The Swoonie Awards are open!!

But only until January 30th!

If anyone would like to nominate our book:

Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers by Jen and Éric Desmarais

It is eligible in the following categories:

  • Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Romance
  • Best Cover (add “art by @pinkpiggy93 ” to your nomination in this category)

Please and thank you!

Happy nominating, everyone!

https://www.theswoonawards.com/2023/01/16/the-2022-swoon-awards-nominations-round/

Christmas With You – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2022 film Christmas With You.

Story

This falls into the category of “Rich out of touch city person” is shown the joys of a modest Christmas category of movies. That being said, there’s a little more heart to it with the way the main character has missed out on a lot of Latinx traditions. So it feels less like she’s learning about the joys of being middle class and more like she’s re-learning her culture and how to have a family.

There’s also a wonderful level of respect and collaboration between the two leads. Made me think of writing with my wife.

Score: 1

Characters

The two mains were great. I loved the amount of emotion in their expressions. I liked the solid, priorities in the right place, dad. I also liked the vulnerable and genuinely nice pop star.

The main girl was great for the early hook, but sort of fell back after that.

The manager / best friend was amazing.

Score: 1

Dialogue

There’s a lot of cheese in this movie, but most of it is the right kind. The Abuela’s thirsty comments are hilarious and the small snarky comments throughout are great.

My only gripe was the teens. What little dialogue they had felt forced, like the movie was written by someone who’s only seen teens in the movies.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

The visuals were good. The cinematography was acceptable and the sets were awesomely Christmas.

The music was mostly great, but I didn’t really like the final song. It was nice, but missing something.

Score: 0.5

Fun

It could have been very awkward and angsty, but the movie is a lot of fun. Mostly everyone enjoyed it. The three year old was restless, though.

Score: 1

Overall

A sweet and adorable Christmas romance. The leads are solid, but what makes the movie is the warmth of a loving family Christmas.

Final Score: 4 Stars out of 5

Book Mood Board

I had fun looking for pictures that made me think of the book Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers.

And I thought, why not share it with you?

Mood board of Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers. Pictures of a black motorcycle, a stargate from Stargate SG1, a metal pineapple, a cottage, a street sign indicating Westmeath is to the right, a fun-looking mushroom, a stuffed bear, two croissants and a coffee, and a dessert pizza surround the front cover of the book, art by pinkpiggy93, layout by Nathan and Mackenzie.

Summary

Kennedy Fairfield just graduated in the class of 2002, and is now trying to find her purpose in life, or at least a job in her field. When she saves Jason Johnson, the leader of a secret Community of supernatural people called Aetherborn, from an attempted assassination, they embark on a whirlwind epic romance and adventure.

For Kennedy and Jason to discover why people are disappearing in time to save her friends, they’ll have to face teleporting assassins, grumpy wizards, gossiping hags, mafia robots, and secret military groups, all in the city of Westmeath, Ontario, which has more secrets than residents.

The first book of four in The Gates of Westmeath series.

Pre-order Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers now!

Jason Mood Board

I had fun looking for pictures that made me think of the main male protagonist of Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers, Jason Johnson.

And I thought, why not share it with you?

Jason Johnson mood board. Pictures of a black domino mask, a black figure in a martial arts pose, a black and silver motorcycle, a hungry man’s breakfast, a Hawaiian pizza, a black suit and tie, and a raw peridot as a pendant on a necklace all surround two images of Jason, one in profile and one as The Phantom, drawn by pinkpiggy93.

Jason Johnson

Age: 25

Date of Birth: November 8, 1976

Appearance: Shaggy dark hair, hazel eyes, tall, golden brown skin

Job: Owner and operator of a pizza restaurant The Hawaiian. Head of the Oldtown Council. Aka the Westmeath Phantom, a vigilante with the power to manipulate and control shadows

Parents: Hammond and Monique Johnson, deceased.

Sibling: Younger sister Zoe is married to Gabrielle and they have one daughter Brooke (15 months old)

Pre-order Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers now!

Kennedy Mood Board

I had fun looking for pictures that made me think of the main female protagonist of Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers, Kennedy Fairfield.

And I thought, why not share it with you?

Mood board of Kennedy Fairfield. Pictures of a raw peridot, a black lace corset, a runway, a plaid skirt, the one ring from The Lord of the Rings, a coffee cup, a stuffed bear, a fun-looking mushroom, and a field of gold surround two images of Kennedy, one from the front and one in profile, drawn by pinkpiggy93.

Kennedy Fairfield

Age: 22

Date of Birth: July 11, 1980

Appearance: Long blonde hair, green eyes, tall, white

Job: Currently working in sales at Discreet Frills, a boutique lingerie store. Looking for work in her field of Agricultural Science

Parents: Lilah and Gerard Fairfield live on a farm in Parry Sound, Ontario

Siblings: Older brother Phillip, married and has one son (15 months old). Twin older sisters Eliza and MacKenzie. Younger brother Tommy

Pre-order Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers now!

Spotify Music Playlist

Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers has some pretty great music in it, so I made a spotify playlist of all the songs, in the order they appear within the book.

Do you think you can figure out what happens during each song?

Songs in order of appearance

  • “Ordinary Day” by Vanessa Carlton
  • “Lapdance” by N.E.R.D.
  • “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” by Barenaked Ladies
  • “I Want You” by Savage Garden
  • “Let me Entertain You” by Robbie Williams
  • “The Nearness of You” by Norah Jones
  • “Bumblebee” by Aqua
  • “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
  • “Ballroom Blitz” by Sweet
  • “Cartoon Heroes” by Aqua
  • “Deep Enough” by Live
  • “A New Day Has Come” by Celine Dion
  • “If The World Crashes Down” by Enrique Iglesias

One of the first things we did when writing this book was build a 2002 playlist.

I had already started writing my first chapter, and Kennedy had entered a bakery. I thought, shouldn’t there be music playing? What music would have been popular in September 2002?

Cue a post on Facebook asking about our friends’ favourite artists from twenty years ago. (Twenty? What?)

We bought a bunch of CDs to supplement what we already owned, and built an epic playlist to listen to while we wrote to add atmosphere. An entire scene in chapter 5 wouldn’t have been there without this playlist.

Pre-order Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers now!

Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist – Chapter 12 (Finale)


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 12

I was taken as a child from my parents, raised by a military cult, trained to be one of the galaxy’s greatest killers. The greatest fear any Black-Sun soldier has is of the Sun Speakers and their terrifying powers.

Because of all that, there was a large part of me that was convinced we would fail. That the physical and magical might of Black-Sun would come and stop us like a parent with an unruly toddler. 

We arrived at home base and I felt them before the sensors started beeping. “We have company,” I said and jumped on the sensors in the ship. Diamond and Flint had run off to the satellite arrays to upload the information on the matter replicator, the anti-Sun Speaker device, and Black-Sun stealing babies.

“Ah and I haven’t dusted the living room yet,” quipped Onyx.

Trying not to get distracted by the mental image of him dusting in very little clothing, I concentrated on the terminal in front of me. The sensors were telling me that there were two Black-Sun destroyers in orbit. 

Heading to the pilot’s chair, Sphene said, “Only two. I guess we’re not that important. If we launch now, we can maybe lead them away from home base.”

I was going to agree when a wave of nausea made me regret being born. “Wait!” I managed to say without gagging.

Putting the sensor view onto the ship’s main screen showed something weird. A small black mass coalesced into a ship. The Mountain’s voice came over the coms, “You’re having a party and didn’t invite us? That’s just rude.”

The Black-Sun should have fired on him the moment he arrived, but they hesitated, looking at the patchwork and frankly ugly ship. That gave the Mountain and his crew enough time to fire two bombs at the destroyers. 

The bombs hit the Black-Sun ships and instead of exploding they stuck to the hull for a moment before imploding. “Where did you get Plasma-Gravity Bombs?” I asked in disbelief as the mass of the ships was crushed into a dense ball of metal.

Sheepishly, the Mountain said, “I’m a scavenger. Blackbird and his crew are dead; they didn’t need all their stuff in that secret base.” He paused before adding, “I brought a whole bunch of stuff for Ronnie. Just ’cause her old man was a dick doesn’t mean she should suffer.” I doubted that Ronnie was suffering, from what Diamond said they were both extremely happy together.

“Thank you,” I said earnestly.

“It’s only a matter of time before more Black-Sun show up.” He stopped for a second and I saw that Diamond had managed to send the message out. The Mountain started to swear.

The message went out and wherever it went, it was spread as far as possible. Soon the entire system had the tools to fend for themselves and defend themselves against Black-Sun.

We all braced for a fight, but they’d relied on the Sun Speakers and their psychic powers for so long they didn’t know how to fight regular people. When the military turned against them, they retreated to the edges of the system where they had their bases. 

The acolytes of the sun were dealt with in bloody and terrifying ways. Regular doctors started taking care of childbirth and infant mortality dropped to nearly nothing. That meant a lot more mouths to feed, but the matter replicators made sure that wasn’t a problem.

We stayed with Diamond, whose real name was Ruby, for the first month. She came to see me while I was doing upgrades on the Revenge. 

“Everything okay, Dia—Ruby?” I asked.

She put the Diamond Stars holo-emitter next to me and said, “I’d be honoured if you would take on the mantle of Diamond.”

Every night since we’d sent out the broadcast, I’d had nightmares. I tried to convince myself they were just dreams, but I knew they were psychic visions.

“I can’t,” I said.

“Bullshit. I see in your face that there’s something you need to do and no matter what it is, you can do it as Diamond.”

“I think I’m meant to leave the system,” I said.

That took her a few seconds to process. “Well, this system has had Diamond Stars for several centuries. Time we shared with the universe.”

I put my hand on the device and thought of all the people who’d used it and the hope they’d brought to the system. “Thank you.” I turned and hugged her. “Thank you for everything.”

“This ship is called Revenge because the first Diamond wanted revenge on Black-Sun for everything they’d done. The name is a promise and it’s your turn to fulfill it.” With that, she walked off the ship.

I didn’t know why a Sun from so far away had chosen me to be its speaker, or why I’d gotten so lucky as to be kidnapped by this crew, but I was thankful.

It took me a few more months to upgrade the ship to both survive deep space and defend itself. When I was done, I dressed the part of Diamond Stars and went to say goodbye to Ruby.

“Diamond,” she greeted me. “It’s been an honour getting to know you. Are you going to tell the doctor?”

I shook my head and said, “He deserves a better, and longer, life than I can offer.”

“Good luck,” she said and I left.

On the bridge, I closed the hatches and ran through the preflight checks. I felt a pang of guilt and loneliness as I took off. They’d be better off without me and my crusade.

With stealth activated, I took the closest jump gate to the system’s edge. It would take a little time for me to reach the Black-Sun fleet that was massing. My plan was to follow them, piggybacking on their wormhole, and help whoever they were attacking.

I was half way when I started smelling something delicious. I walked towards the kitchen and said, “Whoever you are, you’re obviously not Galactic Police or Army. They don’t use that much garlic in their tomato sauce.”

Onyx turned to me as I walked into the kitchen, “Oh shut up. You love my spaghetti sauce.”

“I do,” I said before adding softly, “You shouldn’t be here.”

Sphene looked up from her datapad and said, “You’re an idiot, Diamond.”

“What my little sister means is that you’re not getting rid of us that easily.” Onyx walked over to me and gently smacked my shoulder. “Stop being all dramatic and come sit down for dinner. We’re family now.” He bent over and kissed my cheek. “Please don’t try to leave me again. I don’t think my heart could take it.”

I took his beautiful face in my hands and pulled him into a deep, passionate kiss. “I love you, too.” Somewhere between the smell and the kiss, I’d started crying. 

We were going to help fight the most powerful people I knew of, but we would do it together and together there was hope.

I am Diamond Stars, I’m a Sun Speaker of Sol, and I’m going to make sure Black-Sun knows the name of my ship.


While you wait for 2022’s serial story, check out the previous ones:


Want to learn more about what Sun Speakers are? Check out what the one in our solar system is up to.

Sun Speaker

In the distant future humanity has spread to the other planets in our solar system. These stories follow Hal (a prophet for a godlike entity that lives in the sun), and his friends, as they try to make the solar system a better place.

Hal The Sun Speaker

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Assassin

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Gladiators in SPACE!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Ghost Ship Robinson

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

Single All the Way – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Single All the Way.

Story

The story is a copy paste from so many other Christmas movies. Instead of an ex or childhood friend, it’s a current best friend, but it’s pretty much the same. Even though the story is basic, the final touches are wonderfully queer.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The slightly neurotic big city agent, the small town ski instructor, the overbearing mother trying too hard, the sensitive nice guy, and the overdramatic aunt. All the stereotypes are there and they added a few extra with the meddling teens and the wise dad.

A lot of Christmas movies feel like they forget about the love part of romance and the love in the family around them. This one didn’t and love was very much central and believable.

Score: 1

Dialogue

Oscillating from corny to sweet, the dialogue was perfect for the type of movie. I’m also really impressed at how well the different couples communicated. It would be easy, and typical, to have non-communication caused hijinks. I’m glad they didn’t go that way.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The visuals were pretty but generic. The filming was effective and I really liked how they framed the lovey-dovey moments.

The music was pretty good. Lots of Christmas and a few original songs.

Score: 1

Fun

I took particular joy at the teenagers forcing a “There was only one bed” scenario. Obviously the teens are learning their set-up methods from fanfics. I also really liked seeing all the Canadian actors.

My five year old liked it; she really got into the set up. She kept asking why he was going on date with the other guy. My two year old got a little bored.

I appreciated that they avoided angst and awkwardness. I also liked that it was an unabashedly queer and happy story, which is a combination that we need more of.

Score: 1

Overall

This is the happy, queer, and Christmassy movie you’ve been looking for. It’s fun, cute, and honestly really refreshing.

Final Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Holiday – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2006 film The Holiday.

Story

The movie is easy to brush off as another rom-com holiday movie, but it has some surprising depth to it’s story and insights on love. The parallel structure both between the stories and between each pair of lovers is amazing.

Score: 1

Characters

Despite some exaggerated characteristics, the characters are well grounded and relatable. Each actor is at their best and it shows that the characters and roles were written for these specific actors. I still think it would be nice to see Jack Black in more romance roles.

Score: 1

Dialogue

There’s a wonderful balance between mid-aughts slang, romance tropes, and dialogue inspired by classic films. It gives the film a historic and timeless feel.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

Between this viewing and the last we upgraded from a DVD to a Blu-ray and upgraded our TV to 4K. The jump in colour and depth was amazing. This movie looked foggy and grey before and now looks vibrant and sharp.

With the upgraded tech, I can see the impressive camera work and hear the music better. The music goes the extra mile to give each character a theme and even make it so that they are played at a different tempo and key depending on the situation. Example, when they’re having a hard time, things go minor. Another cool trick is the melding of the romantic lead’s themes when they’re being romantic.

Score: 1

Fun

I always expect to find this movie long or get annoyed with the plot, but I don’t. It’s a story that makes me sad and happy and leaves me feeling satisfied. It’s just enjoyable.

The kids, however, got bored. It’s a little more talky and emotional than they fully grasp right now.

Score: 1

Overall

This movie plays on the actors’ strengths and develops believable and lovable characters. It’s got just enough of a classic movie feel combined with a good romance to make it unique and fun to watch.

Definitely a feel-good movie with lots of depth.

Final Score: 5 Stars out of 5*


*A 5 star review doesn’t mean the movie was perfect nor that it is perfect for everyone but it is a movie I believe is as close to perfect as possible.

Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist – Chapter 11


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 11

“Where did they go?” yelled a voice. It was the Black-Sun encrypted frequency and either this was the greatest actor in the galaxy or our trick had worked.

“If we move, they’ll shoot us down,” said Diamond, looking perplexed.

I shrugged and said, “We’d better hope they give up or search somewhere else for us because this emitter can’t handle our disguise for more than another ten minutes.”

Sphene made a little squeaking sound and said, “I get that this was the plan and we didn’t expect it to work.” Her brother gave her a surprised look and she continued, “Oh, come on, Diamond had her ‘we’re going to die’ face on. And there was the whole proposal from Garnet.” She turned back to me and Diamond and finished, “We need a next part of the plan.”

Diamond shook her head and said, “Youth today. Always in a hurry. I’ll be glad to retire. Anyway. The moon behind us is hiding a jump gate. We just have to figure out how to use it without alerting the giant, super advanced fleet of psychics.”

“Sounds easy to me,” Flint hooted from the front.

Diamond nodded and asked me, “Can we switch from our disguise to the cloak without them noticing?”

“If anyone is looking at us or any scans pass by us, they’ll notice. You wouldn’t have another distraction up your sleeve?” It was a long shot, but I had to ask. She shook her head and we all paused for a second. 

I’ll never forget that second. It’s when my whole life changed. One moment, I was a deserter turned mechanic, turned thief; the next, I was flooded with images, sounds, smells, thoughts, and emotions. It was all extremely overwhelming and I needed to sit down.

“What just happened?” Onyx asked. He must have asked a few times because he looked worried.

I wasn’t sure how to answer him so I just said, “I feel like I just watched a hundred movies at once.”

Flint turned around and looked at me wide eyed. “Did you see anything about what’s going on right now?”

An image of us going through the gate and the moon exploding popped into my memory and I explained it to the group. When I was done I added, “I think there’s a self destruct in the gates. If we send an altered code just as we go through, it’ll blow up behind us.”

“What are we talking about here?” Diamond asked and then added, “Are we destroying the whole fleet?”

I shrugged. “It wasn’t that specific.”

“Well, dang. Little grease monkey here’s a baby Sun Speaker,” Flint sounded both reverent and highly amused.

We moved slowly towards the moon like a toddler trying to be sneaky, switched from disguise to cloak, and went through the gate at a speed that was completely reckless. I punched in the code myself and we watched as the entire fleet shot at us.

Once on the other side of the gate, it exploded moments before some of the missiles would have come through. We all whooped with joy and hugged. When I got to Onyx, I took his beautiful face into my hands and leaned forward to kiss him. He smelled of cooking, disinfectant, and sweat. I hesitated and he said, “Yes, please.” 

Our kiss started off soft and gentle and progressed to hungry. I lost all thought of the horrors of Black-Sun or the worries of being a Sun Speaker.

Diamond’s gleeful laughter pulled us out of the kiss and when we gave her a confused look, she said, “I bet Flint you’d kiss before we made it to home base.” Flint pulled out some credit chips and passed them over. We all laughed a little and Diamond asked, “If I get you to Viol, would you have the parts to build a ship-sized version of the anti-Sun Speaker tech?”

“Wait a second,” Sphene said. “If you had that thing on, how did he get that vision?”

“Each Sun has a separate frequency,” started Flint. “Ours is blocked by the tech and whatever Sun is talking to Garnet is not. You must be in contact with some sort of Rebel Sun.”

“Right. Why else would it want us to send this information out?” I added. Another image from the flash jumped to mind and I added, “There are other Suns and most of them are not on our side.” I then remembered Diamond’s question and replied, “Yes I can, but we’ll have to hurry. They might not be able to track us, but they certainly can figure out where you’ve been from flight and docking records.”

We hurried to Viol, where I had thought I’d spend the rest of my life, and everything felt smaller. Like when I’d visited the training academy after my first tour. 

I built the device and installed it on the ship. I also upgraded the holo-emitter and brought my favourite tools on board.

“So, you’ve decided to join us full time?” asked Onyx, obviously trying to look casual and failing.

“Yes. This may have started as a kidnapping, but you make really good spaghetti.” 

 “Even though I add too much garlic?”

“I never said that, I just said it was more than the military or galactic police put in theirs.”

We smiled at each other and he took my hand as I brought my stuff on board. We might be getting ready to destabilize the system by exposing the horrors of Black-Sun and we were about to become the number one most wanted by an army of psychics, but I was happy. That might sound selfish, but love is a wonderful motivator for hope.

“Alright. Let’s get to home base and finish this,” Diamond said. “Who’s ready to pick a fight with the biggest, baddest jerks in the galaxy?”

Read Chapter 12


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:


Want to learn more about what Sun Speakers are? Check out what the one in our solar system is up to.

Sun Speaker

In the distant future humanity has spread to the other planets in our solar system. These stories follow Hal (a prophet for a godlike entity that lives in the sun), and his friends, as they try to make the solar system a better place.

Hal The Sun Speaker

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Assassin

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Gladiators in SPACE!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Ghost Ship Robinson

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7