First Review: An Army of Angels

One word kept jumping out at me, a word with enormous implications for me. That one word changed everything. If it was true, I was little more than Frankenstein’s monster.”


An Army Of Angels carries on with plot threads from the earlier book Chasing The Wind in this new short story by the author Norma Beishir. The first book, a novel drawing on themes of love, science fiction, religion, and dark forces, brought together two characters in a life changing journey. This short story picks up with hints and links to that earlier book, while introducing new characters in their own right. It’s meant to be the first aspect of a larger work from the author, and while the storyline has a logical conclusion, there’s room for much more to come.

We first meet Alex Stewart as he deals with the aftermath of the death of his father, Joseph Sadowski, an arrogant and vindictive scientist who he’s been estranged from. He wants nothing to do with his father’s legacy, and yet while going through personal effects makes a discovery that shakes his world to its foundations: he is
not a regular person, but a clone of another man.

Alex goes into a tailspin of self destruction, unable to paint, burning his way through inherited money, ending up working odd jobs, living the life of a nomad for years on end. He drifts from place to place, trying to find out the truth about himself and the man he was cloned from, believing himself to be an abomination. Finally he meets Robyn Cantwell, a compassionate young woman who spends her time helping the homeless when she’s not working at animal shelters. There’s a connection between them, and Alex finds himself trying to deal with his growing feelings at the same time as he tries to keep himself at a distance.

It helps to have read Chasing The Wind first, obviously. This picks up plot threads from that book and hints at more to come. The story focuses on the relationship between these two people, very different characters. Strong characterization is its bedrock. Alex is a sympathetic character from the outset. The clear estrangement he feels about his father is understandable from the glimpses we get about Joseph in flashbacks and journal entries. His father is a monster, and Alex’s reaction to the truth about his existence fits perfectly with that. He withdraws from the world, lives a ghost of a life, and his hesitation about being involved with Robyn is a logical turn of events. Alex is a tortured soul, but not because of a situation of his own making. It makes him compelling.

Robyn herself is automatically sympathetic to the reader. There’s a compassionate and empathetic quality to her personality, and a lighter touch. From the way she lives her life, the reader sees her as a genuinely decent person. And her brothers (a handful in and of themselves) provide some much needed comic relief.

The story has a natural pace to it, and a skilful touch in the writing. It’s somewhat condensed, but that’s merely for a short story format that comes to an end at the right spot. It deals with a tortured soul who has run away from the world, and the woman who coaxes him out of his shell. And it hints at a darker story yet to come. It leaves the reader wanting more, and I look forward to seeing where the author goes with the story of Alex and Robyn.

–review by William Kendall, Speak of the Devil


Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby!

I realize that some of my regular readers here don’t do Facebook, so I thought today I’d introduce you to some of the hilarious memes my son Collin does for my Facebook page. Enjoy!

In honor of the birth of the Royal Baby….

A nod or two to the Queen of Memes, the one and only Grumpy Cat….

A little humor aimed at the box office train wreck that is The Lone Ranger….

A particularly snarky wrestling manager….

And my new Facebook status feature, The Daily Minion….

Movie Review: DESPICABLE ME 2

My name is Norma and I’m a Minion junkie.

Ask anyone who knows me well, and they’ll confirm it: I never really grew up. I collect stuffed animals–and I love animated films. I admit that I’ve always preferred traditional animation, but then a bunch of noisy, yellow, overall-clad, goggle-wearing critters known as the Minions arrived on the movie scene, and it was love at first sight.

In Despicable Me, they were the bickering followers of supervillain Gru (voiced by the always funny Steve Carell), who adopted three little girls as part of one of his evil plots. In Despicable Me 2, Gru, now a devoted dad, has reformed and is attempting to start a legitimate business. He’s turned his lab into a high-tech kitchen for making jellies and jams. Too bad nobody, including the Minions, likes the stuff they’re making. His longtime sidekick, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), grows restless–as restless as a hard-of-hearing geezer mad scientist can possibly be–and decides to leave Gru’s lab and go back to evildoing with another supervillain. Gru reluctantly says goodbye to his soon-to-be-former accomplice and the Minions give Nefario a twenty-one fart gun salute (yep,I said fart gun–it wasn’t a typo).

When the Minions start to disappear, Gru doesn’t notice–at first. He’s busy deflecting the matchmaking attempts of an annoying neighbor and his own daughters. The youngest, Agnes, struggles with her role in a Mothers Day pageant at her school, feeling the lack of a mother of her own. Gru is also concerned that eldest daughter Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove), now a teenager, has discovered boys.

Enter Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig, who provided the voice of snarky orphanage director Miss Hattie in the original film), an agent for the Anti-Villains League, who kidnaps Gru and Minions Stuart and Dave and takes them to AVL headquarters, where AVL Director Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) tries to recruit Gru to help find a supervillain who possesses a dangerous formula that turns anyone injected with it into an unstoppable purple killing machine. He and Lucy end up partners, but at first they can’t get along, and every attempt they make to find the supervillain ends badly…starting with a restaurant break-in, during which they run afoul of a chicken (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

When little Agnes declares that Gru loves Lucy, Gru not only denies it, he insists he doesn’t even like Lucy. Typical male…denying his feelings right up to the moment he says “I do!”

The AVL thinks they’ve found their man when wigmaker Floyd (Ken Jeong) is arrested. Gru is dismissed in spite of his insistence that restaurateur Eduardo (voiced by Benjamin Bratt) is the real culprit…and with Nefario’s help is turning the Minions into monsters. By the time his suspicions are proven correct, Lucy is on a flight to Australia and her next assignment.

Will Lucy return? Does Nefario’s conscience get the better of him? Do Gru and Lucy have a future together? Will Margo, Edith and Agnes finally get a mom? And what of the Minions? Will they be yellow and cute again in time for next year’s Minion Movie?

See Despicable Me 2. The end credits scenes alone are worth the price of admission. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to McDonald’s and get more Happy Meals….

(Also posted at Rotten Tomatoes and WordPress.) 

My (Book) Babies…All in One Place!

After much nagging, I got Collin to create collages of all of my novels. The first group are the ebooks I self-pubbed. The Unicorn’s Daughter was originally published by Berkley as A Time for Legends. I restored the title I gave it because I got tired of people asking me the meaning of the title the publisher chose (I’d have to respond with, “I have no idea.”). They retitled Alexander’s Empire with Dance of the Gods (original title now restored). I did keep Angels at Midnight because I was never too fond of its working title (Alliance). Cover designs by my talented son, Collin!

Group Two: the Berkley books. Fellow authors and I decided the first four looked like DeBeers ads! As for Luck of the Draw, well, I’d already left the publishing house by then, so I got the generic cover. (I actually saw that cover on another author’s “dump”–bookstore display). Oh, well.

Group Three: my “Toni Collins” Silhouette romantic comedies. These books were a blast to write and the editorial staff great to work with. I hadn’t planned to write them, I only did the first, Ms. Maxwell and Son, on a dare–but I found they were unexpected fun! I’m doing something very similar now with Superhero in Training and Sucker-Punched.

And I have something new in the works, something I’ve never done before and never thought I’d do: short stories. My good friend and fellow author Shelly Arkon just released a wonderful short story, The Partners’ Progeny, as an ebook (cover also by Collin). I found I have some stories of my own to tell…stories from my existing characters’ pasts. Coming up: how Lynne (Chasing the Wind) and ex-husband Darcy met and fell in and out of love…Darcy’s subsequent romance with FBI agent Caitlin Hammond in the wake of 9/11…Alex’s (An Army of Angels, soon to be published) first love, destroyed by his selfish, manipulative “father”…and more.

(Also posted at Beishir Books.)