Archive for December, 2011

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: I am not good at resolutions. I pretty much never make any, because I know I’m not going to stick with them. That’s pretty sad, if you ask me.

But I have a really good feeling about 2012.

This year, I’m going to make it happen. And the way I’m going to stick with it, is to put my goals out here for everyone to see. I’d appreciate any support, and welcome you to post your own resolutions or link to your blog if you’ve written a post about them. They say that that the best way to make your goals come true is to write them down.

I also find the best way to get something done is to make a promise to someone – breaking a promise to someone else is a million times worse than breaking a promise to yourself. So, here are five promises to you:

I feel like I can always fix a manuscript, no matter how many times I've already been through it, but sometimes you just have to force yourself to stop.

1. I will finish editing my completed novel.

a. I’m taking the month of January to do a last edit on my completed novel and get it exactly where I want it. I’ve got it printed out, red pen handy, and I’m ready to attack it with everything I’ve got.

2. I will start researching agents/publishers.

a. The remaining 11 months are going to be dedicated to trying to figure out what to do next. I’ve got some books lined up that I want to read on the subject. After that, it’s into the unknown!

3. I will finish writing my WIP.

a. I recently got this idea stuck in my head and literally ran with it – within a couple of weeks I’ve already written over 40,000 words. I’m probably three-quarters of the way done with it. Even though my completed novel is my baby, I’ve got a really good feeling about this one.

4. I will lose 20 pounds.

a. This is a big one for me. I’ve already lost 30, and I’d really like to keep going with it. By summertime I’d like to be a pants size or two smaller. I’m not necessarily concerned about weight so much as being able to fit into clothes that I really like. It’s more about health than trying to be super skinny.

This entire top shelf of my bookcase is my "to-read" shelf.

5. I will read 25 new books.

a. This past year I’ve read 50 books, but some of them were repeats. It was tough reading that many books AND trying to keep up with all of my writing goals. This year, I’m cutting my goal in half and concentrating on reading things I’ve never read before.

I feel better already! I’m also shooting to participate in ROW80 in the first quarter of 2012. That’s going to allow me to break down these big end-goals into smaller and more manageable steps. I’ll also be able to post weekly updates about how I’m doing. Feel free to kick me in the virtual butt if you guys see me slacking!

If the world is going to end in 2012, I want to make sure to get as much done beforehand as possible. I hope you guys feel as good about this year as I do. Let’s make sure it’s a fun one!

(Disclaimer: I do NOT believe the world is going to end in 2012.)

The Short Version

Posted: December 29, 2011 in Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m sure all of you writers out there can relate to the following (hypothetical, albeit truthful) conversation:

                Friend/Family Member/Stranger:  What’s your ideal job? What do you want to do when you “grow up”?

                Me: I want to be a novelist!

                Them: Oh? That sounds interesting. Have you actually written anything?

                Me: Of course. I’ve finished writing a novel. I’m in the editing stages now.

                Them: What’s it about?

                Me: Uhh…

The truth is this question always catches me off guard. Obviously I know what my own novel is about; perhaps I know it too well. How am I supposed to whittle down the plotline into a few discernable sentences that don’t make me sound deranged?

I know my characters inside and out. I know what happens from beginning to end, and I know what parts are important. That is, I know what parts are important to me. I think that’s why it is so hard to break down my story and sum it up: I go on and on about things that I feel are important to know, but really I’m just talking in circles and the person is suddenly regretting asking me this question.

So, my usual answer is this:

Me: Short version? It’s about Native Americans who can turn into animals.

Lame. Even I think that sounds cheesy and overused and boring. There’s no detail, there’s nothing there to make them even the slightest bit interested in wanting to eventually read it. But that’s the easier answer for me. I’m still shy about my writing, and terribly afraid that if I do explain my story right, they’ll gently pat me on the shoulder and signal someone to call a mental institution.

(That’s me entirely overreacting, obviously. But I’m sure you can all relate – a lot of people don’t take us writers seriously.)

When I was in college, my professor told me to write a three sentence summary of my story for her to look at before she read it. Absolutely no more than three sentences. That was an incredibly difficult thing to write. But, when I got done with it, I imagined it being on the inside jacket of my book when it’s all shiny and published. Just enough information to get the reader interested, but not quite enough that they can figure out how it will end.

But, of course, I’ve lost it.

So, please tell me: what do you say when you get asked this question? Would it do well to have a little summary memorized for occasions such as these? Do you find that when you try to explain your novel or your idea for a story, people start to look at you out of the corner of their eyes? (Or is that just me hallucinating?)

Bottom Line:

Watch it.

Details:

[Minor spoilers ahead – BEWARE!]

I remember hearing about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo first as a book and then later as a Swedish-made movie. The title sounded interesting, and I’ve been wanting to pick it up for a while. (I still haven’t read the series, but I’m definitely putting it on my “must read” list for 2012.) One day when my friend and I were bored and all we wanted to do was watch movies, we turned on Netflix and saw the original Swedish version. Both of us had always wanted to see it, so we chose it and sat down to watch the two and a half hour flick.

Wow. It was not at all what I was expecting, but it was such a fantastic movie. But, this review is for the 2011 movie starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. The big question is – did they need to remake the movie? I’m a little torn. I really enjoyed (is that the proper word? It is a pretty intense movie…) the first one, but I loved the fact that I didn’t have to read all of the subtitles this time around. From what I remember, they stayed pretty close to what the original movie was like. I think this was just a way to take a great movie and make it more accessible to more people. They didn’t stray far from the look, feel, and telling of the first one because it did such a good job. So, did they really need to tell the same story twice? No. Was it a good marketing move? Probably.

I liked a lot of things about this movie. It was dark, gritty, and real. There are a lot of scenes that make you squirm in your seat because it feels so horribly realistic. They don’t hide anything. They don’t cover up anything to make it less uncomfortable for you. Everything is raw and authentic – whether we like it or not. I also like the general plot line (which means I would probably enjoy the books). It’s a compelling mystery with a solution that the main characters come to in a realistic way – after looking through a lot of newspaper articles and pictures for a very, very long time. Lisbeth is my favorite character, which is funny given who she is and what she is like. You would think that her personality would deter you from liking her – she’s definitely not normal, she’s completely unstable, and lacks quite a bit of tact. But she’s compelling. You know she’s been through Hell and back, and yet she’s still fighting for her life. There’s something about that characteristic that really draws me in and makes me like her.

So, the things that I didn’t like? There are surprisingly few, and they aren’t that big of a deal. I’m torn between Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth, who is quieter and more dangerous, and Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth, who shows more emotion but still manages to scare the crap out of you. (She will never be pigeon-holed as an actress – take her work on The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and compare them.) I really can’t decide which one I like better, so I’ve decided that I like them both for different reasons. I do miss the large dragon tattoo that Noomi had, though. Rooney’s is quite a bit smaller. The other thing is the length of time that this movie ran for – just shy of three hours. There was nothing wrong with the pacing, but I did start to wonder when the movie was going to end. This might have been because I had literally just watched Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, then turned around and watched this one. That’s A LOT of time in a movie theatre. (Oh, and fun fact of the day? Noomi (who played the original Lisbeth in the Swedish version) plays the gypsy character in Game of Shadows.) And the last thing was the ending – this one told a little bit more than the original one did, and it didn’t exactly end on a high note. Although this might be a good thing – I really want to know what happens next, now.

So, I do highly recommend you seeing both the original version and this version. Beware, though – if swearing, sex, and violence bother you, I don’t think you should watch either one. It’s an intense movie, but the story is well worth the emotional roller coaster. I’d love to read a comparison of the two movies (or even do one myself) so if you know of anywhere that has this, please leave it in the comments below!

And the future of the films? Well, there are three books, so I can imagine there will be three films. I haven’t seen the other two Swedish versions, though they all came out a few years ago. IMDB states that The Girl Who Played with Fire (the English version, with Rooney Mara) is in development right now. Given the reviews and praise I’ve seen so far, I think they’ll be able to make all three movies without a problem.

Bottom Line:

The first Sherlock Holmes has made it into my movie collection (150+ strong), so I HAD to see the second one.

Watch It.

Details:

[Safe waters ahead – no spoilers until the very end. Don’t worry, I’ll send up the red flag when we get there.]

So, over Christmas weekend I saw two movies – the first of which was Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. I’m a big fan of the first movie – the dialogue and overall intelligence of that film was something that I have rarely seen. The acting was on point and the comedic timing was perfect. Robert Downey Jr. is a great Sherlock Holmes, and Jude Law was a surprisingly perfect Watson. One of my favorite things about the first movie was that the cinematography was innovative and unique. I loved the slow motion sequences and the way that the viewer was able to see what Holmes was thinking and how he picked up on the various clues (that were, unsurprisingly, right in front of us the whole time). Usually I don’t think anything of the way in which a movie was shot, but this definitely caught my attention in a good way.

(On a related note, I read an article the other day that described the five things that Guy Ritchie got right in this series that most other Holmes movies/shows get wrong. This was a great read, and something to think about while watching either one.)

The second installment in this series was not a disappointment. It kept a lot of the things I liked about the original: the back and forth banter between Holmes and Watson, the slow motion fight sequences where Holmes describes how he will take out his attacker, and the overall intelligence of the movie. And in so many ways, this did everything the first movie did but better. The banter was as witty as ever. The slow motion fight sequences had a few unique twists that kept it fresh from the first movie. And Holmes’ cleverness really knows no bounds. But even better than that was the bad guy: Moriarty. He really sold this film for me. Throughout the entire movie he was on equal footing with Holmes and he even – *gasp* – got the better of him once or twice!

I only have two complaints about the movie. The first one was the dialogue – in some places it just seemed forced. I loved the banter, as always, but some of it seemed a little over the top and silly. You can usually tell how funny a movie is by the number of times that my best friend elbows me in the side for laughing too loudly. This one was about a medium – she only did it twice. There were definitely some great lines, but some of them fell a bit flat, too. My second complaint was the pacing. The first three-quarters of the movie was a bit slow. However, when it did finally hit its stride, it hit it hard. The last bit was just absolutely incredible, and by the end I was behind this movie one hundred percent.

So, if you enjoyed the first movie I would definitely recommend this one. If you thought the first one was just okay, chances are you won’t enjoy the second one as much. This one is slower and a bit more complex, but definitely worth it if you can stick it out until the end.

So, what about the future of Sherlock? [SPOILER ALERT]

Apparently Warner Bros. is already set for making a third installation. I’m pretty happy about this, especially given how the second one ended. However, I hope that they come up with a villain that is even more interesting (if not as intelligent) as Moriarty. That’s going to be a tough obstacle, but one that is crucial to get around if they’re hoping for a good turnout for movie number three.

If you saw this movie, I’d love to know what you thought about it – especially compared to the first one. I’ve actually never gotten through an entire Sherlock Holmes novel (I was pretty young when I tried, and I just couldn’t get into it) so I’d be interested to see what you guys think of the movies compared to the books.

I have the greatest amount of respect for people who can do things that I’m hopeless at. Now, I’ve got some rhythm and I’m not too bad at learning choreography, but I’m not a dancer in the sense that it is what I live and breathe every day (I’ll reserve that for writing).

I love dancing so much, though. It’s a beautiful art form. I especially love when a dancer can tell a story just by the way he or she moves. The video below is a wonderful example of this.

 

You might have recognized Harry Shum Jr. there – he’s Mike Chang from Glee. He tweeted (@iharryshum) this video yesterday and I just fell in love with it. He’s got some awesome facial expressions, and I really enjoy his acting (especially when he’s being silly). The whole group featured in this video is amazing though, and I just loved the story telling and the message of the entire thing.

Hope you enjoyed it! Merry Christmas. :)

This is our Christmas tree this year! (Yes, those are my baby pictures.)

This is a hot topic, especially this time of year: Do you say “Merry Christmas” or do you say “Happy Holidays”?

There is a huge crowd out there that refuses to say “Happy Holidays.” They are the Merry-Christmas-whether-you-celebrate-it-or-not lot. They’re the I-don’t-care-who-you-are-or-where-you-come-from-you’re-in-America-and-you-are-expected-to-conform-to-our-beliefs-damnit crowd. This is supposed to be patriotic and Christian.

I think it’s rude.

I’m Christian and I celebrate Christmas. I have no trouble wishing someone a Merry Christmas if that’s what they celebrate, but I’m not about to assume something about someone I don’t know. America is a medley of different cultures and beliefs – and it has been that way for a long time. There’s nothing patriotic or Christian about the assumption that someone is exactly like you, especially in this country. Actually, it’s quite ignorant, if you ask me. It just lends itself to the idea that Americans are closed minded and lack cultural awareness.

Okay, rant over.

I just think it is more polite to wish someone Happy Holidays than Merry Christmas – and that way you get the New Year in there with it! Besides, Christmastime is when we’re supposed to go out of our way to make others happy, not get into an argument over belief systems. So, on that note…

Happy Holidays to all! And if you do celebrate it – have a very Merry Christmas today/tomorrow! (I know I will!)

Today is the first day of Hanukkah and, although I’m not Jewish, I really wanted to share one of my all-time favorite videos with you. This is an oldie-but-goodie. If you haven’t seen it before, please take a look – it’s hilarious. If you’re already familiar, give it another go. It always cheers me up.

 

My favorite lines are “Not too shabby!” or “Drink your gin and tonica, and smoke your marajuanica.” What are yours?

No matter what you practice, or even if you don’t practice at all, have a wonderful time through the holiday season. 2012 is going to bring GREAT things, I can feel it.