Thursday, April 30, 2009

No Pretenses

We finally watched Shoot 'Em Up. The only reason why it took so long for us to see it was simply that we forgot about it, and it somehow slipped past our Netflix radar.

What it lacked (flashy fast cars, naked male torsos—one shot of Clive Owen's chest with a baby against it doesn't cut it—and hand-to-hand combat) it made up for in its unabashed homage to violence and, more specific, guns.

I have a game I play in theaters sometimes: I try to count how many guns are show in each preview. It's amusing, and also surprisingly telling of the level of action/violence of the previewed movie. Plus, it's incredible how many different guns can be shown in approximately thirty seconds. Thinking along the same vein, my goal at the start of the film was to keep a body count, just for the fun of it. I lost count within the first ten minutes, mainly after the first, very distracting kill with a carrot. (And here I thought vegetables were a rather peaceful food.)

My joy during the film, and the gruesome things I found funny, make me think I might be more bloodthirsty than I give myself credit for, but perhaps it was the sheer ridiculous of much of the action that I wholeheartedly enjoyed. How many times can the hero shoot accurately while the bad guys miss? Apparently, infinitely. What level of bodily harm can the hero take and still keep kicking—er—shooting? Infinite might possibly be the answer again: a car crash seemed only to improve his aim, torture only made him mad. (Though I'll admit that I left the room when the torture started, having no taste for violence that started to border on reality.)

Clive Owen was great in the film. I suppose Paul Giamatti was, too, but he gives me a bit of the creeps no matter what film he's in, so it's hard to admire him. It's not a movie you should go into thinking you're going to get depth and Academy-worthy performances, but it is definitely entertaining.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lost in Pattern Recognition

I'm almost 100 pages into Pattern Recognition by William Gibson, and I'm not sure if I like it. I definitely don't not like it, but that's not a resounding compliment. And I would try another of his novels just to make sure that this one wasn't possibly off for me because of the character or plot. I guess that means I sort of like it. Hum. As you can see, I'm struggling just to decide my own opinion. Here are the things that are tripping me up:

First, I don't understand fully what's going on. In the big picture, in a few small scenes, in the occasional sentence.

Second, the prose is so heavy yet scattered that I haven't yet decided if Gibson has a certain genius to his style or if it's just a gimmick.

Third, it's written in limited third person, present tense, which makes me hyper-aware of the narrator who at times seems to be watching the main character (she sees, she walks, she's taken aback) and at other times seems to be inside the main characters thoughts, whittling the narrative down to just her impressions of things.

The verdict is clearly still out.

Monday, April 27, 2009

New-to-me Authors

For this week's contest on Number One Novels, I ask people to comment on the question: Out of all the books you read in a year, how many are written by new-to-you authors (either by number or percentage)? It seemed only fair to answer the question myself.

I started keeping track of all of the books I read each year in 2007, but I didn't start keeping track of new-to-me authors that I read until last year. If I had to guess, I would have thought I read about 5–12 new authors a year (out of approximately 50 books). I was shocked to learn that I read 22 new-to-me authors in 2008—45% of all the books I read!

This year, I think running Number One Novels has definitely influenced my numbers. Constantly having new authors on my mind has influenced me when I go to the bookstores. Yes, I still make a beeline to my favorite authors, but I also take more time perusing the shelves for the new-to-me and the just plain new authors. So far this year, I've read 12 new authors (out of 20), and a few of those have been NON authors.

Don't forget to stop by NON this week for a chance to win an autographed copy of Christy Reece's debut novel Rescue Me!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Elder Gods

I finished David and Leigh Eddings' The Elder Gods this week. I thoroughly enjoyed my return to Eddings writing. As I commented in my World-building post, reading Eddings again reminded me of the difference between average authors and masters, and Eddings definitely falls on the master side.

There was a calm fluidity to the entire novel, which served me well, because I tended to read it in fits and bits, two minutes here, five there, and I still had no problem picking the story back up and getting back into it for those few minutes. (Unlike William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, which I just started—his novel is definitely going to require concentrated blocks of time. Not that this is a bad thing, either.)

I love Eddings' characters. They're familiar, their pattern almost predetermined by gender and social status (if you've read earlier Eddings works, you'll recognize the same traits of those men and women in The Elder Gods' hero and heroines), but they're fun people nonetheless.

The one thing that I found bothersome was the fact that Eddings almost never let the characters sum up anything off-page. Events just read about in real time were rehashed by characters in paragraphs of dialog rather than simply say something like, "Zelana quickly brought her brother up to speed about their battle plans." I understand that in real life, people tend to have to do a lot of repeating of information to do things like compile and army and set battle plans, but once the reader hears it once, the simpler sentence would have served the needs of the reader just fine.

Nevertheless, I look forward to returning to the adventures of Eddings' characters in The Treasured One, the next novel in the series.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Murder Mysteries

I've recently begun to hesitantly test the waters of the mystery genre. Some I've liked. Some have grossed me out. It's been a delicate process, but I think I may have found another genre to collect. (Yes, that sigh you heard was Cody.)

I don't yet have favorite mystery authors or books, but I do have a few thoughts about them. First, in novels where the heroine (they've all been heroines so far) is not in a murder-related field (FBI, detective, cop, etc.) yet still manages to keep stumbling across body after body throughout the series, when do the rest of the cast of characters begin to suspect her. I mean, does it become a running joke that the heroine is a dead-body magnet?

Second, I would LOVE to see a novel written with several of these body-magnet heroines in it. Imagine how many murdered people they'd come across! Just the thought gives me the giggles (though that sounds wrong, since I'm talking about murders). Of course, they'd also run across a gaggle of chiseled-jaw, fierce-eyed detectives, all with muscles to rival a cage fighter's. Hum, I see the potential there...maybe a miniseries on TV. Or a regular TV show. The Gaggle of Gorgeous Guys vs. the Dead-Attracting Heroines. Or some, much better, title. Hum, I might have a new book in the works. Now all I need is a good mystery-writer pseudonym. Any suggestions?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Last Things

I remarked to Cody the other day, "You don't often know when you're doing something for the last time."

"Oh, that's sad," he said.

To which I had to explain that I was thinking about my fuzzy socks, how the weather had gotten warmer, and how I hadn't realized that the previous time I'd worn them was going to be the last time for the season. Not exactly deep, but not sad, either.

However, Cody got me thinking. And not just about the depressing things, like the last time I had cheese before having to give it up. There are very few things that I can say with complete certainty that I knew in advance when the last time I'd be doing them was.

School is one. Pick a class, a year, a semester, a college. I knew in advance the last day I'd be attending. Fashion has been another. I knew for certain the last time I was EVER going to wear a bodysuit/shirt in the nineties. The last time I was going to peg my pants and call it "cool." Apartments are another. Fortunately, I've never been evicted, so I've always known the last time I'll be in my apartment.

There's a certain giddiness that accompanies knowing the end of something (remember, depressing things don't count). I've always thought that it was beginnings that elicited excitement—and they do—but endings do, too. Part of it, I think, is that the you've had time to plan for the ending, to look forward to finishing. There's something very satisfying about finishing. Whether it's finishing college, finishing a novel, or being finished with living in a certain location, you've completed something. Time, energy, thought, effort all went into something, and now it's done. Completed. Closed. There's no vagueness. I'm not a big fan of vagueness. I suppose it has its place, but I can't think of where.

By contrast, I think there's always a vague nostalgia for the things that end without us being aware of it. As if, somehow, I would have enjoyed the last wearing of my fuzzy socks more had I known it was their final time out of the drawer this season. Nostalgia is like planning for something in the past—reviewing it enough in your mind that you prepare yourself for something that already happened. Then it just becomes a memory, I guess (if we're talking about something more important than my socks).

Yes, all this contemplation led to some depressing thoughts, naturally, I guess. I wish that I could remember the very final time I got to ride my childhood horse before she was injured. I didn't know it was going to be special, and didn't commit the day to memory. I think that says something in itself, though: that whole "every moment is precious; treat every moment like its your last" thing. I don't know if I have that kind of memory capability or mental stamina, but it's a good thing to be reminded to do every once in a while.

Even more, my philosophical, rambling thoughts (and blog) have made me more aware of lasts, and more eager to celebrate them. Fortunately, I'm going to have several opportunities in the next months, what with Cody finishing college and me finishing up my twenties.

Oh, and maybe the very best thing about something ending, about getting to the last of something, is that it will be replaced with a beginning, with something new.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Appalling Reader Stats

After my Favorite Author post, Shaida looked up the actual stats of how many books people read a year. Inspired, I did a little sleuthing of my own...and the most current survey I could find was the one Shaida did from 2007. After my conservative estimate (or so I thought) of most people reading about 25 novels a year, I'm shocked and saddened to read that the 2007 poll found that the average person reads a mere 4 books a year! That's it?

The article goes on to break down the stats. No surprises: Women read more than men. The college-educated read more than those without degrees. The elderly read the most.

The article claims that the Internet and TV are to "blame," which prompted me to admire the deep-rooted cultural bias that reading a book is better than other entertainment activities. (It also reminded me of an earlier post about the Saturation of Story—people don't have to rely on books for their stories anymore; they can find them in TV shows, movies, Internet stories, even blogs.)

This cultural bias is not only in America. Several UK studies have shown that many people lie about which books they've impress others. According to, 46% of men and 33% of women lie about the books they've read. Reuters even lists the top ten books people pretend they've read. (Interestingly, President Obama's book made the top-ten list.) I've only read two books on the list.

I'm not quite sure what I think about people pretending to have read certain books (or the fact that men are more likely to have more unread books on their shelves—is that to impress again?). I'm horrified, as a writer, that so few people are reading. I've already read five times the number of books this year that most people will read all year!

And what I wouldn't have given to be part of that poll! I could have told them what authors and which genres I've read the most of, and in which month. I'm sure they would have loved to have all that information, too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You as Your Main Character

Something that was said over dinner with friends tonight sparked my curiosity and has got me wondering: Would you make a good main character in a novel? More specifically, would I? If I were tossed in the situations in which I place Madison, would I respond in a good way?

Of course, I'd like to think yes. I'd like to think that I'd embrace every challenge and defeat every evil, but I think the answer is much more complex—too complex to be answered in a blog post, probably.

The simple answer is this: I would make a great heroine...on days when I've gotten enough sleep, am feeling healthy, am not stressed about work/health/money, feel good about myself (mentally and physically), and feel witty. Basically, when the fates align for those 10–25% of each month when everything feels perfect.

However, when I don't get enough sleep, am stressed, feel sick (or mentally sluggish, or feel just plain quiet, I would make a terrible heroine. The battle would be raging outside my apartment, and I'd have to be pried away from the book I'm reading, manually stuffed into a presentable outfit (one that includes a shirt with no holes and pants without a drawstring), and booted through the doorway to face the world. Which would no doubt leave me grumpy enough to join with the evil forces and destroy whoever had the nerve to roust me from my cozy place.

What about you? Do you think you'd make a good heroine?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Favorite Authors

Since one of the ways to win the contest running over on NON is to enter a comment letting me know who your current favorite author is, I've been seeing a lot of new authors and a lot of best-sellers coming up in the lists.

I'm not surprised at all to find that a lot of people's favorite author happens to be the one they're currently reading. When I'm immersed an a particular author's world, it's sometimes difficult for me to picture the writing of another author—their tone, their pacing. I imagine it's much like trying to recall one song while listening to another. And if the book I'm reading is good, it is, at least for that moment in time, my favorite. (If it's not good, that's another matter.)

However, this response from the people who've left comments the NON blog brought to mind another question: is a person's favorite author the one they're currently reading because they're more likely to be reading their favorite author at any given time?

To put it another way, many of my favorite authors are prolific, and I'm bound to read one, if not two of their novels in a year. If I've just discovered them and they've been writing for a while, I'll usually devour anything they've written that I can get my hands on. This greatly increases the odds that a person will be reading their favorite author rather than one of the newer authors they may have picked up during their last book run. And considering that the average person probably read 25 books a year (I really hope that's a conservative number!), if two or more of those are by your favorite author, that really bumps the odds in favor of my argument.

It's a question to be explored in another giveaway, though I don't know how accurate people's answers are going to be. We'll see.

Monday, April 20, 2009

NON Is Running a Contest!

I can finally blog about the exciting secret I've been keeping: NON is running a contest to win an autographed copy of this week's debut author Rachel Keener's The Killing Tree! Check out NON for details on how to win.

And just because you might be curious...this is not the only week that NON will be giving away free copies of the debut author's novels! Check back weekly!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I've found myself thinking about world-building a lot while I read David and Leigh Eddings's The Elder Gods.

First, what I mean by "world-building" is all that goes into the back story of a novel—all the details that define the world and the rules of the world. In straight fiction, this means keeping the details of a novel to match what could happen in the real world. It gets a much more complex when you get into fantasy. For me, I had to answer questions like what are the types of evil creatures that can exist (demons) and which ones do I want to exclude (vampires)? Can plants have souls or is "soul-sight" a misnomer for what Madison can do? And—the thing I've worked the most on lately—what is the organization of the other-worldly company that Madison works for?

The most important thing about world-building, usually, is that it is seamless, subtle, and consistent—seen but not heard, so to speak; something you learn without realizing it.

In The Elder Gods, it is almost as if Eddings is doing the world-building right on the page, despite the fact that I know that he must have had everything predefined before finishing the novel. The majority of the novel revolves around the idea that a more-civilized nation of people is being called upon to help fight a battle alongside the gods' less-civilized people. In the process, the characters are learning of each other's worlds, what defines them, what works in them, what the characters are capable of and what is physically off-limits.

I'm now about two-thirds of the way through the novel, and the general world-building is virtually over, with all the characters now being integrated and on the same page, literally and figuratively. From here, all characters will advance through the plot together, and the world building will move, no doubt, to the backstage, woven subtly into the plot, once again unobtrusive to the reader.

The oddest thing about this up-front world-building is that, had I written this novel as my first draft, I most likely would have cut most of the first third of the book and started the story straight into the action, interweaving the world-building into the plot as subtly as possible. But it would have ruined the pacing, and most likely, the story itself. I still haven't decided if Eddings's choice to keep the book the way it is published is because of the genre (epic fantasy), where a certain amount of world-building on page is expected, or is the choice to keep the book as it is simply a decision of a master storyteller who trusts his work and knows what works for him and his fans. I'm leaning toward the master answer.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Billionaire Question

I asked Cody today what he would do if he were to have more money than he could ever spend and no longer had a need to work, and it was only after I asked him the question that I realized I didn't have an answer to it myself.

Having had more time to ponder the question, I still haven't come to a conclusion. Obviously, I'd do all the things that are currently beyond my budget: travel, buy a big house and fill it with cat trees for my babies, buy a library of books and really comfortable furniture in which to read them, buy a few cars--a Nissan 350Z being the first, I think, but definitely not the last--gift things to my family that I dream of, donate to the charities of my choice, etc.

But once all those things are said and done, what would I do with my daily time? Would I still write? Would I have the same drive to continue to sit my butt down in the chair every day and type out my beloved urban fantasy novels? The answer, surprisingly, is maybe.

I love stories. I love creating them. Creating them makes me happy. But could that happiness be filled in other ways that are currently out of my price range? Probably for a few years, at least. And if I'm honest with myself (and you), a large part of why I want to write is because I want to make a living doing it. If I don't need to make a living, do I still write?

Hopefully I'll be in a place one day to find out the answer to this question first person.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pounds vs. The Day

In the past week, I watched The Day the Earth Stood Still and Seven Pounds. The connection: the Smith family actors. The other connection: I wish I hadn't watched either. (**Yes, this has spoilers.**)

I have two, no make that three, complaints about The Day the Earth Stood Still. First off, can we talk about the title? The title that had absolutely no bearing on the film, no correlation to the events, no real tie-in except that it makes the movie sound more dramatic than The Day the Aliens Unleash a Tidal Wave of Microorganisms That Nearly Wipe Out the Human Race. There was no point in the movie when the Earth stood still. There wasn't even a point in the film where it felt like time had halted, or that everyone was waiting with bated breath, conveying a sense of stillness across the human race to equate to a feeling of the Earth standing still. Nope. Titles are important, and I don't appreciate being mislead.

My second complain has to do with young Mr. Smith himself, or perhaps with the director/writer who gave this character too much screen time for too little plot advancement without character depth to back it up. Now, this could be a personal taste point. There may be fans out there who couldn't get enough of the kid, thought he brought hidden depths to the character, and didn't mind that his emotions seemed more like plot devices than genuine character traits.

My third complaint is by far the largest. The movie had, at most, two acts. The third act was completely missing! The overarching theme was explored, but not concluded. The reason: the learning curve was spread across the cast of characters, so that no character tied to the theme (changing humanity for the better/being less selfish and more appreciative of the environment and fellow man) actually made a change.

Perhaps this was because there didn't seem to be a main character. Granted, movies like Independence Day have proven that a single main character is not needed, but even so, this movie lacked a story arc with any single character. Rather, they all had their own part in the story arc, but the character who returned with the elixir (if we go by Campbell's famous Hero's Journey) is the alien, a character whose lesson was incongruous with the theme of the movie. He had to learn to trust and have faith in humans. The two lead humans in the film were already good people, kind to their fellow man, and hybrid-driving, Earth-conscious citizens. They didn't need to learn the theme's lesson.

Which brings me back to my point about the missing third act. By the end of the film, the main character is no longer the female lead, the child, or the alien--it has become humanity as a whole. The film set up the premise that humanity has to learn its lesson regarding Earth and start treating the planet as if it were precious. Thus, to complete the story arc, we would have needed to see humanity, as a whole, learning this lesson and making changes in the way they act, react, and live on a day-to-day basis. Instead, the movie ends at the end of the second act, and the point in which the main character (now humanity) has experienced its point of death. From here, at the very least, we needed to see the return with the elixir (the learned lesson) for the plot to finish its arc.

Of course, I have a feeling the director/writer was trying to leave the third act up to its audience. That's all well and good...if I were watching a documentary. I do not buy this cop-out in my fiction.

As for Seven Pounds, my one flaw with the movie is actually a flaw within myself: I'm simply not up for dramas. I should know this by now. I don't like to be saddened by my literature or my film. If I want something sad, I can find it in real life. Seven Pounds haunted me for the rest of the night (despite the fact that I'd figured out about 20 minutes into the 2-hour film exactly where it was going and how it was going to end). I dreamed about it. I woke up sad. At least it reaffirmed my stand that I should stick to comedies and action films.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

About 13 Years Too Late

I've always had a bit of snobbish scorn for the classics—in particular, for the classics we're expected to read in high school and in a lot of literature classes. This scorn was born out of a distaste for reading nearly exclusively about male protagonists who are usually rather unsavory, make decisions that are morally corrupt, stupid, or frustrating, and are placed in situations that vary between boring and appalling. On top of this, there was hardly a novel I was asked to read in my entire high school career that I found enjoyable—which, isn't that the point of a story, to be enjoyed?

The classics have failed me on so many levels, and I built up my own little hatred for them, the kind of hatred that involved a delicate and unrestrainable lip sneer at the thought of rereading them or of choosing to read them now because "everyone should read ___" (fill in the blank with your chosen author—Faulkner, Hemingway, Conrad—or novel—To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher In the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath).

And I was very happy in this prejudiced world, pleased to have put the "masters" behind me and be able to look to the future of great novels by people I genuinely feel are masters of their craft.

Until recently.

My niece and nephew are getting to the age where they will be subjected to this literature, and so I've been looking into them again...and realizing there's a lot more to these novels than I was able to appreciate over a decade ago when I was first reading them. There are layers to these stories that many of my beloved paranormal romances will never have. There are so many themes, subtle twists of language, and prose chosen for purposeful imagery that take these stories to a deeper level. I understand, a little more, why these novels are chosen (though I still don't agree that a novel has to be depressing to be learned from).

Does this mean I'll be rereading them or picking up those that I never had to read? Probably not. Does it mean I'll be looking to add deeper elements to my own story? Yes, to a degree. I don't think the average urban fantasy reader wants the kind of depth these novels offer, because the average UF reader is not going to be writing essays about the themes of my novel, but a little subtly thrown in couldn't hurt.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Have News

...that I can't tell you. It's good news. NON news. Wonderful news. And I can't share it quite yet. The fact that I've held off teasing you all this long (I've known for over two weeks) says a lot for my restraint. I can officially tell you Monday, so check back then—you'll be happy when you do. And I can only imagine (and look forward to) how much worse it's going to be for me when I have some great secretive news about my own writing!

Right, my own writing. Remember that? That thing I did before I became a celebrity twin stalker? I've been stuck, totally and completely mired down by one little, tiny detail: what to call the organization that my main character works for.

I glossed over it nicely in the first draft, and actually didn't think of including it when I was editing the first few times. The story works okay without it. But then I realized that even if Madison doesn't know what the organization is called, her coworkers would, and they'd casually mention it in the way that employees everywhere mention their companies—by acronym, of course.

Which means I need to have a cool acronym. Something that spells something else, preferable, and even better, something that can lead to amusing misunderstandings or dialog. I have a few favorites (my poor family knows them all, since I've been sending them daily emails with lists to choose from). I'm really trying to wrangle a good company name out of certain acronyms, so that's slowing things down, too.

If you can think of any good/funny acronyms for company names (I'll fill in the real company names to fit the acronym), please, please, please let me know. To give you an idea of where I've been going with this, here are a few that I'm toying with (though not the top few—I couldn't give away my best, could I?): EEW, GOD, BOB, and SoWhaT.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is It Just Me?

I feel like I'm either on a roll or having eyesight difficulties, because I've had another twin sighting. In fact, I've had so many, it's got me thinking: where's my twin? I've decided to add to my list of things to do as I get more famous (as in, become a published author): find my twin. Or twins. With however many billion people are out there in the world, I'm sure I've got a few.

Today's twins, Andrea Anders and Mary McCormack.

Andrea Anders

Mary McCormack

I saw Anders on Better Off Ted last week and thought she looked familiar. Obviously I was confusing her with McCormack, since I've seen McCormack on West Wing and never seen Anders before.

These two look pretty close, right?

However, in the same week, I also thought that Jeffrey Dean Morgan...

(please ignore the Watchman image)

...looked like Robert Downey Jr.

In my defense, they have similar mannerisms, and while watching Morgan on whatever show we were watching, I was positively, bet-money-on-it convinced that I was watching Downey, and not even Cody could persuade me otherwise.

Lesson to take away from this: I would make a terrible FBI agent.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Not being religious, this holiday is all about the cute bunny pictures and chocolate candy for me. The weather is perfect, I have chocolate and new books, and we're off to spend time with family. The only downside is that today is Cody's last day of spring break. It's been really nice having him at home so much this week. Granted, I got a bit less work done than normal, but I could blame that on our anniversary, not on Cody's presence. Tomorrow we're back to early wake-ups and longer work hours. It's been a good week. Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Which First Line Is Best

For the last two or three times that Cody and I have gone to the used-book store, I have meandered through the sections, picking up books, only to read a few lines off the back and put them back down. Nothing was hitting my "I want" radar. It was like going to a buffet, and everything on the table looks good until you realize that every dish is seasoned with cilantro or vinegar, and nothing is going to taste right.

Yesterday, I had a breakthrough. It seemed I couldn't walk past a section or a shelf without finding a book I wanted. By happy coincidence, Cody experienced an equally speedy discovery of several new books, so he cut short our visit before I had acquired an armload.

Here's what I now proudly possess:

Jayne Ann Krentz, Sizzle and Burn: I've been steering clear of Krentz Arcane Society novels for a while now, not interested in their lighter side of paranormal romance, but right now, the lightness is actually rather appealing.

Lora Leigh, Coyote's Mate: I might be waiting a while to read this one, having recently finished Mercury's War in February, but I know I'll want to read it, so it was a good one to have on my shelf.

Talia Gryphon, Key to Conspiracy: I've never read Gryphon before, but her main character sounds like a strong female badass--always a plus. Unfortunately, as I was just studying the book, I realized this is really book two, the first being Key to Conflict. Darn it! I've got three other book twos on my shelf that I'm waiting to get a book one for before I read them.

William Gibson, Pattern Recognition: This book is far from my usual pick, being modern sci-fi, not fantasy (urban or epic), not horror, and not paranormal romance. I have a feeling that I'll really like getting outside my comfort genres on this one, though, if the first line is anything to go from: "Five hours' New York jet lag and Cayce Pollard wakes in Camden Town to the dire and ever-circling wolves of disrupting circadian rhythm." Cody and I did a "which first line is best" test of the books I purchased. This was my favorite. (Cody liked Leigh's: "Del-Ray Delgado, the Coyote Ghost, was alpha leader of the team of twenty-eight mercenary soldiers he had gathered around him from various parts of the Council's ranks." He thought this opener had the most potential. Krentz's "Burn, witch, burn" opening line was runner up. ... What, you don't play the Which Line Is Best game?)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Foul Ending

Janet Evanovich is always a remarkably fast read, and couple that with a mere 228 pages and font that is probably 14 or 16 point, and despite my attempts to take the book slow, Foul Play hardly lasted two days.

As Evanovich claims in the opening letter to the reader, this is a red-hot screwball comedy. The action was amusing, the love instantaneous, and the ending predictable.

**Spoiler alert**

The other thing the ending was, though, was disappointing. In less than a page, the lovers reunite after being separated, do it (off screen, as all of Evanovich's bedroom action is), then decide to get married. After the buildup of the entire novel, the ending was plain flat.

Clearly, Evanovich's writing has evolved since the '80s.

My quest to pick the next novel to read from my Unread Books shelves lead to unexpected results: I felt a hankering to read a male author. I can't say this has every happened to me before. Not that I haven't read male authors (though my shelves are about 75 percent female authors), but I've never specifically wanted to read a book written by a man, rather than simply read a good book. Even more peculiar, I finally feel like reading David (and Leigh) Edding's novel, The Elder Gods. I haven't read David Eddings in years. At least ten, to be specific, since the last time I read one of his novels I was still living with my parents. It's also been a while since I've been interested in epic fantasies, but I think Peter Brett's The Warded Man whetted my appetite for them again. Unexpectedly, reading Eddings again after so long is a bit like talking to an old friend--it feels familiar, and I like it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Twins Time

Yes, aside from yesterday's break for love and an anniversary celebration, I've been working hard on Madison and editing my way through about 60 pages of text so far. Is there anything exciting to add about that? Not really. My spreadsheet is helping tremendously, and it's shaping up to be a New York Times bestseller, or at least a widely popular debut urban fantasy. But that's just me being modest.

Right now, I have a more pressing issue for y'all. Twins. As in celebrities that I feel look amazingly like each other. I need your opinions. There's two this time, and both I feel look more like siblings than twins. Tell me what you think:

David Boreanaz

Stephan Rannazzisi

Granted, David is clearly the thinner, hotter brother, but check out the nose shape, the eyebrow shape, and the general eyes shape. Especially genetically identical (allegedly) is the hairline, don't you think?

Now, if you're still with me, what about these two as siblings:

Russell Brand

Keira Knightley

I think a lot more of you are going to think I'm crazy on this one, but check out the general face shape and the noses. Paternal twins, I tell you.

So, am I crazy or dead on? (Dead on, I think.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nine Years

Today is Cody and my nine year anniversary! It's one of those numbers that makes me pause a little--it feels like we've been together forever (in a good way) and simultaneously as if no time has passed (again, in a good way). I hope that makes sense to someone other than me.

So today is a day off for me--no work, no writing (I did already exercise, though; aren't I so good?). It's a day for play and romance. And definitely not a day for long blog posts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Avoiding Good Things

There are two unrelated things in this world that I tend to find reasons to avoid despite the fact that they are both good for me and enjoyable. The first is exercise; the second is writing.

I can't fathom the reason for this personality quirk. Time and again, I get proof that I feel better throughout the whole day if I've worked out and also worked on my novel. In fact, if I don't do both (and especially if I do neither), I feel awful.

Yet every morning I have to convince myself that it's a good day to exercise. There are a plethora of reasons not to, ranging from wanting more sleep to believing that I'm running late (which is virtually impossible with my flexible work schedule). I barter with myself, saying I'll exercise later in the day, knowing full well that if I don't do it in the morning, I'll probably find an even better reason not to go for a run in the afternoon. However, once I've convinced myself that I'll just go to the gym for a walk or a half workout, I'm almost always guaranteed to enjoy the experience and do the full workout. And I know this every single day when I'm arguing with myself.

Writing is no different. When I'm working a lot, I think I'll get to it at the end of the day, though I know I'm usually too tired of sitting in this chair to want to stay for another hour. When I've got a day devoted to writing, there's still a lot of arguing with myself about whether to check email first or to check blogs or to blog or to check, call my mom, play with the cats, do some laundry... the list goes on and on. But when I sit down and put in my writing time, I really enjoy it.

And when I get to the end of my day having written and exercised, I feel great physically and mentally. So why don't I wake up every morning saying, "I can't wait to go for a run then get back up here and write?"

I still don't have the answer, but today, I did both, and I feel really great.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Teen Fiction

I think I may be the last person in the fantasy/fiction reading world to incorporate YA fiction to my reading list. In fact, the YA market is doing so well, it's one of the few that hasn't been affected by the economy. And there's so much great YA literature out there! Several authors I read (P. C. Cast, Rachel Caine) write adult and YA fantasy. And it doesn't take a genius to see that YA fantasies are often the most popular books out there. (Anyone remember a character called Harry Potter? What about a book called Twilight?)

I haven't made the switch/integration yet, but I'm on the cusp. One of my friends has offered to let me borrow Twilight. I'm resisting, futilely at this point, I think. I might be even more tempted were my shelves not full of adult fantasy novels waiting to be read. There's so many books I already want to read, to think of adding all these YA novels is daunting.

I don't remember such variety of fantasy novels being available to me when I was reading YA novels some 15 or so years ago. Were they there and I missed them?

Which brings up another question: Do you think that teens are reading more now than they were, say, 15 years ago? Or do you think that more adults are reading YA novels, which is what is bumping up their sales?

Finally, if you already like YA novels, you'll like today's NON post. This week, YA author Courtney Sheinmel talks about her debut novel, My So-Called Life.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Expanding My Creativity, or Another Way I'm Justifying My Kookiness

I've been reading The Billionaire's Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace, a very masterfully crafted nonfiction novel about the world's most expensive wine. I'm finding it unexpectedly educational (I've learned a lot about Thomas Jefferson that was never taught in school) and decidedly inspiring as far as well-crafted nonfiction prose. I've also found what I will be cultivating as a new hobby (and a way to drive Cody crazy):

In the book, Wallace brings to life the personality of Michael Broadbent, the auctioneer of the most expensive wines, among other things, and also a man acknowledged as having the most experienced palate in the world by his wine-connoisseur peers. In his description of Broadbent, Wallace comments on how the man had a "knack for putting wine into memorable words," describing wines as "black as Egypt's night" or in terms of women, likening one vintage to Sophia Loren: "You can admire them, but you don't want to go to bed with them."

Broadbent has inspired me. No more shall I conform to the wine verbiage of the masses, talking of wines in terms of spicy, plumy, jammy, earthy, etc. No. I shall break free of these confining descriptives and go with something more creative.

Thus, when we went wine tasting today, I noted to Cody that the first wine we tried, a Kosher Merlot (I didn't realize there was such as thing as Kosher wine before today, either), hearkened to crab-tossed sand dollars in the moonlight. Cody almost snorted his wine. The next wine was like a sun-warmed granite rock with yellow butterflies dancing on the updraft of its heatwaves. By the third, Cody got into the spirit. When we got to the Cabernet, which I felt had notes of a bubbling brook near which a whimsical frog played, Cody joined in, discerning a hint of a lone moss-covered red brick wall near that brook in the after notes of the wine.

We were careful to keep our comments quietly to ourselves so as not to scare off the other tasters, but with practice (and a little more wine), I feel that I'll be compelled to share these descriptions with my fellow wine lovers.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Four Hours Down

I decided that while I'm temporarily out of work, I should work my minimum "work" hours on writing. This means about jack-diddly to most of you, but basically what it boils down to is I promised myself four hours of work on Madison today. And I did it!

I'm about 10 pages into the rewrites. I say rewrites, because I'm redoing a lot of the first chapter to make sure the action and story start on page one (not on page 15 or page 30, where it's been in the past edits). A lot of what I did today was collect the pieces together, writing the new segments by hand and referencing what I've already written when it fit.

Ten pages doesn't seem like much progress, but I'm really happy with what I have. Tomorrow, I'll type up what I wrote today, but I don't have a set hour minimum since it's Saturday.

I also ended my day with an aerobic workout, so I'm pretty much wiped. I think it's time for some TV.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I'm Ready

I spent this morning looking back over all my world-building notes. I've got to say, I did a really good job. I've also got at least three more plot ideas for future novels, some that can happen any time and some that are very specific. I understand the world Madison is just realizing is all around her--the magical one--far better than Madison does, which is a big plus. In fact, I'm ready to start the rewrites. Hooray! Third time's the charm.

After spending the first half of the day working on Madison, I spent the second half outdoors. A friend and I toured a few local nurseries. The weather was gorgeous, the sky perfect (there were some clouds passing through--a good sky, in my book, always has a few clouds to a blanket of clouds), the plants were soothing and pretty, and the company was great. Were I not in possession of a calendar, I have thought today was the first official day of spring.

All in all, it was such a great day, it feels like a Friday, and that's actually a good thing, because it means tomorrow is a bonus day. (Trust me, when I had my soul-sucking job, my thought process was much different, but now that I love what I do, having an "extra" day is wonderful!)

Happy spring!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

House Bunny Giggles

I think Anna Faris is hysterical, and when I saw Faris was coming out with a Playboy bunny/sorority spoof, I knew it'd be right up my ally. (Yeah, I'm sure you guessed that, too, especially after yesterday's post.)

Okay, so there's really nothing highbrow about the film The House Bunny. There was nothing about it that wasn't expected; there were no great plot twists or story change-ups that I didn't see coming. There were no deep metaphors, soul-wrenching scenes, or even costumes that would win at the Oscars. But I don't think anyone who rents a movie called The House Bunny really expects any of that.

What it did have was a lot of humor. In fact, at one unexpected and particularly funny moment, I actually spewed a little chocolate all over myself when I burst out laughing. It wasn't exactly attractive (and what a waste of some good dark chocolate), but I'm still giggling at the joke.
The movie also had some great secondary characters, like Lindsey Lohan look-alike Emma Stone. (Tell me they don't look like sisters, possibly even twins separated at birth, which would be really ironic, considering The Parent Trap movie and all that.)

Emma Stone

Lindsey Lohan

(just in case you couldn't tell which was which)

I recommend this one...but only if you know what you're getting into. If you're expecting a traditional chick flick or romantic comedy, this one's not for you.