Diana Rowland

The Superheroes Union & My Life as a White Trash Zombie

I read Ruth Diaz‘s novella The Superheroes Union: Dynama [Amazon | B&N] a while back, and then discovered a new problem (for me) with e-books. When I read a print book, the book sits on my bedside table, reminding me to do a review. When I read an e-book, I don’t have that reminder, and then a month goes by before I get off my butt and review the thing…

TJ Gutierrez is a divorced former superhero with twin children. Her ex-husband is a villain named Singularity, who can manipulate gravity in nasty ways. Our story begins when Singularity escapes from prison and starts hunting for TJ and the kids…

And then there’s Annmarie Smith, who helps save the world not with superpowers, but by looking after the children of superheroes while they’re fighting evil. She moves in to watch the twins while TJ does everything in her power to intercept and stop her ex-husband.

We’ve seen superhero stories look at family dynamics before (The Incredibles being a great example), but Diaz approaches it from a different angle. Her heroine is trying to build a new life and to protect her children from an overly powerful and potentially abusive father. Aspects of the story are almost painfully believable and realistic.

There’s also a romantic plotline, and while at times Annmarie seems a little too perfect, I liked her romance with Gutierrez, as well as her role in the world of superheroes. (Because how would a superhero ever be able to trust a regular babysitting service?)

The ending didn’t work as well for me. My biggest complaint was that it felt like Diaz pulled out a deus ex machina for the climax. But overall, it was a good read.

Diaz has a brief excerpt posted on her website.

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I also just finished Diana Rowland‘s My Life as a White Trash Zombie [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. I’m going to cheat and post an abbreviated version of the official summary:

Angel Crawford is a loser.

Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she’s a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who’s been fired from more crap jobs than she can count … until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn’t have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there’s a job waiting for her at the parish morgue.

Before she knows it she’s dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey–just when she’s hungriest!

This was a fun, fast read. I zoomed through the book in a few nights, and enjoyed it. Angel reminds me in some ways of Jig the goblin. She’s society’s underdog, and she knows it, but when you’re seeing life through her eyes, you can’t help but sympathize and cheer her on. Many of the secondary characters were a lot of fun too, and more than they seemed at first glance.

Rowland’s background includes a job as a morgue assistant as well as working as a street cop and detective, all of which add a lot of realistic detail to Angel’s life and work. The plot moves along at a good pace, starting with Angel’s exploration of what it means to be dead, then shifting more into the mystery of the serial killer.

All that said, I found myself occasionally troubled. It would be easy for this book to fall into cliche and stereotype, the “Ha ha, look at the uneducated white trash trying to survive as a zombie” approach. Rowland avoids that trap for the most part, I think. Yet there are still times when Angel felt defined as White Trash as opposed to being an individual, if that makes sense. I’m having trouble pointing to a specific example, which is annoying.

It might just be the title, the way a derogatory label frames the entire story and series. Or maybe it was the sense of needing to be rescued from her life by various men.

It’s also possible that I’m overthinking it.

To be clear, I liked the book a lot, and will be reading the sequel.  But I’d be interested in hearing what other folks thought of this one.

The first few chapters are available on Rowland’s website.

Mark of the Demon, by Diana Rowland

A quick follow-up thought on yesterday’s post on Author Entitlement.  I said the world doesn’t owe us a publishing contract, and that griping about not getting the success I “deserve” is tacky.  On the other hand, confidence is a must.  You have to have enough faith in yourself and your work to keep writing and keep submitting.

It feels like a balancing act, trying to find just the right amount of self-confidence and ego.  Too much and it’s easy to slip into entitlement.  Too little and you can get discouraged and give up.  It’s a little crazy, to be honest.  But then, you already knew writers were nuts 🙂

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I got Diana Rowland‘s debut novel Mark of the Demon [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] from Santa Claus this Christmas.  Thank you, Santa!

Kara Gillian is a young detective in Beaulac, Louisiana.  Also, she summons demons  (Like so many things, summoning isn’ t inherently good or evil; it all depends on what you do with it.)

Her first homocide case is to investigate the apparent return of the Symbol Man, a serial killer who tortures his victims and covers the bodies in occult symbols.  He vanished years ago, but now he’s back and killing at an even faster rate.

Not only does Gillian have to track and stop her killer, she’s also dealing with the fallout after accidentally summoning a Demon Lord named Rhyzkahl, a creature powerful enough to enslave our world if Gillian makes the slightest misstep.

I liked this book a lot.  It fits comfortably into the urban fantasy genre: tough heroine, nasty paranormal threat, a few hot sex scenes, and so on.  Sometimes urban fantasy starts to feel formulaic, but this time it worked well.  Nothing felt gratuitous, and Rowland’s background as a cop gave the book a much-appreciated level of realism.

Plotwise, there were a few times when it felt like Rowland was trying to hard to paint certain characters as suspicions, but overall the story worked really well, maintaining tension and raising the stakes with every chapter.  There were real consequences at the end, and without spoiling that ending, Rowland managed to take one element of the story which could easily have been cliche and write it in a way that made sense and worked.

You can read an excerpt at the Random House site.  And book two, Blood of the Demon [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon], comes out today.  I’m looking forward to it.

So, anyone else reading this series?  What do you think?

Jim C. Hines