Friday, April 30, 2010

Still Crazy after All These Years

Some of the best characters in books and television are crazy – zany, off the wall, batnuts crazy! These characters are vivid, bright and leap off the page or the screen. They are not often the center of the story, but they dominate their time center stage, stage left, stage right and from time to time – even behind the scenes.

So who are these crazy kooks that I love so much?
Fringe: The Complete First Season
Dr. Walter Bishop, Fringe
Say what you want about the show Fringe (
Fringe: The Complete First Season) and I can say plenty, Walter Bishop is one of the best reasons to watch it. He doesn't begin to think in the same wavelength as the people around him. Yes, he spent 17 years in St. Claire's Mental Hospital and has even had portions of his brain excised, but he delights in exploring the limits of science and beyond – and he keeps a cow in his laboratory so he can have fresh milk. 



Dr. Gregory House, House
House, M.D.: Season FiveWhat can you say about House except that when he committed himself at the end of last season because he was actually hallucinating everything from sex with Cuddy to seeing a dead Kutner and a dead Amber that the man would get even more wildly interesting as he battled his addictions and fought for his sanity? Did it make him a nice guy or even begin to excuse his behavior? Absolutely not and would we want it too?




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The Doctor
Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth SeriesAre we seeing a trend here? Is it the medical profession? Well in the case of this Timelord, I don't think it's so much a profession as it is the fact that he's 900 years old and literally, he's seen it all. So he gets the craziest ideas, the zaniest responses and the wackiest villains.


Who are your favorite crazies?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Big Fat Beautiful Book

THE E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies)I tweeted over the weekend (Sunday to be precise) that I had typed those two fabulous little words at the end of what might be arguably a dirty first draft: the end. Typing these words is both a catharsis and a relief, but it is also a disappointment. For months, you live, breathe, sleep and think the novel. You are in the heads of these characters; you ride their emotions and experience your own emotional journey. When you finally type those two little words, it is both wonderful and terrible.

Wrung Out

Delighted as I am to be done with the dirty first draft and as excited as I am to getting ready for the edits, it is very much the same feeling you have after nine months of pregnancy and hours of labor. I am almost too exhausted to be bouncing off the walls thrilled. Unfurling inside is a deep sense of personal satisfaction: I did it. I achieved my goal. I told my story. However, coupled with this satisfaction is the realization, that now I have to nurture this new little life, edit it, nudge it and shape it so that it can stand up and walk on its own two feet.

Ages and Stages

Many authors think of their books as their babies and they are. They gestate in our minds, they keep us up late into the night, they wake us at odd hours and they can be capricious in their demands, not always doing what we want them to do. You could argue that the gestation to the page is the most difficult age and stage, for some authors it is. However, as with children and their parents, every novel is different.

This novel has been brewing in the back of my mind for many years. I'd written the first chapter in 2003. So it's not a surprise that I wanted to go back and shepherd it along – but what I first envisioned in 2003 became very different in 2010. I reworked that first chapter, wrote a couple more and then hammered the vision down into a plot framework. That plotting was a new step for me. I've always been a pantser (someone who just writes from the seat of the pants and worries about organizing the plot later), but I chose a different route this time.

Of Plots and Particulars

Plotting presented a new set of challenges. I had to think about what was coming, so it made layering foreshadowing and hints in earlier chapters a little easier. I didn't have to go back to season those in later. It also required that I dig deep for the emotion and the action, eliminating any "digressions" that pulled me off the path. From start to finish, it was roughly 13 weeks to write this dirty first draft. Since the novel is about 15 chapters in length, I was writing roughly one chapter per week. Not bad when you consider how little time, I actually spent with the characters in the great grand scheme of things.

Now comes the hard part – what you thought writing that first draft was hard? Challenging? Yes. Hard? Not so much. No the hard part is the editing, the refining, the tweaking and the massaging. It's going back through and choosing which words to trim back, which to enhance and where to add more story and where to take away. Now the metaphor is not so much about pregnancy and giving birth as it is about taming the unruly, wild garden into something civilized, exotic and inviting – not always three words you hear together.

Shaking the Post Partum Book Blues

In addition to a head cold and a sick kid, I've wrestled with my post partum book blues. I've coped with the inevitable wrung out feeling and now I'm getting excited. Now I get to go back and read to refine – that's exciting. So rather than hearing finality when I type those two wonderful words, I'm, often reminded of the Black Eyed Peas version -- you know: The E.N.D. -- the energy never dies.


In three weeks, my dirty draft and I are on the road to a Margie Lawson workshop where I get to have some quality Mommy-Book time to really make the process complete. Exciting, n'est-ce-pas?


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Save the Date: May 4, 2010

Discover the passion! Discover the heat! Discover the Scent of Persuasion! Coming soon from Nikki Duncan!





Friday, April 16, 2010

Finding Time to Read

One of the driving forces behind my original desire to write was my love for reading. I have always had an endless appetite for the written word. As a child, I read Harlequins with my grandmother. As I grew older, so my reading habits evolved to new genres and authors. Among some of my favorite books as a child was Trixie Belden, Tom Swift eventually following authors like Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Ann Rice and so many more that I may have forgotten by now.

Reading Helps Me Thrive

Reading is vital to my sanity. In January, I dropped by the Book Lovers blog to share what books mean to me. Reading relaxes me, inspires me and occasionally, it simply gives me the desire to persevere – because I want to read the next book.

As a writer, one of the hardest things I grapple with is the reduced amount of time to read while I write. Now sometimes, that is okay because a story can consume as I mentioned yesterday that my current work in progress has done. I spend hours and I mean hours writing, thinking, living and breathing the story.

I lay down to sleep and I never quite feel like I go to sleep, so much as my mind swirls with the endless possibilities presented by the story's conundrums and how I will solve it. An idea will occur and I will wake up, realizing that I was asleep and between battling groggy fatigue and doggy obstacles between my office, and me I will hurriedly make notes on what I came up with so I can interweave that into the work the next day.

Obsessive Much?

I could make the argument that when the "muse" consumes me, as it was, that I become more than a tad obsessive. I write on envelopes, napkins and even the back of other papers, wherever I can put word to paper if I am away from my computer. Hot on the heels of these creative power surges is usually mental exhaustion. I know it's coming, but that's okay, I have over 60,000 words to show for this particular obsession and it will be longer before I am done.

I am totally immersed in this world, it's as if I can see them on a high-definition screen, playing their parts and filling in all the questions I have. But none of this creating, obsessing and writing leaves me much time for the passion that started it all – reading.

I have a stack of fifteen to twenty books waiting for me after this bout – I can hardly wait to dive in, like a little kid jumping into the pile of freshly raked leaves and flail through the wonderful creations that await me. In the meanwhile, like a gardener watching over the seedlings, I can only speculate about the possibilities while I work on my own.

What are you reading right now?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Vampire Diaries: "Under Control"

Are Damon and Elena "under control"?
I don't think Stefan's "under control" anymore.


Are you ready for The Vampire Diaries tonight?

I am!

My New Happy Place

Where in the World is the Daily Dose?

Sorry for the absence over the last few days, the great thing about the Daily dose is the everyday nature of the blog. But I've been swept in the clutches of my current work in progress, seduced by the characters and spending every free moment I have working on it rather than writing the blog or answering emails or even heading to the post office. Honestly, when a work in progress reaches this stage – it is absolutely the best part of writing: even sleep is consumed by thoughts of the story.

But the Daily Dose will return in full fervor tomorrow with new clips and articles on great shows, great books, great writing tips, contests and more! Thanks for hanging in there. Do you have a passion that consumes you?

Friday, April 9, 2010

100 Episodes of Bones

On April 8, 2010, Bones aired its one hundredth episode. Hart Hanson wrote the episode, directed by David Boreanaz. The show invites long-time viewers to walk down memory lane in search of Booth and Brennan's first case together.

As viewers know, Dr. Lance Sweets wrote a book about the relationship between Brennan and Booth in which he posits their unique and powerful sexual and romantic chemistry is what they sublimate to solve the cases they do. He concluded that the pair was in love, but they just didn't know it.

This season, of course, Booth's love for Brennan has been declared several times, including Sweets' interfering to tell Booth that he was in love with Brennan only because of the coma, the dream and a residual effect of his brain tumor. He suggested that Booth's love was symptomatic and would eventually go away. Cam and Sweets both advised Booth to think long and hard before trying to crack the shell around Brennan because her own fragile set of emotions may not be up to the task – and if he did manage to convince her and then discover that he wasn't really in love, it could leave her reeling.

Meanwhile Angela's psychic comforted Booth and Brennan both – Brennan for her fears that no one could really know her and love her (see abandonment issues) and Booth that it would all work out in the end. So now, after 100 episodes of friendship, passion, laughter, danger and saving each other, Booth and Brennan are sitting in Sweets' office recounting their first case together because – as they tell Sweets, he got it wrong in his book.

If you haven't seen the episode, turn back now – nothing but spoilers and commentary ahead.



The Parts in the Sum of the Whole

The episode opens with Booth and Brennan on their way to see Sweets. They each have a copy of his book and they're discussing whether they should tell Sweets the factual errors they found in his book. Brennan is obsessing that Sweets named the case from the series pilot as their first worked together while Booth brings up the conclusion – where Sweets says they are in love with each other.

Brennan shrugs that off because she doesn't care what Sweets concluded with his whacky psychology. Instead, she wants to correct his perception of their first case. When they tell Sweets that they worked together a year before their partnership began (as seen by the viewers) – Sweets all but sulks because he was left out of that particular bit of story. He wants them to tell him everything.

Now, this is the point in the story where I felt that the writers take a strongly organic connection (Booth/Brennan) and force it under a microscope (Sweets) like an experiment. I can't stand Sweet's pathological obsession with the relationship between Booth and Brennan. I get that it fascinates him, but he projects his own insecurities, self-doubt and need for validation on the whether or not a romantic relationship can exist between the two.

Unfortunately, he goes one-step further, he interferes. He adds his own suppositions, concerns and fears to both of them. He tells them how to interact. He tries to coach responses from them and he all but acts like a 10-year-old learning that Mommy and Daddy had a life before he existed and resents it.

Inevitably, as much as I love John Francis Daley, I wish they would butt Sweets out of this equation. He forces relationship paradigm shifts before Booth and Brennan are ready or he puts the brakes on them when they would have reached these conclusions on their own.

The Final Act

In the end, we learn that Booth and Brennan kissed all those years ago and that explosive passion simmered right from the beginning. However, Brennan elected to not sleep with Booth when she was drunk and she resented (rightfully so) that he got her drunk to fire her. He also manhandled her a little (who didn't flinch when she slapped him) and this takes us back to first season Bones who didn't like people touching her. In fact, it's a contrast to where they are now when Booth can hustle and touch Brennan all the time and she doesn't react.

But I digress.

Either way, the relationship that poised on the edge of passionate promise was poisoned by misunderstanding and frustration. They didn't talk for a year – until the pilot episode. It was a nice, full circular way of going. It was also a fun and funny episode – right up until Sweets threw a hissy that his theory was wrong, that they'd kissed and still managed to work together. Of course, never one to be deterred by butting out – he challenged them to act on their feelings and told Booth that he was the gambler and that one of them had to give in and confess or they'd always be that way.

Remember, Sweets is the one who told Booth to take it slow, to not push her because it could cause issues and pain, yet here he is chastising them for not delving into their relationship deeper. As they leave his office, Booth tells Brennan that he is a gambler and that he does love her and he does want to try it – it's a scene of raw emotion as he makes the declaration and when Brennan realizes that he's serious and not playing, stark terror races across her face. He kisses her, but she pushes him away.

The dialogue is extremely powerful, but there were two very key phrases – the first when Booth tells her that when you talk to those couples who have been in love for forty or fifty years. It's the guy who always says, he knew. So Booth says, he knows. He knows her and he wants to do this.

Brennan says no – she has to protect him. Protect him from her. Because Brennan doesn't believe she can have a long-term relationship and that if they cross that line – what she treasures in Booth, the security of his loyalty and friendship will be destroyed because she will destroy it.

Not unreasonable.

What blew my mind is when Booth said "Well okay, but I have to move on now. I have to find someone who will love me."

Hart, you had me right until that moment. That was the moment where I wanted to toss Sweets and the rest out of the window.

Seriously?

 
That line didn't come from Booth – it didn't even sound like him. And he leaps out on the ledge after being held back by everyone only to ping pong in a completely different direction with the idea that he needs to find someone now if Brennan rejects him.

K.


Whatever.

There are just a handful of episodes left in this season and I know the repercussions of this will play out for a long time to come – but I don't see Booth as a quitter and I can only hope he said that last bit to try and backtrack a little because of Brennan's terror – but we'll see.

What did you think of the 100th episode?




Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Words


Passion!
Danger!
Terror!
Are you ready for it?




Photo: Quantrell Colbert/The CW ©2010 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Oh Caruthers!

Have you heard of the Caruthers sisters? Check out these fabulous, Prada wearing ladies -- they could be all that stands between you and the abyss ... and wouldn't you rather look at them?




Available Now:

The Demon King and I

Dragons Prefer Blondes

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Things I Hated About Clash of the Titans

The new Clash of the Titans stars a fantastic cast of actors, stunning special effects and a story that dates back to ancient times – so what went wrong? What always goes wrong in a Greek tragedy? Hubris.

In 1981, Desmond Davis directed the original Clash of the Titans starring Harry Hamlin as Perseus, Lawrence Olivier as the god Zeus and Maggie Smith as the goddess Thetis. So when Hollywood announced plans for a new Clash of the Titans, I was thrilled.

I love Greek mythology. I loved the original Clash of the Titans and I am a total sucker for a solid heroic tale. So why did I sit down in a theater on April 3 and stare at this film with a mixture of boredom and annoyance? Let us talk about that.



Things I Hated about Clash of the Titans

Top of my list is the film's insistence on telling the story rather than showing it. In the original, we saw the hubris of Acrisius; we saw the attack of the Kraken and the destruction of his town. We saw him cast Perseus and his daughter into the sea. This film simply opens in the sea, with a fisherman pulling the sarcophagus from the water, a dead Danae inside with baby Perseus. It would still be quite some time before we learned "why" he was in the water.

Weak Opening

The power of the opening is diminished even further by showing Perseus' normal life with only the presumption of his demi-god status. Of course, we the viewer know this – but it is the hubris of storytelling to just assume the viewer knows that without showing them the story. Instead, we see Perseus grow up with his adopted father and mother and his baby sister. We see them become fishermen and we hear the arguments made by his adopted parents in favor and in opposition of the "gods".

Forced Tragedy

Their fishing boat just happens to be at the base of a cliff where soldiers are knocking down a massive statue of Zeus. They survive the wash of water, but when Hades shows up to kill the soldiers, he overturns and sinks Perseus' boat, trapping his family inside and sending it plummeting to the bottom of the sea.

Coincidence

So it's soldiers of Argos that knocked the statue down and they just happen to be nearby and fish Perseus off the boat wreckage. They trot him through Argos, which swims in poverty and misery to the fat, drunk court of the King and Queen. So Perseus just happens to be standing there when Hades shows up to kill all the soldiers and punish Cassiopeia for daring to compare her daughter's beauty to the gods.

Hades the Hitman

Okay, the hubris of the Queen, I get that – it's total Greek mythology, but why is Hades the hitman? Since when? And where are all the other Greek gods? Poseidon gets a token line and so does Apollo, the rest are mute and vanish leaving it only Zeus and Hades are the big players. Okay – that's popular in modern retellings of the story (see Disney's Hercules), but this just fell flat.

The Anti God

So Hades warns, sacrifice Andromeda or see the entire town of Argos destroyed. The King can't have that – but now, neither can Perseus, because he's pissed and decided that he's going to fight the Gods too – even though Hades labeled him a demi-god and the soldiers of Argos beat him to get the truth of his parentage out. But that's okay; Perseus doesn't want to be a god.

Honestly, by this point in the story, I kept staring at the ceiling, wondering why the tale felt so cobbled together, and wondering just how many writers it took to do this. For example – the war of man on god is something we're "told" about, not really shown and after just a small example of their power, it seems bizarre that men would think they could challenge the "gods" – so is their war about knocking down statues?

So Perseus says, natch, I'll kill the Kraken because a god, Hades, killed my family and what use are they? Now you could make the argument that Perseus had been raised this way by his father the fisherman, but Sam Worthington delivers his lines in a flat, passionless monotone that I couldn't tell if he is supposed to be in shock or what. In the meanwhile, Zeus never knew Perseus survived?

Huh?

Enter the Immortal Babe

Io shows up to confide in Perseus, to give him guidance and reveals that she's immortal thanks to having either turned down a god or pissing one off. She's been looking after Perseus his whole life.

Right – in the middle of an ocean when he was on a fishing boat? And she's mortal? Even if Io is the name of a river goddess and she was also a priestess of Hera that Zeus really wanted. Either way – it is just so convenient that she shows up to guide Perseus on his journey.

I could go on and on and on and on about what I didn't like and honestly, the film was a tremendous disappointment from both the storytelling and epic hero perspectives.

But since I want to end on a positive note, I must say that I did love the creatures in the tale. The monsters were magical, particularly Medusa, whose wild beauty is juxtaposed against her monstrous condition.

Did you like Clash of the Titans?


Movie Trailer



Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday, Monday – It's a Fun Day

Happy Monday folks! The first of April came and went with little comment here, mostly because I was delving deeply into my second Chance Monroe novel. I can't say this is true for all writers, but there is a point in every story that I write, that once I am immersed, I cannot come up for air.

After weeks of working on this particular manuscript in my spare time (of which I haven't had a lot), I found this point and so for the last few days, I've been writing like a fiend. Stay tuned for more on Seismic Evil later this month.

April's Hot Picks
So with April here, let us tackle a few items I usually like to kick off on the first of the month. I actually have three hot reads for you this month.

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs
Released just last week is Patricia Brigg's Silver Borne. In Mercy Thompson's fifth outing, the story focuses on the latest challenges in Mercy's life now that she and Adam Hauptman are mated and Mercy is in the pack. Of course, enemies coming out of the woodwork are nothing new, but for this Coyote, the cost might be too high this time.

First Samuel tries to kill himself, then his wolf takes over while someone in Adam's pack seeks to not only undermine Mercy, but perhaps take out Adam as well. Oh and did we mention that the walking stick is back along with more than a few Fae on the hunt? Briggs always delivers such a great story that you simply can't put the book down. The only problem with Silver Borne is that it ends and it will be at least another year until we get our hands on Mercy's next adventure.

A Taste of Liberty by Lisa Pietsch
In 2008, we met Sarah Stevens, a washed-up military cop whose life is a shambles until she is offered a position as an agent with the CIA. The thirty-year-old, overweight, down-on-her-luck Stevens goes to a secret training camp where she transforms into a sexy and deadly agent whose mission is to stop, by any means possible, the financiers of terrorism against the United States and its allies. In March, 2010, Sarah Stevens is back for more action in A Taste of Liberty and our girl has a whole new set of problems including three men she isn't sure what to do with. One she loves but cannot have, one she can have but cannot love and another who wants her and doesn-t care if she loves him.
Thought about trying a little taste of what liberty has for you?

Changes by Jim Butcher
Harry Dresden is back in Jim Butcher's latest novel: Changes. Harry's life has never been what one might call easy, but when he gets word that his ex-girlfriend Susan who was turned by the Red Court might have given birth to his child, there's not a force out there that can stop this wizard from going to their aid. I can hardly wait.

What are your top three picks for April?