Archive for March, 2009

Cut and Paste time!

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No, I’m not indulging in my craftier side—though I am a crafter at heart, but that’s a whole other story.  No, dear readers, I am sitting here looking at a printed out copy of my YA fantasy manuscript, the one I seem to have hit a brick wall on, and I’m getting creative.

You see, I’m what a friend of mine once called a “chronologically sporadic” writer.  Some writers are very talented and know how to craft a story step by step, starting at the beginning and working their way in a straight and steady line to the end.  I have never been that kind of writer.  Generally, I write the prologue or first chapter, even up to the first several chapters, all in one go.  It’s not that I putter out after that (though that happens occasionally) but really rather that I get distracted by other scenes I know are going to happen down the line.

You know how they tell you that a story should have rising action, falling action, and major and minor climaxes throughout?  Picture that diagram that they show you in your mind, the one that looks a bit like a mountain range of ups and downs.  You know what I’m talking about.  The beginning of a story has to start with something happening, some incentive to get the story going and get the reader interested.  That’s the first slope leading up the first mountain, right?  If you were a chronologically-minded writer, you would probably follow going up that first incline by going down the next side, and so on and so forth.

Me?  It’s like every time I get to the top of that mountain, the fog rolls in down below, and then all I can see are the very tip tops of the summits (or climactic scenes) as they stretch before me.  The valleys, those imperative valleys, are covered up for the time being.  Now, with determination and work, I can clear that fog away and see how to get from one summit to the other, it just takes work, and a lot of paying attention to what my characters are trying to tell me.  But in the meantime, I can see those summits in perfect detail, so I write them down, get them taken care of.

What does this have to do with cutting and pasting?  Well, the problem with writing things in this “chronologically sporadic” way, is that sometimes, so far as actual documents go, the scenes get all mixed up and out of order.  I think that’s the major block I’ve had with this story lately, I just don’t know exactly which parts I’ve written, where.  I have whole bits of writing, from a few lines to a handful of pages, that I need to reorganize.  I know where they belong in the story, but in the document themself, they’ve gotten lost.  So I’m going to spend the next few hours—or days? (hopefully not!)—cutting this manuscript up and putting it in the order it’s supposed to be in, so that I can gather my wits and see what parts really do need to be filled in.  Wish me luck!

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Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep

Book #7.  Yes, I realize I’m going slowly.  Emma is really boring me this time around for some reason, but more on that later.

This is the second of Liz Kessler’s Emily Windsnap trilogy, about a girl who learns at twelve years old that she’s half-mermaid.  The first book was all about her discovering her mermaid heritage and the reason she hadn’t known about it beforehand, which turns out being a bit more nefarious than expected.  She and her mother are then reunited with her mermaid father and sent to a secret island to live a happily ever after.

Which is where Monster from the Deep picks up.  I was fairly excited for this book, mainly because the idea of a secret, paradisical island where mermaids and humans live together in harmony reminded me a little of Peter Pan’s Neverland—well, that and the island at the end of the off-the-mark ’98 TV movie of Brave New World, with Peter Gallagher, but that’s probably just me.

My point is, I was looking forward to a lot of exploration of the island.  Despite the title of the book, I was basically assuming that it would be an end-of-the-book climactic thing, rather than what it was, pretty much the main focus all throughout.  I can’t complain, though.  It’s a middle-grade book, and while we don’t get to see as much of the island as I’d like, there’s some character development here that I didn’t expect.  Emily has looked forward to living on this island because here she would finally, finally fit in—except she’s so focused on fitting in that she works overly hard to try to prove herself, which is what ends up landing her in trouble in the first place.

That’s all good and well… but once she does get in trouble, the story goes a little bit off kilter.  Meanwhile, we’re flashing over to the point of view of Emily’s old school rival Mandy at the end of each chapter, which was an effect that I like, but I think could have been developed just a teensy bit more.  We get that Mandy’s parents are selfish and argue a lot, leaving Mandy feeling left out and not very important, but we don’t really understand a thing about her parents, except that they argue a lot.  Like in the last novel, the child-parent relationships just seem a little off.    The end of the novel felt very much like a repeat of the first one, also.  Both strongly imply that mermaids have been doing awful, awful things for hundreds and thousands of years, and then after Emily pleads her case, Neptune, despite being as megalomaniac-y as you could suppose, eventually sees her point and changes his ways.

I’m starting to wonder if the excuse “this is a middle grade book,” isn’t a little thin.  I don’t know that Emily learned anything from the mistakes she made in this book, except perhaps to not go trespassing on Neptune’s personal property—she abuses a friendship and instead of having to pay for it with anything more than her conscience, her friend turns around and praises her for being such a courageous person.  Instead of realizing that she would have fit in on the island just being herself, she just seems happy that she gets a party at the end of the book.  And on top of all that I’m having more and more trouble buying her as twelve years old.  The book is marked for ages six through eight, but personally I was reading stuff like The Secret Garden by then.  I can’t help but think that maybe Kessler is underestimating her readers…

That said, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the book.  I did, actually.  Despite her faults, Emily is an extremely likeable character, and any look we get at Mystic Millie is worth all the rest.  Though not how she’s described at all, I keep picturing Millie as an overdressed Zooey Deschanel, it just seems like the kooky kind of role she’d play, and if it ever gets made into a movie, she’d have my vote for the role in a heartbeat.

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Book to Watch for!

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Coming in June, Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog!

From Amazon: Morgan Sparks has always known that she and her boyfriend, Cam, are made for each other. But when Cam’s cousin Pip comes to stay with the family, Cam seems depressed. Finally Cam confesses to Morgan what’s going on: Cam is a fairy. The night he was born, fairies came down and switched him with a healthy human boy. Nobody expected Cam to live, and nobody expected his biological brother, heir to the fairy throne, to die. But both things happened, and now the fairies want Cam back to take his rightful place as Fairy King.

Even as Cam physically changes, becoming more miserable each day, he and Morgan pledge to fool the fairies and stay together forever. But by the time Cam has to decide once and for all what to do, Morgan’s no longer sure what’s best for everyone, or whether her and Cam’s love can weather an uncertain future.

This book looks so exciting!  I’ve got to admit, while vampires may have been catching a lot of attention of late in the YA fiction world, (or the fiction world in general, I guess!) when I want something outside the area of normal, I want something with a little more… well, pretty to it.  And if you don’t think that fairies can be just as thrillingly scary, then you haven’t been hearing the right stories.

And right now on her blog, Cyn’s got an amazing giveaway contest going on, with chances to win both a signed copy of Fairy Tale—before anyone else gets it!—and a lovely little silver fortune cookie necklace, straight from the book!

GO HERE for details for a chance to enter the contest, and check out Fairy Tale on June 23rd!

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Knowing isn’t Everything.

knowing-movie-posterThe two words that reverberated through my head as I watched the credits rolling up after watching Knowing the other day were:  Intrinsically Weird.  That is really the best, most concise review I can give.

I wasn’t really all that interested in seeing this film, because the set-up from the commercials, of Nicolas Cage circiling random numbers and claiming they have meaning, reminded me too much of The Bible Code that made such a sensation in 1997.  Basically it felt as if the makers of this had waited long enough for the general public to forget about the notariety and then fictionalized the heck out of it.  My other thought going in, was why on earth does Nicolas Cage keep doing action movies?  Doesn’t he realize he’s getting a little old for this stuff?

That criticism died pretty quickly as I realized that he is, in fact, the dad in this flick.  The alcoholic, borderline negligent dad, but the dad, nevertheless.  And I will say that the film was much creepier than I originally anticipated.  I was expecting something like National Treasure III, the space edition, with some intellectual suspense thrown in, but this had some textbook horror-movie scenes in it, which were downright creepy—though not really all that intellectual.

The twist at the end, though, the big, climactic twist that is supposed to knock you flat on your face… well, it’s not that much of a surprise, really.  Except perhaps in how very very far they go in following it through.

I have to admit, I was very interested in learning that it was an Australian-made film, though, as the only other film I could compare to the way the end of this one played out, is a 1977 Richard Chamberlain film called The Last Wave, about a lawyer in Sydney who’s assigned to defend five aboriginal men in court, and in attempts to understand them ends up being drawn through a spritual journey and given a prophecy that a tidal wave is going to overrun the continent and kill all the people.  The end is as ambiguous as Knowing‘s, but done in a more artistic way.  Now that I think about it, I’m beginning to wonder if this was more conscious than I’m considering, because the films do play out in such a similar way, though Knowing gives a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel hint, whereas The Last Wave simply ends.  A sign of the times, I suppose.

That said, Knowing was certainly fun to watch.  It left me scratching my head at the end, but did it in an entertaining way, at least.  This one won’t be winning any awards, but it’ll chill you up to the point where it spins off at the end.  And the kids are great, each in their own way.  The boy is just cute, and the little girl is fascinating to watch.

I’d recommend checking out The Last Wave, though.  I watched it for an Intercultural Communications through Film class that I took in college, and that was one of my favorite films from the class.  Very creepy in its own way, lots of concentration on “the other” and mysticism and all of that, but done in a much smarter way than Knowing. I’d be interested in watching the two side by side, though.

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Au Revoir, Life?

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I have to stop falling in love with TV shows.  Especially clever, funny TV shows with fantastic music teams, because these always seem to be  the first for the chopping block.

I learned a few days ago that NBC is very likely giving the axe to Life, a show about an L.A. cop who has his badge returned to him after being released from a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.  Sounds a little far-fetched?  Okay, sure, but who cares when you have classicly-trained (not to mention surprisingly, distractingly sexy) Damian Lewis trading quirky Zen wisdom tips with a no-nonsense (and c’mon, probably even sexier) Sarah Shahi?

The truth is, I’d gotten sick of crime shows.  I know I’m far, far from the average, but every Law and Order looks exactly the same to me, and the CSI’s tend to be just… well, icky.  I don’t care for gore, or grisly “plucked from the headlines” stuff.  After all, if I actually watch the news—which I do—why would I want to see some fictional copycat of the worst stories two weeks later?

The advertisements for Life caught my interest, though.  After all, I knew NBC could make a crime show that had something more to it than just being a crime show—I tune into Medium all the time, because besides giving the audience a good mystery to try to solve, we also get to see a nice, realistic family unit, with (mostly) everyday problems.  Joe Dubois is kind of my ideal husband.

Life has seen it’s share of some truly strange crimes.  Women left in boxes in the middle of highways, men buried to their necks and surrounded by flower petals.  But the main thing that works for it, really, is character.  It’s focused on a character, not just the newest twisted tale.  That’s what Life had going for it, too.  Charlie Crews is a man who has had everything taken away from him, so when he gets it back again he appreciates it that much more, but there’s still that knowledge that everything was taken away from him, and a darkness that’s just behind the ready smile.  And because of the time he’s spent in prison, the time he’s spent in solitary, stuck inside his own head, Charlie Crews knows people.  He sees things in people’s eyes that most people don’t look for, hears things in their voices that most wouldn’t listen for.

And…. I’ve used the word already, but the show is just full of quirk.  In the best way possible.  The humor is a little offbeat, a little silly, and very stick-in-your head, and the main cast, while fairly small, is fantastic all the way around.

I’m going to miss this one a lot.  It has easily been my favorite show on TV this season, and it’s hits like this that make me want to give up TV for good sometimes.

So, farewell, Life.  I will miss your always-perfect music and fascinating character depictions.  There are a scant four episodes left, most likely devoid of the pregnant Sarah Shahi, which is unfortunate.  If it has to die, at least you want it to die in tact, you know?

I’m hoping this is the only kick in the gut my inner TV-lover gets after this season is over, but I’m worried about The Sarah Conner Chronicles, too, another show that has really taken me by surprise in how much I enjoy it.  Trust me to fall for the underdog, always.

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Hello, Lover

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No, I’m not talking about the typewriter (though I wish it were mine!), I’m talking about that feeling that you get when you start a brand new project, when the spark of a new novel presents itself to you, all shiny and tempting.  I was lightning-struck with an idea this morning, and though I really shouldn’t be starting something new right now, I also don’t think that writers can afford to put ideas like this on the shelf when they come to you as clearly as this came to me.  (Am I even being coherent here?  I can’t tell at this point.)

Actually, this project isn’t entirely brand new to me, because it’s a reorganized version (read: butchered, beaten, and brought back to life version) of an older project of mine that simply wasn’t usable.  Really very little has been salvaged but a basic idea and a few scenes and character traits, plus a twist or two.  Everything else has been wiped clean and made new.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Especially beautiful because this has the potential of being an ensemble-cast series, something I’ve been wanting  to find a way to do for some time now.

I won’t say more than that just now… I don’t really know much more, and I don’t want to jinx myself by talking about the project too much, but know that it is distracting me and I’m really enjoying the distraction.  That should suffice.

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Readerly Updates

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Apologies for the lack of updates.  Things have been interesting.  I’ve had quite a few family commitments that have made internet time almost non-existent.  In fact, it’s taken an early night on a business trip for me to even get a chance to poke my head in here, but while I haven’t been online much, I’ve definitely been reading.

I’m really starting to wonder if I’m a little ADD when it comes to reading, because I haven’t been finishing books very quickly, and I’m on a trend of reading at least four books at a time – three novels and a book of poetry – that I don’t know when it will end.

The one thing I have finished is my reread of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host.  I really resisted reading this the first go around, and took every chance to scrutinize it vocally that I could, but by the time it was over I couldn’t deny that I loved the thing.  It’s still a very bizarre book the second time around – bits of it remind me of a Miyazaki film on acid – but rereading it and knowing those parts were going to come in, it was a little easier to swallow.  I still have issues with a few little points where someone along the line (and that of course starts with Ms. Meyer herself) didn’t fact-check things very thoroughly (ask me about the honey issue sometimes… that one really irks me), and I still hate the first ten chapters.  But.  Ian.  O’Shea.  I have to admit, that if it came down to a fight to the death in Meyer characters for my affection… well, Ian is the only one who could give Jacob Black a run for his money.  Well maybe that Garrett fellow from Breaking Dawn—he was pure beauty.

I still get frustrated with various aspects of Meyer’s hackneyed sense of literary justice.  In Twilight, Bella gets her little circle of weirdly immortal friends/family, with no change, ever, and here we get a very strong character made pointedly weak and all but helpless at the very end of the novel.  It’s for that reason, mainly, that I wouldn’t mind it terribly if there aren’t any sequels to this, despite the fact that the ending leaves it very open for continuation.  My one leaning for a sequel, would be so we could learn more about Burns, because I just happen to have a weakness for tall redheads in stories (and in real life, for that matter).

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I’ve also been rereading some other things – I guess it’s a trend lately.  I’m indulging in a life-long crush and rereading Anne of Green Gables. I haven’t read this series in years, and never read all of it, actually, and I’d really like to.  Anne Shirley was one of my very first fictional friends, which I guess is true for millions of people.  The love story between Anne and Gilbert Blythe, which I’ve barely touched as of yet in the first novel, is one that’s influenced my taste for fictional pairings all my life—it’s something a half-step beyond “will they or won’t they,” there’s that spark that’s just as likely to explode in your face as it is to combust in a more positive way.  Anne is completely disdainful of Gilbert for years, on account of a percieved insult she recieved from him at their very first meeting, but Gilbert is struck, full victim to Anne’s overenthusiastic, romantic charms despite her temper.  That said, he never moons over his losses, and he doesn’t roll over and play dead, either.  While I wouldn’t say he fights back, really, Gilbert gets his digs in here and there, and his patience runs out at various times (very understandably), which is something I’ve always appreciated.  It makes the pair of them much more real than a saintly ever-lasting patience would.  (And along that line, how does Stephenie Meyer compare Edward and Bella to this?  Really?)

I’m reading Emma, also, to finish out my round of Austen novels, but it’s going surprisingly slowly.  I’ve always enjoyed this novel before, but it just seems to be dragging, which is strange because I know I’m comprehending more of it than I had the first two times I’d read it (Both for classes, and both rushed.  And both years ago).  Maybe I’m just distracted by the fact that the fourth Fablehaven novel comes out March 24th.  I am looking forward to that an awful lot.  Maybe not to Harry Potter proportions, but up there with Jasper Fforde, which is high in my book.

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