Thursday, February 28, 2008

Seattle report

We just loved Seattle. Before we left, everybody was like, Why are you going there? It’s rainy. But it was sunny and lovely, and even the bit it rained was beautiful to us, coming from the freezerbox weather of Minneapolis.

M is really itching to move to a larger city not in the Midwest for a variety of reasons, and Seattle is now very high on the list. M has friends there, though we’ve never visited before now. We had a lot of fun just bumming around in the neighborhoods, and I met a bunch of great people. And did a TON of reading, which I will talk about later.

Various fashion observations

The first night we were there we walked past a coffee shop stuffed with grunge slackers in black listening to open mic poetry. It was so picture perfect, it was almost like something Disney might put together, because that is so the cliché - grunge kids in a coffee shop.

And our hotel had a whirlpool but we didn't bring our suits, so we had to get some. M was able to just get used old shorts, but a girl can’t go in shorts or underwear. The ONLY suit I could find that wasn't $50 was a totally skimpy punk rock army green bikini with a giant skull scrawled on the breast, and another on the butt. M thought it was grand.

Also, while American Apparel stores are all over, including here in Minneapolis, Seattle was the only place I have ever seen women and men actually wearing full American Apparel ensembles involving things like turquoise blue leggings.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A few ITEMS before I go...

Mark and I are going to be vacationing in Seattle until Wednesday the 27th! It’s doubtful I’ll be on the computer much. We will be lounging in hotel rooms and coffee shops, walking around, eating and, of course, reading. Here are the exciting books I’m bringing.

I was particularly happy to discover last night that Demon Night actually takes place in Seattle.

In the meantime, I would remind everybody that Sarai is having debut author Michele Lang in for an interview on Monday the 25th and she’s posting a review of Lang’s new book, Netherwood, on the 26th.

Netherwood looks like a juicy a sci-fi leaning adventure involving interplanetary outlaws and Robin Hoods, with Sheriff Talia Fortune facing down her cyber foe in a flesh and blood world.

Okay, I don’t tend to go on about my whole writerly life here, but I just got my novel changes in to my new agent, a giant milestone, and I couldn’t be more pleased and excited. Phew!

See you Wednesday. Unless I somehow find a computer and a comfortable chair in one of the legendary Seattle coffeeshops.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

So you have a sexy vampire roommate. Now what?

Great Moments from last night's reading
Book: Lust Bites
Author: Da Costa/Lloyd/Madden
Spoiler level: medium

Well, my self discipline just isn’t all that great apparently. I have torn into one of the books I was specifically saving for our vacation to Seattle, and now I am half through it. It’s turned into a bit of a binge, actually, but the good thing about a reading binge is that it doesn’t have negative consequences.

Unless you count my pure mind being addled by the deliciously smutty stuff in these wonderful stories, won by me from the generous “tash v. slap” Tumperkin. Oh my god!

Anyway, I am reading these in reverse order, saving the reportedly best, the Kristina Lloyd story, for last. So I haven’t read that, but goddman if I haven’t enjoyed these other two. Especially the one I’m in the middle of now, the Portia Da Costa story, Buddies Don't Bite.

Her characters here are finely drawn, especially Zachary, who is secretly a vampire and his roommate Teresa can never know! But they are really into each other!
The learn sharp line of his cheekbones and his jaw conferred on him a louche romantic glamour that reminded her of those sexy silent movie stars who dressed as sheikhs and wore eyeliner. Couple that with the kind of dark curly hair…that suggested a wild Byronic decadence on him, and the most hypnotic blue eyes, the color of a rare antique perfume bottle.
Thanks, Portia - I totally know that color! We used to find little bottles that color in Pewaukee Lake. I love louche romantic glamour, too. Louche means disreputable, but you don’t need to know that. This story is also subtly humorous. Like, Teresa thinks Zack has food allergies, and photosensitivity, and he drinks this iron fortification drink. And why is she always thinking about his teeth? she wonders. You get the sense Da Costa is having fun writing this.

And there are vivid little erotic touches. Like, they go to bed together, but she still doesn’t know he’s a vampire--she mustn't see his crimson eyes of arousal, so he blindfolds her and here’s this next:
Zack began to unfasten her pyjama top. He slipped each button from its hole, but didn’t open the panels, moving all the way down to the hem with her body still covered. Then, only then, did he pluck apart the leaves and expose her.
I love how Da Costa takes care to describe this so precisely and exactly. It's odd, not like this big lusty move, but thoughtful and effective. I would definitely go for a full Da Costa novel.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Final report: Kiss of Midnight kicks ass

Okay, Lara Adrian's series has officially now moved up to the BEST EVER series zone, taking its place alongside other fabulous favorites of mine.

Damn! All that time I was chucking books across the bathroom floor from the tub, and I had no idea this gem was in my TBR. It looked like just another vampire book! Now I see what everybody else was talking about.

Yes, sorry Sula, Kiss of Midnight has risen above even BDB in my mind. I feel closer to the psyche of the characters in this one. The world feels fuller. I can't believe I'm writing this post right now; I'm currently on a deadline for a brochure.

But can I be any more late to the game? I may as well have a blog about how great chocolate is. Hey you guys! Chocolate is amazing! Anyway, books two and three are currently out, and then I understand from MaryKate that Rio's story is next.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Thank you, Lara Adrian

Great Moments from last night's reading
Book: Kiss of Midnight
Author: Lara Adrian
Spoiler level: medium

I am continuing to be pleasantly surprised by Kiss of Midnight. I mean, there are certain formulaic elements to it, but I'm not reading it for artistry or originality, I'm reading for thrills of various kinds, and goddamn if it doesn't TOTALLY DELIVER. I am inhaling this thing.

The heroine, as Sula pointed out in Friday's commentary, is a whole lot stronger than a BDB heroine, the obvious comparison here, and she's absolutely right. The heroine is interesting and complex and a little screwed up. And she has a real life. And while she has had plenty opportunities to fight the person who would help her and run into the arms of the villains, she hasn't. In fact, there were a number of times when I was like, uh-oh, I see where this is going, but then it didn't go there. Thanks, Lara Adrian!

I also love the way the hero is on the edge of 'bloodlust' addiction here, and the heroine has her own addictive pattern. Really well done.

Moreover, the villains are not merely crazed killers or age-old vendetta-driven freaks. They're led by a man with a plan. And he has a point--why shouldn't the vampires enslave the humans for food, the way we enslave and feed off cows and pigs? That cow and pig thing isn't in the book, that's my own addition. But I mean, the vampires here are faster and stronger and more perceptive. What the hell are they waiting for? I appreciate a villain who has a decent master plan. Don't get me wrong, I'm not rooting for the bad guys. I don't want to be vampire food. Well, not unless the feeding is preceded by a scenario, oh, like this:
She felt as if his every sense were trained on her alone. As if there were only her, only him, and this burning thing that existed between them. Had existed, from the moment he first showed up on her doorstep.

"Ohh," she gasped as the breath left her lungs in a slow sigh. She sagged against him, reveling in the feel of his hands on her skin, caressing her throat, her shoulder, tha arch of her spine. "What are we doing here, Lucan?"

His low growl of humor hummed beside her ear, deep as night. "I think you know."

"I don't know anything, not when you're doing that. Oh...God..."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The sexy sleeping heroine bedroom visit and 2 DNFs

Great Moments from last night's reading
Book: Kiss of Midnight
Author: Lara Adrian
Spoiler level: low

Ah, the sexy midnight bedroom visit. The heroine fast asleep, the hero she longs for during the day steals in, aided by his paranormal powers, and encounters her worshipfully—he, too, longs for her! —and they have some hot erotic encounter that she is totally into, while being in this dreamy sort of fugue state. And the next morning the heroine thinks it was just this fabulous dream.

There is nothing so enchanting in a book (yet so potentially disturbing were it to happen in real life). Oh well. Whatev!

I’ve been casting around for a new series to start, and while I have some books I know will be winners in my TBR, I’m saving them for our vacation in Seattle next week.

Anyway, I was quite pleased to come upon a wonderful sexy bedroom visit scene near the opening of Kiss of Midnight, even more pleased with the dependable writing leading up to it. You know that feeling when you start a book and you just know you’re in good hands? Like, you know you can count on the author to come through for you with solid entertainment? That’s how I felt here.

It was heartening after a string of TWO DNFs, one of which I threw across the room from the bathtub, a place where I have access to no other books. It was an extreme situation!

This DNF, which I will not name, sheees! I was reading pages of chatty backstory exposition in the middle of fight and chase scenes—the author was going into everything but her heroine’s maiden aunt’s 1987 genealogy project when you just wanted to see what happened! (I have heard this referred to as Fictus Interruptus. And that’s how it felt).

Totally the opposite of the fun, reader-friendly, organic-to-the-story exposition style of Meljean Brook. Maybe Meljean has spoiled me for other books!

This bathtub DNF which I will not name also featured some feisty-heroine-fighting-against-the-person-rescuing-her scenes. And piping up with feisty commentary in inappropriate situations. The other DNF was more ‘not my cup of tea,’ genre-wise, but it still had the heroine struggling against an obviously benevolent helper. The hero also had a freaky temper thing that made him act irrationally. I can’t get into that. But I might revisit that DNF in a different mood, as it is highly recommended by somebody I respect.

Anyway, I took the DNFs off my TBR list. Now I'm on Kiss of Midnight, which I will probably bring to Seattle with my other prime TBRs.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Consumer complaint department

Okay, I am getting a little creeped out by the many banner ads featuring FACES STARING AT ME through my computer. Like that Lasik one with the eyes? Yikes.

Even this guy to the right. He looks nice enough, but hey, please, stop staring! It gets so I feel like my computer has eyes.

The most disturbing new breed of staring faces, though, are the wrinkle cream and botox ads. It freaks me out to watch these woman staring at me as they grow dramatically wrinkly and splotchy before my very eyes.

It is much more awful than that weather forecast I left on so you all can feel sorry for me.

It's not like I think old and wrinkled women are ugly. I think they can be totally hot and beautiful and cool. Last year I met Patti Smith, and she was definitely one of the coolest and hottest woman I ever met, and she's in her 60's, I believe.

And hey, I, too, am growing visibly wrinkled. Maybe not as fast as these unfortunate women in the ads, but I admit it, I spent all kinds of time baking in the sun in my teen years, with special attention paid to my face, which I liked nice and tan. These days, I run without sunscreen. Actually I never wear sunscreen

Oh, God, and it happens over and over again. These poor women can't just be wrinkled and learn to love themselves that way. The pictures make them go back and forth, eternally reverted to youth, only to be made wrinkled and oddly discolored over and over. That I would never learn to accept. What did these poor woman ever do to deserve to be trapped in the circle of hell where this happens repeatedly?

In other consumer complaints, what is up with the new leak proof tampax? Does anybody else have a problem with this new design?

OKAY: Here is my consumer award for the day: Sees chocolate suckers. These things pack tons of chocolately punch, and they last forever. The perfect computer food. When I eat, say, a candy bar at my desk in front of the computer, it lasts maybe a minute, unless it’s M & M’s and I’m really pacing myself. But oh, Sees suckers, you are the pleasant little lift that gets me through my hardest assignments, while preternaturally aging women stare at me, undergoing their bizarre torments.

Word to the wise: If you are actually going to try the suckers, get the box of all chocolate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The art and science of superhero unmasking

Great Moments from last night's reading
Book: Karma Girl
Author: Jennifer Estep
Spoiler level: low

I enjoy learning new things in my books, and author Jennifer Estep, a reporter herself, provides interesting and authentic details of main character Carmen’s reporterly life. Yet Carmen exists in a world that contains superheroes and ubervillains. In fact, she’s a kind of expert at unmasking superheroes and ubervillains. (Her ex-fiance was a superhero. Ended badly.)

It’s hilarious the way author Estep uses common superhero cliches as everyday facts of life. Like:
Superheroes loved Oodles. The store gave them discounts on everything, and in return the superheroes tried to keep their building-leveling battles away from the historic structure.
Here she’s talking with Striker, the love interest (first sex scene: mask and leather costume on! And he whips out a condom lightening fast.) But I digress. A favorite moment, is where Carmen is trying to get Striker to think of who ubervillain Malefica might be:
“Good and evil always balance each other out. Superheroes and ubervillains are always connected in some way. They’re like magnets, attracting and repelling each other. It’s fascinating. Malefica is somewhere in your life. She might be a friend, a girlfriend, a business partner, maybe even your wife. You just don’t know it or refuse to see it.”

Striker paused. His eyes turned inward, mentally sorting through every person in his life, trying to figure out who might fit the mold.

“Come up with any suspects? Anybody sneak off in the middle of an important business meeting? Any girlfriends fail to show up for dates? Any so-called friends have odd. Unexplainable injuries?”

“No,” he growled.
And the ubervillains, of course, have this insane headquarters where they transform animals into monsters.

Another thing: I love the engaging first-person voice here. This is a bright, totally delightful read, especially if you were paying attention at the movies.

ALERT: I visited Estep's website yesterday, and she's having a contest that ends tomorrow (Valentine's day). Win free books and t-shirts!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Meljean’s magical game of trust

Great Moments from last night's reading
Book: Demon Moon (I know, everybody is already on Demon Night)
Author: Meljean Brook
Spoiler level: medium

One of the most enchanting things about a Meljean Brook book is how the story isn’t told so much as it accumulates weight. Events move chronologically across an increasingly rich terrain of emotional truths and past events.

It’s so pleasurable, and I think it shows that Meljean Brook trusts her reader. And the reader comes to trust her. You don’t always get the full sense of what’s happening or why, but you come to know you will.

A great example of this is “What happened in Caelum,” a central event in Demon Moon that happens offstage. The pieces come together in slowly.

Now, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill slow backstory reveal, which usually annoys the living daylights out of me, because it usually feels like an author is withholding facts to increase tension. I don’t like to be toyed with, particularly not with a dramatic device.

Meljean Brook is up to something entirely different. It’s as if the forward motion of the text washes up little bits of the submerged past events and emotional truths - washes them up onto the shore. The little bits might include, oh, Colin or Savi’s intense reaction to a painting, or here’s an echo of a feeling, or a haunting visual. Another bit may be the way Colin insults Savi, or an un-inspected motivation that Savi maybe sees too late. It’s like sunken realities drive and interact with the forward events, but they also form their own story.

And the wonderful thing is that even after you get the ‘story,’ in this example, the story of what happened in Caelum, the fragments continue to wash up, intensifying the forward motion.

Here I am analyzing it, but I don’t actually see it as a technique another author could adopt, because it seems to grow naturally out of MB's fantastically complex understanding of her own characters and scenarios. And I think, a little bit of magic is in there, too.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Vicki's pay it forward contest!

You have one more day to check out writer Vicki Lane's blog and enter her pay it forward contest. If you recall, she won a prize right here last month. Her prizes are books and author goody bags! It closes on the 8th. I don't know if that's midnight tonight, or sometime tomorrow.

The pleasures of smorgasbord style reading

I used to never read several books at once. Now I have many going. It's great!

Anyway, I started last week reading Meljean Brook’s complex and beautiful and sometimes dark (but deliciously so) Demon Moon, and then this freak avalanche of freelance work hit. It was SIX days of demanding dawn-to-night work.

My brain got so fried so fast that I saved Demon Moon for later and picked up Evanovich’s Eleven on Top for two reasons:
  • One, when you have a good and rich book like Demon Moon, you don’t want to read it when you’re drunk right? The same goes for being mentally fried. You just don’t want to miss out.
  • Two, after all my intense mental strain, I needed something really bright and fast. Something more on the order of Cheese Doodles, that you sort of tear through, as opposed to a spicy seared tuna with mango sauce that you savor. Shit, did I just insult both authors? I didn’t mean to! I love you both!
Fact: Did you know that when Janet Evanovich is in the midst of writing one of her books, she watches only funny, uplifting shows and movies? I am so grateful to have discovered this series. I am so happy, also, as I recently pointed out to Rachael from NJ, that I have only read now FOUR of them. How many are there, like 70?

Anyway, I finished Eleven, turned in a whole bunch of stuff yesterday went to bed and dug back to Demon Moon just at the point about 60% of the way through where Colin takes Savi to his home. Let me just say that was a MAJOR TREAT of a scene. Those of you who have read this book will know exactly what I mean. I will probably blog about it later, like sycophantic fan I am.

Okay, I have reviewed my week. In the last 6 days, I:
  • Thought up 10 advertising campaign ideas for a leisure products company, followed by a session with my brainstorm partner to develop more.
  • Wrote four 60-second radio ads for that company, and supplied print and billboard concepts to go with it.
  • Conducted 12 interviews and wrote 12 separate little articles about local businesses.
  • Thought of 5 Earth Day promo campaign ideas for a major food brand, more brainstorming with my brainstorm partner. Do I sound like Darrin Stevens? No, try Gladys from next door (was that her name?) or maybe that doddering aunt.
  • Wrote three 30-second radio ads for a hotel and edited three others down to time.
  • Wrote a chunk of a website and some case study stuff for a high-tech firm.
Here is the wallpaper I had on my computer all week,
Please don't ask me why:

Here is the wallpaper I have on there now, that I just put on this morning to reflect my improved mood, partly due to a most delicious night with Demon Moon:

Okay, this is sort of an incoherent post. So PS/update to Lisabea: I haven't forgotten about the craft you won! However, I don't feel I can do a proper craft based on Demon Moon per your contest prize until I finish it. But the wheels are turning. The time is coming!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Buffy comic book: an exciting guest review - written by my amazing husband, Mark!

Before commenting on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book, I should clear one thing up. Though many people would say that Carolyn Jean and I have a demented bias about Joss Whedon, I would like the state here, for the record, that we absolutely do not. We have arrived at the conclusion that Joss Whedon is the radiant god of all that ever has been or will be through the most careful, sober and objective analysis. There’s nothing biased about it.

That out of the way, I just read the first comic book that I’ve read since I was 13 years old. It’s the first Buffy comic (October 2007) that picks up right where the TV show left off, and it’s written by the colossal lord of creative genius, the maestro himself, Joss Whedon.

I have to say, although Joss, as I’ve established, rules the universe with his brilliant and benevolent hand, I wasn’t very excited about a comic book. That’s why it’s taken me so long to buy it. I just thought it would make me miss the show, and I didn’t want to open up that wound again and spend another year on thorazine mumbling Come back, Buffy! into the black TV screen.

But, on a whim, and because I’m fasting and delirious, I decided to pop into the comic book store I happened to be walking past and pick it up. So here’s the thing: It rocks!

Joss reigns supreme again! The comic has all the magnificent Whedon-ish humor and intrigue and his preternatural brilliance at building multiple dramatic arcs and his freakishly impossibly awesome dialogue. It’s just bursting with his charm and zazz and light playful spirit and the unstoppable lovable-ness of his Buffy character.

On top of all that, the art is superb! And Buffy even looks like Buffy, er, I mean, Sarah Michelle Gellar. Who knew comic books had gotten so sophisticated with all sorts of crazy perspectives and dynamic angles?

Anyway, if you’re a Whedon fan, which is to say, if you’ve ever seen his work (Buffy, Angel, Firefly), definitely pick up this most happy and excellent comic book. Joss Whedon rules! Buffy lives!