Archive for January, 2012

This book was my first foray into reading an advanced copy of a work before it has been published. A friend of the author tweeted an opportunity for her followers to read the novel ahead of distribution, in exchange for a review on Amazon and talking about it on a website, blog, etc. Well, I jumped for this one! I’m always up for reviewing works, and I especially enjoy spreading the word about books, films, and art that I enjoy.

This book is about a handful of characters, all connected in one way or another. It focuses on a school shooting, a band, Australian indigenous history, and that oh-so-familiar feeling of being out of step with the rest of the world. It’s part story and part social analysis. The story is dark and twisted, yet you find yourself rooting for those characters you never thought you would: the school shooter, the demon, even Lucifer herself. (Yep – herself.)

To be honest, this book sort of threw me off in the beginning. It begins with one of the many narrators writing letters to her sister from Hell. Yes, you read that right: from Hell. I floundered for a while, trying to grasp what was going on and how all of this was possible. The multiple points of view weave in and out and you begin to wonder why all of these characters are important. Then it hits you – everything is connected. Everything! This is the type of book that I would recommend reading twice – once to familiarize yourself with the story, and twice to actually understand it. (That’s what I’m going to do.) It’s a complicated narrative, but one worth reading.

My favorite part about this novel is the way that the author speaks through the characters. She’s got a lot to say about society, and she comes right out and does just that. One of my favorite lines is right in the beginning, on page ten: “Schools teach kids the greatest love story in all of literature is the one where a 19-year-old guy and his 13-year-old girlfriend rack up a body count and then kill themselves together. Then when kids learn the lesson, everyone blames pop music.” That line is so incredibly profound. And so true.

Another insightful section can be seen on page 105. One of the characters, Ben, rants about how teenage girls encounter the worst kind of bullying, simply for loving something. He says that, “as soon as teenage girls start to profess love for something, everyone else becomes totally dismissive of it.” The first thing I thought of was Twilight. And his next words ring true for this as well: “So if teenage girls have something that they love, isn’t that a good thing?” And he’s right, absolutely right. What is so wrong about loving something so much?

The author’s vision of Hell is unique and fascinating. It’s completely different than what you would expect – not that it still isn’t Hell, because it is. It’s hot and dark and lonely, but it’s also full of people who read and write letters and watch movies. Some can come and go as they please; others stay behind because they must, or because they choose to. Lucifer is a woman who sounds just a little bit scatterbrained, and not all that terrible.

So, would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. It’s hard for me not to recommend a book, even if I don’t particularly like it (which definitely wasn’t the case here), just because I know that books create a far more personal experience than, say, a movie would. Books speak to certain readers, and stay silent for others. It all depends. So, yes, I would recommend this book. If you like the deep and dark world of demons, this has plenty of that. If you like reading books that have an underlying social commentary, this also has plenty of that. If you like complex narrative stories, you might just enjoy this book. Give it a try, because you just never know.

You can find the book on Goodreads here.

You can buy the book on Amazon here.

You can find the author’s website here.

ROW80 – R1C5

Posted: January 29, 2012 in ROW80
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This week was like liquid gold. I only had one late night, but I still managed to get everything done. Some of my long term goals are wrapping up nicely, and I’m super excited to be moving on to the next step!

  1. Research for at least half an hour each day. Done! I’m almost finished with The Writer’s Market: Guide to Getting Published. There are some sections I’ve flown through, and others that just seem to drag. Not everything was relevant, but I’ve tried my best to take in all the information that was. I should be able to finish this within the next day or two. Next on my list is a pair of older books about writing that I borrowed from my boss. I don’t know how useful they’ll be (because of their age) but I’m going to at least skim the table of contents and read any sections that would apply to me.
  2. Do a one hour writing sprint at least three times a week, working on the WIP. Done! I pushed through the climax of the story this week. I’m not super happy with the result, but I know I’ll be able to clear that up in the editing process. I had an epiphany about the ending, so I finally know how to wrap everything up and finish the story. I’m only about a chapter or two away, so I hope that by this time next week I’ll be done! I wrote 4,973 words this week, bringing my total since January 1st up to 20,730.
  3. Exercise for half an hour each day. Done! I’ve met all of my requirements this week, and I even worked out for an hour on Tuesday, knowing I would be too busy on Wednesday. I’ve also been trying to eat better. I haven’t seen any good results yet, which is starting to get a wee bit frustrating, but I know that if I just stick to it, it’ll happen in time.
  4. Do at least one chapter of reading each night. Done! I’ve been doing a minimum of a chapter each night for the last week or two, but between the book’s pace finally picking up and having more time, I’ve been able to read a bit more. I actually finished this book last night (review coming soon) and I’m going to be starting a new one soon. I think the next one is going to be another advanced copy review. Yay!
  5. Blog at least three times a week, not including my ROW80 updates. Done! This is the one I am most proud of. Not only did I actually blog three times a week, but I blogged on a schedule! I got up the posts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I was going to slack on Friday (that was my one late night this week), but I couldn’t break the record. So, I just dug in and posted, regardless of how tired I was.

This past week turned out to be tremendous. Goals aside, I now have one beta reader done with my novel. She likes it, she really likes it! The other two have started it, so I’m looking forward to their comments soon. I also received an advanced copy of a collection of poems, which I was incredibly excited for. The author offered to read over some of my short stories in exchange, and not only did she compliment me on my writing, but she gave me some really fantastic advice. I’m also going to start guest posting soon, and featuring a few other bloggers on here. Everything is so exciting!

Hope you all are having as much fun as I am. I’ll make the rounds today and say “Hi!” to a bunch of you.

Happy ROWing. :)

I love animals of all kinds, but dogs are way up there on my list. I’m usually a big dog kind of person, but how can you not fall in love with the pooch featured below? I can’t decide what is funnier: the fact that she disappears completely in the pile of leaves, or the fact that she seems to be half meerkat.

Enjoy!!

All of my Rising Stars so far have been musicians, and I’ve decided to spread the love just a little bit more. My next Star is an artist – an incredible artist, actually. I’m completely in awe of him and his projects. He’s one of those types of people that thinks in a way that is so different from the rest of us.

His name is Phil Hansen. The selection below is from his website, and gives you and insight into what kind of person he is and how he goes about completing his work.

I’m interested in trying to understand whole individuals and whole ideas through the fragments of perceptual memory, the sound bites, and the semiotic tokens collected by society and recollected by the individual. It’s the product of these carefully selected elements that multiplies out to a greater whole, and it’s in that product that I look for a more holistic understanding.

My present approach evolved out of what seemed at the time to be an artistic cul-de-sac: damage to the nerves in my forearm from the single-minded pursuit of pointillism. Forced to think of other ways to create art, I began pushing myself to experiment with new mediums: my torso, a tricycle, X-rays, dandelions, the Bible, key phrases out of audience stories, and so on. The selection of the medium became integral to the art, as much a part of the story and
the holistic experience as the selected fragments themselves.

In bringing my work to the public I look to create a public dialog with art, frequently inviting the audience to contribute in some way, nearly always breaking apart the artistic process in order to make it connect to a more immediate reality through video that shows manipulation of the medium from fragments into a unified whole. It’s far from a didactic endeavor: I draw inspiration from my collaborators’ experiences as much as they discover art through my work.

(If you’re unsure of what Pointillism is, a famous visual reference would be Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.)

Phil is a great artist – his works are incredibly realistic and there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that he’s talented. But apart from that, my favorite thing about him is his method. He doesn’t go about creating his art in the usual way, and that is what makes him extraordinary.

As we should with all art, I’ll just let it speak for itself.

 

Here’s a compilation of one of his projects.

 

An example of how much thinking and meaning goes into each project.

Here’s a controversial one, but one that shouldn’t be ignored.

Please do me a favor and check out his website, at least. He has a ton more videos up and you can even purchase some of his works in poster-form if you’re so inclined. At the very least I’m sure you’ll be entertained, but I also hope you learn something: that there is power in art (and, yes, that includes writing), that it never hurts to think outside the box, and that getting messy is sometimes the best way to get something done.

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Behind the Times, Like Usual

Posted: January 23, 2012 in TV Shows
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Look closely. See that in the top left hand corner? That's the place my head likes to visit on occasion.

You know those types of people who have their heads stuck in the clouds? The kind that are just completely oblivious to the world around them? They don’t do it on purpose, and it doesn’t mean that they don’t care, they’re just thinking about a million other things at the same time. They always hop on the bandwagon after it has already started moving. Like cowboys in Westerns that chase the train on a horse and make it onto the platform right before the train enters the tunnel.

That’s me.

Usually I don’t mind. My friends think its endearing. I can be so blonde sometimes. I’m quirky and comical and I pick on myself about it, which pretty much makes up for anything I didn’t do or understand the first time around.

But this? This is ridiculous.

I recently decided to start watching the show Psych. You may have seen my tweet that said I thought it had one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen. I’m going to expand on that and say that this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

I like TV. A lot. I have my old standbys – Charmed, Buffy, Angel. Some newer ones – Dirty Jobs, Ghost Hunters, Mythbusters, and Glee. And my newest ones – Once Upon a Time, Terra Nova, Teen Wolf, and Grimm. They’re not all homeruns, but I like them for different reasons and I already feel invested in them. I’ll stick with them until I feel that they’re a lost cause.

So, how in the world did I miss Psych? I mean, really? This show came out in 2006. That’s SIX YEARS AGO. I knew I wasn’t always the first one at the finish line, but this is just embarrassing.

For you Psychophants out there (with an awesome name like that, how can you NOT be a part of this fandom?), I apologize for coming to my senses so late in the game. For those of you who have yet to check this show out, please do yourself a favor and find at least one episode to watch. There are 79 of them on Netflix right now. I think you’ll be able to pick out one you’ll enjoy.

So, why do I like this show so much? One of the main reasons is that this show makes me laugh a lot. Like, the way Glee used to make me laugh in season one. Loud and obnoxious laughter where you have to bury your face in a pillow to avoid complete and total embarrassment in front of family members. A lot of the jokes are witty and intelligent and it’s that moment between delivery and understanding – that quick two seconds where you’re still thinking about what they just said – that the hilarity actually occurs. The humor on this show is so fresh to death.

This show is also fairly unique. There’s definitely a hint of Monk hidden in there, but just a dash. The only similarity Shawn and Adrain have is a sense of noticing things and putting together connections that ordinary people can’t. Where Adrian is obsessive-compulsive, Shawn has an eidetic memory and has been trained to pick up all manner of details. This is a detective show on laughing gas, and has put an entirely new spin on the genre.

I could go on and on about how great this show is, but you honestly have to just check it out yourself. Besides, I promised myself that once I wrote up this post I would go watch one or two (or three, or four, or…) more episodes. I’m starting to have withdrawal.

Let me know what you think of the show in the comments – the good, the bad, and the hilarious. I’m only in the middle of season two, so NO SPOILERS. Is anyone who hasn’t seen it already going to put it on their “to-be-watched” list?

ROW80 – R1C4

Posted: January 22, 2012 in ROW80
Tags: , , , ,

Hey, everyone! I hope your ROW80 goals are coming along smoothly. I’m going to try to check out a bunch of blogs today, so I hope to see you around! This week was pretty good for me. I definitely improved from last week, although I still want to work on my consistency. Can’t complain, though!

  1. Read one of my writing books for at least a half an hour each day. Done! Some days are easier than others. I’m currently making my way through Writer’s Market: Guide to Getting Published (the 2012 edition). Sometimes it’s fascinating and I don’t want to put it down. Other times I struggle to get through the half hour. I’m going to switch this goal up a little bit and say that I need to research for half an hour each day. The internet is full of great information and I’ve already bookmarked some fabulous sites.
  2. Do a one hour writing sprint at least three times a week, working on the WIP. Done! This week I wrote 4,208 words, which brings my total for the last three weeks up to 15,757. I’m right at the climax of my story and I’m struggling. I think I need to read some books and watch some movies to devise how they make battle scenes interesting.
  3. Exercise for a half an hour each day. Done! This has gone really well this week, as I’ve made sure that I have exercised no matter how late it is or how tired I feel. I really like the feeling of giving myself no leeway and then accomplishing my goals. It makes everything worth it! I’m still not losing any weight (again – that’s fine) but one concern is how often I snack and what I snack on. I’m going to try to work on this in the coming week.
  4. Do at least one chapter of reading each night. Done! The book I’m reading is starting to get a lot more interesting. I haven’t had a lot of time to devote to it other than the necessary one chapter per night, but I’m less than 100 pages from the end now. I should be done soon!
  5. Blog at least three times a week, not including my ROW80 updates. Done! The week started out promising, and then I had to fit the last two blogs in at the last minute. Oh well, they got done! I’m going to take today to write up some more and get more ideas out there. I think being prepared is a big part of the reason why I’m not staying on a schedule.

So, this week was pretty good. I’m happy I did what I did, and I’m slowly trying to work on my consistency. I’ve also got three people reading my completed novel. My mom finished it yesterday. She liked it, but definitely had some pointers for me. I really tried to take them in stride, but I also have to remember that she isn’t a writer. Just because she wants something more from a character or a scene, doesn’t mean that’s what should happen. I’m not looking forward to revising again, but I know it is necessary. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

It’s Saturday here in the States and super cold in New York. The skies are gray, the ground is covered with snow, and I’m wearing two sweatshirts right now.

I need a pick-me-up.

Below you will find a video of what may just be the happiest dog found on this planet. Also, a possible explanation for crop circles.

Enjoy.