Eriana Kwai was born. Then came the Massacres, and female warriors being the island’s only hope — and given that world I’d created, Meela and Lysi were inevitable.
What are your favorite books/authors that you like to read and why?
I’m the biggest, most hopeless Harry Potter fan. I love Rowling’s new series as Robert Galbraith, too, and am bouncing up and down waiting for the next one. Potter aside, I read a variety of genres and have a lot of favourite books. A couple of recent 5-star reads were The Rosie Project and The Help.
Who’s your favorite character in the Mermaids of Eriana Kwai series and why?
Meela and Lysi have become my invisible BFFs. Getting inside their heads for five years will do that to a writer. Honestly, I’ve also got a soft spot for Dani. I love characters like her who are so insane and unstable you wonder what the heck happened to them to make them this way. And I have to give a shout-out to Spio (Ice Crypt).
Ice Massacre has some really dark and bloody moments. Have you received criticism for putting these scenes in a YA novel? How do you respond to them?
I haven’t actually received criticism for that. I think the success and relatively extreme violence of The Hunger Games was a turning point in YA. Reading about what these young warriors must face makes for a gripping story.
What I like about books is that the extent of the gore is left to the imagination. While the author can describe what’s happening, it’s not like a movie where you actually see pooling blood and gaping wounds. It makes it a little friendlier for readers who don’t want to envision such a level of violence.
Why write for teens? Why not adult literature?
Writing for a teen audience is so much fun. You don’t get quite the same enthusiasm (Tumblr posts, artwork, social media sharing, fanfic, etc) from an all-adult audience.
Related to the above question of violence, many adult books get extremely graphic about both violence and sex. I personally prefer to have most of that implied instead of outright described. With teen novels that level of detail is left out, so it’s up to readers to imagine as much or as little as they’d like.
You have a degree in computer science, but although Ice Massacre takes place in the 21st Century (at least, that’s what I got when I read it), the technology of Eriana Kwai is very limited. Why did you give the characters crossbows and knives instead of machine guns?
Two reasons. First, they aren’t a culture built around guns, so machine guns would need to be imported to Eriana Kwai from the mainland. The island is much too poor and isolated for that. Machine guns are expensive. Eriana Kwai has nothing to trade and virtually no recognition on an international scale that would allow them to purchase and import all these dangerous weapons.
Second, traditional weapons like crossbows are just way more badass!
I was surprised to learn that your books are self-published. Why did you go this route rather than with a traditional publishing house?
The landscape of publishing is changing, with the success of indies skyrocketing. Companies like Amazon make it easier than ever to get books in front of readers, and the number of agents taking on debut authors is declining. If an author is up for tackling the business side of her writing career, there’s no reason not to self-publish. I like that I keep control over my stories, from editing to cover design to price. I also like being able to follow my own schedule – no waiting on agent and publisher timelines. The only notable drawback I’ve seen so far is that it’s harder to get into physical bookstores. But with most book sales happening online these days, it’s a compromise I’m willing to make.
Would you survive the Massacre? Why or why not?
I like to think I would because I’m fit and strong and keep my cool in stressful situations. Then again, I’m a wimp about being cold, I get seasick, and I’m pretty sure I would get seduced by a mermaid. Also the amount of physical and mental strength those Massacre warriors need to have is insane. I think most of us would crack under the strain.
Any closing thoughts or final comments?
Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed and for your excellent questions!
Monday Movie! Wish Upon
This post will have literally ALL THE SPOILERS for Wish Upon. It’s actually more of a scathing, sarcastic synopsis than a review.
I’m not going to say this movie was horrible. But it definitely didn’t earn more than three out of five stars, and that’s being generous. It’s like if Final Destination and The Monkey’s Paw had a kid who became a total deadbeat who refuses to work and lives in his parents’ basement at age forty.
Admittedly, I came into the theater a few minutes late, so I missed the opening scene where Claire’s (the main character) mother Joanna kills herself about ten years in the past (in a later scene, Claire’s dad, Jonathan, muses that Joanna probably had a secret that was too heavy for her to handle. I’m sure that won’t come up later in the film). I came in just as Claire made it to school and was getting bullied by a Regina George rip-off named Darcie, while looking longingly at the Popularity King; this year’s model is named Paul.
Meanwhile, Jonathan, a notorious dumpster-diver, finds a Chinese music box and decides to give it to Claire, since she’s taking Chinese in high school. She knows just enough Mandarin to read “seven wishes” in the calligraphy, but nothing else. She dismisses it, then makes a half-serious joke about wishing that Darcie would “just rot.”
The next morning, Darcie gets necrotizing fasciitis, an honest-to-god real infection that kills the body’s soft tissue, effectively causing a living person to “rot.”
Not so coincidentally, Claire’s dog Max is found dead beneath the house.
Claire now knows that the box truly does grant wishes, but hasn’t yet made the connection between the wish and death. And because she’s a teenage girl, her next wishes are:
2 - having Paul fall “madly in love” with her (which causes the death of her rich Uncle August)
3 - inheriting everything August left behind (which causes the garbage-disposal death of a close family friend, Mrs. Deluca)
4 - for her dumpster-diving dad to “stop being so embarrassing” (which eventually leads to the death of…)
Claire asks her Chinese classmate, Ryan--the real love interest, being the halfway-decent male with sad doe eyes for our heroine--for help translating the rest of the box. They end up going to his cousin Gina, who studies ancient Chinese. She manages to translate most of the rest of the box: seven wishes, you have to be touching it, if you lose or sell the box all of the wishes come undone...she also finds out that the box’s original owner, a woman in the early 20th Century, made it magic by praying over it for seven days and seven nights, thus summoning a Chinese demon into the box. Fun fact: all of the woman’s enemies were vanquished, she became rich, and she died young via suicide.
There’s still one phrase left in the box they can’t figure out while Claire is oh-so-conveniently still in the room, so Gina takes a picture of it and sends it to her friend who might know.
Barely hours later, when Gina’s alone, she gets the translation. We only hear that “that’s messed up,” and she calls Ryan while freaking out about it. She’s then killed by tripping and falling head-first into the horn of a bull statue. (Death #4)
Wish #5: Claire wishes to become the most popular girl in school.
She’s immediately invited to a party and is the talk of the town. She also realizes that her shiny new boyfriend Paul is a total creep who’s been spying on her and taking pictures as she sleeps. In the first smart decision she’s made the whole movie, she dumps his ass.
Ryan finds Gina’s corpse. After some more research, he goes to Claire and tells her the translation: “When the music ends, the blood price is paid.” As an added bonus, after the seventh wish the demon comes to collect the wisher’s soul. He tells her about all the other box’s owners, all of whom had seemingly idyllic lives after finding the music box, only to have everyone around them die before they themselves either A) committed suicide, or B) were killed seemingly by accident.
Claire finally decides to tell her two BFFs June and Meredith about the box. They don’t take it seriously, although Meredith does take the time to scold her for being a selfish bitch (“If I had seven wishes, you know what I would do? I’d wish for world peace, I’d cure cancer…”) June suggests throwing the box away, but Claire still hangs onto it.
Later, during a scavenger hunt, the three go to a hotel. Meredith separates from the rest of the girls to play what looks like a much cooler version of Pokemon Go. At the same time, Jonathan is driving down a dark and windy road. The music box opens, and they’re both put in dangerous situations as Meredith’s elevator is stuck twenty stories up and Jonathan’s car threatens to squash him while he’s fixing the tire.
Who’s it gonna be? The father whose death would have the most emotional impact if he was the last to die rather than now, or the sceptical black friend? Hmmm…
As the coroners are taking Meredith’s body away, June declares the whole thing Claire’s fault and tearfully storms off. Claire goes to Ryan, and after a brief argument they attempt to destroy the box, only to find that it won’t burn or be smashed by a sledgehammer. She hides it away again, but the next day it goes missing.
Ryan is relieved, but it all unravels for Claire. She and her dad lose all the assets her uncle August left them, she goes from the school’s queen to the pariah, and Darcie’s back and bitchier than ever.
It turns out June stole the music box, stashing it in her locker to keep it out of the hands of her two little sisters. Claire takes a very Gollum-ish turn and fights June for it, ends up throwing her down the stairs, then threatens Ryan when he tries to take the box from her.
Claire returns home and uses her sixth wish to bring her mother back.
Joanna comes into her bedroom alive and well. And look, Claire has two little sisters that she’s overjoyed to have! That right there is enough to pull anyone still invested in this movie right out. There’s no way a seventeen-year-old would be thrilled to suddenly have two nine-year-olds invade her bedroom.
Jonathan’s happy, Joanna’s happy, it’s Claire’s birthday and she’s prompted to make a wish when she blows out the candles. Everything’s literally sunshine and roses.
So of course the next thing the Magic Box of Ironic Doom does is kill her dad.
Really, Claire? You didn’t see that coming? You bring back one parent, obviously the other one is out the door.
We also learn that (surprise!) Claire’s mother also had a run-in with the music box, and that was why she killed herself ten years ago.
That’s the last straw. Claire decides that if the music box can so completely warp reality as to rewrite the past, it can send her back in time (because that makes sense). She uses her final wish to go back to the morning her dad found the music box, and wakes up the morning of with her dog Max on her bed, her father getting ready to dumpster-dive, and her mother still dead as a doornail.
Everyone else is alive and well. Claire calls a grumpy, decaffeinated Meredith just to make sure, hugs her dad, talks to Ryan about Gina, etc. Even better: no siblings! Claire goes with her dad on the dumpster-dive, finds the box before he does, and hides it. At school, she goes to Ryan and asks him to get rid of it. After some awkward flirting, dinner plans, and a sporadic kiss, Claire skips off across the parking lot…
And gets run over by Darcie.
(Honestly, all I could think about was Mean Girls with Regina getting hit by a bus. It almost made me laugh.)
Was it worth the $5 movie ticket and ninety minutes to watch this? Yeah, I’d say so. But I wouldn’t go see it again. Not until we can get it for free in the “Meh” Movie Section of On Demand.
What were your thoughts on Wish Upon?
This week I read Tiana Warner’s Ice Massacre, one of the goriest and most gripping YA novels I’ve ever read.
Basically, there’s a war between humans and mermaids in the north Atlantic. It’s not really affecting the rest of the world (at least, nobody else is getting involved), but the people on the island of Eriana Kwai are being starved, due to the mermaids eating all the fish, which the island-dwellers need for food. In response, Eriana Kwai sends twenty young men every year to fight the mermaids (an event called The Massacre), and nine out of ten times they fail to return. This is mostly because men get easily hypnotized by the mermaids, who then use the opportunity provided by their stupor to rip them to shreds. Literally.
So, after however many years of doing this the island finally decides, “Hey, the guy thing isn’t working out. What if we sent girls?”
Meela, the main character, is one of girls on the first all-female crew sent to kill mermaids. But the thing about Meela is she not only dislikes killing in general, she also has a Romeo and Juliet style friendship going on with one of the mermaids. It gradually escalates to full-blown romance, leaving a major cliffhanger at the end of the story (dammit, Warner!).
I found Ice Massacre after stumbling upon a review by Danika, who praised not only Warner’s portrayal of war but also the fact that it’s about a queer, interracial romance. With terrifying, killer mermaids. How many teen books out there can claim that?
Warner does an incredible job of showing the tragedy of war and the way humans value different lives. How girls, so often abused and oppressed, are somehow considered more valuable than boys. How senseless violence destroys beautiful relationships and young minds. How you can aid your “enemy” while remaining loyal to your people.
It’s an excellent book, with a sequel. I highly recommend it!
Be sure to check out my interview with Tiana Warner.
You can get Ice Massacre for less than five bucks at Barnes & Noble here!
Otherwise, they've got it on Amazon for $14.95.
We're starting a new DZA tradition! Whenever I decide to review a book, I'll post it here in addition to my usual weekly post. I'll also include links to where you can buy the book, so that if you decide you want to read along with me (as the title suggests), then you can.
This week we have Deborah A. Wolf's The Dragon's Legacy, an Arab-inspired epic fantasy in the adult section. I'm only about seventy pages in, but so far we've lost three characters, discovered a royal sibling, and a guy lost a hand. So far, so good!
Next on my list, after receiving feedback from my Artemis Fowl book review, is the rest of the series. I admit, I still have reservations about this story. But you guys said it was a good series, so I'm trusting you on this.
And that's it! I'm holding off on buying any more books. It's my birthday next month, so with any luck I'll get a few free editions to my library.
See you all on Friday! :)
I'm getting the three-box set from Amazon. But if you're feeling ambitious, you can get for a solid price.
It's also available at Barnes & Noble online.
The Dragon's Legacy
Game of Thrones season seven starts this Sunday.
After all this time, at long last we can finally resume our natural form as Sunday night couch potatoes! Rumors and theories have been flying around all year. Some are a given, and some are just plain ridiculous (Who the hell came up with the idea of Lord Varys being a merman? And where can I hire them?).
These six are my personal theories, having read the books and obsessively watched the show for years. I’d bet a solid hundred dollars on each of them coming true. Which means George R. R. Martin is now going to re-write book six just to contradict these theories. The glorious bastard.
6. Jaime's going to kill Cersei (and then himself)
Cersei has to go down in order for Daenerys to take over Westeros. Given the staggering number of enemies Cersei has made in the last six seasons, the only question is who’s going to get to her first? Well, according to the books, her little brother.
We got a part of the prophecy that’s been plaguing Cersei since childhood in the season five premier, where the witch told her that her children would die young. What you may not know if you’ve never read the books is that is only half of the prophecy. She was told, “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
“Valonqar” is High Valyrian for “little brother.”
Cersei automatically assumes that this means Tyrion, but that’s a little too obvious for George R. R. Martin. And there’s the fact that Jaime, while Cersei’s twin, was born after her. Therefore, he’s also her little brother, and he now has a motive for killing her. After all, he killed the Mad King because he was going to burn down the city. And what does Cersei do while Jaime’s away? Burns down part of the city. And we know she’ll have no qualms about destroying any other part of Westeros. Jaime may love her, but that’s too much even for his morals. And once he kills Cersei, we’re probably going to get a Romeo and Juliet-like ending.
5. Bran's going to take down the Wall. #Oops
He may not physically bring down the seven hundred feet of ice and snow, but he will certainly accidentally destroy the magical barrier keeping the ice zombies at bay (as told to us by a zombified Benjen Stark).
How would that happen? Remember that episode that made all of us cry? Oh, wait, let me narrow that down. It’s the one where one of the most beloved characters of the show died heroically. Well, technically two. Also the one where Bran was a bit of an idiot. Am I ringing any bells?
The episode’s called “The Door,” the one where Bran is Marked by the Night King, thus allowing him to enter the protected cave and kill the Children of the Forest, the Three-Eyed Raven, Summer, and Hodor. As far as we know, Bran still has that Mark. So what happens when he crosses the Wall?
Bad things. That’s what’ll happen. And because this show is written and directed by sadists, it’s probably going to be the last episode of the season.
4. Jon and Daenerys are getting married
Let’s do a little roleplay, shall we? We’ll pretend to be Daenerys first. She gets to Westeros, destroys Cersei, and with the help of Highgarden and Dorne gets all the lands south of the Neck under her control. But what about the North? The Starks and their followers may decide to follow their ancestors and bow to the dragons, but they’re still a very prickly bunch who will only ever truly follow one of their own. What better way to bring peace between North and South than for the Dragon Queen to marry the King of North?
Jon, meanwhile, is going to think, What do we do about the zombies? What do we do about the zombies? What do we...oh, look! Dragons!
3. Tyrion is a Targaryen
The dragon has three heads. That’s a prophecy Daenerys received in book two, A Clash of Kings. Given all the animal symbolism going on, and the fact that the Targaryen symbol is a three-headed dragon, it’s safe to assume that each head represents a Targaryen.
So far we have Daenerys and Jon. We need a third. In the books, we do have a third (but I won’t spoil it here). Since that character doesn’t appear in the show, we need to look elsewhere.
Tywin may have hated Tyrion for more than just the rough childbirth. It could be that Tyrion isn’t even his kid. In the books we learn that the Mad King reeeeally liked flirting with Lady Joanna Lannister. And we never did find out why Tywin betrayed him. Given how he managed his sadistic grandson, it wasn’t an issue of morals or dealing with an unpredictable ruler. Strategy? He saw Aerys as doomed and decided to join the winning side? Maybe not. King’s Landing is a strong city, and with Tywin’s army, they had a solid chance of defeating Robert and ending the Rebellion.
That leaves personal issues. If Tyrion’s birth killed Joanna, whom Tywin had genuine feelings for, then Tywin may blame the man who impregnated her. If that man is Aerys, then the sack of King’s Landing would’ve been excellent revenge.
Also, in the books, Tyrion is described as having very pale hair, almost silver. And while one eye is green, the other is black, but in the right light it’s said to be purple. Those are the trademark traits of a Targaryen.
This also explains Tyrion’s interest in and affinity for dragons. So far the only other person who’s managed to touch our favorite lizards has been their mother, yet Tyrion managed it on his first try. Speaking of...
2. Jon and Tyrion are getting dragons
It only makes sense. Dragons needs riders, and those riders have to be Targaryens. Even the dragons’ coloring is a clue. Drogon is Dany’s favorite and black, which is one of the Targaryen colors (black and red). Viserion is white, which is not only one of the Starks’ colors but also the same color as Ghost. And every Lannister has green eyes, just like Rhaegal’s scales.
1. The "handsome young man" talked about in this scene is Gendry
It’s hard to keep track of all the conspiracies going on in this show, and most of us don’t even remember this vague, unexplained exchange between Littlefinger and Olenna Tyrell in season five. After his brothel was destroyed by the High Sparrow’s religious fanatics, Littlefinger offered to give Olenna a “handsome young man.” Considering the death count on this show, the amount of available young men is slim, and that’s before you factor in noble bloodlines.
The only person alive who fits that bill is Gendry. If you can’t recall, let me save you the time of googling him: Gendry is Robert Baratheon’s last bastard child and therefore another person who has a claim on the Iron Throne. He hung out with Arya on the Kingsroad and in Harrenhall, before he was sold by the Brotherhood Without Banners. We saw him last in season three, when Davos smuggled him out of Dragonstone in a rowboat before Melisandre could host a Baratheon barbeque (a BBBQ?).
Here’s what probably happened: Gendry made it back to King’s Landing hoping to return to a normal life. However, Littlefinger has almost as many spies as Varys and managed to get his hands on him. He’s kept Gendry hidden all this time, and has probably been feeding him ambition. Not too much, since he wouldn’t want Gendry to try to stake his claim, however slim. But if you can’t be a king, why not be a lord?
It’s no secret that Littlefinger wants the Iron Throne. He’ll need the Stormlands to get it, which are ruled by, you guessed it, House Baratheon. Since Gendry is the last living Baratheon, that makes him Lord of the Stormlands.
I don’t know about you, but Littlefinger can jump off the Wall. Lord Gendry for the Iron Throne!
What are your theories for season seven?
Who do you want to see rule Westeros?
I actually finished Rick Riordan’s The Dark Prophecy a while ago, but thanks to starting my “real” job as a PCA and moving into a new apartment, I haven’t been able to blog about it until now. It sucks because it’s a darn good book and I’ve wanted to geek out about it for weeks now, but I couldn’t because the only other Percy Jackson fans I have regular contact with haven’t read this damn series yet!
For those who may be unfamiliar with The Trials of Apollo series, there will be spoilers for book one. Not for The Dark Prophecy, but definitely book one. Flee this website now, mortal. Save yourself!
Are they gone? Good.
For those of you who have read Hidden Oracle but can’t remember much, here’s a quick recap: Apollo is de-godified and turned into a sixteen-year-old by Zeus for his screw-up in The Heroes of Olympus series. Because of Apollo’s negligence, the super-evil snake-monster Python got out and got his hands on the Oracle of Delphi, cutting off everyone’s access to prophecies. Apollo met twelve-year-old Meg, daughter of Demeter (and seriously, it’s so cool to have such a BAMF demigod child of friggin’ Demeter). She claimed his service while he’s mortal, so they’re stuck together. The big bad guys of this series are the Triumvirate. In Hidden Oracle, we learned that one of them is Nero, one of the worst emperors in Roman history. He’s also Meg’s stepdad. The book ended with Meg running after Nero, Apollo feeling depressed, and the return of Leo and Calypso on Festus the dragon.
Moving on: The Dark Prophecy takes place six weeks after the fact, in Illinois, where all the monsters are super polite as they’re trying to kill you. Speaking as a Minnesotan: Riordan’s exaggerated depiction of overly-polite Midwesterners...is not much of an exaggeration. We’re not potato-shaped monsters with fake heads and faces on our chests, but other than that, there aren’t many differences.
We meet another member of the Triumvirate in this book, one Apollo has a personal connection to: he not only dated our latest villain, he’s also the one who killed him. Apollo is quasi-responsible for the death of his ancient son’s half-brother as well, since he refused to answer their prayers of distress when they were caught stealing from a king. This is an arguably responsible action to take, and his defense is that a person should pray for wisdom and help before they do something stupid, rather than ask for a cop-out when they’re in trouble.
Any way you look at it, we see more layers of grey in Apollo in this book. In Hidden Oracle, I felt bad for him. Sure, he screwed up, but since he’s the god of prophecy among many other things, just take away his domain over the Oracles and give it to someone who annoys him, like Artemis.
After The Dark Prophecy, I think I agree more with Zeus’s judgement (and wow, that is a sentence I thought I’d never have to say). I still like the narcissistic little shit and want to see him succeed, but I’m okay with seeing him punished some more. So long as that punishment doesn’t extend to the people around him. Which it probably will. Dammit.
Calypso was a disappointing character. I had hoped the ex-sorceress would do more than get hurt, throw away nets, and complain about her lack of magic and the boys around her. We learned that she’s slowly regaining her powers, though, so with any luck she’ll return and be much more impressive (and useful) in the next three books.
Meg made up for Calypso’s DID-ing (Damsel in Distress). I won’t give away any spoilers, since when we last saw her in Hidden Oracle she’d just betrayed Apollo and left with her evil stepfather Nero. She returns in The Dark Prophecy with even more sass and Demeter badassery. We also get more of her backstory, including her struggles in the abusive relationship she has with Nero. Riordan handles this delicate issue with his usual grace and tact.
Speaking of which, he’s really diving into the LGBTQ area. We see more of Apollo’s bisexuality, in regards to the villain (I say again: dated him before killing him) and a new character, who may or may not be descended from an African deity. Because we’re getting into that now, too. There’s also a set of same-sex parents whose adopted daughter is AWOL. One mother is an ex-Hunter of Artemis, and the other is a gadget-gal and probably Leo’s soulmate.
All in all, it’s an excellent book. And I can’t wait for the next three to come out!
Get your copy of The Dark Prophecy at...
If anyone is in Minnesota this weekend, you should stop by CONvergence in Bloomington! The theme this year is space opera: “To Infinity and Beyond!” I’ll be speaking on the “New Hollywood Tropes” panel on Sunday at 3:30pm. I’d love to see you there!
What were your thoughts on The Dark Prophecy? Comment below!
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!