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.

It's always important to note the meaning of a name, as well as any religious/historical significance it might have. Peter means "rock."

Names are very important to me. I think it stems from the fact that I hate mine – Karen. Karen. For some reason it has just never sat well with me. The only women I know who are named Karen are older than me – at least by one generation, if not two. I know there are those out there who are my age and share my name, but I have grown up with the notion that my name is old fashioned. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I love old world names, but mine just feels…commonly old.

It’s also incredibly hard to find a nickname that suits my name. I go by “Kay” for short on the internet, to make it easier and in case I don’t want to give out my real name. But no one calls me that. And I just don’t have any good nicknames that are publicly acceptable. (“Karebear,” while still endearing, is so second grade.)

So, needless to say, I’m fascinated by other names. I love the way they sound, especially the unique ones. I love the different spellings. And I especially love the meanings. I love how certain names can conjure up certain images. Vladimir is a dark name, one that may be associated with a vampire or a villain. Whereas Charles is a strong name that I often associate with a refined man, someone who is worthy of the title of “hero.”

But nicknames are important, too! Charles might be a name associated with a grown man in a business suit, but Charlie brings about images of little boys and chocolate factories. Chuck is a silly name – maybe used for a goofy teenager who is one burger short of a combo meal.

And meanings! Oh, name meanings. My current novel has over four hundred characters. The reader doesn’t even meet or know half of them, but I made sure that I did. And I handpicked every single name. Every single name has significance. That’s how important I think the meanings of names are.

For example, take a look at a YA series that I love: Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The main character’s name is Percy, short for Perseus. His mother named him that because the original Perseus was (one of) the only Greek heroes who had a happy ending. You better believe that’s important.

But what about some other novels? In Great Expectations, Pip’s love interest is Estella (“star”). She’s somewhat of a cruel person, and is just as unattainable as her name suggests. Or what about Prince Prospero from “The Masque of the Red Death”? It’s both significant – he is a wealthy (“prosperous”) nobleman – and ironic – his wealth does no good in saving him from a similar fate to anyone else (rich or poor) who happens across the Red Death. And what about those classic faerie tales? The name “Snow White” may have been a description of her skin, but the meaning is much deeper than that – it is a representation of her purity.

So, have I convinced you yet? Please say that I have! Some readers are very quick to understand the meaning of a name in your novel. It’ll be like a little treat for them, a little Easter egg hidden away in the pages of your book. I know I usually pick up on mythological allusions when I happen by them. Others might not be so fast to realize what you’ve done, but you’d be surprised what the subconscious is able to grasp that the conscious isn’t. You can use names as a clue to someone’s past (like using the name Amira (“princess”) for a young woman running away from her kingdom) or their personality (like Felix (“happy”) for someone who is always upbeat).

You might be surprised at what you’ve chosen as a character name already. Maybe you chose Sybil as the name of your Diviniation professor, without realizing it meant “Prophetess.” (Yes, that is a Harry Potter reference. I am also 258% positive that Jo chose that name on purpose. If you aren’t already aware, look at a list of the names of the characters in that series and start looking up their meanings. She knew exactly what she was doing when she picked out each one.) Or, perhaps, you’ve written a storyline for a man named Derek, who is always down on his luck and can never quite manage to stick up for himself. It might surprise you, then, that his name means “People Ruler.” That wouldn’t be appropriate, now would it? (Unless you’re using it in irony!)

Oh, and here’s something really strange. I just started a new project and I was having such trouble picking out the name for my main character (which is SO not like me). In the end, I went with a name that I love, and one that has circulated through my family for a while: Hannah. It turns out that the meaning (“grace”) was perfect for my storyline. I came up with a middle name and a last name for her as well. When one of the other characters in the story did some numerology to find out her “name number” I made sure I came up with real results. The weird part? My character’s number is a 7 based on the name that I chose for her. I already knew her personality before I chose to find out her name number, yet the number and her personality match perfectly. How cool is that?

So, here’s the real point: names are powerful. There’s a reason why Rumpelstiltskin was obsessed with them. They’re significant. They’re important. Use that to your advantage.

My favorite site to go to is BabyNames.com. They’ve got a huge catalogue and it is really easy to search for a name to find the meaning (plus an indication of the gender and nationality). You can also use their advanced search to look for names that start and end with certain letters, have certain meanings, a certain amount of syllables, or have a certain origin. The “meaning” search is my favorite, and it can be so helpful when you’re looking for that perfect name for your character.

So, what do you guys think about names? Are they significant to you, or don’t you bother with them? Do you have any sites that you frequent that are good at helping you decide? I’m always up for more resources!

There are a lot of talented people in this world, you just have to know where to find them. I’ve already told you about the dangers of YouTube and how it holds a destructive power for me. There is so much talent on that website alone, that I’m surprised it doesn’t crash the servers on a regular basis.

Ironically, that’s not where I found this next artist. My mom called me into the living room one night, while she was watching TV and eating dinner. (Don’t judge. And I didn’t leave her high and dry – I was studiously writing!)

“Wait!” she said, before I made it all the way over to her. I stopped. “Don’t look at the TV.”

“Okay,” I said, slapping my hand over my eyes. “What?”

“Listen. What do you hear?”

What I heard, though I didn’t know it at the time, was Jackie Evancho. It sounded like she was singing opera. It was definitely in another language. Her voice was rich, deep, and practiced. The voice of an older woman with years of experience, I thought.

Wrong.

Jackie Evancho is eleven years old. ELEVEN. This kid can sing. And I’m not talking about belting out runs like Christina Aguilera, which would be talent enough. No, this girl is a “classical crossover” artist, whatever the heck that means. To me, it means that she sounds far older than her years. People train their entire lives and they don’t have HALF the talent that Jackie has.

Isn’t that just incredible? This type of music isn’t usually my cup of tea, but Jackie’s voice in otherworldly. Here’s another great one:

She also appeared on America’s Got Talent, which may be where you recognize her name from. There are videos on YT of her time on there.

One more thing that I love about her – almost as much as her voice – is the wisdom and age in her eyes. She doesn’t act like a child, for better or worse. She’s calm, respectful, and very thoughtful for a little girl. I worry that she might be growing up too fast because of her talent, but I think it has more to do with just being an old soul.

I’m not one for cheesy lines and sappy moments, but can I just say that we’re incredibly lucky to share the earth with her. I can? Good. I’m not taking it back.

Some links:

Facebook

Twitter

Website

Those passing vehicles in Ireland are so full of anger.

So, I follow a lot of people on Twitter. Well, not a lot…but over 200. One of them is @OMGFacts. They tweet great facts and always have an interesting story to back up each one. A week or two ago they tweeted this:

“The Power Rangers were banned in New Zealand until 2011, despite the fact that the show is filmed there!” (This was because of the violence.)

And then not long after that…

“The Power Rangers were censored in Malaysia, because censors thought it would get kids addicted to drugs!” (This was because the word “Morphin’” in “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” was too close to “morphine.”)

So, this got me thinking. There are a lot of things individuals and groups like the Parents Television Council are slamming lately: TV shows, video games, movies, music. Is this new? No, absolutely not. But that’s precisely what got my gears turning.

I watched Charmed when I was younger – there are episodes where Prue, Phoebe, Piper, and Paige all have sex with their boyfriends (or, sometimes just strangers. Or demons. Or demon strangers. Even demon boyfriends.)

I played, and watched my cousin play, all sorts of video games. Donkey Kong was a favorite. So was Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But he also played a lot of James Bond and Mortal Kombat. James Bond is full of criminal activity – on each level you have to shoot and kill all sorts of bad guys, steal things, blow things up. But it is nothing compared to Mortal Kombat. Did you know there’s a cheat to turn up the blood graphics? Yep, there is. I’m pretty sure a human body doesn’t hold that much blood, let alone get up and start fighting again. Pretty awesome.

And movies! My mom never told me I couldn’t watch a certain movie – mainly because I already filtered through them myself. I never watched horror (I’m a wimp) and I rarely watched a thriller (I’m a BIG wimp, actually). But I’d watch a lot of action movies and comedies.

Lastly, music. If I had headphones in my ears, chances are I was listening to Eminem. (And when it comes to today…chances are I’m still listening to him.) My favorite kind of music is rap, though pop is right up there with it. And don’t get me started on music videos – Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Eminem, Lil Jon. They’re all full of explicit imagery.

My point?

*shrugs* I think I turned out okay.

I don’t have rampant sex with strangers (or demons). I don’t have intense urges to put fifty rounds through the body of a random person on the street. I don’t have strange desires to jack cars and blow up buildings. And I definitely don’t believe in promoting domestic abuse, murder, or rape.

The thing is, the more you hold a kid back, the more they want to rush forward. Teenagers are rebellious in nature. That is never going to change. You have to teach them maturity, and the only way to do that is to expose them to a subject matter and explain it to them. Honestly, they’re going to be exposed to sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll (actually, rap might be the rock n’ roll of our age, but it doesn’t sound as good) by the time they hit middle school anyway. Trust me. The school bus is an orgy of rumors and hormones.

So, instead of trying to keep them innocent forever, I suggest getting to them before anyone else does. When a borderline-panic-inducing subject (like sex, *gasp!*) comes up in a TV show (I’m thinking about Glee here), take the time to explain your expectations of them. Should they do it? Probably not. Will they do it? Maybe. Talk to them about the dangers and set some guidelines – not the 20 foot high castle walls with accompanying moats of lava, rickety draw bridges, and starving dragons type of guidelines, though. Kids, believe it or not, respect their parents if the parents take the time to earn it. They’re not going to want to disappoint you.

Now, I realize that there is a difference in being your child’s friend and your child’s parent. I definitely get that. I think there should be rules – curfews, computer monitoring, parental supervision – but you can’t smother your child. It will back fire. I’ve seen it enough times to know that is absolutely true.

I wasn’t smothered as a child. I was expected to make decisions that could have consequences. I chose to be responsible and I think I was a pretty good kid. And that pretty good kid turned into a pretty good adult.

The bottom line is this: TV, video games, movies, and music do NOT turn a good kid into a bad kid. Poor parenting does. These things can be contributing factors, but they are not sole reason why your child suddenly decided to murder the neighbor’s cat. (And if he really did that, please be responsible and send him to a professional. I’ve watched enough Criminal Minds to know that it’s a precursor to some more serious problems.) I’ve seen perfectly good kids knock down the toughest baddie Mortal Kombat can throw at them, and bad kids that have never picked up a controller in their life. If they’ve got issues, it lies much deeper than what they’re seeing on screen.