Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sidecar Muse

Cody and I were running errands the other day when we passed a cute older couple. The man was driving a classic gold Honda motorcycle. The woman was suited up in the gold sidecar next to him, filing her nails.

Now, I've always had this irrational love/hate relationship with motorcycles. They're gorgeous machinery, and they're deadly. (Sidecars are no exception.) When I was younger, I desperately wanted a Ducati. If you're not a car/motorcycle person, you probably can't understand falling in love with the sleek lines of these bikes, the power they represent, the allure of the speed.

Not having the money (the bike I loved cost more than my car), I never got one, and perhaps have passed the point in my life in which I'd get a motorcycle—my rational mind now holding more say than my speed-loving least as far as motorcycles go; I still desperately want a really fast luxury car. Specifically I want this Bugatti Veyron (which retails at a mere $1.7 million):

And if I was to go out and a buy a motorcycle, this would be top of the list (whenever it's released):

However, this isn't a post about expensive crushes. This is a post about sidecars. Seeing that couple gave me inspiration: I could travel and write my next novel. My head was filled with visions of cruising along in the sidecar across the US, laptop on my knees, Cody at the helm, and me typing away at my next novel. Imagine the strange ideas and inspiration that would come to me going 70 mph down the freeways of America in a deathbucket attached to a motorcycle. It'd be incredible. It'd also make for some funny tales, I'm sure, at book signings. Here, take a moment; really picture it:
Now, baring that fanciful, hilarious, and insane notion, what do you think of this magical combination of speed and safety?

It'd be a lot harder to get a laptop in there, was my first thought. Cody's was more practical: "How do you steady the bike when you come to a stop? You can't put your feet down..."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Here and Gone

I've finished Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Mercy. It took me a total of 30 hours, tops, and that included sleep—sleep in which I dreamed of the world and the characters. I wasn't even reading it long enough to put it on my shelfari widget.

It was everything I hoped for, everything I wanted. My headlong rush through it was the perfect way to read it, to absorb the world without becoming absorbed by it. Toward the end, realizing the wonderful tale was drawing closed, I contemplated rereading it immediately, though slower, and decided not to. The story was wonderful, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to relive it. I won't be forgetting it, either.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Coming up for Air

There is an indescribable pleasure of returning to a world and a cast of characters in a series well loved and well enjoyed. I've been reveling in that feeling all day as I began Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Mercy.

I imagine it's a feeling not unlike what Star Trek or Harry Potter fans feel when a new installment is released in a series. It's akin to being surrounded again by old friends, but going on a new adventure. Only, you're simultaneously solo (unless you join a fan club, I guess).

I don't get this feeling with every series I follow. In fact, for the majority that I follow, I greatly enjoy them, but they lack some indefinable element to raise them to this level. There are, in fact, only two series I can put name to that invoke the anticipation and delight for the next installment: Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels and Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. All others, such as those written by Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Laurell K Hamilton, Terry Goodkind, even my beloved Katie MacAlister, fail to carry for me this same level of excitement and enjoyment.

I haven't given it too much thought yet. The only reasons I can come up with are these:

1. Both are epic fantasies, meaning that the breadth of knowledge and life that I've "lived through" with these characters is so much more than is developed in a straight fantasy series.
2. The themes are ones that resonate with me. Terry Goodkind had me in this for a while, but I felt his novels became repetitive and too preachy. Robert Jordan has the epic part down, but the themes are rather broad (good vs. evil; friendship triumphing and pulling through tough times). Carey, however, has it all.

I suppose I could wax on about the perfection of Carey's novels (which, given that I'm right in the middle of reading one, would probably make for a very long post), but I want to get back to reading. After all, I'm not quite halfway through with it. But this was a good breather for a few minutes, and a good reminder that I have a life outside the novel.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Valid Plot Device or Gimmick

I just finished Lauren Willig's The Masque of the Black Tulip. I really enjoyed her first novel in the series, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, though it might be telling that it took me quite a while to get around to reading this second novel. Willig's already written the next three in the series, so I'm now a bit behind.

Black Tulip ended with a delightfully lengthy happy ending. Having struggled with savoring the shorter and shorter happy endings in modern romances and paranormal romances, it was happily refreshing to get pages of amorous joy and lingering matrimonial happiness between one set of main characters toward the end of the story—the historical pair. The contemporary characters predictably didn't get the same happy ending, but I'd already had the savory ending of the other main characters, so I was willing to let it pass. A good ending typically makes me far more favorable of an entire novel just by default, but I would have classified this novel as a good one by the sheer number of lines that made me chuckle.

In fact, were it not for the more discerning eye of a friend, I probably would have chalked this one up to a great novel and called it a day. However, after I finished reading the Pink Carnation, the friend who let me borrow it pointed out that the modern plot interwoven with the historical romance was basically unnecessary.

Which meant I was hyperaware of it as I read this book. I found myself looking for justifiable reasons for the author to have selected a first-person narrative of a modern-day female historian researching what ends up being the third-person historical romance tale. The question I kept asking myself was whether this plot device was warranted or just a gimmick.

Sadly, I've concluded it felt more like a gimmick. The actual modern story didn't make a complete story arc. Although I think this is intentional on Willig's part, making the modern plot arc over several novels in the series, it feels like Willig threw the modern parts in simply to make her historical romances stand out from other historical romances on the shelves (it can now be called literature, not "just" romance) and to give a lingering feeling at the end of each novel to pull the reader into the next. However, many authors write very popular romantic series that feature a rotating cast (the protagonists become secondary characters in the next novel, secondary characters become protagonists) without the need of a heavy-handed second story imposed over everything to tie them together.

To make it work for me, more would have needed to happen in the modern plot and Willig would have had to use the two plots more to her advantage to build suspense along two storylines.
Will I read her next novel? Probably—but I won't buy it new, and I won't hunt for it. If it happens to land on my shelves, I'll get around to reading it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NON Results: Nearly Everyone's TBR Piles Were Smaller Than Mine

I was feeling pretty normal when the first few comments from last week's NON contest came in. The question was: How many books are currently physically in your TBR pile? (Or something close to that.)

The first several people had anywhere from 45 to 200 (though I guess that people with round numbers didn't actually take inventory). That seems about right, considering I had 62. It seems normal. I was feeling rather justified, especially with Cody, who gives me those looks when he finds me in a bookstore with a new armful of books. You know those looks, right? The ones that say, don't you have plenty to read at home? Of course, the answer is yes, but just not the ones I want to read currently.

Anyway, all was going well, and then all these rational-minded people started commenting. The people who don't allow themselves to get too many new books until they finish the ones they have. The ones that list 7, 8, 10, 15 books in their TBR pile. The ones that made me look bad.

Then I realized that they're most likely jealous of me and my fine library/personal bookstore. Then I realized that I was being silly, because it's late and I've been at this computer for over 10 hours today. Good night, folks.

Don't forget to scroll down a couple entries and watch the movie I made. I'm very proud of it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Re-read-worthy Authors

I think we all have some authors that we return to at some point or another to reread. There are some people's works that have that siren call from where they sit on the shelf, reminding us of the great story, great characters, and great writing that is printed across those previously enjoyed pages. I admit, I have met a few people who never reread anything, claiming (with acknowledged truth) that there are too many new books to read to go back and reread one, no matter how good.

For the most part, I'd say I was one of those people—after all, I have four shelves devoted to books I've not yet read. Only, I've found myself too many times sitting at the foot of one of my bookcases, rereading a novel. It's never been an intentional choice. Usually it's a complete surprise to me when I look up from a novel and find myself staring at the bottom shelves of my bookcase. What started out as a fact-hunting mission or a quest of a different kind ends with me rereading half a novel, sucked back into a world I've loved.

The author's who have this kind of pull on me include: Jacqueline Carey, Robert Jordan, Katie MacAlister, Robin McKinley, Laurell K Hamilton, Regina Thomashauer, and William Goldman (specifically, The Princess Bride).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I'm a Producer

Okay, it just took me a little over two hours, but I've written, directed, and produced a TV show! In it, the iconic figure of "Mr. Late Night" interviews a soon-to-be bestselling novelist, Rebecca Chastain.

Yes, the novel might not yet be fully edited, and yes, I might not be incredibly humble about Number One Novels, but I'm proud of my TV show. Check it out (and ignore the way it pronounces my last name; it's Chastain like Cha-stain not Cha-sten as it says):

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dive-bombed by a Duck

One of the very last things I would have expected during my visit to Borders (a 40%-off coupon cannot be allowed to go to waste!) was to be dive-bombed by a duck! Cody had just pulled the car into a parking spot, and we were chatting about the mundane world of our finances, when I looked up to see something my eyes couldn't put together, headed straight for the windshield.

A startled "whoa" got Cody's attention, and by that point, my mind had finally put together what I was seeing: the underside of a duck, wings fanned, feet first, coming in for landing. In the Borders parking lot. Nowhere near water.

Have you ever seen a duck from this angel? I hadn't. Ducks typically don't land five feet in front of me. In fact, I think it'd started its downward flight before we pulled into the spot, because it had to do a quick adjustment, and some part of it thwacked into the bumper after it was out of sight in front of us.

I leaned over to stare out my side window, amazed as I watched it waddle over the parking curb and into the shrubbery at the base of a tree in the parking space to my right.

We sat there a bit dazed for a few moments, then got out and carefully investigated the planter box, careful so that we hopefully didn't scare the duck or her possible chicks. She'd disappeared.

"Ninja duck," Cody whispered.

She was. We found her after we'd come back out (me with the latest paperback release of Jacqueline Carey's—and if you've been reading this blog for a while now, you know she's my favorite author, so I'm super excited). She (the duck, not Carey) was perfectly still in the middle of those bushes.

Now I'm concerned and unsure if there's something here I should do. She's decided to nest in the middle of a parking lot. Which means she's got a long trek to get her babies from that parking lot to the nearest water. I didn't see any babies at this time, though. Is there someone I should contact?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Is This the End?

Several months ago a friend commented to me about my blog, "I had no idea you had so much to say." She went on about how impressed she was that I could post every day (or nearly) and never run out of topics.

I admit that while I muttered something humble, the same thought has occurred to me many being one of them. I sat down with the intent of blogging, and not a single thing came to mind. I even cruised through some of the blogs I follow without finding inspiration. The last few days haven't offered up much inspiration, either. And I'm left to wonder: Have I simply run out of things to say?

However, since just the question makes me want to giggle, I think not. I'm too opinionated. Unfortunately, my opinions today are running much more to the mundane. Like, we need more chocolate-covered almonds in this house, sneezie-poofs* are pretty and there should be more of them in the world, and ponies are cute. Like I said, not exactly thought-provoking sentiments, though all are true.

*Sneezie-poofs: possibly seeds from cottonwood trees, possibly seeds from cattails, they float like puffs of summer snow through the air in a mesmerizing and beautiful dance, one that I look out the window and admire and one that Cody looks out the window and says, "Gnaa! Sneezie-poofs!"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Would You Do With $10,000?

Cody and I entered the lottery last week after a day filled with numerical coincidences. We didn't win. From three different sets of numbers, we didn't pick a single correct number! Perhaps we'd already used up our number-related luck. However, it got us speculating as to what we'd do with a few million dollars.

I have a rather detailed, prioritized plan for a huge windfall, and it doesn't include a shopping spree until about item 12 or so. In fact, my plan follows pretty much what I plan on doing, just at a slower pace with the money that we make as we go. Things like get married, buy a house, buy a car, travel, etc. It's all rather responsible, I think, and being fond of being responsible, I think it sounds like a lot of fun.

Madison Fox, the main character of the novels I've written and am editing, would not approve. At all. She's a much more spontaneous person without a good grasp of the long-term consequences of her decisions. Which makes her a lot of fun to write. I get a freedom with her that I would never be comfortable (or happy) with in my life. It also makes it difficult at times to get inside her head without conforming her to my way of thinking. Considering what she'd do with a windfall was one of the difficult moments.

What does someone with only a sliver of responsibility do with her money? She's not the sort to rush out and get into debt with it, like those sad people you hear about who win the lottery and end up millions in debt. But she's not the sort to open an IRA and start planning for retirement, either.

Cody and I eventually decided she'd probably go on vacation, which led to a whole new plot line for her—like a book five or book six plot, but the ideas are already spinning.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blogs Followed: The Results

For last week's contest at NON, I asked for people to tell me how many blogs they follow, specifically, how many author- or book-related blogs. To give you perspective, when I got up to 18 blogs that I was following, I was overwhelmed. Even the 12 I follow now don't get visited regularly. I had expectations for a lot of people to have at least double the number of blogs followed as me (since most of y'all are more blog-world savvy than me). I was, however, blown away by some of the responses!

While one person admitted to following 7 blogs and another 20, we small-numbered people were the definite exception. The mean number of blogs followed was 90! Ninety! Good lord, folks! How do you find the time?

The people who pushed the numbers over the edge were Julie P and bridget3420, who follow 286 and 311 blogs respectively. That's a lot of blogs. I'd even go so far as to say it's bordering on an obsessive compulsion, though I definitely appreciate that they follow NON, too. Three other people fell into the 100-and-above category.

Really, my mind is spinning at just the thought of trying to keep up with all these blogs. If they all post only once a week, and you read only half of them, you're still reading 50+ blog entries a week! Talk about saturation of story!

Monday, May 18, 2009

TBR Queue

I am fortunate enough to have eight bookcases in my home, seven filled with books and the eighth being my entertainment center. Two of those are seven feet high, five are five feet high, and one is four feet high. That's a lot of space for novels. To top it off, I store my novels on their side so that they can stack the height of the shelf, not just the width, which has enabled me to have four shelves devoted to book I've yet to read.

Having counted within the last several months how many books I own but have yet to read, I wasn't terribly surprised to find that I have 62 books waiting for me to read them. I suppose it might be surprising that several months ago I had 65, so apparently I'm purchasing as many as I'm reading, though very few of the novels on my TBR shelves are the same ones that were there months ago.

To break it down, here are the number of books to be read per genre:
  • Nonfiction: 20 (Okay, many of these are the same ones that were there several months ago, but I have to be in the right mood for them. I'm very excited that I just found In Defense of Food at Costco. I might read that before I finish The Billionaire's Vinegar, which I've been reading in fits and starts.)
  • Romance/Fiction: 27 (This includes paranormal romance, action romance, straight fiction, historical fiction, etc.)
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy: 15 (These I go through pretty quickly, though I'd guess about half haven't shifted on the shelf in at least four months. It's not their fault, though: I keep finding these great novels in my used book store, but they're the second in the series, so I have to wait until I find the first to read them.)

I have a feeling that the people who respond to this question at NON for a chance to win Stefanie Pintoff's debut novel In the Shadow of Gotham will far outpace me with the number of books sitting in their TBR piles. Don't forget to comment, follow, blog, or tweet about this week's NON contest for up to four entries for a chance to win!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

To Applaud or Not to Applaud

Have you ever gotten to the end of a really good book and not really known what to do? You've got all these great emotions swirling through you, and no one else around you typically knows what you've just been through, so you can't share or truly express how you're feeling. I've been known, on these occasions, to clutch the book to my chest in a one-sided hug (yes, it's a tad dorky), perhaps reread the last paragraph or so, and generally sigh a lot in happiness. If it's really been a really good book, I'll go through a temporary depression brought on by the loss of the great characters and no longer being immersed in the world. I consider all these to be the side-effects of a really great novel, and I relish them in their own way.

I have, however, never applauded at the end of a good novel.

Which brings me to the point of this post: Cody and I recently saw the newest Star Trek film. It's the first Star Trek film I've ever seen (I naively thought it was the first movie ever made of the TV series; fortunately I kept my mouth closed around our friends, who had been to see all the previous ST films, and no one but Cody—and now all you—knew of my ignorance). I thought it was very well done.

It didn't fall into the Marvel movie trap of trying to give too much emotional depth to characters and films where the audience is merely looking for some really great action (ahem, X-Men Origins: Wolverine). But it didn't lack for emotional range (like my beloved Shoot 'Em Up, which was never promoted as anything but a raw action film to begin with). I really liked the story arcs for the main characters and the secondary characters in Star Trek, I liked all the CG stuff (space was silent, as space truly is), I even noticed and liked the musical score (something I'm usually oblivious to).

In fact (yes, here's the point), I would have applauded at the end of the film, while the lights in the theater were coming up and the first credits were starting to roll. I got caught up in the world, fully immersed for that two hours and six minutes. I cared about what happened to the characters on the screen.

Cody, however, thinks applauding in a theater is silly. "The actors can't hear you," is his reasoning. I think that the applause isn't for the actors. They have their checks and interviews and critical acclaim and fan mail from which to judge the audience's approval ratings. The applause is more for the collective shared moment of all the people in that packed theater. A release of sorts, and an acknowledgement that we all went on the same emotional ride and came out feeling better for it.

Am I being too dramatic about this? Is applauding in a theater pointless and stupid? Or is it a personal acknowledgement of something praise-worthy and enjoyable?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Graduation Celebration

Last weekend was the family celebration for Cody's college graduations; this weekend was the friend celebration. We gathered with a great group of people today at the local bowling alley for some friendly bowling competition, and changed up the celebration to that of both graduation and new job for Cody. It was remarkable what a great group of friends the two of us have put together—so many incredible and nice people, and quite a number of them great bowlers, as well! Once again, thanks to everyone for coming out today! Cody and I both had a fun time, and we hope you did as well.

I, unfortunately, bowled my finest game before anyone arrived, while Cody and I were warming up. It was a 79. Yes, don't be too awestruck; later I bowled a 65 (or was it a 56?). However, I was very impressed that I did as well as I did today and got through it without hurting anyone (besides myself). I was having a rather unusually clumsy day. Before we even left the house, I wacked my elbow on a door hard enough to make it welt and leave it sore over twelve hours later, and at the bowling alley I broke two nails down to the skin and banged my leg with the bowling ball during one bowl (don't ask me how; I'm still not sure). I almost lost the ball during a back swing once, but my knobby thumb saved the day.

We topped off the day in a way that made it virtually impossible for me to hurt myself: we watched the latest in the Librarian installment: The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice. I loved the first two Librarian movies for their action and also because the bibliophile in me adores the fact that a profession normally thought of as stuffy or perhaps sissified ("those who can't do, read" sort of mentality) is the one person who can save the world from untold perils again and again. Curse of the Judas Chalice was everything I hoped for again, this time with the added bonus of Stana Katic, better known (to me) as Kate Beckett on Castle.

Castle was the first time I really knew of Katic's existence, but she had a cameo in the recent (and horrible) Bond movie, which got me curious about other things she might have been in. She's strangely appealing, and I can't quite pinpoint why, but I definitely enjoy watching her. I find it a bit amusing that in many of her previous roles, she's played a Russian woman of some sort (though in The Librarian she was French) and in real life she's Canadian. I also just found out through her official website that she did her own singing in The Librarian. Very impressive.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No Summer Vacation

Cody's out of school now. He attended his final day of school for the foreseeable future. It's a bit bizarre. For the last 23 years of my life there's been a "summer vacation" as part of it, either mine or Cody's. Now it's normal work all year long for the both of us, and the most wonderful part is that I love what I do, and it doesn't feel like an endless cycle of drudgery.

It definitely helps that my job allows me some days, even weeks, off to focus on my writing. It helps that the job I do still feels like fun. It helps that Cody just got a great full-time position with vacation days and sick days and the works. This is the first time in our nine years together that we're both in a really good place with our jobs at the same time.

It's like I've won the lottery, only a lottery of my making. Now if those numbers I picked come in...ah, that'd be utter bliss.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mini Vacation

I've been between jobs for about the last week, and I've made the most of my time. I've seen friends and family, slept in a few days, and happily worked more on Madison in the last week than in the previous three weeks.

Yesterday, I ventured from the house to Borders and between two trips (I stopped for a lunch break, and to go home to get more to work on) I worked four hours and got through one and a half chapters. For the most part, each chapter is still taking between two and three hours to edit, and since I'm adding more scenes and streamlining more information throughout these later chapters, they're taking a little longer than the previous ones.

I've thoroughly enjoyed these edits, too! After slugging through the world-building phase, this has been a nice change of pace.

Tomorrow it's back to work, but I've really enjoyed this time to devote to Madison!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NON Reader's Favorite Genre

Mystery seems to be the favorite genre of NON followers and readers, coming in first: 35% of all who commented said mystery was their favorite genre. (Which is fortunate for them, since this week's contest and interview is with another mystery writer.)

I admit that I'm new to the mystery genre as a whole. I could confidentially tell you all the subgenres of the fantasy section, and to a lesser extent, those of the romance genre. I, however, had no idea that there was the culinary mystery subgenre, as Janel said was her favorite in the comments. I can picture a culinary subgenre in literature and romance, as well, but I'm hard-pressed to picture what a culinary fantasy novel would be like. Could be pretty amusing!

Here are the rest of the percentages of favorite genres:
  • 17% paranormal romance
  • 10% historical fiction
  • 7% fantasy, urban fantasy, and chick lit
  • 2% horror, thriller, and romance

I would have guessed romance to be so much higher.

Be sure to check out this week's NON question (how many author and book blogs do you follow?), interview, and contest. I've already been blown away by how many blogs people follow! Remember when I was thinking I followed too many (Blog Addiction)? Apparently I'm a lightweight! Of course, results of this week's question will be available next week.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Being a Follower

For this week's NON contest for a chance to win an autographed copy of Meredith Cole's award winning Posed for Murder, I asked the question, "How many author or book blogs do you follow?" My answer's pretty simple for this one: less than I thought.

Most of the blogs I follow are for writers, either editor, agent, or novelist-to-be blogs. The actual published author blogs or blogs just for books that I follow are very few; two to be specific. I would have drastically overestimated that one, since I follow 12 blogs!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Smoke vs. Alcohol

I've never been a smoker of any kind, legal or illegal, but I found myself this weekend at a release party for a cigar manufacturer thanks to a friend. The event was held at a local restaurant, outside, and the turnout was impressive. As was the smoke and the sheer number of cigars burned through lit by lighters with impressive flame heights; I'm still not sure how I didn't witness someone singeing their eyebrows or accidentally lighting a neighbor on fire. I didn't partake in the smoking, and it was an experience that I wouldn't repeat, but it was surprisingly educational.

I had no idea that the cigar world was so similar to the wine world! Both have product distinguishable by region, maker, blends, and years, different methods of harvest and manufacturing of the product, and, of course, release parties complete with video interviewers made famous on YouTube.

I'm still not a fan of cigars—the way they smell, smoking in general, and smoke in my lungs in specific—but it was interesting to gain insight into that world.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Quantum of Solace, the Letdown

**Like all movie reviews, beware of spoilers.**

I recently watched the latest James Bond installment, Quantum of Solace. About halfway through the movie, I thought, I'm really glad I didn't see this in the theater. The rest of the movie confirmed this sentiment. My main disappointments were with the plot, Daniel Craig, Bond's character development, and the editing choices—so pretty much the whole thing. Here's the longer version of my intense disappointment:

From the very beginning car chase, the plot of the movie was hard to follow. The previous movie was referenced as if we'd just seen it the day before, not three years prior, and as if we were as intimately familiar with all the characters as they were with each other. Names were tossed about, photos flashed across impressive computer displays, and conversation during pivotal information-giving scenes was bandied about at speeds that had me rewinding the film just to get a second rundown...and still being confused. At which point, I thought, I'll just enjoy the film as entertainment and not try to follow along, which is an incredibly disappointing way to watch a film...

Especially when Daniel Craig was not at top form. For a young Bond at the beginning of his career, Craig was looking mighty old in this film. And whether it was his acting, bad directing, bad script, or bad editing, the character development was all over the place. Sometimes Bond seemed incredibly competent and then he'd do something so stupid that even I, as an untrained civilian, know not to do. His motive, while pure and true through the whole film, was hard to find expressed in anything but his bloodthirsty actions and never in emotion. There didn't seem to be a steady progression for Bond through the movie—no growth, not change. It was like his character was already set in stone, yet since I've seen "later" films when Bond is older, I know that the Quantum Bond was not at all like later Bonds, therefore implying that he had some growing and changing yet to do. Apparently that was all happening off screen.

To top everything off, whoever gets the final say on the editing had the attention span of an MTV music video viewer. Almost all actions scenes were either juxtaposed in quick flashes with something else, either more action, or, for some unfathomable reason, once with a horse race. Everything was choppy, with the longest shots being no more than ten or so seconds (yes, I got so bored, I counted). Given that the plot was already so difficult to cipher, choppy edits didn't help.

The largest insult to the Bond franchise would probably be the fact that this didn't feel like a Bond movie at all. Yes, the main character could do some amazing fighting/running/killing/driving, but so can a lot of action heroes. Bond lacked is suave sophistication of the other films. I'd not even quibble over that, considering that this is supposed to be early Bond, perhaps before he developed into Mr. Cool, but for the fact that this film had none of the cool gadgetry that exemplifies a Bond movie.

If you haven't seen it, don't pay to, that's for sure.

Friday, May 8, 2009

All Men vs. All Women

Forever Plaid, the musical, was much of what it was reviewed to be: mainly, funny. I really enjoyed the show, enjoyed the theater (which was one I hadn't been to before), and enjoyed the company. I still can't pinpoint what that "live" feel is, what makes an in-person performance resonate differently than a filmed one. Part of it might be that they walked down among the audience during certain parts, though I've been to plays where they've remained exclusively on stage, basically ignoring the audience, and still felt that presence.

Maybe that's it: maybe it's the fact that even though the actors on stage appear, for the most part, oblivious of the audience, in actuality, nearly their whole focus is on the people watching them. They're in tune with their audience, sort of feeding them energy, and the audience in turn feeds it back to them. You don't get that with film. I imagine it'd be hard to remember that there's going to be an audience sitting in a dark theater or reclining on their sofas at home watching you when you're filming on a set, where everything you see as the actor is cameras and cameramen, directors, and lighting.

Either way, Forever Plaid made me think of something totally unrelated: women. Specifically, the movie The Women (2008). I recently thoroughly enjoyed this film, and I was struck, about halfway through the film, to realize that I hadn't seen a single male actor. Not in the main cast and not in the extras. Whenever there was a man, he was always referenced or talked to through the phone, his side of the conversation never seen nor heard.

It was fascinating and refreshing to see women carry the entire movie, from the foreground to the background. I watched the extra stuff on the DVD and found out that, as I expected, the choice was intentional. In fact, the producer (female) made it a point of hiring as many women as possible to work behind the scenes, too. It was wonderfully refreshing—both the all-woman cast and the fact that the film celebrated women and their positive roles with each other (vs. movies which seem to claim to do the same, but actually focus entirely on the male leads and the women's obsessions with men, or worse, their negative relationships with each other; think What Women Want or Dr. T and the Women).

How did Forever Plaid lead me to this? Forever Plaid had an all-male cast (if you don't count the one line from a woman who didn't even get to step on stage, merely handed one of the lead actors something—and I don't). The singers were male and the musicians were male. Perhaps it was viewing The Women that made me notice it. It didn't detract from the production, but I still noticed.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Big Night Out

For the first time in a LONG time, Cody and I are going to see a live performance: Forever Plaid. The show flyers boast of nonstop hilarity. I hope they're right. Even if they're not, there's nothing like a live performance.

Once, at an old job, I had the opportunity to watch a live taping of American Idol from the studio floor, standing just beyond the cameramen. It was the year that Carrie Underwood was in the pack and it was a night for the ladies to sing. Having been following the show that year, I knew everyone was good. But seeing them, hearing them, in person was incredible. There's something in a performance that doesn't translate to TV or the movie screen. Yes, you can do more things with TV and movies, but that raw human touch just doesn't come through. Not even on the live shows.

I've seen a few plays that were later made into movies, and the plays always have that special touch that the movies can't capture. I don't know if it's something I project as part of the audience, or something the actors project in person that they can't get through the screen. Maybe I'll be able to decide tonight.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Reality Recognition Skewed

(Written on Sunday, after a three-hour-long read-a-thon.)

I have just finished Pattern Recognition in one of those headlong rushes, where real time collapses into the folds of the pages and my body’s rhythms align with the main character’s until that final page, the final paragraph, sentence, word closes everything down, and the real world around me stretches, uncomfortable, like new skin, and nothing, not even the clock stating the real time, seems as real, as factual, as the world I just left behind. Yeah, it was one of those books.

I definitely will be hunting down more William Gibson novels, but even if I find them tomorrow, I won’t be reading them for at least another month. Maybe longer. I need to clear my head. I need to see the world through my eyes for a while. I need a world a little less chaos-structured and a little more concrete.

The overarching impressions I’m left with, less specific to character and setting and more generalized, is Gibson’s minute sentence-by-sentence pacing that told the story as much as his words. His words weren’t bad, either; descriptors that called upon themes, repetitive in the way of patterns and not lack of imagination. One of my favorite:

“Win [the main character’s father]…had treated paranoia as though it were something to be domesticated and trained…. He cultivated it on its own special plot, and checked it daily for news it might bring: hunches, lateralisms, frank anomalies.”
There were more, many other phrases and descriptors, noteworthy yet bypassed in my nosedive to the finish. Having won my personal “best first line” contest, Gibson’s novel withstood to the end, never offering disappointment.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Percentage of New Authors: Results

For last week's NON interview contest question, I asked what percentage of books that you read each year are by new-to-you authors. While I would love to ask this question of people who 1. keep track of all the books they read each year (as those of us who are strangely obsessive about these things do), and 2. who are not answering the question on a site based on promoting debut authors, to which, I believe, I get a skewed test group, I am, nevertheless, happy to report the results. I will have to leave a more scientific survey up to the professionals.

I had expected people to confess to about 25–35% of the books they read in a year to be by new authors, figuring low numbers due to the general number of books read by each person each year and how well the best-selling authors are promoted compared to the debut authors. I was pleasantly surprised when the majority of people (94% of those polled) responded that 40% or more of their authors are new each year, with the most people (37%) guessing that at least half of the books they read are by new authors.

I was also happy to learn that 25% of the people who responded believe that of all the books they read in a year, 80% are by new authors. Quite remarkable.

I wish I had more information to determine what the factors behind these numbers might be. Is it that the publishing industry will put more money behind debut authors than authors whose first novel didn't sell too well, meaning that the second novels of these not-so-well-selling debut authors aren't making it to the hands of the readers? Are the people who read 80% or more new authors a year dissatisfied with the books they're reading, and therefore not buying these same authors again? Are they simply reading so many books that they require more novels than their favorite authors can produce year to year?

Sigh. So many questions. This week's question (along with the contest at NON) should, at least, provide a more concrete answer, or at least fewer questions. So far, we have two genres tied for first: mystery and paranormal romance. The victor shall be determined (along with the winner of the contest) next week.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Favorite Genre

For NON's contest this week, I asked entrants to answer what should be a simple question: what is your favorite genre?

I imagine, though, that this question will pose the same problem for most people that the question "what is your favorite author" did. How do you choose?

My broad, lazy answer would be anything with fantastical elements. This can include basically anything from paranormal romances (or really most romances), fantasy, science fiction, magical realism, adventure, and mysteries. And like my favorite author, my favorite genre usually depends on what I've chosen to read at any given time. Right now, reading Pattern Recognition, my favorite genre is this strange urban sci fi. Last week, when I was reading David Eddings's The Elder Gods, it was epic fantasy. I imagine it'll be paranormal fantasy next week.

I'm a firm believer in the idea that there's a book lover in everyone, and it's only a matter of finding your genre. I'm lucky enough to love five different genres. How many genres do you religiously read? Or maybe that's a question for another contest.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rewriting History

I've always been fascinated with the flexibility of history. You'd think things that have happened in the past, concrete events that can be factually referenced, would stay consistent, cemented in place and time. And yet...we all learn in our high school history classes that history is written by the victor. That what was considered acts of national loyalty can become acts of twisted depravity when the war is over and the triumphant nations write the next history books. Many novels have come from this, from the fanciful "what if" wonderings of what the world might be like if Christianity had not become the dominant religion, if Napoleon had breached Great Britain's defenses, if Hitler had succeeded in his mission. Big picture history what ifs at their finest.

And while those what-if wonderings can be fun for a while, I'm far more interested in the intimate and unique ways we all rewrite our own history. I'm not talking about willful rearrangement of events into a false memory. Rather, I mean the way that random events in the past can take on great significance when something happens in the present. For instance, had I chosen a profession having to do with fast cars, my childhood obsession with Hot Wheels would suddenly seem more important, like a precursor to my future career rather than just a fun childhood pastime. The time I worked with Cody has greater significance to me than the time I worked with any other person because Cody and I (much later) started dating.

In so many little ways, I've rewritten my history, placing greater importance on one event than another as the present/future dictates. Yet, with all my ruminations on the mercurial nature of the past, I've never considered history the way William Gibson describes it through the main character of Pattern Recognition:

"'The future is there...looking back at us. Trying to make sense of the fiction we will have become. And from where they are, the past behind us will look nothing at all like the past we imagine behind us now.... I only know that the one constant in history is change: The past changes. Our version of the past will interest the future to about the extent we're interested in whatever past the Victorians believed in. It simply won't seem very relevant.'"

I've never considered the past as seen by the people in history. What a mind-boggling concept, and yet such a fascinating one.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Proof That I'm Right...and a Few Other Things

Yesterday was a whirlwind day, which didn't leave time to post (and a post at midnight that would have been about how tired I was wasn't worth it).

After work, Cody and I went to an award ceremony for him (and a few other students at his college). Cody was selected as The Outstanding Student of the Computer Integrated Electronics Department. Out of all the students this semester, Cody was nominated by his professor for this award, standing out from the rest of the students in all his CIE classes for a plethora of reasons, including his natural leadership, positive attitude, and aptitude for making everyone around him comfortable. Now, I've always known Cody is outstanding (for all these reasons and more), and I'm incredibly happy that other people acknowledge it, too. The proof, as they don't really say, is in the lovely plaque and award.

The ceremony was well done and fun, and afterward we got to rub elbows with all the other outstanding students from the other departments. All in all, it would have been a lovely end to the evening, but we added in a late-night (for us) screening of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The film was fun and filled with action—everything I expected from an X-Men flick.

This weekend, we continue the celebration of Cody's excellence. It's a wonderful reason to indulge in all things fun.