Monday, March 31, 2014

Fool for Love blog hop


This weekend, I'll be taking part in the Fool for Love bloghop. There are a ton of great authors involved and prizes galore. So keep your calendar marked to check in for the chance to win some great swag!

Friday, March 28, 2014

My thoughts on Divergent, the movie

I went and saw Divergent yesterday with my daughter and her best friend. I'd read the books while we were away, but I'll admit, I'm not a fan. I loathed Tris, disliked how Four changed so completely in the third book, and hated the choices made to conclude the series. Its saving graces to me were Four in the first two books and a number of the minor characters. They were enough for me to care about seeing the series through to the end.

So going into the movie, I had low expectations. I was mostly curious about how the adaptation would work rather than any investment in the story. I walked out liking it more than I thought I would, a 6 out of 10.

The first thing you have to do with it, just like with the books, is skip any sense of logic that the faction system could actually work and manage to sustain itself for any length of time. Get that out of the way, and focus on the basic story. Tris doesn't feel like she belongs. She gets definitive proof from her test that she doesn't. She tries anyway. Cut to endless sequences of her getting stronger and proving to both herself and the others that she belongs there.

In some ways, it works better than the book, but that's because this version of Tris is not the book version. I don't mean just physically. Part of what defines Tris is how small and young she looks. She uses it first as motivation to prove herself, both to herself and to everyone surrounding her, then in later books as a weapon when the time is right. That's just not going to happen when you cast a 5'8" actress in the role, so changes were inevitable. Shailene Woodley plays her a lot softer than the book version, with obvious remorse. Plus, some of the script changes take away some of the things Tris does in the book that made me hate her so much. I like this Tris, and if this was how she'd been written, I probably would've liked her in the book, too.

A lot of the characters are different, actually. The casting of Will and Al is awful in the fact that the two actors look too similar and it's very hard to tell them apart. The actor playing Peter looks way older than the rest of them and never seems menacing. The only one that seemed to nail the core of the character for me was Four (even though he's physically very different than what I thought he looked like from the book). But hey, he is very nice eye candy and actually made me like him as much in the movie as I did the book, so points there.

Structurally, it suffers from too much non-story before it gets to the real meat of it. Rather than try and introduce elements earlier about the Erudite conflict to try and thread the danger throughout the movie instead of dumping it all at the end, they stuck to a lot of how the book was structured (with obvious deletions). It's a big issue with adaptations. A lot of time, they seem to forget that without being privy to the little throwaways we read in the text, we lose that underlying tension that makes the payoff worth it. It has to be done visually if you can get away with it, but that doesn't happen until too late here. The first hour plus is devoted to Tris's initiation, much like the book, and while the individual sequences aren't bad, they didn't feel all that cohesive. It gives the first half of the movie a sense of "Why should I care about any of this?" which doesn't help it at all.

Still. I kind of enjoyed it in spite of itself. Plus, Theo James is so damn pretty, and I do like Four, so that makes up for some of the shortcomings

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Happy birthday, Tennessee Williams!

It's the birthday of one of my favorite playwrights today!

We have one life, one shot at all the glorious things of life, and we walk about constricted, apologetic, afraid. We have so little time; we have so little space upon which to spread our love and our talents and our kindness. Run toward life fulsomely and freely.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Loves me some Hook

With my kids on spring break, we've been catching up on Once Upon a Time. We had ten episodes to watch on the DVR, and now we're down to the three from the past three weeks when it resumed, and holy crap, I'm reminded why I love Hook so much. I've also decided it's the character, not the actor, because when I see him in interviews, he seems sweet enough but he doesn't do anything for me like when he's playing Hook.

It could be the eyeliner.


But seriously, did I ever stand a chance? Bad guy, who started out as a good guy, who wants to go back to doing the right thing because of a woman? Whose only motivations in life are love and vengeance? Yeah, that doesn't sound like my type at all. /sarcasm



Monday, March 24, 2014

My writing world

I've had to set aside my menage right now for projects that have deadlines. First up is my story for the silver foxes pax that's coming up later this year. My story is tentatively titled The Mansions By the Seashore, and it's about a successful Manhattan caterer who returns to the posh island where he lived until he was 12 to prove to himself he's moved on from it. I don't have much so far, but this is the opening:

*_*_*

The thing about memories...you always find out too late when they're based on lies. See, the brain is a beautiful construction. It knows we humans need those roots to cling to. So if it decides we are in short supply of happy memories about our parents for instance, it makes them up to fill in the gaps. It's like psychic spackle. Leave it long enough and it looks like it was always there.

Until we come face to face with its deception and realize there are holes in our lives that memories can't patch up.

Cardinal Island was my hole, the rift I'd come back to confront only to discover it was actually an abyss.

With my hands curled around the latte I'd got from the Flour Garden--no Starbucks for Cardinal Island, no siree bob, too commercial for these pompous locals--I gazed around the central square of downtown, watching people go about their daily business. It was them as much as the architecture that left me dazed. In my head, Cardinal residents never did their own shopping, and yet, I counted three different mother and offspring sets doing just that. More bizarrely, nearly everyone who walked by greeted me with a smile.

Do you remember me? I'd think as each one passed me.

If they did, they gave no indication beyond their cordial welcome of waggled fingers or the curl of their mouths. I was a mystery, the unknown in their midst. Perhaps locals confronted their enigmas head on these days rather than in the whispers and closed doors of yore.

Friday, March 21, 2014

10 Movies I Wished I'd Written

Yesterday on Facebook, I got tagged to list the fifteen authors who have influenced my writing by two author friends. In the comments of one, they got to talking about a writing exercise where you list the ten movies or books you wish you'd written, and analyze why. I kind of loved that idea, so I'm trying it out here so I can talk about them a little bit more.

1. Dead Again.
2. Parenthood
3. The Philadelphia Story
4. Fargo
5. Sunset Boulevard
6. Memento
7. The Usual Suspects
8. When Harry Met Sally...
9. Breaking Away
10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

These aren't in any particular order, though I can say that Dead Again is always the first movie I think of when I consider work I wish I'd done. When I saw it in the theater in 1991, I walked out thinking exactly that. That this, to me, managed to incorporate so many elements I wish I could and it had done so in such a way that I was enthralled for the entire ride. My love for noir, my fascination with reincarnation, the romance...it all tied into this wonderful package. And really makes me want to dig it out again and watch it for the umpteenth time.

I think it's an eclectic list, to say the least, but quite common amongst a lot of these is how much I admire smart movies. More than a few have brilliant twists or structure, and most of them have amazing dialogue. The quieter movies, like Breaking Away, are on the list because of how remarkably perceptive I find them, and yet, still thrilling in their own ways.

And I'll admit that Butch Cassidy is on the list because it has one of my favorite movie lines of all time in it. It's when Butch says to Sundance, "Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals." It's funny, it's insightful, and it's completely sold by Paul Newman's performance.

Any other commonalities you see? I'm curious what your list might be, too.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Cover Art - What the Heart Thinks

We are back from Las Vegas, which means catching up on everything. One of the surprises in my email this morning? The cover art for my April pax release, What the Heart Thinks.

Those are my two guys to a T. It's a romcom of sorts, about a radio DJ and an actor/stripper who meet at a bachelorette party. Here's the blurb:

On a scale of one to ten, DJ Joe Salinas considers himself a four, five on a good day. Actor/part-time stripper Fess Kedley is definitely a nine, however, though Joe’s pretty sure that slides into a ten as soon as the clothes come off. So when the outgoing Fess recognizes a shy Joe at a bachelorette party from his midnight radio show and proceeds to ask him out, Joe turns him down, convinced he’s either crazy or stupid.

The only problem is, Fess takes rejection as reason to keep on trying.

The two become unexpected friends, so when the thought of trying a date comes up again, Joe decides to take a chance. Though he doesn’t understand what someone like Fess would see in someone like him, it’s hard to say no when everything else feels so right.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spectacle vs Substance

One of the two shows we had tickets for during our visit to Las Vegas was The Beatles' Love at the Mirage. That's what we went to see last night.

My reaction is...mixed.

Technically, it's really well done. The staging is clever, the costumes stunning, and the music is (understandably) fantastic. I loved that the speakers were in the headrest of the seats without being obnoxious about it. What didn't work for me was as much was just how busy the show is. I was fine that, unlike other Cirque shows I've seen, it was mostly interpretive dance rather than a lot of acrobatics, but it's very much focused on the spectacle and cramming as much into the space as it possibly can, so much so that it's impossible to know where to look. It's like one long hallucination. The best moments were those that were allowed to be more intimate, but they were just too few and far between.

I figured out later what my difficulty with it was. It comes down to spectacle versus substance. Too much of the former and not nearly enough of the latter. I'm not a big fan of grandiose or being different for the sake of being different. This had so much happening all at once--multiple aerial acts at the same time, two or three different components on the stage, projections happening behind us--that it ends up diffusing the entire effect. It's an avalanche that buries you rather than allows you to experience it.

Phantom of the Opera is another example of this. I get into arguments with other theater friends all the time because they rate it so highly and I just don't. I do like a lot of the music, but too much of the show feels superfluous and shallow. Give me Les Miserables and almost anything by Sondheim instead, please.

Those have substance. Those have meaning. They know when to pull back from the spectacle to best highlight the singular moments that make the entire show worth it.

It's a lesson that can be learned in a lot of different venues.

Monday, March 17, 2014

We are here!

We arrived safely in Las Vegas last night, after nine hours on the road. It was actually a nice drive. My husband and I split it up, which meant I got to sit and finally read Divergent. My daughter's been on my case about getting it done before we see the movie this coming weekend, so it was good to get it out of the way. I've got the other two books with me, so we'll see if I get around to finishing the series before I get home.

I liked the book enough to finish out the series, but I'll admit, I really don't care for Tris very much. I don't know if that will improve, but hopefully. My daughter says she likes the second book best and she didn't like Tris much after the first one, so fingers crossed.

I'm also completely unspoiled for these books, so please don't try to reassure me of anything, lol!

Anyway, today we're taking the kids down to the Bellagio and Paris to show them around. Then it's dinner at Gordon Ramsay's Steakhouse at the Paris and The Beatles Love at the Mirage tonight. I'm going to try and take some pictures to post tomorrow, but I'll admit I have a tendency to forget once I'm in the middle of sightseeing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Book rec - Encrypted by Lindsay Buroker

I got surprised by a book on my Kindle the other day. I try a lot of new to me authors when they have Kindle deals, but often forget about what I've got so I don't often have any idea about what a story is like when I start it. Encrypted by Lindsay Buroker was one of those.

Turned out it's a mishmash of sci-fi, fantasy, and maybe a little steampunk thrown in on the side. Tikaya is a linguist who helped her island people win a war against another race (that sees their advanced science as magic) by decoding their messages and giving them to their enemies. After the war, she goes into hiding until she gets kidnapped by their defeated enemy, for the purpose of decoding some artifact that has fallen into their hands. What unfolds is a very action-driven adventure, on sea, over mountains, through ice, with a little romance thrown in for good measure. I started out unsure about the author's style, but Wednesday, when I was a third of the way through its 100k, I hit a point where I just couldn't put it down and basically shirked other responsibilities most of the day to finish the damn thing.

I got on Amazon to find out if there's a sequel and discovered it actually has a sequel and a half, but more importantly, those two (and a half) books are actually prequels to a longer series that starts eighteen years ahead of this one.

Which means I now have ten books to read. Oops.

Anyway, if you like plot-driven sci-fi/fantasy with a geeky heroine and non-stop action, give it a try. The romance isn't that heavy-handed and it's highly compulsive reading.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Signing at RT

After taking last year off from conventions, I got in early to get a hotel for RT this year. I wasn't quite as quick on the registration, though, since by the time I registered a few hours after it opened, the slots for the Book Fair were already filled up.

No problem, I thought. I got put on the waiting list and basically resigned myself to taking it easier this year and not having to worry as much about promo. Plus, it would give me freedom to be a fangirl at the Book Fair, too, which I always love.

Not the case anymore.

Yesterday, I got an email letting me know that I now had a slot in the ebook section of the book fair. So guess who's scrambling to get promo settled quickly, lol?


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Another World

On days (weeks) like this, I need reminders that all the hard work will pay off. This quote gets me through it, because it applies to so much - the social change our world so desperately needs, my writing worlds, my personal life and my fight to stay strong and healthy.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Going to Las Vegas

My husband surprised me and our kids with plans for an impromptu jaunt to Las Vegas next week. It's the start of the kids' spring break, and he has to leave the second week of it for a business trip to Barcelona, so he wanted to make it up to us a little bit.

We aren't going crazy. We're only there for three nights, and our kids are 12 and 14 so it's definitely family-friendly. We have tickets to see Penn & Teller on Monday night, then on Tuesday, we're eating dinner at Gordon Ramsay's at the Paris (because it was absolutely divine when he took me there for my birthday last summer), then a hop down the strip to see Love at the Mirage. Good friends of ours saw it and LOVED it, and I do have to admit, it looks amazing:

Blogging might be spotty next week as a result, but we have internet at our hotel, so hopefully I'll be able to get something up.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cloudburst

I love it when movies I never heard of get brought to my attention. Introducing Cloudburst...

It never got released in theaters, but it's available to rent on Amazon as well as being available on DVD.

The tagline is, "The best geriatric lesbian road movie you have ever seen. Thelma and Louise, eat your heart out."

How can you resist that?!?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The (almost) arrival of Catching Fire

I'm a little excited. I got the shipping notification that my copy of Catching Fire had shipped from Amazon. Estimated delivery was tomorrow, but when I went and checked the tracking information, it's already at my post office, which means I'm getting it today, woo hoo!

Downside is that my daughter is currently away on a band trip until Saturday and I'd told her we'd watch it together. I'm going to bug her when she calls me tonight and see if I can get her not to whine if I watch it before she gets home. I have a feeling I won't win that. Sharing Hunger Games is kind of our thing.

But I loved this one. Better than the first movie, I thought, though in all fairness, they're vastly different in tone so it's hard to compare them.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

40 Bags in...well, a lot of days

Yesterday on Facebook, someone pointed out a decluttering group that was about to start a challenge. It's called 40 Bags in 40 Days 2014 Decluttering Challenge, and the point is to break up your home into 40 different spots and take a day to declutter each one. The trick is to pick small spots so you don't get overwhelmed.

The challenge starts today, and I've decided that since I can't dedicate the next 40 days to it (we're gone for 4-5 days in two weeks), I'm just going to do it when I can. As close to that 40 as I can make it, but still, I'm being realistic about the whole thing.

The woman at the blog where I found it has two printable schedules you can download, one for the next 40 days and one with the date left blank, so you can get started. On my agenda today is my desk area.
Sad, isn't it? There are things in that cupboard over my desk that haven't been touched since we moved in over four years ago. The drawers at the side have become storage units for crap, and the top of my desk is pretty much everybody's favorite dumping ground when they're asked to clean off the table for dinner (which I am standing next to take this picture, so you can see how convenient it is). 

I've already got one room designated for garage sale stuff (I'm definitely having one this year, so I'm starting my organization early so I don't talk myself out of it again), and there's a local FB group I'm a part of that sells/gives away a lot of stuff, so I'll likely try that avenue as well. 

I'm not looking forward to the days I do shoes, purses, and jewelry. Those will be scary, scary days. The one thing that definitely won't be touched is my TBR books. Those are the most organized thing in my house, and there is no way I'm changing my system, lol. On the other hand, I might go through my keeper shelves. There might be some in there that I've changed my mind on.

Life is better without all the stuff we don't need bogging us down, right?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Update on my Reading Bingo Challenge

My reading challenge for 2014 is going pretty good so far. I tasked myself to read 52 books this year, one a week, which works well for me because that gives me a cushion if I end up having a string of DNFs. So far, I've read 13, eight (or nine, if I use my free space) of which I can mark off on my Reading Bingo Challenge.


The books/squares I can cross off:

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas – non-fiction
600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster – Number in the title
Origin by Jennifer Armentrout – one-word title
Nor Iron Bars a Cage by Kaje Harper – heard about online
Vertigo by M.L. Rhodes – non-human characters
Picture This by Michelle L. Levigne – female author
Best New Romantic Fantasy 2 edited by Paula Guran – short stories
Rose, Exposed by Afton Locke – second book in a series
This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith –  free space

I wrote a review of A Three Dog Life after I read it, but the other real standout for me was Nor Iron Bars a Cage. I think Kaje is one of the most talented m/m authors publishing today, and this story is a long (over 100k), wonderful m/m high fantasy with some great world-building. Even better, it's a freebie so you have no excuses not to try it. She wrote it for a Goodreads giveaway, and it's stunning what she managed to accomplish in the short time she had to write it. Her prose is lyrical without losing accessibility, and the characters in this are three-dimensional and glorious. A real angsty, slow burn. Highly recommend.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscar watching

In anticipation of the Oscars yesterday, I spent Friday and Saturday catching up on movies I hadn't got to see before. Nebraska. Dallas Buyers Club. Blue Jasmine. Gravity. A few others, but these are the ones that were most important, for a lot of reasons.

Like...

I knew Gravity was going to win a lot of technical awards, and probably best director, and I wanted to know why and if they deserved it.
---Opinion: Yes.

Blanchett, McConaughey, and Leto were the leaders in their categories and again I wanted to see if the wins would be deserved.
---Opinion: Blanchett and Leto most definitely. Leto made me cry, and Blanchett was stunning. McConaughey was good, but not who I would've voted for in that category.

Nebraska is the kind of movie that I adore, and I wanted to get lost in the possibilities.
---Opinion: LOVED this movie so much. If I'd been given a vote, I would've thrown it at Bruce Dern without batting an eyelash. He's brilliant in this, and the film is so full of other greatness, that's saying a lot. In another year, I would've voted for June Squibb, too, because she was a joy (I still would give my vote to Jennifer Lawrence, because of how completely she stole every scene she was in).

I never did see 12 Years a Slave, so I can't comment on how I feel about those wins, though I wasn't surprised by them. And overall, the Oscars this year were both over and underwhelming--too long and not very funny, and yet quite accessible because of Ellen and the quirkiness of her hosting.

Other highlights:
---Bill Murray sneaking in his tribute to Harold Ramis.
---Pink's performance of Over the Rainbow. Stunning.
---Leto and Lupita's acceptance speeches.
---Darlene Love singing in the best documentary acceptance speech.