Friday, October 29, 2010

Spooktacular, spooktacular!

To say that my husband and I love Halloween would be a gross understatement.

I come by it naturally. When I was young, pumpkin carving was the biggest event of the year (well, except maybe egg hunting at Easter), and my Mom took particular joy in greeting the kids at the door. I could always tell which little monsters she thought ranked highest in the costume department - they received handfuls of candy.

We rarely decorated our yard, though.

Big difference now that handsome hubby is in my life.

Two years ago, we began a collection of spooky outdoor decor. Last Halloween, a giant blow-up skull took center stage amidst talking skeletons, glowing ghosts, and a jar of dancing eyeballs. My husband even donned his creepy mask, and for the kids that were old enough, treated them first to a scare before dolling out the candy.

This year, we've gone all out.

Hubby and his daughter built an incredible (and realistic) seven-foot coffin out of wood, which we then painted in browns and greens. It's absolutely perfect for the yard, because we've added to our skeleton collection yet again. Several will be "hanging out" in our makeshift graveyard, partially hidden by the fog machine, or highlighted by the strobe light. A giant spider will drop from the doorframe. A ghost will fly across the sidewalk from two trees. The doormat will offer a spooky greeting, and the door itself will be splattered with fake blood.

It's the kind of thing the neighborhood kids have come to expect from us - and already, they've been peeking into the yard to see if we've set anything up.

Sadly, we live in a neighbourhood that doesn't allow us to leave our decor out overnight, and our spooktacular graveyard scene must wait until Sunday morning for its creation. But we've got plenty planned to round out the weekend - a visit to the Farm of Fear, a tour of the haunted houses at Screamfest, a pumpkin carving extravaganza, and at least one night curling up on the couch with a few horror flicks.

My spine is already tingling with excitement.

What are your plans for Halloween? Is it a big deal holiday for you and your family? We love ideas!

Oh. It takes a lot to scare me, but I confess, my biggest fear right now is that you haven't clicked here to donate to the amazing Candyland's fundraiser.

You can also donate by buying something from this mindblowing artist (who I am currently obsessed with). A portion of the sales from Rose Cooper's Etsy shop will be donated to Candy's cause. This artwork would make great gifts for the holidays...

(Like for ME, dear family...just saying!)

Ok, off to start my spooktacular weekend. Happy Halloween everyone. Hope it's perfect!

The Book In My Bag Today: Fantasy in Death, J.D. Robb

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book 50 - Juliet

I fell in love with Juliet before I turned the first page.

The back cover blurb spoke of a modern tale of Romeo and Juliet, somehow merging with Shakespeare's classic tale of tragedy and passion. Anne Fortier had me at Shakespeare.

I fell further in love with Juliet after the one-page prologue. A few hundred words that set the tone of the book. I settled in to be swept away.

For the most part, I was.

Described as The Davinci Code for the modern woman, Juliet is part adventure, part romance. But unlike Dan Brown's runaway hit, Juliet is beautifully written. The pages come alive with descriptions that breathe with authenticity - I felt as though I was in Siena, Italy searching for my Romeo. My mouth watered as I imagined myself indulging in gelato, warm bread, salted prosciuttio ham. I recognized the architecture, the the way the locals spoke, Italy's mysterious hold. And I ached to go back to Italy and see all that I missed on my short tour.

The pacing of Juliet isn't meant to compete with Dan Brown-style thrillers, though the mystery is every bit as compelling, and perhaps from a literary standpoint, just as controversial as a book like The Davinci Code. Juliet challenges the notion that Romeo and Juliet is a work of fiction, but rather fictionalized accounts of a true story based on real people.

The novel begins with Julie Jacobs, a Shakespearean expert who has always been fascinated with Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, she can recite parts of it at will. But when her aunt Rose dies, Julie learns that most of her life has been a charade. For her real name is Guilettia Tolomei (Juliet) and her birth mother has left her a treasure she must find in Siena.

There, Juliet finds a chest of journals and old letters, mystery, and of course, her Romeo.

It's somewhat ironic that I began this book as I completed edits to ABSOLUTION and began working again on HEARTLESS. Juliet is told with parallel story lines (as I have done in ABSOLUTION), and the descriptions of Italy gave me hope that my own Italian exposition will bring the country to life for those who have not been there. In HEARTLESS, my protagonist finds clues to modern "cases" by studying the past...and Romeo and Juliet certainly comes into play at one point.

All that said, I'd be remiss if I didn't flag a bit of a saggy-taffy middle, a point somewhere in both story lines that dragged for a little too long. I'm accustomed to thriller and sometimes question whether my expectations for all literature hinge on pacing, but at the end of the day I need to feel compelled to keep turning pages. There were parts of Juliet I could have simply skipped through.

As well, pieces of the mystery were obvious, and while I don't mind figuring out some things ahead of time, there's a fine line between being predictable and making the reader feel smart. For me, Juliet tipped slightly towards predicability.

Without question, Fortier is a stunning writer. Sentences flowed beautifully, and the dialogue in some places was staggering - strong and with purpose. Considering dialogue is still one of my weak points, Juliet provides a solid case study in "what works."

I admit, given my quick fall, I wanted my love affair to last throughout Juliet. Close...but not quite. The passion I felt at the start dwindled to a slow burn by the end.

Still, a book worth getting lost in.

Hey! Did you click the link yesterday? Please help Candy make a difference. Just $1 can change a life.

The Book In My Bag Today: Fantasy in Death, J.D. Robb

Monday, October 25, 2010

Brady bunch aMUSEment

Yeah, I know, Eric Martsolf isn't the most well-known actor. Drawing a blank? His most recent gig is Brady on Days of Our Lives.

I've got a long list of guilty TV pleasures I'm not afraid to talk about. Dexter. Supernatural. Vampire Diaries. True Blood. 24. So You Think You Can Dance. And the list goes on...

But all of those shows serve another purpose - like sucking up the cleverness of characters like Dexter, swooning over Damon in Vampire Diaries or Jack Bauer in 24 (sniff), wishing I could dance like the youth popping it on SYTYCD, or simply seething with jealousy over the brilliance of Supernatural and True Blood.

But I've also reacquainted myself with Days of our Lives (thanks, PVR) much to my husband's shock (and misery), and honestly, other than satisfying some undefined need and providing a bit of eye candy, Days is truly just a guilty pleasure.

I've been an on-and-off Days fan since before I started school. Nona (grandma) and I used to watch it every day together. That and Another World. As my Nona used to say, Days had the "cuter" boys. Apparently that hasn't changed over the years.

I once had a front row seat on the Bo Brady bandwagon. But while Peter Reckless is looking a little worn, Eric, here, definitely is not.

Having stayed home sick for most of last week, I've got much to catch up on this week - which means less time with my guilty pleasures, and more time with my Mac. But I admit, I got used to my daily dose of Brady, so instead of giving him up entirely, I've made him this week's muse avatar.

Don't worry, Eric, there's no lines to memorize, no brooding character to portray. Just...stand there, k? Thanks.

Hey! YOU can make a difference in the world today. Blogger pal Candy can show you how. (Plus, there's prizes...)

Click here to enter this amazing contest.

The Book In My Bag Today: Fantasy in Death, J.D. Robb

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book 49 - Under my Skin

"Under my Skin proves that Canadian YA fiction can be sexy, fun and snarky as hell."

This sentence is splashed across much of Judith Graves' promotion materials - and might be considered a bit smug if it wasn't filled with so much truth.

Under my Skin, the first in Graves' YA paranormal trilogy is everything her clever marketing claims it to be. And more.

Set in Northern Alberta, the novel features Eryn, a tough but sympathetic young girl caught between life as a werewolf and life as a human. 

Before you dismiss this as another werewolf book, hang on. Under my Skin introduces a wonderful collection of paranormals - like vampires, witches, dark sprites and much more. A refreshing change from the onslaught of straight werewolf and vampire novels on the market - NOT that I'm complaining...

All Eryn's parents ever wanted was for her to have a normal life, but when they "banish" her to Redgrave, a small Northern Alberta town, Eryn quickly learns she isn't the only beastie on the block. And before long, she's swept up in an intense love triangle and a local mystery. It's a compelling plot that keeps you turning pages. All. Night. Long.

Graves is a master at character development. Eryn is strong, but vulnerable - and perhaps somewhat fragile as she struggles with her inner demons. The two Delecroix boys who have caught her attention - dark, brooding Wade and protective, Alec - are sexy, and likeable love-able. It's no wonder Eryn struggles with choosing one - I couldn't decide which danger boy to root for, either.

Under my Skin is tightly crafted, and filled with wit and humour, essential elements for today's competitive YA marketplace. And in this case, the novel absolutely lives up to its hype. I can hardly wait to get my claws into the second in the series, Second Skin.

An opportunity for young writers!
Do you know any teens (ages 13-19) that would love to learn how to write YA fiction to DIE for? At Winter WordsWorth, an Alberta weekend writing retreat for youth with the write stuff, master storyteller Judith Graves will explain how to REVAMP your work so your characters have BITE. (Rather than sparkle...)

Know a young writer that would benefit? Get the full scoop on Winter WordsWorth here.

The Book in My Bag Today: Juliet, Anne Fortier

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How long until your guilt-o-meter starts ticking?

Apparently, mine can hold out for about three days.

On any given week, I've got at least four projects on the go. Big projects - like novels, or a cross stitch (yes, a cross stitch!), or a new proposal of some sort.

This in addition to my long To-Do list. The kind that is never fully realized because I add a few new things a day. Like making cookies for handsome hubby, or washing the dogs, or organizing the hall closet...

I'm not whining. Truthfully, I accept this "take on everything" attitude as one of my many character flaws. My family accepts it as well, and when I'm not racing around doing something, my husband and stepdaughter are scratching their heads wondering if I'm ok.

I haven't been ok for the last week-ish. A massive head cold left me bed ridden for two whole days where I could not read, or write - heck, I could barely breathe. By the third day, I could keep my eyes open for long enough to finish reading a book and start another. I even wrote a blog post.

I took those three days in stride, accepting that my superwoman cape was at the dry cleaners and I had no choice but to suck it up. No choice but to relax. Handsome hubby fed me chicken noodle soup. Awesome stepdaughter made me smoothies. I caught up on soap operas. And only thought about what I should be doing once....or twice.

But it's day four now and I'm still feeling like crap.

The guilt-o-meter kicked in about midnight last night. Which is when I realized there was a pile of laundry in the corner of my bedroom. Which made me think about the two bathrooms that could use some TLC since my Sunday routine was interrupted by the cold. Which of course reminded me that the carpets needed vacuuming.

As expected, my mind didn't stop stressing over unfinished housework. It moved on to the day job(s) tasks sitting in wait, coupled with a few contract assignments that are creeping up on deadline. I thought about the cross stitch I'm trying to finish for my stepmom for Christmas, and how I promised my stepdaughter I'd help her with a short story she has to write.

And finally, I started thinking about my writing.

As I wrote the e-mail to my boss this morning explaining that I simply couldn't muster up the energy to make it in quite yet, that guilt etched up my throat and gave me a stomach ache of extraordinary proportions. I *should* be at work. And if not at work, shouldn't I be puttering around the house tidying, or better yet, cleaning with purpose?

The To-Do list started small, a few things to curb the guilt (like make cookies), but in 10 minutes it morphed into something massive - a glaring reminder of everything I'm missing by not being healthy. Not just work, and writing and house cleaning,! All three classes today...

Alas, it would take a miracle for me to feel well enough to attend dance tonight - and even if I did feel better, guilt wouldn't allow me to leave the house.

Instead, I'm sipping on orange juice, eating chicken noodle soup and staring at a To-Do list just keeps growing and....

Sigh. Ok. Maybe I am whining a little.

How about you? How many days can you stay home sick before you start stressing about what isn't getting done? And how do you curb the feeling of guilt?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book 48 - Another One Bites the Dust

When Jennifer Rardin died last month, the world lost a truly gifted writer.

I started reading Another One Bites the Dust a few days before learning of the author's unexpected passing and considered, briefly, putting it back in my TBR pile.

For those that recall, my review of Rardin's first book, Once Bitten Twice Shy, wasn't all hearts and roses. I never really connected with the character, Jasmine Parks, vampire assassin. And believe me, I wanted to.

I worried that if I didn't love her this time around, my thoughts on the book would be jaded. I'm glad I stuck it through.

I'd be lying if I said the connection was much stronger for me in Another One Bites The Dust, but I admit, I have a deeper appreciation for Rardin's skill.

This novel is action packed, almost from the first page. Between the fight scenes, and amidst the gore, there's humour. And not the cheesy kind, either. I love how the book made me laugh out loud without cheapening the drama - not an easy task.

Neither is developing character vulnerability. Having created my own "Jaz Parks" action superhero (though not a vampire assassin), I know how hard it is to give that kind of character believable weaknesses. Jaz has several of them, and it's hard not to feel for her.

In my last review, I noted that Rardin had tremendous wordplay ability and this holds true for the second book. I've never seen so many clever metaphors. There's a fine line between overkill and just right, but this novel nails it. There was a piece of me that wanted to copy down every clever turn of phrase, but the metaphors are SO unique, a seasoned Rardin reader would recognize them in a New York minute....

Still, I found myself getting lost in the plot. Too many characters I couldn't follow, and in a way, too much time between this book and the first in the series. The action sequences made sense, but the rest felt misplaced.

Added to that was my lack of reading time, coupled with a few days of being slammed by a cold, and I sort of struggled across the finish line. That being said, it's likely I'll read the rest of the books in this series, including the two completed before her passing. It's not hard to understand why Rardin had such a wonderful fan following - and as a writer, I'm in awe of her skill.

I'm also hoping that Jaz Parks will grow on me the more of the series I read.

The Book In My Bag Today: Juliet, Anne Fortier

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hands Off my Muse(s)

Every Monday when I post a muse avatar, my handsome husband puts up a little fuss. 

He's really not the jealous type, but he's made more than one snide comment about my choices, especially when I select Kiefer Sutherland or Ian Sommerhalder. If we allowed each other a celebrity "list" Kiefer and Ian would sit at the top of mine.

My defence has always been that the muse avatar isn't about celebrity crushes (with few exceptions) but how I think they can inspire my writing.

Which is why I had no choice but to make hubby and his beautiful daughter this week's muses. Truthfully, without either of them this weekend, final edits on ABSOLUTION wouldn't be complete.

My husband always stands firmly in my corner, and though he isn't one to "read" the book, he makes sure I have the tools to get things done. On Saturday, he took over the domestic duties and spruced up my dungeon office to give me a safe zone for creation. When my mood took a downward turn due to stress, he took me out for a well-deserved break.

And my amazing stepdaughter... Wow. If not for her sitting beside me, talking me through each edit and checking off the completed pages, I would have been tempted to crawl into bed and sleep. Instead, the book was e-mailed where it needed to be, my house is clean, and I'm spending today being fed chicken noodle soup by handsome hubby and sleeping off the nasty head cold that surfaced sometime yesterday.

Yes, I am a lucky girl.

There's a million projects in my idea factory, and with ABSOLUTION finally off my plate, I should be able to work on them. But not today. Today I'm going to spend time being taken care of by the best muses a girl could ask for.

I'm confident they'll keep me motivated for the rest of the week, too.

The Book In My Bag Today: Another One Bites the Dust, Jennifer Rardin

Friday, October 15, 2010

Book 47 - Absolution

I'll state the obvious right off the bat - this is a total cheat.

When I started the 100 Books in 2010 challenge last January, I had many rules. A couple of them I've broken - like counting unpublished novels.

As a very willing beta reader for several of my friends, I found myself swimming in WIPs I hadn't just read but also wanted to brag about. Manuscripts I'm quite certain will be on the shelf for your enjoyment very soon. (I've only blogged about the ones the author has given me permission for...)

But at the start of this challenge, it's unlikely I would have counted my own thriller.

Maybe it's desperation for not even crossing the half way mark three quarters of the way into the year, but I think it has more to do with pride. For the first time since I started this novel, I read it - in almost one sitting - from start to finish.

Through each revision, I've read parts of it, fixing the pieces flagged by critique partners and beta readers. I've dialed up the violence, and then toned down the gore. I've added the detail to make the story breathe - and finally, it feels like a real novel. One I admit, I'd be pretty satisfied reading if it was written by someone other than myself.

I'm resisting the urge to tweak it one more time before sending it off Monday morning, but it's already months past deadline and I've pushed my excuses far enough. There are minor changes to make, sentences that didn't flow quite right, and a couple of logic gaps that needed filling...but that's as far as I'll take it.

Of course, I can't "review" it here (though the urge to provide a detailed back cover blurb is overwhelming) but I will let it stand as book 47 in my 100 Books in 2010 challenge. It might be bending the rules a little - but I won't lose any sleep over it.

It's Monday night the insomnia will kick in.

The Book In My Bag Today: Another One Bites the Dust, Jennifer Rardin

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sparkling gems, kick-ass friends and sore rear ends

I've been flailing my arms dancing at J'Adore for about two and a half months now, give or take a few classes, but I'd yet to experience the spitfire that is LIESA.

Until yesterday -- when she whisked me and my friends Donna and Carrie back to the 70s, where everyone had Disco - and John Travolta - fever.

Oh. My. Gosh.

No wonder Olivia Newton John looked so freaking good in Grease. There is nothing easy about Disco.

I assumed Dance Quickie would be less intense than my other J'Adore classes. Compared to my 75-minute Salsa Burn torture with the devil KASHA, 45 minutes should be easy, right?

Not. Even. Close.

Donna and Carrie joined me in the back row, where after a vigorous - and I do mean, vigorous - Disco routine, LIESA probably should have brought out the mop bucket to soak up all of that sweat. And boy, did we sweat.

We also laughed. A lot.

And, I'm so freaking proud of my friends. Neither Carrie nor Donna would claim to be dancers, but they both rose to the challenge, and truthfully, they totally rocked it. So hard, in fact, Carrie almost knocked me out with those elbow turns. She has a bad knee - but that didn't stop her from grooving it to the music. (Admit it, girl, you LOVED it.)

But Donna? My amazing crit partner blew. my. mind. When I met Donna, she had tremendous raw writing talent, but lacked some of the technical craft to help her best tell the amazing story she'd been dreaming about for as long as she could remember. Less than a year later, THOEBA is complete and her skills have skyrocketed. I'm talking mad writing skillz, my friends. I've often marveled at her sponge-like mind and how it absorbs everything you throw at her.

Apparently, this applies to Disco, as well.

Impressed, Donna. Seriously impressed. And tremendously proud. While I dragged my sorry disco-butt off the floor, she signed up for more of LIESA's classes. (Sucker!)

Honestly, I feared facing KASHA after that. The eternally perky Salsa Queen has earned more than a few of my curses over the weeks, and last night was no exception. Oh, how I wanted to whine that I'd already "danced" for 45 minutes. And oh how I wanted to beg her to go easy on me...

I kept my mouth shut instead - well, mostly. There was this push-up triangle routine that gave me a sudden flush of tourette syndrome...and some squat-like things that had me and Jamie plotting KASHA's demise... But overall, I pushed through.

Though admittedly, with less energy than KASHA usually draws out of me. Sorry hon, but LIESA beat you to me...

It's a wonder I made it through Bollywood after that.

I even considered bowing out seconds before class started. But then LUKE turned on some funky Indian drum beat with the promise of a new routine and I was compelled to stay.

Good thing.

I'm still having trouble with the first routine, but just when I thought I'd never get it, LUKE drops this little gem: He's Italian.

And I was like: Hey, wait a darned-tooting minute here, I'm Italian, too!

Sure he's got crazy dance moves (no, really), but it's not as though Bollywood is part of his original culture - believe me, I'd know. So, to make it look as smooth as he does, LUKE has to, uh, practice. He studies the steps, the emotions and expressions, the music...

This is a good sign.

If I don't pass out or succumb to LIESA and KASHA's torture, I *might* have a shot at figuring this Bollywood stuff out. Or at least, looking less like a moron.

I've already begun studying the music. I haven't really had a choice. Last weekend I moved my Oscar fish into my newly-organized basement office where apparently they repond to music. They wiggled their way through the tank to Audioslave, danced a little to Adam Lambert, but when I plugged in the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack...those fish were swimming it up Bollywood style.

If only they could help me with those head bobs.

The Book In My Bag Today: Another One Bites the Dust, Jennifer Rardin

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Some of the best advice I've ever received

In the midst of my home office make-over this weekend, I found a pile of notebooks filled with advice from various published authors.

Over the years, I've attended amazing writing conferences and studied under bestselling authors such as Steve Berry, John Saul, Gary Braver, and James Rollins.

As a former journalist, I'm good at taking notes - and often get slotted as the "minute taker" in most meetings. Years later, I can still read my home-made shorthand and it's easy to decipher the gist of what's being said, even if I can't translate entire paragraphs.

Perusing the notes I'd taken at various conferences over the years was like an unexpected boost to my motivation yesterday. Not only had many of these authors provided useful (and complimentary) feedback, but they also provided a plethora of advice.

I've often blogged about Steve Berry's 8 Rules of Craft - I've read them so many times each is committed to memory. (Write tight!) And though I've often debated with other writers about their validity, I remain a loyal student. I DO believe you can't break the rules until you learn them. There's a reason Steve continually hits the NY Times Bestseller list.

But it wasn't his rules that caught my attention this weekend. Instead, I stumbled upon notes I'd taken from listening to James Rollins. 

James is one of those success stories that create immediate writer envy. Discovered at the Maui Writer's Conference (sadly, the MWC has come to an end), James wrote several books under the pen name Clemens before venturing into his now awe-inspiring Sigma series (and a handful of amazing stand-alone books.) For his full bio, and impressive list of successes (movie deal! YA books! script adaptations!), you can check out his website at 

While his books always seem to inspire me, it was actually his advice that reminded me of how much I miss seeing him. He's a straight shooter with a generous heart. Truly, he wants to see people succeed. I've leaned more than once on his list of ways to create sympathetic characters (available on his website) and looked to his action scenes for how to craft them in my own work.

But there's two phrases I jotted down several times in the last five years, both accounting for some of the best writing advice I've ever received.


As in - be specific. Specific places. Specific makes of cars. Specific details that ground the reader in authenticity. 

Great advice.

But perhaps more importantly is this gem:

I give myself permission to write crap today.

It's the phrase James often sticks to his computer while working on the latest WIP, a reminder that every sentence doesn't have to flow the first time. Doesn't need to be perfect or poetic. Doesn't even need to make sense.

Both sticky notes are posted beside my computer (along with Steve's 8 Rules of Craft). Specificity I can wrap my head around. 

It's the second piece of advice I need to work on.

The Book In My Bag Today: Another One Bites The Dust, Jennifer Rardin

Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting back on track muse

A long weekend made longer by two days of intense migraines. And not a stitch of fresh writing to show for it.

*slaps wrist* Bad, Dawn.

No reading, either. Just a few pages from the edited WIP, and a chapter here and there of the current book in my bag. I'm so far behind my 100 Books in 2010 goal it's pathetic...

Apparently, random hot guy isn't the greatest muse. (Though, no question he's easy on the eyes...)

But here's the thing. The "break" from writing - from reality, in some ways - wasn't entirely wasted. In a formidable team effort, our house got a major overhaul. It's shiny and spotless, almost like new. And most importantly, I have my office back.

No longer will my space be a dumping ground for everything that doesn't have a home. No more will I sprawl out on the living room floor, or sit at the kitchen table, tempted more by the fridge than the computer. I have my writing retreat back - and yes, it is in the cold basement, but handsome hubby has created an environment that is warm and inviting. (And I have my beautiful Oscar fish in there...who apparently like candlelight and mood music. Who knew?)

During this Sunday cleansing process, I found boxes (literally) of writing notes taken from various conferences. The Maui Writer's Retreat. Thrillerfest. Sage Hill. Hundreds of tips and snippets of advice from mentors, from idols, from friends. Now that's inspirational!

And today, I found Michael C. Hall.

We missed Dexter last night (though it is recorded) but as I sorted through some of my writing stuff this morning, I couldn't help thinking about the show - and the actor who brilliantly portrays the lead character.

Though Dexter is one of my never-miss shows, I rarely talk about it in blog posts, perhaps because I don't "lust" for Dexter as I do for *cough* Damon in Vampire Diaries or *ahem* Sam and Dean in Supernatural. 

My Michael C. Hall crush is more intellectual.

Dexter is a complex character. The show is brilliant, actually. More than once I've dreamed I could create something so clever. And 90% of the time, I'm staring slack jawed at the TV after each episode. Last season blew. my. mind.

This year proves to be just as compelling.

Dexter embodies great storytelling. The dialogue is wonderful, the plot lines are flushed out, and the characters are deep. Dexter's in particular.

As I give the WIP one final read, I'm using the notes I found buried in my desk for inspiration - and Michael C. Hall as this week's muse. Sure, he isn't as drool-inspiring as previous muse avatars, but there's something incredibly sexy about a true artist who continues to entertain - even while "life" presents some scary obstacles.

It's this kind of sheer determination and tenacity I can admire and respect. A worthy muse, indeed.

The Book In My Bag Today: Another One Bites the Dust, Jennifer Rardin

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The answer to all life's problems is... Dance, of course

It's only been a few months since Jessica invited me to J'Adore Dance. Just three months since I laughed at the very thought of "popping" it to Britney or trying to draw out my inner hawtness.

Surely not enough time to master the steps or even feel comfortable in my new dance skin.

But as I prepare (two hours early!) for a marathon of dance night (Dance Quickie, Salsa Burn, Bollywood...oh my!), I'm astonished to realize just how much dance - or perhaps simply J'Adore Dance - has infected every part of my life.

And how it seems to be the answer to all of life's ups and downs these days.

No time for friends? Why not invite them to dance? Tonight, Carrie and Donna will be joining me for our first Dance Quickie session with LIESA. Jamie and I will be burning up the floor during KASHA's Salsa torture. And at Bollywood...well, that will just be me. And, ahem, instructor LUKE.

Looking for a creative way to spend time with your child? Drag her along to Fit Hop so she can laugh at learn with you! Added bonus, she can help you plot your evil revenge when JESSICA leaves you dying and helpless on the dance floor.

Need new ways to spice up your love life? Bring out your inner hottie (or maybe your outer hottie) to Naughty Hotties. And then go home to demonstrate, of course. 

Searching for creative inspiration? Dance your way to clear thinking. Or at least comedic relief. (And, um, reminisce about the days Kevin Bacon danced his way into your heart...)

Lacking confidence? Immerse yourself in an environment that encourages safety and fun. Dance like no one is watching. And ignore the blasted mirrors!

Wondering how to make a difference in the world? Donate diapers to help J'Adore Dance reach it's goal of raising 10,000 diapers for the Edmonton Food Bank's Every Little Bottom Diaper Campaign. The studio already met it's first goal of 5,000 - which means Jess and her team will donate $500 to the food bank. Deadline for diapers is November 30, 2010. For more info, click here.

How about you? Got some questions you need dance to solve?

The Book In My bag Today: Another One Bites The Dust, Jennifer Rardin

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Better late than never aMUSEment

Who is this?

No clue. *shrug*

Some random hot guy... No really, I Googled "random hot guy" and his picture came up.

What I do know is that I'm late picking a muse avatar for the week, and without one, I have no idea how I'll plow through the mountain of projects on my to-do list.

"The End" is never really the end is it?

*le sigh*

So I beg you, random hot guy, to please inspire me to write well this week. To aim those piercing eyes at my to-do list and light it on fire with desire (wow, cheesy!) enthusiasm and energy.

And yeah, could you also babysit my new characters while I go back and tinker with Cait / Nico / Mario / et al just one more time.

K, thanks.

The Book In My Bag Today: Another One Bites the Dust, Jennifer Rardin

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Reckless - the book that wasn't

Part of the reason I started the 100 Books in 2010 challenge (other than to go head-to-head with my BF), was to curb my habit of not finishing novels. I had a reputation for giving up before the first 50 pages if the story didn't engage me.

My resolve to finish every book has served me well this year. Novels that started out slow almost always ended with a bang - or at least a pop.

I've struggled through the first 100 pages of books like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and then been mesmerized by the end.

But Reckless?

I just couldn't do it.

Honestly, I tried. The back cover blurb was brilliant - and enticing. The story line sounded like something I'd love - a mash-up of fairy tales told with a thriller-esque twist, like the original Grimm stories, only more modern. And something youth could like.

The book is slotted as YA, but even from the start, it felt older. The characters are in college, and they have adult problems. I'm by no means a prude when it comes to fiction, for myself or my stepdaughter. There's many books she reads I'm sure my mother wouldn't have allowed me to read at 14 - but society has changed, and while I'm not going to hand over the erotica, I understand my appropriateness filters need to be adjusted.

In addition to feeling too old for the age category, Reckless was almost too gory. Not in a way that would make Karen (who prefers her books creepy) squirm, but in a nonsensical way. It didn't fit with the plot.

Or maybe it did. The story lost me by about the fifth chapter. I tried to keep plugging through, questioning what other distractions might be making me lose interest in the book, but about three quarters of the way through, I surrendered to my instinct and shut the novel.

Which kind of breaks my heart because the premise is so good. And truthfully, Cornelia Funke is a wonderful writer. The opening scene is delicious - vivid, emotional, effective. And despite the confusing plot, I could pick out envy-inspiring paragraphs throughout the book.

But even at the three-quarter mark I had no idea of what happened, or where the book was going. I can't remember a single character's name, and obviously haven't connected with any of them. It had become a chore to read.

Sadly, Reckless won't count in my 100 Books in 2010 challenge, either.

If anyone else has read this book and loved it, I'd love to hear from you. I wanted to love it, really, I did. Maybe I missed something?

The Book In My Bag Today: Another One Bites the Dust, Jennifer Rardin