Week Eight: Dragons, Doodling, and Drama

February 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

February 26, 2012

Read
So, okay, I did NOT finish Third Grave Dead Ahead as I had dearly hoped I would. This weekend was a bit crazy. Next week for sure! I did delve into my perpetually piling up stack of Rolling Stone mags and read a little gem of an article about Christopher Paolini, the young author of the Inheritance fantasy series. I might just have to check out these books about a boy and his dragon. When I was in high school, I loved the book Dragonsong, about a girl and her dragon. Has anyone read the Inheritance series? What did you think??

Write
It’s a good thing I attended the Script and Screen conference this Saturday, because I am seriously bogged down in my novel’s return/resolution and need some serious help. I had to resort to a timeline! “2nd week of April, hero does this.” Not my favorite thing to do. Darynda Jones loves plotting. Janet Evanovich loves plotting. I do not love plotting. I like to come up with characters and their crises and grope for plot later. I am now groping for plot later. Not a good time.

Viola Davis, Nominee for Best Actress

Bliss
On Saturday I attended the day-long Southwest Writers Script and Screen Conference. It  was fantastic and I will post more about it this week. I learned a lot about character arc and the three act structure and how the goal is the driving force of the story. I could have listened to Doug Eboch (writer of Sweet Home Alabama) discuss want vs. need in movies all day. Inspired by his talk, I added Casablanca, Some Like It Hot, Little Miss Sunshine, and Almost Famous to my “watch this again!” list. Speaking of the movies, the  84th Academy Awards show was on last night, and it had to be one of the most boring Academy Awards shows EVER. Billy Crystal and his “seven cupcakes” dig at Jonah Hill left a bad taste in my mouth. Viola Davis was robbed, robbed, I say. On the positive side, Octavia Spencer’s and Cameron Diaz’ dresses were just gorgeous, and I now really want to see My Week with Marilyn and The Muppets.

Week Seven: Reapers, Rewrites, and Revisiting Comics

February 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

February 19, 2012

Read
If I had my way, I’d read Third Grave Dead Ahead in one weekend. Drat things like work, exercise, laundry, the list goes on. At least I got to end each day reading another chapter in this hilarious, sexy, exciting book about a grim reaper with a day job as a PI, who is hunting down a doctor’s missing wife while being haunted by the son of Satan. Literally. I am more than halfway through and will hopefully finish it this week. Then I will be four down on my Goodreads challenge!

Write
I finished and posted my book review of The Vampire Diaries #2, The Struggle. The rest of the week I spent transcribing novel notes, some if which are just absolutely awful. Trying not to cringe while typing, I consoled myself with writer Kirt Hickman’s advice: do not self-edit the first time you’re writing a scene, because the editing comes with the rewrites. Yeah, there will be some serious editing happening with these rewrites.

Bliss
I have been wanting to check out Tall Tale Comics for awhile now, since the owner is the promoter and sponsor of the Albuquerque Comic Con I attended back in January. Last week, I finally took the dive back into the world of comic books. Even though I did not find any of the old Teen Titan comics I loved as a teenager, I got to commiserate with the very helpful clerk about how I had never gotten over losing them. The Tall Tales clerk also explained to me about the reset/reboot of 52 new comic series from DC, the New 52s, and that Birds of Prey the comics are a bit different from Birds of Prey the short-lived TV show on the CW that I had gotten hooked on a few years ago. I am still pretty confused about the multiple versions and origins of Huntress/Helena, but I picked up the most recent Huntress issues anyway. I also threw in the latest Wonder Woman (she’s back in the hot pants!) and Green Arrow. To cap it off, on Sunday I watched the premiere of Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men on AMC. My reaction was mixed. While I enjoyed the witty banter, I ended up feeling sorry for some of the ridiculed “customers” and couldn’t help but notice that the only non-white cast member appears to be the whipping boy. I learned nothing about the current comic book scene, so I doubt that I will continue watching the show. Instead, I will just go to my local comic book store, hang out at the counter, talk to a real guy, and get all the latest info on the comic world happs.

Book Review: The Vampire Diaries: The Struggle by L. J. Smith (Book #2)

February 15, 2012 § 3 Comments

3 Down, 22 to Go On Goodreads Challenge

The Vampire Diaries: The Struggle picks up where The Awakening’s cliffhanger ending left off. Elena Gilbert stands alone in the old cemetery and shouts into the raging wind to summon the frightening force that has been stalking her. Stefan, the repentant vampire boy she is crazy about, has disappeared, and Elena knows who is responsible: Damon, Stefan’s cool, cruel older brother with a serious ax to grind. When Damon shows up in all his dark and menacing glory, he makes his intentions to Elena clear—let him turn her and come with him forever, or her friends will pay the price. And forget about Stefan, because Damon killed him.

Always one to follow her own instincts, which tell her that Damon is bluffing, Elena confides in her two best friends, Bonnie and Meredith, to help her find Stefan. The perilous search for the hurt and captive boy is only the beginning of Elena’s problems. Someone has stolen her diary and is publicly posting very private passages from it at school, not only to taunt her but to show her that her own words will be used to incriminate Stefan in a town murder, a murder that Elena knows Damon committed. In an unnerving turn, one of the girls who had been attacked in the old church on Homecoming night appears to be slowly going mad. Damon preys on Elena, draining her strength and weakening her defenses. Elena races and stumbles from one nightmarish situation to the next up until the story’s frightening conclusion.

The storyline and conflicts in The Struggle are more complex than those in The Awakening. Elena is trying to save her boyfriend from his self-destructive wrath towards his brother Damon as much as she is trying to keep him from Damon’s vengeance. She is endeavoring to derail a plot to frame and persecute Stefan for murder at the same time that she is trying to protect her friends and family from Damon’s deadly obsession with her. Putting the safety of those around her above her own is the dominant theme in Elena’s struggle, and it is that very trait that pulls her deeper and deeper into trouble. The pacing in this book is different from the first, without the foreshadowing that I loved so much in the first book. Instead, unexpected and vividly disturbing events draw the reader forward. It is also in this book that the protective bond between Elena and her friends is strengthened:

I should go out there, Elena thought. It’s me he wants, not them. He said as much. I should go out there and face him, and maybe he’ll let Bonnie and Meredith leave. But the fiery rage that had sustained her that morning was in ashes now. With all her strength of will, she could not make her hand let go of Bonnie’s, could not tear herself away.

The Struggle does not let down after The Awakening. It plunges Elena deeper into the horror, forcing her to use her independent mind and courage to go it alone. She is also starting to face the opposing desires within her that rise to the surface as she battles Damon, the one she can least afford to reveal conflict and vulnerability to. Damon can harm her, but Elena herself may prove just as powerful in her own undoing.

Week Six: Smiles and Tears

February 14, 2012 § 5 Comments

February 12, 2012

Read
This week I finished Vampire Diaries # 2 The Struggle (the review will be posted in a couple of days) and started Third Grave Dead Ahead, book three in the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. I love this series and I have been eagerly waiting for this latest installment to be released. It is also book four of my Goodreads Challenge. Yes!

Write
I registered for a Script and Screen Conference taking place on February 25th, an already jam-packed weekend and now I am once again wondering why I do these things to myself? I also began the task of organizing and reviewing the last few weeks’ worth of disjointed notebook ramblings for the novel.

Bliss
I found out from KryptonSite.com that a comic book series of Smallville, Season 11 is coming out in April. Oh, happiness! In celebration, I played Disc 1 of Smallville the Final Season Saturday morning while I caught up on housecleaning and laundry.

Me with Author Darynda Jones

A friend and I attended a lecture as part of New Mexico Black History Month, then speed-demoned it across town to Page One bookstore for the Darynda Jones book signing, where I got my picture taken with the author! I also upgraded my phone to the new Blackberry Bold 9900 because it has infinitely better web browsing and actually loads the pages. Now, when I see a Twitter post on, say, “The 10 Greatest Shakespeare Film Adaptations of All Time” or the latest Vampire Diaries review on IGNTV.com, I can actually read it!

That evening when I got on Facebook to post about my awesome day, I saw that Whitney Houston had died. My emotion spectrum immediately went from happiness to denial, sorrow, then depression, which resulted in a colossal headache. When I was in college and working at Target I used to sing “I Will Always Love You” under my breath while back-stocking to help ease the monotony and whatever boy angst I had going on at the time. Now, after processing Whitney’s death, I had to retreat from the computer and the TV and the radio and curl up on the couch with my cat, a glass of wine, and my newly autographed copy of Third Grave Dead Ahead. Which is about the grim reaper. Fitting.

Week Five: Shining Desert Stars

February 7, 2012 § 2 Comments

February 5, 2012

Read
I finished The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening, squeaking in at a rate of two books a month per my Goodreads challenge, and started The Struggle. I actually got more than half way through it on Sunday, thanks to getting slammed with a killer headache that prevented me from doing anything that required too much brain power, like reconciling my bank statement or making any progress on my novel.

I am looking forward to also reading the recently released Third Grave Dead Ahead, the third book in the Charley Davidson series.  I am lucky enough to live in the same city as the author, Darynda Jones, so I will be picking up the book at her Page One book signing this coming weekend.

Write
On account of the aforementioned headache, I did not get to work on my novel on Sunday, the day I usually am able to devote the most time to it. Grr.

Moving on. This past week I became more used to the fact that, oftentimes, after sitting at the kitchen table with the pen and notebook, mentally mucking about futilely for the right words, a brilliant sentence will instead come flying into my head as I’m say, stepping out of the shower or putting on make-up before going to work. Then I must drop everything and run to find the nearest piece of paper and write down this brilliance before it’s gone, gone, gone.

In other news, Julie at Yummy Men and Kick Ass Chicks posted a really good article on what makes a great character. Check it out here.

Bliss
On a cold and 50 mph windy night back in December, I met my singer songwriter friend at her house to eat Chinese takeout and help review her script for her original Roots Revival show. That show came to fruition this weekend when all three nights sold out! Some of my friends performed in the show and it was amazing to watch them in their element, doing what they love, and shining on stage. I got a little tear in my eye

After getting home late from the Friday night show and reception, I crashed into bed, and couldn’t believe it when I heard the automatic coffee maker go off a minute later. Okay, it was four and a half hours later, but it felt like a minute. Then it was shower, throw the bag in the trunk, and leave a half hour later than I should have for Santa Fe to tape the web series. Due to the light Saturday 6:45 a.m. traffic and, um, exceeding the posted speed limit, I arrived at the same time as the producers, which means I was not late! It was such a blast to work with other creative professionals and be a part of the talent and enthusiasm that goes into a project like this. I cannot wait to see the first webisode! Then I drove home (a little slower this time), posted my book review, and jotted a couple of paragraphs on the novel before hitting the sack.

Sunday was supposed to be catch up day. Catch up on laundry, bill paying, novel writing. Except for that crappy headache. I guess it was the fallout from all the excitement this weekend. Sometimes one’s bliss is a little too much for the brain to handle.

Book Review: The Awakening by L. J. Smith (The Vampire Diaries #1)

February 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

2 down, 23 to go on Goodreads Challenge

I didn’t think I would like The Vampire Diaries books because I had attached to Elena and her brother Jeremy on The Vampire Diaries TV show. In the books, there is no Jeremy, and Elena is the girl all us Bella types hated in high school—a blonde, beautiful boy magnet, bratty with entitlement. Then one evening I noticed my Season 1 DVD  came with an Audiobook of The Awakening and I listened to it while making dinner. Immediately, I got sucked into the story and was hooked. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book and read the words on the page with my own eyes.

When the story opens, Elena Gilbert is writing in her diary about a strong foreboding that she can’t explain or shake. She is the popular golden girl that all the other kids flock to, but that is all about to change. When a not-so-tall yet dark and very handsome new student comes to Robert E. Lee high school, Elena is instantly smitten and decides she has to have him. Getting guys is usually a piece of cake for her, but not when it comes to Stefan Salvatore. As he resists her attempts to win him over, strange things start happening in the town of Fell’s Church. A large, sinister crow with an uncanny knowing and watchful eye follows Elena wherever she goes. A frightening, powerful force chases Elena and her friends in the old cemetery. An old man is attacked and left for dead under Wickery Bridge. As Elena becomes more and more determined to obtain the brooding, remote boy that she cannot get out of her head, another power is just as determined to draw her forever into its darkness.

I love good foreshadowing, and L. J. Smith is a master at it. Elena’s indefinable and ever increasing dread kept me turning the pages as much as the menacing, mysterious events and her dangerous love for the tortured, haunted boy from a foreign land. Some scenes are all the more deliciously shivery because of the setup. When Elena goes to the old cemetery to visit her parents’ gravesite, it is clear something creepy is going to happen:

“The moon had not yet risen, and she could just make out the old graveyard and Wickery Bridge beyond it. . . . It had a wild look to it; brambles and tall weeds grew on the graves, and ivy vines swarmed over crumbling granite. Elena had never liked it.”

Reading what happens next, I am frozen in place, with breath held and heart racing.

Those used to the nonstop twists and turns and bloody violence of The Vampire Diaries, the TV show, may appreciate the books’ tight plotting and atmospheric buildup of suspense. Even though at times Elena is almost unlikable—for example when she pressures her recent ex-boyfriend, nice-guy-next-door Matt, to help her get Stefan—I stick with her and root for her and come to love her for her determination, loyalty, and courage. And while some of the characters’ actions and motivations are juvenile—spreading false rumors to pique a boy’s interest or conducting rituals to see their love futures—the novel taps into the singular in-between state of adolescence. They see and hear things that beckon from the unknown void, while trapped in the confines of pre-adulthood: limited resources, lack of authority, no one to turn to for help. These characters do not act like adults inside 17-year-old bodies—they remain teenagers while forced to navigate and fend off the horror that is unfolding around them.

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