Friday, December 31, 2010

Ringing in the New Year

I don't do well with resolutions. It's been past experience that whenever I set the "plan" in writing, I freeze like a deer caught in headlights.

Not this year.

I've been giving a lot of thought to things I'd like to change, and ways to enhance my personal happiness. I'm married to an incredible and thoughtful man who loves me with everything he has. I have a beautiful stepdaughter and a house full of pets that give unconditional love. I'm blessed with amazing friends from around the world.

So what more could I want?

I'm going to be a bit greedy this time around and say: I want to love myself more - and criticize myself less.

So 2011 is going to be about balance...more or less :-)

  • I resolve to write more and procrastinate less.
  • I resolve to exercise more and eat less.
  • I resolve to read more and watch TV less.
  • I resolve to play more and work less.
  • I resolve to love myself more and criticize myself less.
Lofty statements, I suppose. But as I get ready to head out for a romantic New Year's Eve with handsome hubby, I've set some things in motion that will help me achieve this year's resolutions.
  • I accept that 56 books last year was a great accomplishment. When Karen and I issued the challenge for 100 Books in 2010, neither of us REALLY thought we'd meet the goal. But man did we try. And the side benefits rocked - new genres! new authors! new inspiration! This year, I'll be reading 75 books and watching 26 movies to keep that momentum flowing. Book one is already in my purse and there's a leaning TBR pile of books on my shelf.
  • Beside my bed is a jar filled with 365 paper hearts. On each paper, I have written a special task - one for each day of the year. It could be something as simple as taking a 30-minute guilt-free nap to something more involved, such as finally getting that second tattoo. Yep, a full year of stuff ALL ABOUT ME.
  • The XBox 360 is a good start towards playing - but a weekly "fun family night" is already written in my pretty new daytimer.
  • The sports games for the Kinect will get me moving, for sure. But a gym membership, access to the work fitness room, and heading back to J'Adore Dance will keep me moving. Add to that friends who will work out with me, dance with me, or kick my butt at racquetball and I'm ready to hit 2011 running.
2010 was an emotional roller coaster, and I'm ready for it to hit the road. So tonight, I'm going to raise a toast with my amazing husband, and welcome 2011 with wide open arms.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year - and may all of your dreams come true.

The Book In My Bag Today: Dead in Dallas, Charlaine Harris

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book 56 - Afraid

Ever since Jack Kilborn / J.A. Konrath switched to e-publishing, it's been increasingly hard to find his titles in print (and sadly there was no e-reader under the tree for me this Christmas.)

I picked up Afraid at a used book sale, a major score since it's been on my TBR list for almost the entire year. Though I've read only one other book by this author - Whiskey Sour (J.A. Konrath) - the hype surrounding Afraid has kept my interest piqued.

It didn't disappoint.

As James Rollins' blurb on the cover suggests, Kilborn starts the action on page one and the horror never stops. A town is terrorized with unimaginable torture, by "men" of extraordinary strength. The premise is not supernatural - in fact, you can almost believe this type of "universal soldier" might already exist somewhere.

Not the kind of guy you want to meet in a dark alley.

After a string of paranormal romance and YA fiction, I was ready for something grittier. Kilborn certainly delivers. The pacing is spectacular. It wasn't until about the half-way point of the book I realized there were no chapter breaks. When time is tight - as it was this week - I tend to sneak in a chapter here and there when I can. The lack of chapter designation "tricked" me into reading more, until I simply ran out of steam.

I'm a huge fan of Kilborn's writing style. It's tight and clean, not a single word of extra fluff. The dialogue serves its purpose, voice is consistent, and the description is minimal but effective. I've bought a lot of horror books in my time but never read any author who could do "gore" so well. Afraid isn't for the weak at heart.

The story isn't predictable and the characters - even the bad guys - are sympathetic. But I've yet to find a book that actually scared me, and I truly wanted this one to be the one. While the gore factor was high, Afraid fell a little short on suspense.

I suspect this will be the last book of the year for me, which means I've fallen well short on my 100 books in 2010 challenge. I know 56 books is nothing to be ashamed of, and really, the challenge pushed me to read when other distractions might have played a role. Still...

For 2011, I'm issuing myself a new challenge - 75 books and 26 movies. I just need a catchy title. Got any ideas?

The Book in My Bag Today: Living Dead in Dallas, Charlaine Harris

Monday, December 27, 2010

The best of the best aMUSEment

Now that the rush of Christmas Day is over, the official "top 10" lists have begun - the countdown to the best of the best in 2010. Not surprisingly, I did very little writing over the last few days (okay, so I did NO writing). I also didn't blog, read blogs, or even - gasp - read.

But all that has to change this week. So in the sprit of the after-Christmas season, I offer a buffet of muses (because I'm greedy like that). 2010 brought 52 weeks of muse avatars - admittedly, with many repeats. Here's my take on the best of the best:
Reason #1 to watch True Blood...
Reason #2 to watch True Blood...

"Kyle Reese" said he'd travel across time to be my muse...
Kiefer whipped me, uh, my MS into shape a few times...

The original muse... Jensen Ackles always inspires

Brad took time away from the kids to help me out

Sammy Winchester fuels my....writing, of course
Chris added his angelic touch once or twice

Beck taught me how to bend it

Jon reminded me of why I miss the 80s

Ironically, no writing happened while staring back at Cam

Vin kicked the crap out of self doubt

Wow - I love muse avatar Mondays! Go forth, my darlings. Inspire!

The Book In My Bag Today: Afraid, Jack Kilborn

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An unorthodox gift

Handsome hubby and I had made a pact not to buy each other Christmas gifts this year. With my stepdaughter at her mom's for the holidays, and our families geographically out of reach, we've been a little light on traditional cheer. Even our beautiful tree has been off more than on - and aside from a smattering of nick knacks around the kitchen, I've held back on decking the halls.

Hubby and I figured we'd take a few days over the holidays to snuggle up and watch movies, read, hang out with the dogs... Spend some alone time that's been lacking since "the teen" moved in - and believe me, that's not a complaint. The house feels empty without her laughter, and yes, even her typical teenage snark.

But something happened a few days ago. Hubby and I discovered the XBox 360 Kinect.

I confess, I am not a gamer. At all. I can count on one hand the number of times I've been caught up in a video game, aside from Zombie Farm on my iPhone. The very thought of purchasing a game console seemed absolutely frivolous.

Until we watched a demonstration of the bowling game on the Kinect. For the less  gamer-savvy (like me less than a week ago), the Kinect is like the Wii Fit, except there are no controls to hold on to - the system detects your movement. So for instance, when you "bowl" you're actually making the movements as though you are in a bowling alley. Not to mention the sound effects and SNAZZY outfits.

I threw one "ball" at Future Shop. And haven't stopped thinking about the system since, especially after watching a little girl dance her heart out to some of the moves I've learned in Fit Hop.

As excited as we were, spending money on a game console didn't fit in the budget, even at Christmas.

Fate suggested otherwise. Or maybe some of our family members were just in sync this holiday. Several Future Shop GC's were tucked in Christmas cards, and everyone knows you can't exchange them for money.

So we bit the bullet.

And wow, am I sore. Hubby and I boxed, bowled, snowboarded, and played table tennis until I could barely move. We laughed, we egged each other on, and we woke up this morning issuing new challenges.

No, I'm not naive enough to think that Kinect can help me lose those unwanted pounds or replace the dance lessons I get through J'Adore (though there are NO mirrors!), and yes, I do recognize a writing procrastination tool when I see one. But. It's just me and hubby this Christmas and I'm totally excited about a morning of coffee and Bailey's, followed with kicking hubby's butt on the bowling my jammies.

P.S. - Donna! You need to come check it out. There is KENDO. I bet you'd win!

The Book In My Bag Today: Afraid, Jack Kilborn

Monday, December 20, 2010

Santa baby, put a little inspiration under the tree..for me

Er, is it me, or is Santa getting hotter every year?

The countdown to Christmas is in full swing (five days!) and I'm excited about hanging out with good friends, some quality time with handsome hubby, and a few solid days of writing.

To make the most of that free time I admit, I'm going to need a little inspiration. I'm not even close to completing my 100 books in 2010 challenge, and reading, along with the lure of Baileys / coffee and movies with hubby is already tempting holiday productivity. I need an intervention, stat!

So, who better then to cast as this week's muse but good old (uh..young?) Saint Nick?

I've got lots on the writing docket - revisions, the start of a new project, finishing up the YA, and... The list goes on (and on).

What do you say, Santa? You up for the task? I've been really, really, really good.

Happy holidays my blogger friends. May the spirit of the holidays warm your hearts.

The Book In My Bag Today: Afraid, Jack Kilborn

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book 55 - Going Bovine

Just the other day a good friend said: Don't you hate it when you *want* to love a book but it just doesn't happen?

Yes, yes I do. And such is the case with Going Bovine.

Libba Bray may be one of the most talented writers I have ever read. From a craft perspective, she's tight, witty and brilliant with dialogue. The characters grabbed me right from the first chapter, especially Cameron, a high-school kid whose biggest worry is whether his sister's friend will ever sleep with him, or if his teachers will catch him smoking a joint in the boy's room.

Until he learns he has the human form of Mad Cow Disease and is dying.

Having worked communications in the agriculture industry for quite a few years, I worried a little about how the "mad cow" messaging would be delivered. Food safety is everyone's concern and once a myth is perpetuated, it's tough to dispel.

Not to worry - Bray glosses over the issue and gets to the heart of Cameron's struggle - figuring out what's real and what's just a symptom of him going...mad. (Clever, clever title.) Bray had me riveted right up until the diagnosis. I was so caught up in the brilliance of her style, I actually lost track of the story and couldn't figure out myself what was real or part of Cameron's mind playing tricks on him.

I do remember Dulcie, a punk angel who urges Cameron to take a journey to find Dr. X and ultimately a cure. And so the road trip begins...

And my interest faded... Cameron is joined by a couple of sidekicks - a short guy and a talking garden gnome - and I *know* there's some deeper messages I missed, but I kind of became bored with the whole "extraordinary adventure"thing. Maybe it's because I never read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (which is often referenced when people talk about Going Bovine) or maybe I simply had too much else on my mind these past few weeks.

Since Karen and I started the 100 Books in 2010 challenge, I've almost always carried a novel in my purse. I kept forgetting Going Bovine at work, at home, somewhere out of reach...And I struggled through to the end. Unlike me.

It's sad, because as mentioned above, Bray is a brilliant writer and I desperately wanted to love this book. Maybe I'll give it another try in the New Year when life feels a little less hectic.

The Book in My Bag Today: Afraid, Jack Kilborne

Monday, December 13, 2010

An unlikely muse

I feel like I need to preface this post with a declaration. I actually don't find Leonardo DiCaprio attractive. Anymore.

Of course there was a time I had a front row seat on the Leo bandwagon, but posting a picture of when I *did* think he was hot seemed a little...awkward. That said, I recognize many women still find him sexy, so I'm not breaking the "hot guy muse avatar" self-imposed rule. To each their own, right?

But this weekend, I watched Inception.

Oh. My. Gosh.

How did I miss seeing this on the big screen? Perhaps because it starred Leo, who I haven't been impressed with in a while. Get out your daggers, but even Titanic didn't wow me like it did for most people. I admit to liking Blood Diamond, and a few others, but as a general rule, I avoid most movies with Russel Crowe or Leonardo DiCaprio. (I am ducking the double blast of arrows as I type...)

Leo impressed me in Inception.

Actually, everything about the movie impressed me. The concept was brilliant, the acting superb, and the lingering effect...staggering. I can't get it out of my head!

Which is why I find myself leaning on Leo for some writerly inspiration this week. In a few days, the Christmas holidays will officially begin, and although I plan on writing for most of the break, I know better than to bank on it. This will be the week I stare past the blank page. An opportunity to get the ball rolling...

Between Leo, and some heart-warming and absolutely amazing feedback from a dear friend on my current MS, I should be primed for creativity.

The Book in My Bag Today: Going Bovine, Libba Bray

Hey writerly pals! Is your MS ready for a copy edit? Check out the services provided by the amazing Alliterative Allomorph. She'll get you publish-ready in a jiffy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Open letter to Santa

Dear Handsome Husband Santa,

There are but a few precious weeks before Christmas day, and though I said I didn't really *need* any presents, there's a few items that have recently caught my attention. 

Of all people (and maybe a few others), you know I've been in a bit of a writing rut. My creative juices seem to be sucked dry by the day job, I've traded reading for online poker (not real money, Santa, I'm just a newbie), and despite selecting the hottest muses, I find myself staring more and more at that blank page. Or worse, not at the page at all.

Could it be that I'm lacking the *right* tools? 

I love my beautiful dungeon office with its fish tanks and its candles, and I appreciate the well stocked supply of Coke Zero (and occasional whiskey). But I seem to be missing my traditional munchies. Oh, I know all about the Big Turk pieces in the kitchen pantry, and the roll of Sweethearts left beside the bed, but to produce (I mean, REALLY, produce) I need gummy bears.

I know it doesn't appear like much of a gift, but with respect, Santa, maybe you aren't looking at it from the right creative angle. about this? Now that's a present worth writing about!

Ok, so maybe you're concerned about those 12,000 calories - how sweet of you to care about my expanding waistline (jerk). This amazing morsel of goodness is a THIRD of the calories. Not to mention the bonding opportunities over, uh, fishing.

While I'm at it, forgive me for going all Susie Homemaker but I think I could get excited about THIS. And this gem would be sure to spike my "naughtiness" status. (Mind out of the gutter, Santa.)

So how about it, big guy? Do I make the list? I'll sit on your knee (again!)...

PS - For realz, what I REALLY want is anything from here. But then, you already knew that.

The Book In My Bag Today: Going Bovine, Libba Bray

Monday, December 6, 2010

Falling for my muse again

I first fell in lust with Cam Gigandet in Twilight. I'm not one for sparkly vampires, so as the bad boy James, Cam was - in my humble opinion - perfect.

No one told me Cam is also in Burlesque. Now I'm head over heels in love.

Burlesque is a little like Coyote Ugly - in fact, the story lines are quite similar. Small town girl leaves behind dead-end job in search of fame and fortune in the big city, meets older mentor who dishes out a healthy dose of tough love, girl becomes a huge star and ends up with the witty, hot (er, damn hot) guy at the end. There's singing, and dancing, and fun dialogue.

Yeah, I loved it.

But then, I knew I would.

In addition to falling in love with Cam all over again, Burlesque made me miss dance. Not just the Naughty Hotties class, where some of Jessica's awesome moves were on the big screen, but everything about the way dancing makes me feel. Work has been busy, life is hectic and I can't remember the last class I attended at J'Adore Dance. I'm trying not to beat myself up over that.

Burlesque has that inspirational quality about it - muchly needed since I've been a little lax on the writing the past few weeks. Needless to say, Cam is a perfect muse avatar to kick me into gear. In case you doubt the selection, here's a couple more photos to sway you:

Um, yum.

The Book In My Bag Today: Going Bovine, Libba Bray

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book 54 - Populazzi

I'm mildly embarrassed to admit how much I loved this young adult novel. Not only is it not like anything I've been reading this year, it was also endorsed by Hilary Duff.

There is nothing paranormal about Populazzi. 

But here's the thing. Elise Allen can write, and Populazzi  is a smoking example of her obvious talent. After downloading the advance reader copy off the NetGalley website, I was gushing after the first chapter.

If you once read Sweet Valley High, the style of Populazzi will be quite familiar to you. Except, this book is a more modern demonstration of the ups and downs of being a teenager in today's world.

Cara and Claudia have been best friends since Kindergarden, when  their relationship began - and was sealed - with a unique peeing-in-their-pants bonding ritual. The event secured their spot in Loser-ville, a position neither of them wishes to covet.

So when Cara and her family move to a new community and Cara is forced to switch high schools, Claudia devises a plan to help her best friend out - the Ladder. According to Claudia, the only way to become the Supreme Populazzi is to follow a binder full of rules for climbing the popularity ladder. A reluctant Cara accepts the challenge.

Along the way, Cara learns, of course, that becoming the most popular girl in the school isn't all it's cracked up to be.

The storyline is somewhat predictable, and I struggled a bit through the last chapters (not to mention the fact that NetGalley chopped off the last few pages so I'm not totally sure if Cara's life completely straightened out) but for most of the book, I flipped each virtual page with a giant grin.

Allen is a master of dialogue, and I found the exchanges between Cara and almost every other character either made me laugh out loud or ache. Even though I know most of the drama is brought on by her own actions, Cara is a sympathetic character and when she hurt, so did I.

Despite the comparison to Sweet Valley High, I'd recommend giving it a scan before passing it off on a young teen. Cara makes some decisions in her quest to become Supreme Populazzi that may be considered a bit old for younger readers. That said, I doubt there's anything in the book today's teenager hasn't seen - even from a distance. I like that Allen doesn't mince words.

Without a Kindle, I could only view this book on my computer screen, which isn't the best reading platform. Still, I enjoyed most of this novel enough to keep hitting the return button. Populazzi won't hit the top 10 list of books I've devoured this year, but I admit, I'm still smiling over some of the conversation, and writers of YA would do well to study Allen's tight, clever writing style.

The Book in My Bag Today: Going Bovine, Libba Bray