The Shape of Water is Story

The drought is over.

After a dearth of appealing films kept me out of movie theatres for all of 2017, I went to see Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water this weekend. Of course I’ve heard the hype–all the nominations and awards the film has already garnered. I’d also heard the catcalls claiming it was just another overdone creature feature trope with glitter.

The reviews only partly influenced my decision to quench my thirst on this particular film experience.  I’m a huge fan of Guillermo de Toro films, and Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my all time favorites, even though the experience left me devastated and sobbing. Since that film, I think I’ve seen most of his movies. As a fan, he’s on my “automatic buy” list–anything he puts out, I’m going to spend my money on it. To me, he’s not just a great director, he’s a master storyteller.

And thus the lesson.
Just like the opening paragraphs of any good novel, from the dreamy opening credits and music, I knew this is going to be good. Fantasy. Tone. Mood. Music. All set within the first few seconds. The (short) voiceover in the opening serves as the prolog for what will come, but the same voiceover at the end it wraps up the story, giving the film it’s final context.

With water as the predominant theme, it is echoed in the setting, the characters and their actions. Rain, boiling eggs, overflowing bathtubs, spilled water; even the colors used (key lime pie, green Jello, a cadillac, a lapel pin), and the muteness of the two protagonists all mirror the effects set in the opening scene, reminding the audience that we are in a special place.

In contrast, the conflicts are hard-edged and real. Violent. Cruel. Electric. A ticking clock elevates the tension, the stakes are high.  Death. Betrayal. Loss.  The story could have been set anywhere or any time, but a secret research facility in the paranoia of the early 1960’s is a perfect contrast to the dreamy cocoon of an apartment above the perfectly-named Orpheus Theatre in downtown Baltimore (Orpheus. Get it? Perfect).

You know the trope. Thanks to the critics and the marketing, you probably already know the story, but it doesn’t matter.  We come to story for the experience.  For the emotional journey.  Yes, the film is a fairy tale.  But more than that, The Shape of Water is Story, told by a master, with the most beautiful music (composed by Alexandre Desplat), cinematography (Dan Laustsen), and cast that will make you forget everything but the wondrous tale that unfolds before you.

Go see it.





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Hello Winter. It’s Ice Ice Baby

HiyawinterWelp, we’ve got a white Christmas here in Oregon. Everyone’s favorite winter weather event.  The weather folks (who should know) hinted at the slim possibility of a white Christmas, and everyone I know was excited by the prospect, which is pretty rare in the Portland area. A slim chance. Hardly even worth mentioning. It didn’t seem too likely.

hoarfrostb2After all, we were in the midst of a blissful, sunny (if cold) stretch of clear skies and sunny days.  Dry as a bone, but beautiful. Thursday morning, we woke to a winter wonderland coated in hoarfrost for the Solstice. A sky so blue, it hurt your eyes to look at it.

The rains returned on Friday.  Oregonians actually miss the rains if they’re gone too long, so it wasn’t a big deal. Maybe those weather folks were right.  A trace of snow on Christmas Eve–what a lovely thought.  Yesterday morning it started. I was on the phone with my sister, and went to the window to be sure. Yep.
Wet snow. Son of a gun, we’re gonna have a white Christmas.

iceice2Within hours, there was a light frosting of snow everywhere.
So lovely to see.
For about an hour.
Just until the temperatures plummeted.
All that wet snow turned to ice.
Slick as snot–not even a dog wanted to venture out in that mess.

You happy now?

You can keep dreaming of that white Christmas all you like, but don’t expect me to agree you.
Where I live, that means ice, baby. I’m gonna just stay inside all day and hope it goes away real soon.

Happy Holidays.

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Cosmic Groove is Here!

CosmicGroovelores I am thrilled to announce that Cosmic Groove, book 5 in my Hand of Fate series was released this week and is now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple i-Books and wherever you buy books.

Sometimes, every deal is a bad hand.

Mattie’s oath to Morta is under siege, and now there’s hell to pay. With an immortal sorcerer and his demon on the rampage, and a feud about to explode between the lycans and the witches, only a bad deal with the dead can help Mattie lift a centuries-old curse and rescue Rhys. But neither Mattie nor her friends suspect there’s a deeper, darker plot that threatens the lives of everyone in Shore Haven.

For Mattie Blackman, the Hand of Fate may be a very bad deal indeed.

Finishing a novel and releasing it out into the world always brings a fantastic feeling of accomplishment, but also has me on pins and needles until the first reviews come in.  Will people like it? Was it worth the wait?  I hope so. I look forward to hearing from you.

Posted in 2017, Chaos Karma, Cosmic Groove, Destiny Blues, Hand of Fate, happy dance, Having Written, Legacy Soul, Mystic Jive, paranormal, Psychics, review, Sharon Joss | 2 Comments

Hand of Fate Book 5

Yes, it’s coming.

Several of you have asked if there will be a book 5 in the Hand of Fate series, and the answer is yes, and I’m really excited about it. I don’t have a firm release date yet, but here’s a sneak peek at the gorgeous COSMIC GROOVE cover by the fabulous Lou Harper to tide you over:


Lots of surprises in this one.  Sign up for my mailing list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s available.

FebsffpromoWhile you’re waiting, check out this great deal on science fiction and fantasy books for $0.99 for Feb 4-5 only.  A lot of great reading here, including a chance to pick up my BROTHERS OF THE FANG at a steep discount.  The link to the promo is here

Posted in 2017, Chaos Karma, Cosmic Groove, Cover Reveal, Destiny Blues, FATE, Hand of Fate, Mystic Jive, New Release, novel, Sharon Joss | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

2016: The List and the Lesson

Cuore - Pagine - LibroAs 2016 draws to a close, I realize that it’s that time again. A time to look back at the books I’ve read during the year and share some of the top lessons I’ve learned as a writer. More than most other years, the best I can say about 2016 is that it’s nearly done. Every month has been tough–good news has been hard to come by. Good books, however, are another matter.
I successfully met my goal of reading 50 books this year. Less than I wanted, and I discovered a couple of new-to-me authors I’m happy to recommend.
Favorite new (to me) authors:
51-3ubj2sflI’ve had her books sitting in my ‘read me next’ bookshelf for years, but had never read any of Robin Hobb‘s books until this year. I plowed through all three (hefty) volumes of the Farseer Trilogy in record time, marveling that each book was better than the previous. What a wonderful cast of characters–this complex world is fascinating, and every bit as unique and addicting as George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Wonderful stuff, I’m planning to dig into her Fitz & the Fool series as soon as I can.

Not everyone enjoys horror, but I do. This year, I read quite a bit, some of it quite good. In particular, The Least of My Scars, by Stephen Graham Jones stunned me with a truly horrific tale–his beautiful, offhand literary style reminds me of Theodore Sturgeon.   Definitely too intense for some readers, but oh so complex and powerful. His newest book, Mongrels, is on my must-read list.

On a very different level, I also enjoyed Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. I am not a fan of H. P. Lovecraft, or anything Cthulhu, but I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, where jazz musicians provide the necessary magic to summon a savage beast.
Notable Classics:
51zeepnspsl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Every year I make an effort to read a few of the fantasy or science fiction classics of the genre. Last year, I read the first two volumes of Amber by Roger Zelazny. This year, I finished reading the series (all 10 books). I can see why it’s a classic, I loved the characters, the tarot cards and family intrigue, even as I would have been satisfied if the series ended after about volume seven or eight. I would certainly recommend the first five volumes–which retain a contemporary feel even 40 years after its original publication date.
Biggest Surprise:
Another book that has been out for a while, but I hadn’t had a chance to read was The Girl With All the Gifts, by M. R. Carey. I didn’t realize it was a zombie story until after I started reading it, but by then it was too late–I was hooked. A sweet and original tale of a bleak future and hope against all odds.
Favorite Books from Favorite Authors:
61sivautddl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Last year, I was dazzled by Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. This year, I became a true fan as I read my way through much of his backlist, and enjoyed each novel: The Water Knife and Ship Breaker were both excellent, but I really adored The Drowned Cities. The bleakness of a post-apocalyptic America, consumed by swampland, and torn apart by maverick generals, heartless child soldiers, and lab-created life forms is a fantastic adventure on multiple levels. Like The Windup Girl, his novels work on many, many levels, and his future hits disconcertingly close to home.
Favorite Writing Book(s):
I find that there are fewer writing books that offer something new, craft-wise. Annually, I usually revisit Stephen King’s On Writing, Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, Lajos Egri’s The Art of Creative Writing, and Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering. Now I have to add Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and Do the Work. This year in particular, resistance has been a real bugaboo for me. I’ve found his books to be both practical and inspiring.
One of the first rules a newbie writer learns is don’t be a jerk. That said, I think I’ll remember 2016 as the year of the jerk. Politics and the international stage aside, the lesson was brought home to me as I witnessed writer after writer being a jerk. For example, at WorldCon this year, both men and women writers, in separate incidents, were rightly expelled  for bad behavior–at a place where science fiction fans, families, and artists come together to celebrate fandom and genre–not to be subjected to a particular panelist’s self-indulgent demand for attention. Another writer I know was pilloried by peers in social media for bad behavior (nothing illegal, but abusive nonetheless). The storm of outrage grew to the point where contracts were rescinded and freelance jobs lost/relationships severed. I pass no judgment on either the behaviors or the consequences. Karma is a bitch. But the virulent reaction by uninvolved bystanders stunned me–a mob of ‘supporters’ lashed out at other authors and editors in a big ball of hate that went on for days, if not weeks. In football, this is called piling on, and the offending team would be charged with a penalty. This is because once the player is down, the sheer weight of the extra piled on players can cause unnecessary injuries. As soon as the referee blows their whistle, the play is dead and no extra hits are allowed. There is no excuse for piling on. Being a jerk cuts both ways.

I’d planned to add a couple of other lessons for the year, but after writing this one, nothing else seemed worthy. As a writer, I know to harvest those pent-up emotions and infuse my characters with all that outrage, disgust, and sense of injustice. Writers are lucky; we can add jerks to our stories and our readers will love hating them. No need to be the living example.

Don’t be a jerk.

Posted in 2016, favorite books, Favorite New Author, I love books, Sharon Joss, the list and the lessons | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Solstice

solstice2017loresHappy Solstice!

Tonight we experience the longest night of the year, and the return of the light.  It’s my favorite day of the year. I count my blessings, set my goals for the future, and cook up a special dinner.

Ancient pagans of northern Europe celebrated a twelve-day winter solstice holiday called Yule. Many modern Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, and Yule log are descendants of pagan Yule customs.

As for me, I relish the change in the seasons, and the ever-changing aspects of nature.  This morning, I saw a bufflehead duck emerge from the fog out on the lake with the sun in a halo behind him–beautiful (if very cold).

It’s also a great time to enjoy a good book. Here’s a link to some of mine.

May your days be peaceful and full of light.

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Winter is the Vegas of Seasons

ice3Why yes, we did have an ice storm in Oregon this week–turned practically our whole state into an ice cube. Fortunately, we’ve got some pretty good weather forecasters here in the Pacific Northwest, and we had a day’s warning. My company decided to play it safe and told us not to come into work the following day. And considering what a nasty bit of weather we got, it was a good call.

icy2So there I was on Thursday morning, drinking hot cocoa while I tooled around the internet, doing random searches, looking for inspiration, while outside, Portland grew a half-inch skin of ice over every surface. The bridges iced over and trucks couldn’t get enough traction to get across. We don’t often get that kind of weather here in Portland–our winters are usually pretty mild.  But Friday morning, people had to put chains on to get out of their parking spaces.  Nasty weather to be out in.

snowmenYeah, but to some folks, winter is more than  just snowmen and ice angels.

As my mind drifted toward images of weather, I let my fingers do the searching, and I began to develop a theory that there are more events and celebrations of the winter season than any other time of the year, save perhaps Halloween, which is not a season, per se. I mean, you hardly ever hear of Summer Festivals, but there are actually lists of the “Top 5 International Winter Festivals.”

reindeerAnd as for sporting events, winter is far more than the Olympics. For example, there’s the annual Iditarod in Alaska, the Elfstedentocht in Holland (a traditional, 120-mile speed skating competition), the Russian Kalevala ( 270-mile skijoring race), even reindeer racing and ice sailing.

winter5There’s winter carnivals, ice  hotels, and snow sculptures on a grand scale, constructed of ice and snow, and as transitory as the weather.


icy8And of course, all those holiday lights make everything prettier when the nights are long.  When you’re looking at the reflection of those lights off the glassy smooth surface of an ice rink or from inside your igloo hotel room, it a far cry from black ice on the freeway and chipping open your car door with a plastic ice scraper.

Yeah, I guess winter ice does have it’s place.

Besides, it’s good writing weather, and dogs love it. winter2

And it’s not even winter yet!



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