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joanne_doorsDoors is a brand-new time travel romance from Joanne Renaud, author of A Question of Time (which I also reviewed), out now from Champagne Books.

So, first, a disclaimer: Joanne’s a good buddy of mine, and I got to be a beta reader for this book, so even though I will try hard to be fair and balanced and objective, I will probably fail. That said, on with the review!

Doors is the story of Jackie Karam, a struggling freelance comic artist in New York City; the brightest spot in her life is her friendship with rich, eccentric party boy Orne St John. Inspired by an old book and the strange real-life disappearance of its author, Orne gets a wild idea: if one had a lost book in one’s past, a book one could remember almost nothing about, perhaps finding that book could open a door into an alternate dimension.

Orne himself has no lost or forgotten books in his past, but it turns out Jackie does: a pulp science fiction novel recommended to her by her favorite high school English teacher just before he died in a car wreck.  (This is Alan Forrest, the romantic lead from A Question of Time.) In the wake of the accident, Jackie forgot everything about the book, even its title, only an image of the gaudy paperback she checked out from her hometown library lingering in her mind.

This thin thread is enough for Orne. Ready for adventure, he hauls Jackie off to Maryland to try to open an interdimensional portal. (more…)

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The CW Seed website has made all of Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles available for free.

I would babble excitedly about it (it is my favorite show: yes, more than Firefly), but I’m strapped for time and no words of mine can do it justice. It’s machines from the future, it’s time travel and causality, it’s Lena Headey as Sarah Connor and Summer Glau as one of the aforementioned machines, it’s intrigue and mystery and philosophy, plus robots punching each other and shooting things with guns. Just go watch it; it’s awesome.

ETA: Evidently it is USA only, guys. Sorry about that; the rest of the world deserves robot awesomeness too.

TSCC_Season_2_poster

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Books! Books for everyone!

Books! Books for everyone!

We’re still pumped about A Question of Time round hereabouts; Donna Thorland, author of Mistress Firebrand, said of it: “A time travel romance for the 80s girl in all of us, Renaud’s debut packs the emotional punch of your favorite John Hughes movie and will send you rummaging under the bed for your high school mix tapes. A Question of Time is on my keeper shelf.”

I first met the author, Joanne Renaud, through good old deviantArt back in the day, and we bonded over common interests in science fiction, historical costumes, and writing. She’s a talented artist and writer-of-things, and she’s got a creative engine that just doesn’t quit churning out ideas. I fired a few questions off at her, about projects past, present, and yet-to-come. (P.S. You might want to go ahead and check out my review of A Question of Time, just so you are up to speed.)


Me: It seems that Alan’s death had a big impact on your universe–not just for Celia, but for other characters (like Kevin). What is it about Alan that makes him so important?

Joanne: I think in general teachers have a huge impact on people. A nurturing teacher who instructs you and helps you learn and develop your talents can have the most amazing effect on you. (By the same token, a mean-spirited, narcissistic teacher can be horrible.) I had an art teacher in my first year of college who encouraged me to draw every day in a sketchbook, and his sudden death after the term finished devastated me.

Alan is also youthful, talented, and compassionate. When people like that die, it feels like there’s a hole left in the world. So much promise, cut down… it’s pretty awful. Of course, tragedies like that happen every day, but it still doesn’t make it less tragic.

Me: What plans, if any, do you have for future tales set in this world? Do Alan and Celia feature in any of those?

Joanne: Yup! My next novel is Doors, which is something of a ‘side-quel,’ set in the timeline that Celia leaves when she travels back to 1989. In this universe, time travel with subsequent actions in the past causes new timelines to emerge: so, it’s less like Back to the Future, and much more like Sliding Doors (or even the Star Trek reboot). So, once Celia leaves the present [2010], what happens once she’s gone? Does her disappearance have a ripple effect on her original timeline? These are some of the questions I’m exploring in Doors.

The heroine of Doors is Jackie, a tough-as-nails Lebanese-American comic book artist who has a complicated relationship with her wealthy, handsome but highly eccentric friend Orne who is fascinated by the theory of alternate timelines. Jackie is also Celia’s former high school classmate, and Celia and Alan both have cameos. There’s a lot of timey-wimey adventures that result, but this time it’s more along the lines of exploring alternate worlds and relationships rather than going into the past or future (i.e. Sliders or Fringe).

Me: Can you explain a bit about the mechanics of time travel in your story? Is it guided by blind chance, or is there some other guiding principle behind it, as in Connie Willis’s Oxford time travel novels? Or is it something else entirely?

Joanne: Since this is going to be an entire series, I actually have an entire backstory developed for how time travel started in this universe. Doors gets into this a little; but the next story after that, Out of Time, really explores the origin story in more detail. It all starts back in the ‘60s with the experiments of one young scientist, Kenneth Tyler, who is something of a rising star in the world of physics.

Here’s an excerpt from Out of Time:

On October 10th, 1966, Kenneth was doing some top-secret hush-hush research for the government, when there was a massive explosion at his lab at MIT, wiping out most of the facility. He disappeared. No one knew what happened to him. People whispered that he was abducted by foreign agents; or that he was working for the Soviets, and rigged up the explosion himself; other people said that he had died of radiation poisoning and his body was secretly buried by the government in a lead coffin; still others said that he was working on some time tunnel device, and that he was lost in time forever. Some of the time travel theorists said even stranger things, like that this whole accident was responsible for a phenomenon called ‘time bubbles,’ small floating pockets in the space-time continuum that sometimes inexplicably whisked people forwards or backwards into time. The biggest proponent of the “time bubble” theory was this crackpot named Stanley Metzinger, who had written entire books on the subject.

Stanley Metzinger, with his crackpot theories, is a reoccurring figure in the series (and in fact, he’s actually an old college friend of Alan’s). Not all his ideas are correct, but the gist of them are true: ‘time bubbles,’ which resulted from Kenneth Tyler’s accident, are responsible for the time travel. So pretty much time travel can happen to anyone, since anyone can fall into a time bubble; but you really wouldn’t want that to happen to you, since you could be very well transported forward twenty years, where the spot you are standing now could be occupied by a concrete retaining wall. That would be a very unpleasant way to die.

Regarding time bubbles, most of them are concentrated around the time of the accident, from the mid 20th to the early 21st century: so most timeslips are going to be to the near past or to the near future. Although in theory, you could be transported millions of years to the past or the future, surviving such an extremely long journey in time would be practically impossible. Time travel is not fun or easy, and it f—s you up. In fact, the strange sensations of flatness, lifelessness and oppression that Celia experiences after finding herself in 1989 is based on the experience of two Edwardian lady professors who, while walking around Versailles, found themselves (as they believed) in the 1780s. The Moberly-Jourdain incident is famous, and it can be neatly explained with Metzinger’s time bubble theory.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that time travel is real… or does it? <grins>

Me: This is actually several questions, but: what’s your philosophy of storytelling? What are you trying to achieve with your stories? And what is your favorite part of the storytelling process?

Joanne: I want to create fun stories that make you think and feel. I like romances because there’s a crystalline simplicity to the plot, and a well-written romance can be very satisfying. I like science fiction because those stories can really expand your mind and make you think about the universe. With my time travel series, I’m trying to balance the intellectual aspect of SF with the more emotional needs of romance. I think when they work together, it can be a beautiful thing.

Of course, let’s not forget the wonderful moment when a character starts writing themselves. I think all authors live for that moment.

Not everything I write is time travel romance or SF, but I think most of what I’ve written has a speculative-fiction/genre edge to it. Tanith Lee is one of my favorite authors, and she does a masterful job of hopping from genre to genre with her own inimitable style. In fact, one of my favorite time travel romances is her novella, The Winter Players. If you can find it, read it! It’s really an amazing, heartbreaking, inspiring piece of fiction.


Want more?  There’s now a whole host of extras now available in the Extras section on Joanne’s writing blog: like fanart, a wonderfully purple excerpt from ’80s SF novel Medra, and a scene from Alan’s POV

And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the A Question of Time giveaway! Leave a comment below to win your very own e-copy of Joanne’s book, as well as a $10 Amazon gift card.

The small print: Comment before midnight EST on December 28, 2014, to be entered to win one copy of one (1) e-copy of A Question of Time and one (1) $10 Amazon gift certificate. The commenter must either follow Joanne on TwitterFacebook, or Tumblr.  Winner will be selected via random.org, with winners’ names posted on this blog by December 31, 2014. Joanne will contact the winners by e-mail. Only one entry per ISP address.  No purchase necessary to enter. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Void where prohibited.

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Today, I’d like to introduce to you, my reader(s?), one of my favorite stories, a go-to comfort read when I’m feeling down and need an injection of happiness: Joanne Renaud’s time-travel romance novella, A Question of Time, available from Champagne Books. (Full disclosure: Joanne is a friend of mine, and I had the honor of reading the pre-published version of this story. I just re-read it, and that’s why I’m finally doing an honest-to-goodness review.)

AQOT_coverThe story follows Celia Cavalotti, a science fiction author in 2010 New York City, who is still struggling with the grief occasioned by the sudden death of her favorite English teacher, Alan Forrest, back in 1989. Mr Forrest, even before his death, had a huge impact on Celia’s life: encouraging her in her writing endeavors, giving her books to read, and helping her cope with her parents’ messy divorce. She has even taken his last name for her nom de plume, and publishes under the name C.L. Forrest. One day, fighting writer’s block and sorrow, she decides to take a trip back to her hometown in Maryland. Her car skids on the wet road–and she finds herself standing outside the White Plains library, in 1989. Here she meets Mr Forrest again, and as an adult she can see how handsome he is. However, she soon comes to realize that this is not only 1989, it is the very day before his fatal car crash. How Celia chooses to act, and the outcome of her choices, makes up the rest of the action of the story.

Now, I am not a huge reader of romances in general, or at least modern romances, which seem to me flat, dull and uninteresting, and usually badly written to boot. (I don’t have a problem with romantic themes in the stories I enjoy; Thor is one of my all-time favorite movies, and it has a strong romantic element. After all, romance, love, is an important part of life, and it would be dumb to leave that out of our stories.) However, I think Joanne has achieved something marvelous with A Question of Time, keeping a strong element of romance while making the story about more than merely “will these two crazy kids make it work?” The story’s theme is stated in the tagline, a quotation from Dan Simmons’s Hyperion: love [is] as hardwired into the structure of the universe as gravity and matter. Love, in this story, is stronger than grief, and love undoes the sorrows of the past, even unto the rewriting of history.

It’s also a lot of fun. Celia and Alan are excellent, well-drawn, appealing characters with great romantic and intellectual chemistry; their conversations about science fiction and their favorite books are just as enjoyable as their flirtation. (And if you were at all into SF in the 80’s, the author names they drop will be instantly familiar.) Even the minor characters, like Celia’s parents, or her 1989 classmates, are painted with subtlety and enough detail to make them come alive. (I particularly enjoyed Kevin, the kid with the nautical obsession. Just can’t put my finger on what made him so appealing to me!)

AQOT_joanne-artThe 80’s period detail is always spot-on–you don’t really think about the 1980’s as being the distant past or all that different from today (or at least I don’t), but it was thirty years ago. Joanne has an eye for the little details that make that time come alive again, from Alan’s enormous glasses and feathered hair, the blue eye shadow at the drugstore and the totally hip fashions of Alan’s trendiest students, even to the types of cars in the parking lot. This vivid attention to detail makes the setting come alive; I felt like I was standing outside the White Plains library with Celia, and I could practically smell the baking asphalt.

The story moves along at a good clip, effortlessly pulling one along through an interesting and engaging plot. It is one of those “I’ll just read a few more pages” books, unputdownable until you get to the end. It doesn’t hurt that the characters are so appealing (really, is there anything more important in a story than appealing characters?); they are like real people, and people whose company and conversation I enjoy.

And then there’s the ending. I think my reader(s?) will probably agree that a book can be almost perfect, but if the ending isn’t right, the whole frail illusion collapses into moonbeams and motes of dust. Fear not, however, for A Question of Time‘s ending is perfect. This is a spoiler-free review, so I will only tell you that Celia makes the right and necessary choice for Alan, for herself, and for that Love which underpins the fabric of reality, and because of her courage, she becomes not merely an ordinary woman but a hero. Pretty epic for a romance, huh?

So basically (and you might have already gathered this from the rest of the review) I love everything about this book. The characters are wonderful, the development of their romantic relationship (and their friendship!) is well drawn and believable, and the story, though not action-packed, has enough going on to always be interesting. The writing is good and often funny, and all of these elements would have been enough to form an enjoyable entertainment. But the additional theme of love–not only the sparkly-feelings romantic love of most romance novels, but the deeper, grander, more marvelous Love that truly is hardwired into the structure of the universe–elevates this story above its genre into something beautiful and true and deeply satisfying to the soul.

 


If A Question of Time sounds pretty good to you, stay tuned! I’ll be hosting a giveaway here in the next couple of days: author Joanne Renaud will be giving one lucky winner a free e-copy of her story (in the format of your choice), and a $10 Amazon gift card.  Can’t wait?  A Question of Time is available at Champagne Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,  Kobo, and All Romance Ebooks. Stephanie Draven, award-winning author of DARK SINS & DESERT SANDS, calls it “a clever love letter to the 1980s brimming with fun cultural references that warmed my geek girl heart.

You can also find A Question of Time on Goodreads.

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