Week Twelve: Crashing and Caffing Up

March 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

March 25, 2012

Read

The Hunger Games (film)

The Hunger Games (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Afraid to say I’ve slacked off a bit with the reading. I had a week-long training at work, with working lunches and late evenings, so that did not leave a whole lot of extra time for reading. Although I did crack the spine of On Writing by Stephen King. Plus I think I am still recovering from The Hunger Games. I wonder if I am ready to delve into Catching Fire.

Write
I spent the week typing up my notes from the last two weeks, which turned out to be quite a lot. Yes, I write longhand and then transcribe into the computer, and after all these years, I’m still not a good typist. High error rate. And I only have a week to make my deadline. I’m going to just laugh now.

Bliss

Mad Men

Mad Men (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a blast going with my friend on opening night to see The Hunger Games movie (which was great but I’m still madly comparing it to the book so I need to sort that all out before I can give a fair assessment. What did you think?) On Saturday I crashed. The long week of training caught up with me. On Sunday I woke up fully refreshed and after I lifted weights while watching Nikita (Nikita and Michael forever!), I went to the Chocolate and Coffee Fest at the Albuquerque Convention Center. I’m going to need all the coffee I can get this week, what with trying to make my insane deadline and all. Capped the weekend with the two-hour season 5 premiere of Mad Men. I am so happy it’s back, except, of course, it is just one more show I have to keep up with. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who have not seen it yet, but I will say that if I could just harness a little bit of Joan Harris’ attitude, I could handle my day job just fine.

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

March 23, 2012 § 6 Comments

Cover of

I have to admit that I initially gave The Hunger Games trilogy the stinkeye. I remember standing at the bestsellers table at the front of Borders bookstore (oh, sniff, Borders!) and reading the synopses. Teenagers being forced to fight to the death? I’ll pass on this series, thanks. But I continued to hear so many rave about it that I began reading The Hunger Games. It was tough. My stomach twinged with anxiety from the opening paragraph. Despite my dread, which sometimes felt as formidable and dense as an iron curtain, I kept returning because of Katniss Everdeen. I had to rejoin her — I couldn’t leave her to face her road of trials alone.

In a future post-apocalyptic North America known as Panem, the rich and powerful Capitol rules over twelve poorer outlying districts. Each year, as punishment for one past and quashed insurrection, the Capitol forces each district to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to fight to the death in the nationally televised Hunger Games. The last one alive is the victor. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in the coal mining District 12 and hunts illegally to provide food for her mother and twelve year-old sister Prim. When Prim’s name is drawn as District 12’s girl tribute for the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers in her place. Katniss must compete against 23 other tributes, including Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son, who once slipped her a loaf of bread when she was starving. Even though the odds are stacked against her, she promises her distraught sister that she will really try to win. But to triumph and return home, she must be the last one standing, even if it means killing the one person who saved her life.

I now know why this book is so phenomenally popular. My connection to Katniss during my two-week journey with her was visceral—I’d be at work typing on the computer and suddenly stop, adrenaline flowing, worrying about how she was going to handle the next situation. When she is paired with kind yet unpredictable Peeta in the training, it is sickeningly poignant because what lies ahead is her being thrown into the arena with this boy and forced to fight against him. It is a testament to her magnetism that for a good chunk of the book, she is on her own, trying to outwit her opponents, yet that portion is just as compelling and seared into my brain as the parts where she is interacting with others. The dehumanizing circumstances amplify what makes up our humanity—the need for a friendly face, a world of encouragement, a hand to hold onto, crushingly, for dear life. At the forefront is Katniss’ desire to protect her precious and fragile sister, whom she loves desperately:

 “And then I see her, the blood drained from her face, hands clenched in fists at her sides, walking with stiff, small steps up toward the stage, passing me, and I see the back of her blouse has become untucked and hangs out over her skirt. It’s this detail, the untucked blouse forming a ducktail, that brings me back to myself.”

For this book, I jealously set aside a day of my weekend to finish it. I paced the house, distracted, until I could sit down and immerse myself till the very end. I didn’t want to put it down to quench thirst, fill my stomach, or take a piss. When I finished, I walked around in a daze and was so thankful that there are two, albeit increasingly violent, more books to go. Any book that compels an introverted individual such as myself to initiate a conversation about it in the company lunchroom or to babble about it, huffing and puffing away, to a complete stranger who had the book open on the stationary bike next to me at the gym—this is a book that the world should be reading.

Week Eleven: Hungry and Hazy

March 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

March 18, 2012

Read
Woke up in a bit of a daze. I spent the latter part of Saturday finishing The Hunger Games. Skipped lunch, missed dinner, which is pretty fitting, I guess.  For the past week I’ve thought of Katniss Everdeen every day. My heart raced when her heart raced. My stomach dropped when her stomach dropped. What will I do without her now? Oh, yeah. Go see the movie next weekend!

Write
Every time I sit down to write, my chest gets all fluttery. The words and the scenes are still flowing. I just looked at my calendar and realized I have two weeks left to make my end of March finish my draft deadline. Eeep! I have been losing an hour or so of sleep every night and barely getting to work on time in the morning because my writing sessions keep running over, but that’s what coffee is for.

Bliss

On Friday I went to Tall Tale Comics to pick up my special orders and ran over my lunch break by thirty minutes. I had to stay late to make it up, and it was all the clerk’s fault. (It’s okay, I still had time to go to the gym and watch Nikita.) When the clerk retrieved my books and set them down on the counter, a switch went on and he couldn’t stop talking comics. As he tried to help me find some issues of Superman, he told me his top three favorite comics are Batman, Swamp Thing, and Batgirl. He said the new Huntress series is pretty cool, it’s like a retelling of her origin story, and that he was really let down by the new Green Arrow. He pulled out the American Vampire graphic novel and gave me the synopsis and said it is great, even if you’re burned out on the vampire genre. He gave me the synopses of other series, some of which I can’t remember. He said Scott Snyder is the best comic book writer there is right now. It was literally, him: “Do you have to get back?” Me: “Yeah, I do.” Him: “Okay, I just have to show you one more thing.” I love going to the comic book store. I never had anybody to talk comics with when I was a kid. How ironic it is to have that now, when I’m an adult.

Week Ten: Deadlines and Deadlifts

March 13, 2012 § 3 Comments

March 11, 2012

Read
HungerGames
I put off reading The Hunger Games despite its popularity. Impoverished teenagers forced to fight each other to the death for the entertainment of the ruling class is not a good time. Then the Hunger Games movie trailer came out and of course I watched it and I have been haunted by it ever since. So here I am, reading the book before the movie opens on March 23rd. And, it’s a little tough to make myself pick it up again sometimes. The subject matter is no joke. I might have to alternate reading THG with something totally different. Maybe that Fifty Shades of Grey that’s getting so much buzz right now. That would be different.

Write
The writing has been going splendidly. So much so, that I set a ridiculous deadline to have the rest of the draft finished by the end of the month. Yes, it’s actually written down in my planner. In ink. Here I go again with my usual refrain: why do I do these things to myself??

Nikita (Nikita character)

Maggie Q is Nikita. Image via Wikipedia

Bliss
Does catching up on the last few episodes of Nikita count? A little secret— lifting weights in my living room while watching Nikita and the gang kick some Division ass is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. Oh, and I finally purchased my tickets to the Albuquerque Comic Expo (ACE), which is taking place in June. I got the 3-day pass this time. Last year I got to see Stan Lee for the first time, tweeted a quote by Nicholas Brendon about Joss Whedon and Buffy that got retweeted the rest of the day, and had my picture taken with Levar Burton. (Eee!) This year, I’m contemplating getting the courage up to wear a costume. I’d better keep lifting those weights.

Book Review: Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #3)

March 12, 2012 § 4 Comments

The fact that author Darynda Jones lives right here in New Mexico and that I’ve met her and that she is totally cool has nothing to do with the rave review I’m about to give her latest book, Third Grave Dead Ahead. The rave review has to do with the fact that this book, the third in the Charley Davidson series, is like being reunited with your best friend and the rest of the zany gang after months of separation. I loved books one and two, First Grave on the Right and Second Grave on the Left, but this one is my favorite so far. Not just because the cover is pretty and red and the heroine is wearing Converse sneakers, as any self-respecting grim reaper-slash-private investigator would wear. But also because Charley, the shining beacon for the departed to pass through to the other side, is in ballsy top form. Her red-hot relationship with Reyes gets more dangerous, the action takes more twists and turns than Charley and her Jeep Misery can crash into, and Charley (figuratively) goes through hell and back, yet maintains her essence and zest for life.

Being a grim reaper, Charley can talk to spirits, particularly murder victims who contact her hoping she can catch the bastard that did them in. The otherworldly intel gives her a distinct edge in her profession as a P.I., not to mention the ability to assist her uncle Bob, a detective in the Albuquerque Police Department. The down side of her reaper status is that it makes her the target of some pretty nasty characters. In Third Grave, Charley is trying to stay awake, twenty-four seven. She does not want to fall asleep, because every time she does, Reyes is there. The Son of Satan is pissed as hell and has a little more than seduction on his mind. Reyes had been sent to prison ten years ago for murdering a man. The man who raised him, the man who abused and tortured him as a child. Now, Reyes is convinced the monster is still alive, and wants Charley to find him. As if that’s not enough to keep her busy, a doctor reeking of guilt asks Charley to find his missing wife, Charley’s dad wants her to quit the P.I. biz, a cocky skip tracer won’t stay off her ass, and a motorcycle gang is blocking her from getting to one of her most valuable informants. Time and coffee are running out.

So many things about this book, I love. Charley herself is spunky, sexy, funny, and never gives up. Her sarcastic and off-center world view is hilariously, often touchingly layered over a deep empathy, such as when she comforts a girl whose boyfriend has just passed:

“No,” I told her, placing a hand on her shoulder, “you don’t have to pretend for me.” In an instant the tears reappeared and she hugged me again. We sat like that a long time as boys and men alike passed by the room to look in, mostly for a glimpse of the girl-on-girl action.

Charley’s love force field/power struggle with Reyes intensifies:

His hard gaze locked on to mine. “Is it impossible because you bound me like a dog to a chain?”
Oh, yeah. He was pissed. “You left me no choice,” I said, my voice quivering, not nearly as confident as I’d hoped.

And then there are the other important people in Charley’s life, such as Cookie, her best friend, who always knows the right thing to say:

After a long sigh, I said, “She was really happy when I got there. I’m pretty sure she was suicidal when I left.”
“You do have that effect on people.”

Uncle Bob, Charley’s rock and stand-in father figure:

“What is this about your drains?” I asked when he picked up. “’Cause that sounds almost incestuous.”
“Oh, that was code for call me ay-sap.”

And of course, Garrett Swopes, her kindred spirit:

“I need ibuprofen,” I said, my voice distant and unattractive.
“You need therapy.” It was amazing how easily I could understand him, considering he had yet to unclench his teeth.

For all the warmth and humor, author Darynda Jones is not pulling any punches in this book. Charley is thrown into devastating danger in her quest to find the missing wife and uncover the mystery surrounding Reyes’ horrifying childhood. A few scenes made me actually clutch my stomach.

As for Reyes, well, let’s just say he has some serious issues to work out. And Charley’s dad could use a good neck-wringing. But Charley will persevere. That’s one of the many beautiful things about this book. One minute something really bad is happening, and the next minute you’re throwing your head back and cracking up. Kind of like real life.

Week Nine: Finish, Finally, Finale

March 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

March 4, 2012

4 down, Goodreads challenge

Read
I finally finished Third Grave Dead Ahead and . . . wow. I am going to have to process a little bit before I tackle my book review. I will say that it is now my favorite so far in the Charley Davidson series. I was sad to come to the last page only because I knew it was over and I already can’t wait for the next book to come out. I am now four down on my Goodreads Challenge. Next up, The Hunger Games.

Write
Early Saturday morning, exactly a week after I went to the Southwest Writers Script and Screen Conference, I had an epiphany. Sitting in my office chair, waiting for the coffee to kick in and staring at the stupid timeline I’ve been struggling with for the past two weeks, I had a vivid memory. One of the conference speakers, Marc Calderwood, had said, “Know your character, and they will write the plot for you.” I asked myself, now that my hero has come to this point in her journey and made this decision, what will she do next? The answer came simply and clearly, and everything else fell into place. As the sun rose and shone through the opaque white curtains, I sketched out the remaining scene points in my story’s resolution. It went literally, because she does this, her opposition will do this, which will cause her to do this, boom, boom, boom. I am actually looking forward to writing the remaining scenes. Yes, I have seen the light

I Hear You, I See You

Parenthood--Image via Wikipedia

Bliss
Thank goodness for DVRs. I caught up on a couple of my favorite TV shows, including the (sniff!) season finale of Parenthood. It was the most wonderful episode I have ever seen, about choosing and committing to unconditional love. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you check out this family dramedy starring Peter Krause (Six Feet Under), Lauren Graham, (Gilmore Girls) and Craig T. Nelson (Coach). Catch the re-runs, watch episodes on NBC.com, rent it on Netflix, whatever. Do it. I mean that with all my heart.

I also finished my stack of Huntress comic books that I got from Tall Tale Comics  a couple of weeks ago. I will be adding this series to my pull box. Why? Because oftentimes I get bogged down and conflicted, juggling my day job life with my writing bliss life. After watching how ruthlessly and efficiently Huntress/Helena switches between her dual identities, I am inspired. If she can do it, I can do it!

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