Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Reviewer, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

Tag Archives: Love

Sense 8 Season 2

It’s been almost two years since I reviewed “My New Favorite Scifi Series: Sense8” I made no bones about it, I love, love loved this show! I rewatched it 3 times in the summer of 2015, checked daily for news of its renewal, and felt the greatest relief of my life when they announced it had gotten a second season.

Then I waited. And waited some more.

Then came the Christmas Special, which I didn’t love. As I wrote in that review, this isn’t like Doctor Who — it’s not episodic. The characters can’t just go on a stand-alone adventure and in fact, they didn’t. They honestly spun their wheels and made excuses for not taking action for an entire year, even while Wil and Rylie were on the run and in hiding.

It made me nervous. After all this time, was the show not as good as I had first thought? Had I set it on a pedestal too high for it to reach?

I waited some more.

Finally, a week and a half ago, Snese8 season 2 arrived and … I loved it!!!!!

First, don’t think for a second that taking 11 days to watch this show means anything except that I have kids, this show is extremely inappropriate for kids, they go to bed at 9 and I go to bed at 10. That’s one episode per evening, minus game night. Honestly, I watched this show as quickly as it was possible for me to watch!

Unlike the first season, which had a serious warming up period, season 2 got things rolling right away. The clan is in danger from Whispers and from BPO. They’re working together to learn more and to try to free Wil from his heroin-induced stupor (the only thing keeping Whispers out of his head).

Meanwhile, every character has his/her own things going on — Sun is still in prison and her brother is trying to kill her; Lito is suffering the fallout of coming out of the closet; Van Damn has been noticed by reporters and become a symbol of hope for his people; Kala is unhappy with her husband and the things she’s learning about his company; Wolfgang is in the middle of some Berlin crime wars.

The thing that struck me most about season 2 is that the characters had truly become a cluster. 

There are so many things that are awesome about this that it’s hard to separate!

  1. The science fiction of the show is more real this season, more apparent in every scene and in every action, making even the mundane seem more extraordinary.
  2. The pacing is faster because the interconnectivity of the characters is the most interesting part of the show.
  3. The pacing is faster because even when you’re spending time with characters or plots you’re less interested in, you get visits from characters (along with their baggage) you’re more interested in.

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about the way the show portrayed the worldwide cluster in this season. When a big event took place in any of the characters’ lives, the others were likely to be present, even if they were just watching or partying. Then they might take over at odd moments, bolstering one another and making each one more than they could be alone.

The cinematography was awesome too, of course, just like in season 1. Seamless transitions from Bankok to Seoul to Berlin to San Fransisco to Amsterdam to … they were all over the world! The amount of work that must have gone into making this show is mind-boggling. And it’s beautiful. It’s stunning. It’s worth it! 🙂

Having said all that … 

I do have a few odd complaints about this season. The biggest weakness in season 1 was the beginning, but the biggest weakness in season 2 was the end. Maybe because season 2 started on such a high note, there wasn’t anywhere else to go? But the last episode was my least favorite of the season, which is a huge problem. (Please note: I liked the episode, it was just my least favorite.) I was left feeling, not curious or anxious or excited, but frankly confused and bewildered. The final sequence of events made very little sense to me.

In fact, confusion was something I felt a little too often through this season. 

I watch this with my husband, and I can’t count the number of times I stopped to ask him, “What did s/he just say?” or “Did you follow that?” The BPO mystery was often revealed through a series of back-and-forth conversations, usually involving Nomi and at least one of the others, and I just don’t get it. Even now I don’t get it. I’m going to rewatch soon (from the start of season 1, actually) and maybe I’ll get it then, but it’s frustrating ot me that I didn’t get it the first time.

All of which means that while I still love this show, I’m not sure that I can say I love love love it anymore. It’s gotten knocked down to a 5-star rating from an off-the charts rating. Okay, maybe 5.5 stars! It’s good. You should watch this. 

Book Feature: Don’t Let the Wind

I’m pleased to share the latest from Aaron Paul Lazar with you, a talented author with a large and growing repertoire of books. Aaron is a fellow Twilight Times author and has become a friend of mine over recent months. I only read my first book by him earlier this summer, but I am excited to know there are many more — both in his backlog and being released TODAY!

Don't Let the Wind Catch You

When young Gus LeGarde befriends Tully, a cranky old hermit in the woods who speaks to an Indian spirit, he wonders if the man is nuts. But when the spirit rattles tin cups, draws on dusty mirrors, and flips book pages, pestering him to find evidence to avenge her past, things change fast. What Gus doesn’t understand is why his mother hates Tully and forbids him to see the old man. What could Tully have possibly done to earn this distrust?


Faced with long-buried family secrets and danger, Gus summons courage beyond his years in this poignant and powerful telling of the sultry summer of 1965.

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Author Photo July 2013

Interview with Aaron Paul Lazar

Q) How was writing Don’t Let the Wind Catch You different from the other books in the LeGarde Mystery series?

A) When I write from “young Gus’s” POV, I need to let myself go back to that eleven or twelve-year-old inside me. It was an age I remember with great clarity and with intense nostalgia. I simply try to be me (or Gus) at that age and let the story flow. Sometimes I have to look up when certain songs or events took place, because I don’t remember the precise year they came out, etc. And of course I’d already created the characters of young Gus, Siegfried, and Elsbeth in Tremolo: cry of the loon, so it wasn’t hard at all. It can be almost like a magical trip back to childhood for me, which is probably why these types of books are among my favorites.

Q) Where does the German influence come from? Brigit Marggrander, the twins’ mother, has a real problem dealing with her past life in a Nazi concentration camp. How did this come into your story?

A) When I worked for Kodak I lived in Germany for months and visited frequently, thus my passion for German culture. And my daughter, Melanie, performed in “The Diary of Anne Frank” when she was in high school. I’d sit in the back of the auditorium during rehearsals and as time went on my hatred for the Nazis deepened. So I had to include some kind of theme here for my German twins’ mother. Also, I have always been fascinated by stories about asylums, especially in the older days. I realize that in the fifties and sixties mental illness was often considered an embarrassment, and people frequently went years without help like Brigit does in this side-plot of Don’t Let the Wind Catch You.

Q) Will you ever write a story that shows what happened to Siegfried in 1966? (The boating accident that made him lose his math genius and left him partially mentally impaired)

A) I do plan to write a sequel to Don’t Let the Wind Catch You, and it would make sense for it to take place the next year, in 1966. So stay tuned!

Q) How hard is it to take a fully mature adult character and portray him as a child? You did this with Gus LeGarde, Siegfried, Elsbeth, and also made Gus’s parents, The Marggranders, Oscar and Millie Stone, and the LeGarde grandparents thirty years younger in these “young Gus” stories.

A) It was actually a lot of fun to take the “adult” part away from my main characters who started in Double Forté (book 1 in the series) and bring them back to 1964. (Tremolo) I decided to show Siegfried, the gentle giant in Double Forté who lost his mental acuity, before his accident. It was fun to portray him as a bright, math genius who also excelled in orienteering. Bits of Siegfried transcend across time, of course, and can be found in the pre-accident young boy as well as the mature adult who works in Freddie’s veterinary clinic and around the LeGarde homestead.

Q) Where did you learn so much about horses? It seems like you really know the details. Research? Or first hand experience?

A) Ah, my horse chapters are among my favorites, mostly because I miss my own Morgan horses my wife Dale and I used to ride every day. We were both horse fanatics—one of the reasons we bonded so well before we were married. We talked horses all day long, cared for, rode, bought, and sold them. But mostly we adored them. When we were married, Dale brought her little Morgan mare out to live with us in Upstate New York, and I purchased my first sixteen hand high Morgan gelding. Oh, the rides we had. It was Heaven. As a child I also rode the woods with my buddies. But we never met up with a hermit or a little Indian ghost!

Q) You cover a difficult subject in this book with great sensitivity. Were you trying to teach a lesson in anti-bigotry here by “showing, not telling” how Gus reacts to the discovery that his grandfather loved another man?

A) I didn’t plan to do this – it just came about. I wanted to have a scandalous secret that was revealed over time, and it just happened to involve a gay couple who sadly had to give up their love because of the morés of the time. In hindsight, I think Gus’s reaction to this “taboo” subject was authentic. He hadn’t been tainted by discussion of homosexuality being an “illness” or that it was wrong. People didn’t discuss such things in those days, not openly, and especially not with children. I grew up when Gus did and never even heard about gay people until I was in college. So I’m proud of Gus for his understanding and compassion, and glad that maybe in hindsight he can help folks young or old learn to accept people who don’t fit into a supposedly “normal” mold. I realize, also in hindsight, that I have included mini-lessons in all my books about accepting those people who aren’t perfect, like Siegfried (mentally damage) or Cindi (Downs Syndrome, from Upstaged), or Penelope (gay lover of Sam Moore’s daughter in For Keeps), or Raoul Rodriguez (transgender in For the Birds) or Slim (Huge black convict in FireSong), etc.
About the Writing Process
(selections from an original interview by Marcia Applegate, journalist)

Q) Why did you choose mysteries? Was it an easy choice, or did you have to make a conscious decision?

A) I always read mysteries, since I was a kid. I used to read Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie, and all the “animal” mysteries I could get my parents to buy on the Arrow Book Club in elementary school. I remember reading about Black Diamond (a horse) and lots of dog stories. My folks read and adored John D. MacDonald and I, in turn, fell in love with the Travis McGee mysteries of the master, Mr. MacDonald. They also had Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, PD James, and more mysteries always available in plentiful quantities. I guess it was genetics. I was born to two mystery fanatics. So I really didn’t depart from the genre. When I began writing, it was almost a defacto decision to create a mystery.

Q) Do you enjoy writing?

A) I love the process of writing. It’s as if I’m living in the movie in my mind. It’s a fantastic escape mechanism and I crave the process like a drug addict. Lately I’ve had to do more promotional efforts and I must say, I don’t enjoy that as much as the pure process of creating!

Q) Do you write in a specific place or time of day? Do you keep a notebook to jot down ideas?

A) I write mostly in the early morning hours or the later, quieter moments of the day. But I can write anytime, anywhere. I have been known to write some great scenes in a hospital, waiting for family to come out of surgery, or in the airport, waiting for a plane to Germany. It seems whenever I have a moment to myself, it is the “perfect” time to write. Although I must say my favorite time to write is the dark, early hours of morning.
I don’t keep a notebook, but there is a file I have on my computer with “ideas for stories” that I occasionally refer to. Usually I have an idea brewing for one particular story that seems to overpower me. I think about it constantly. I dream about it. And then the new book begins to take shape. That’s my typical process.

Q) Do you know the end of a novel when you begin? Do you ever change your planned plot in midstream?

A) I don’t always know the endings in advance. I usually know the beginning and the general themes I will use. I start to write and let my characters take over, then as the themes deepen and become more complex, the ending seems to fall into place. If you’ve read my works, you’ll know I usually like to end my stories in an upbeat, positive fashion. People still die, someone is still hurt, but in the end, the stories resolve to a positive outcome.

Q) Do you discuss your work with family or friends?

A) I used to drive my wife crazy, asking her about what Gus LeGarde (my first protagonist in LeGarde Mysteries) would do, or what she thought of one plot twist or another. Lately, however, I’ve been giving her a break. I think I used to drive her mad! These days, I sometimes run my plot ideas by my wonderful mentor, Sonya Bateman, who is a superb writer and a great teacher. She’s shared so much with me over the years and I know my writing has improved dramatically because of her influence.

Q) The Genesee Valley is almost a character in your novels. Have you always lived there?

A) I moved to the Genesee Valley in upstate NY (just south of Rochester, NY) in 1981, the same year I married Dale and the year I started working for Kodak. Two years later, we had our first of three daughters, and we have lived here and loved it ever since. I can’t think of another place on earth I’d rather spend my days, it is so beautiful, with the rolling hills and the Finger Lakes.
Characterization

Q) Does a character change as you build his or her part in the story?

A) I do believe in achieving what they call “character arcs” in general, although I never start out a book thinking, “how can I make Sam Moore grow and change based on the circumstances?” It just seems to happen naturally as the stories unfold. But I hope my characters grow based on their challenges and traumas. How could they not?

Q)Are your characters skeletons when you begin writing or they fully fleshed out?

A) In the very beginning, when I start a series, my characters are pretty well fleshed-out, with back-stories that are intriguing and sad or difficult in some aspects. For example, Sam Moore starts out in Healey’s Cave (book 1 in Moore Mysteries, otherwise known as the Green Marble Mysteries) as a man in torment. He has been missing and mourning the disappearance of his little brother for fifty years. No one knows what happened to Billy, whether he’s dead or alive, and it tortures Sam every day of his life. There’s a long period of distinct history, and he often thinks back to it, including in some flashback scenes. I think when I began each of my three series (LeGarde, Moore, and Tall Pines) I played around a bit with the characters to develop them. Gus LeGarde started out being a testimony to my father, who was much like him. Then as time went on and I edited and refined Double Forte’ (book 1 in LeGarde Mysteries), I ended up dispersing a lot of “me” into the character. Of course, I was writing in the first person and I actually am a great deal like my father was, so it was kind of a natural outcome. In time, Gus LeGarde ended up being an amalgam of my father, me, and his own persona.

Q) Do you have a favorite in each book (other than the hero or protagonist)?

A) In Moore Mysteries, I’ve started to fall in love with Sam’s daughter’s lover, Penelope. She is a gay, prescient doctor of Native American descent who really fascinates me. I think I’ll have to feature her in the next book in Moore Mysteries. In other books I would say, yes, I have “special” feelings for certain characters who crop up – sometimes they are featured characters and sometimes they fill the main cast. In LeGarde Mysteries, my favorite has always been Siegfried, my “gentle giant.” In Tall Pines Mysteries, my favorites are Quinn and Callie.

Q) Have you created characters so attractive that you hate to kill them off and miss them when they’re gone from the book?

A) Absolutely! First of all, I adore Billy, Sam Moore’s little brother who died at age 11 in Healey’s Cave, and who still comes into play in the rest of the series. Although he’s dead, he still is influential in the series. In LeGarde Mysteries, it was very difficult to kill off Elsbeth, the sweet and fiery wife of Gus LeGarde. I had the chance to bring her “back” so to speak in the prequel to Double Forte’ (where she’s already been dead for four years) in Tremolo: cry of the loon. It was nice to get to “see” her alive and active as an eleven-year-old in this lakeside summer prequel that takes place in 1964 in the Maine lakes region.

Q) Are there some characters you find yourself disliking, even though you may not have intended that?

A) There are some characters who frustrate me, like Freddie (Gus LeGarde’s daughter) in Double Forté. It takes her a long time to reject her philandering husband, Harold. I hate that she tolerates his abuse for so long. Most of the time, however, I feel deep and strong connections to all my characters, whether they are heroes or villains, straight or gay, powerful or weak. They are all so “real” to me that I probably could be committed tomorrow based on my feelings toward this parallel universe.

Q) Do you find it difficult to create an attractive, likeable but truly villainous villain?

A) Maybe it’s time for me to actually do this. So far my villains have been understandable but really nasty. Sort of like operatic characters. I think my next challenge will be to create a likable bad guy. ;o)
My colleague Sonya Bateman does this so well, I always admire the fact that she’ll get me hating and fearing her villain in the beginning, but feeling a camaraderie and sympathy for him in the end of the story.

Q) How much of real people do you put into characters? Could they recognize themselves or do you mix and match?

A) If they were still alive, these characters would be quite outraged, or terribly complimented. Most of the people who appear in my books have passed away, like my grandparents or my father. The rest are admittedly often based on my wife and my grandchildren. I love them all and can’t help but include scenes from our lives or aspects that are poignant and meaningful to the stories. Parts of my wife were the inspiration for Camille Coté, Elsbeth Marggrander, and Rachel Moore, in various aspects. My grandmother Coté was the inspiration for Maddy Coté in LeGarde Mysteries. My two maternal grandparents were the models for Oscar and Millie Stone, in the same series. The other characters, however, are completely imaginary.
Plotting

Q) What kinds of research have you done regarding paranormal happenings?

A) I hate to admit it, but most everything I include in my books stems either from my own experience or my mad imaginings. Of course, I can’t help but be influenced subliminally by movies and books. So I’m sure the paranormal aspects (like time travel) are influenced by movies such as Frequency or Lightning. If you read my favorite list of movies, you will see themes that are often prevalent in my books, such as unrequited love, an innocent being accused of something he did not do, or other stories with wonderful twists and turns. I love surprises, and frequently introduce them in my series.

Q)Have you ever had an experience in your life that you consider paranormal?

A) When my father died, I am certain he visited me three days after his death to assure me he was okay. I also feel his presence under certain circumstances and have had “conversations” with him while driving to work and in dreams. I know it sounds nuts, but there are very strong experiences which I truly believe are “real.” I have never, however, experienced time travel or met a ghost, per se. Once my daughter, Melanie, and I were in a concert hall listening to a piece that was one of my father’s favorites to play on the piano. It was Debussy. I felt my father’s presence so strongly…it was really amazing. My daughter later told me she felt his presence—before I mentioned it. She didn’t know it was one of his favorite pieces, so I am quite convinced he stopped by for a visit with us while all three of us listened to the Debussy!

Q) I believe it was P.D. James who said she created her characters, the setting, the murder weapon, and then the victim. What is your personal writing style?

A) I usually create the setting, the characters, the mystery (victim) and then the weapon, in that order.

Q) Do you outline a book on paper, make voluminous notes, or do you just have a general direction for the story?

A) I have never outlined except after I wrote a book to help create the synopsis. I am a detailed planner in “real” life, but for my stories, I just have a vague idea about themes and twists, and such. Then I let my fingers fly and the characters lead me through the story, frequently changing my original plans.

Q) Like most writers, I imagine there sometimes comes a point when you decide that a particular story just isn’t coming together right. How do you deal with those situations?

A) I’m currently working on revamping an older book I wrote in the LeGarde Mystery series, called Virtuoso. Although I think the plot is fine, the writing is a little stale and in my “older” style before I hit my current skill level. So I’m rewriting the whole thing. It’s going slowly and I’m not enjoying it. But I keep plugging away at it and it will eventually be done.

Q) Do you have a drawer full of half-written MS or topic ideas or notes for characters you’d like to write about some day?

A) I have one file called “ideas for books” that has one-liners about potential plots and plot twists – that’s it. Everything else has come full fruition into a novel. I usually start a book right away when the ideas hit me – and I can’t stop until the novel is completed.

Q) Is it easy for you to keep the plot of one series from impinging on your planning for another?

A) It’s not too hard – my characters are close to my heart and pretty real to me. So they stay unique and distinctly differentiated in my head.

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