Monday, January 30, 2012

Ready, set, action!

Hubby and I were watching Tomb Raider (again) the other night when it occurred to me that the charming and kinda cute Alex West is Daniel Craig. Yes, THE Daniel Craig.

Am I the last person on the planet to realize this?

Even though I love him as Bond (and I grew up on them, so I can spot a good one...Pierce Brosnan? Not so much), I rarely give Daniel the action kudos he deserves.

I'm hoping casting him as muse avatar will make up for that.

Hey, my muses get a lot of action!


Steven Tyler certainly did last week, though I'll admit the awesome word output likely had more to do with Judith's Graves' whip. Judith and I got together for a short - but mighty productive - writing marathon to work on one of the, uh, few *cough* projects we have on the go together.

Spending time with Judith always inspires me to keep writing. Or maybe it's fear of her whip.

Either way, stuff got done.

Stuff needs to continue getting done.

Last week, Judith sent me a great article on the journey to success of Man on a Ledge screenwriter Pablo Fenjves. It wasn't a quick jaunt. Fenjeves has a great attitude about the industry and his personal slow rise to fame (other than a brief stint he had as a witness in the O.J. Simpson trial.) My favourite quote is this:

“There’s an old saying that says in Hollywood things come to those who wait. It’s wrong. It’s good things come to those who write.”

So that's what I plan to do this week. Write. A lot of action. Which is something I know 007 can help me with...Daniel. Not Pierce. Just to be clear.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Tunnel Vision, Gary Braver

Monday, January 23, 2012

Yo Steven, walk this way

The year Adam Lambert didn't win American Idol was when I *almost* threw in the towel on a show I've been watching since Kelly Clarkson took the inaugural title in 2002. I'd grown weary of Simon and Paula's nonsensical banter, and was sick of watching the "underdog" lose out to the country or gospel singers.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It just wasn't for me.

But then Idol did something genius. They hired Steven Tyler as a judge.

Oh sure, snagging People Magazine's Most Beautiful Woman of the Year Jennifer Lopez wasn't a bad move, either. But unlike J-Lo and the always solid Randy "Dawg" Jackson, Steven vaulted onto the scene with fluffy pink dress shirts, tight leather pants, a mouth that needs to be censored, and a killer smile that quite literally makes my heart skip. The guy is bursting with energy, enthusiasm, and personality.

Indeed, Steven is a character.

I'll also go out on a limb and suggest that while he's no Ian Somerhalder or Kiefer Sutherland, Steven embodies a special kind of sex appeal. And before you go scrunching your nose in disagreement, consider his impressive stage presence. Whether he's flirting with Idol hopefuls (a bit creepy) or slithering across the stage, Steven is a force to be reckoned with.

He's larger than life.

And isn't that what we strive for in fiction? Big stories, big characters, larger than life fiction that encourages - no, demands - readers to turn the page?

Well, that's what I'm working towards, and I'm going to lean on this week's worthy muse avatar for a little help. So go ahead, Steven, walk this way.

- Dawn

PS - I admit, I watched the last season of X-Factor, and though Simon Cowell has toned down his mean-factor, I still struggled with the chemistry between him and Paula Abdul, and was disappointed (but not surprised) by Melanie Amaro's win.

The Book In My Bag Today: Tunnel Vision, Gary Braver

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book #5: One for the Money

Yeah, I know, I'm only 15 or so years behind the 8-ball.

My Mom, my cousin, half my bloody family has been reading Janet Evanovich for years, raving about the Stephanie Plum books and casting sideways glances my way whenever I admitted to not yet reading them.

(Sidenote: At every used book sale, I searched for a Janet Evanovich book, but her novels hardly ever turn up in the second-hand piles. I once settled for a non-Stephanie Plum book and am ashamed to admit, it was one of the many, many novels I started but did not complete last year.)

I'll admit, it wasn't my family's harassment (and finger pointing) that urged me to finally pick up the first book of the series, One for the Money. It was this movie trailer:

Looks good, right?

The book's pretty good, too.

I don't know what I was expecting - maybe something less funny, or more thriller-esque. One for the Money isn't gritty or raw, it's not heart-poundingly scary, and Stephanie Plum isn't at all like Eve Dallas, one of my fave heroines (see Book #4 review). But it does have its merits.

Janet Evanovich is a damn good writer, and I'm envious of her seemingly effortless ability to infuse humor. I laughed out loud throughout the quick read, and after watching the trailer again, I bet I'll laugh during the movie, too. (I'm shocked this hasn't been made into a movie sooner, actually.)

Female bounty hunters seem to be a theme for protagonists in recent books, TV shows and movies, and I'm sure Katherine Heigl will make a brilliant Stephanie Plum. (She's a great actress anyway, and the role would be fun, I imagine.)

The trailer pretty much sums up what the book is about - Plum is down and out, no career, no car, hardly any furniture. She hits up her cousin Vinnie for a job as a recovery agent, pretty ambitious for a girl who doesn't know how to shoot a gun. She takes down a few "bad" guys, but has a bit more trouble nabbing her main target, the handsome and elusive Joe Morelli.

I enjoyed the chemistry between these two, and can see how Morelli might become a recurring love interest. Plum's character arc is solid, leaving room for further growth throughout the series. I liked her - and the book - well enough to pick up Two for the Dough next time I'm in a book store.

And yes, I will be going to see the movie.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Tunnel Vision, Gary Braver

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book #4: Survivor in Death

There's hardly any point in me "reviewing" one of JD Robb's "In Death" series novels, because they're like the sitting duck of awesomeness for me.

Every. Single. Time.

There's a reason JD Robb (aka: Nora Roberts) has a loyal following of fans - she is simply the Queen of Romance, and she spins beautiful mysteries in the "In Death" series.

Not to mention she's got characterization nailed. Heck, three quarters of the reason I read JD Robb is for my regular dose of Roarke. I've fallen for many of Nora's sexy heros in the past, but none make my heart flip like Eve Dallas' partner, Roarke.

I have no idea where I'm at in the series. I don't know whether I've read the book just before Survivor, and have likely read a few after it. But it doesn't matter. I've tried starting from the beginning again, but there's only so many times I can read Naked in Death.

You should, however. Read Naked, that is, especially if you're new to JD Robb. Though set in the future, the series doesn't have a Sci-Fi feel, and while the heat between Eve and Roarke is scorching hot, I wouldn't categorize this series as romance.

Eve and Roarke each have a checkered past, and I admire the way the author has woven in their backgrounds to create giant character arcs that truly stand the test of time. And there's a brilliant supporting cast that just keeps growing. It's these characters that allow the series to continue breathing - and each book has taught me a lot about writing series fiction.

Ideal considering I'm working on two books for two different series right now. As my friend Kyle would argue, pretty much all of my ideas eventually want to be part of a series. It's kind of a curse.

I won't go too much into the plot of Survivor because frankly, if you've never read a JD Robb book, any key plot points would be spoilers. But what I loved about this novel is the way Eve and Roarke's tragic past is brought to the forefront, and how each of them deals with it in their own way - and then together. Brilliant.

As with all JD Robb books, I'm baffled by how easily I ignore mid-chapter POV shifts and dialogue tags that wouldn't pass Stephen King's "said and only said" test. Must be some of Roarke's charm reaching out from the page.

I wish.

*jumps up and down and waves hand* Here I am, Roarke.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: One for the Money, Janet Evanovich

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

When an error leads to opportunity

When Jessica first approached me about starting an online literary magazine, I actually giggled. She probably doesn't know that, but the thought seemed ridiculous. Not the concept (because that's brilliant), but the idea of me editing it.

What did I know about literary writing?

Turns out I have a deeper appreciation for the style than I realized, and going through the submissions for our inaugural issue was immensely satisfying. Kind of like I'd found one of the missing pieces of my giant writerly puzzle.

Of course the opportunity to work on anything with Jessica was exciting, but the more submissions I read, the more excited I became. So excited, in fact, that the magazine went out without the anal (and I do mean, anal) review I'd normally have given it.

Mistakes happen. I've been in and out of the magazine business for enough years to know that almost no editorial project launches without a few glitches. Some errors are bigger than others, and the impact of those mistakes have varying consequences.

Lucky for our readers, our boo-boo in this first issue will now net someone a $40 gift card to the store of his/her choice.

Want to know more? I'm not surprised. Get the details here.

And while you're at it, why not check out our submission guidelines? The second issue launches this April, and in addition to all of your wonderful written vignettes, we're hoping to see some submissions from illustrators, photographers and designers. Go ahead, floor our inbox - we can handle it.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Survivor in Death, J.D. Robb

Monday, January 16, 2012

Rewind. Insert Muse. Play.

I'm big enough to admit when I've made a mistake.

Last week, I made one. A big one. I chose Ian Somerhalder over Kiefer Sutherland as muse avatar. (To my credit, I tossed and turned over the decision...)

Not that Ian is ever a bad choice. It's just that I couldn't have predicted I'd need more than a sexy smile from an on-screen bad boy to face the crap storm life threw at me last week. What I really needed was a kick-ass real bad boy - on screen and off.

Whether it's writing inspiration, tackling life problems, or simply providing eye candy, Kiefer's never steered me wrong.

Plus, he's been my muse avatar before. A few times, actually. So he knows the ropes - and how to kick my butt in gear. Gently, of course.

It's taken me a year to stop thinking about Kiefer as Jack Bauer and settle him into his role on the new series, Touch (coming soon!) Before that though, I really need to cast him as muse. I've scheduled some pretty big deadlines to catch me up on everything that didn't get done last week.

Not Ian's fault.

But this week, it's Kiefer's problem. I have no doubt he'll rise to the challenge.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Survivor in Death, J.D. Robb

Thursday, January 12, 2012

It's all Greek to me

I'll be honest, ever since Jessica told me she'd booked a flight from Greece to Canada to see me (in 44 sleeps, not that I'm counting), I've been clinging to all things Greek to take my mind off what has been a tough, tough week.

Without going into great detail, my amazing stepdad suffered a stroke, and while he is beginning the (long) road to recovery, it's been an emotional and frankly, scary time.

But there IS light at the end of the tunnel. For my stepdad, certainly.

And for me, there's been an outpouring of genorosity from my family and friends.

With Jessica's impending visit (44 sleeps, not that I'm counting), it seems fitting that after long days at the hospital, I've been fortunate to spend time with my awesome friend Sue and her good friend Paul. Not only is Paul Greek (and an incredible guy), he is a wonderful chef, and tonight, after a  tough day at the hospital, I'm more than grateful to come "home" to a wonderful meal (and I do mean WONDERFUL) and a delicious glass of Greek wine (Kretikos, Jess, in case you're wondering).

Great wine. Incredible food. Amazing friends.

A recipe to help get my mind off the tough stuff.

And a fitting reminder (not that I could forget) that in 44 sleeps, I'll be enjoying a glass of wine with my amazing Australian (not a typo) friend Jess, who will be flying here from Greece. From GREECE.

Just two weeks ago, Jess and I lamented how cool it would be to peruse Vine Leaves submissions over a glass of wine. See, dreams really do come true.

- Dawn

The Book in My Bag Today: Survival in Death, J.D Robb

Monday, January 9, 2012

Baby, I'm aMUSEd by you

Follow my blog for thirty seconds and there's a high chance you'll see Ian Somerhalder on it. A picture, of course. Not Ian in the flesh. Because that would just be...awesome.

Ian is one of about three regular muse avatars - logging as much blog space as Kiefer Sutherland and Alex Skarsgard.

I've been missing True Blood (or maybe just Eric) and considered asking Alex to step up as muse this week. Especially after recently watching the somewhat messed up movie, Thirteen, where Alex has an...interesting...role...

Sidenote: If you've seen this movie and have an opinion (about Alex or otherwise), please share.

I also considered Kiefer this week. Between his upcoming internet movie, Confession, and filming of the 24 movie (eep!), and his not-soon-enough return to the small screen, Kiefer has been on my mind more than usual.

Check out the trailer for Touch, coming to Fox in March.

I couldn't help but watch and re-watch this video after seeing a tweet from superstar writer and TV reporter extraordinaire Candace Havens, where after viewing the first episode said: Wow, just wow.

That pretty much sums up how I feel about Kiefer all of the time :-)

But unlike his kick-ass role in 24, Touch features a softer side of the former Jack Bauer, and this week, I need someone a bit grittier.

Enter Ian. Again.

Vampire Diaries is back after the mid season hiatus (a painful time period I tend to refer to as torture) and while he has been showing a more compassionate, softer kind of vampire, he's still a bad ass. If anyone can get the job done, it's Damon, er Ian.

And well, I need a lot of jobs done.

I'm totally stoked about the the launch of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, but it's time to shift my focus back to my creative writing for a bit. The idea factory is churning up a storm and my brain is on overload. I'm averaging a new idea a day, and even at my best, I could never keep up.

I'm definitely not at my best.

Here's hoping Ian can kick my butt into gear and get me past the blank page.

Wishing all of YOU a productive week. Feel free to borrow my muse...

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Survivor in Death, J.D. Robb

Friday, January 6, 2012

Vine Leaves now live!

I've been out of the magazine and newspaper business for quite some time, but this past week has reminded of why I miss it.

The inaugural issue of Vine Leaves Literary Journal launched today, and when I stop temporarily hating the sight of it (several days of layout and editing and I'm a bit burnt out), I know I'm going to be proud of it.

The January issue is 56 pages (er, yeah, 56 pages) of pure awesome text and imagery. Our contributors knocked it out of the park, supplying us with the raw goods to pull this thing together.

It's beautiful.

Not necessarily aesthetically... (though the artwork and photographs are beautiful...just check out that cover image of Jane Austen's writing desk!) But we're still developing style guides and as the magazine evolves, so too will the layout. Despite this, the contents are beautiful.

Stunning, actually.

We know it's a lot of pages, but the second issue isn't out until April - giving you lots of time to pour a glass of your favorite wine and peruse the vignettes in Vine Leaves, where fine literature ferments...and then matures.

As always, Jessica and I would love your feedback.

And of course, submissions for the second issue are open. Check out the website for our guidelines and deadlines. (And artists/photographers, we'd love to see more from YOU this time around.)


- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Survivor in Death, J.D. Robb

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book 3: Shatter Me

Hype is a very interesting beast.

For the publishing industry, it can mean the difference between a book that is lost in a sea of novels, and a book that's in your face at every turn.

Shatter Me is one of those books.

I've followed Tahereh Mafi's blog for a long time and have been hearing about Shatter Me for almost as long - though admittedly, I had no burning desire to read it other than to support the blogging community.

That is, until I began reading the reviews of the advanced reader copies (ARC) - and Mafi's publisher kicked up the publicity. Suddenly Mafi was talking about Shatter Me on MTV, and Harper Collins was devoting an entire social media day to the book. Everywhere I looked, someone was talking about Shatter Me.

I couldn't help but get sucked in. Was in fact desperate to get my hands on a copy, and even entered blog contests to try and win an ARC.

The trouble with hype is that in the end, you've got to be able to deliver the goods.

Did Mafi? I'm kind of straddling the fence.

I have a serious case of writer envy. Shatter Me defies genre - part literary, part supernatural, part romance, part commercial, part something I don't even know how to explain. I wouldn't even know where to slot this book except on the bestseller wall, because that's clearly where it's going to end up.

Mafi writes with such compassion and conviction (and blow-you-away talent) you're not just reading the story of Juliette and Adam, you're in Juliette's head. Deep. I know Juliette - I felt her pain, her sorrow, her joy, her love. Even after I finished the last page, I'm still thinking about her, and replaying some of the scenes in my mind.

The problem is, I didn't particularly like Juliette.

She's a 17-year-old girl banished to a prison-like cell because she's been deemed dangerous. Her touch is actually lethal, and for her entire life, she's never felt the warmth of embrace. I can't even imagine that, let alone even begin to understand how anyone could deal with that kind of physical power. But Mafi writes with such brilliance, I "got it" in the first few chapters. Unfortunately the "I'm a monster" mantra carries on for almost the whole book and it gets a little long in the tooth.

Somewhere around page 100, I lost sympathy for her. Thankfully, there's Adam to pick up the slack. Their chemistry is fabulous, and I (mostly) bought their love story. Adam ranks fairly high on the hot teen hero scale. High...but not at the top.

I also enjoyed the dystopian future setting, and the rise of the Reestablishment - despite the heavy Hitler-esque undertones.

I'm still mulling the story over in my head, which means I haven't quite decided whether I loved the book. But I'm very clear on how I feel about Mafi's writing. It's brilliant. She's brillaint. And I'd pick up another novel by her in a heartbeat.

- Dawn

Sidenote: I practically pushed Karen into reading this book, marking it her first of the 100 Books in 2012 Reading Challenge. She wasn't quite as smitten :-) Check out her clever review here.

The Book In My Bag Today: Survivor in Death, JD Robb

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bending it like Beckham

The sports world may have lost some of its affection for star athlete David Beckham, but my admiration is far from finished.

Not that I have much comment on his athleticism - I've never even seen him step onto the field. *cough*

However, I can relate to the amount of work required to excel in any field - whether you're a football star, or a successful author.

Hard work, yes. Commitment, absolutely. Flexibility, hellz ya.

But perhaps more importantly, balance. With several children and a high profile wife, I suspect Beckham has had to do a lot of "balancing" work - with the soccer ball and without.

I'm not afraid of hard work. I can commit to my craft. I am flexible - maybe too flexible.

But balance? That's always been a struggle.

I made a purposeful effort NOT to make a list of New Year's resolutions this year - though the standard ones do apply. Like lose weight, write more, yadda yadda yadda.

But perhaps I do have one major resolution - to work toward that elusive life balance I often overlook. That happy medium of work, play, family, friends, and time for ME. That last part is where I usually mess up - I'll risk sleep for time spent with friends and family, or skip working out if I want to power through a new project outline.

But taking time to do some of the things I love? Sure...when it works out.

Not good enough.

I'm ashamed at the pathetic number of novels I finished reading last year, which inspired this year's 100 Books in 2012 Reading Challenge. It's no wonder I hit a creative writing slump over the summer - I barely read.

Instead, I rediscovered crafting - and that, my friends, became my obsession, along with Pinterest, the website that single-handedly commanded most of my time. Sure, it's a creative outlet, but truthfully, it provided the perfect procrastination. No, words were not on the page, but I was still being creative, right?

Meanwhile, writing projects piled up. DIVERSE projects. AWESOME projects. Projects WORTHY of my time.

Time I didn't have - despite several efforts to carve out hours for all things writerly.

The problem is, I'm not quite ready to set all those crafty projects aside...

Thanks to my good friend Judith, though, I'm excited to try out a system that *might* let me have my cake and eat it, too. Huzzah.

Judith and I have numerous projects on the go, and frankly, she's the more grounded - and organized - between us. (Shocking, I know.) So when she fired over her Works in Progress spreadsheet, I wasn't surprised at how nicely she'd laid things out. The chart outlines projects on the go, where they're at in the writing/research process, and an estimated deadline. She includes a work count for each project. In her words: tough to argue you've been writing if the word counts aren't increasing.


I've taken that template and adapted it for myself.

And then almost fainted. I've got a LOT of ideas. And way too many "started" initiatives. And a crap load of deadlines.

Part of my problem has always been that I haven't kept all of my files organized on the computer. I spent five hours fixing that this weekend, sorting every document into folders, complete with the most CURRENT version of a manuscript. (That part is important, because I can waste hours looking for the right file, and then more time reading it over to make sure all of the changes I wanted have been implemented.)

This organization WILL help.

But wait! There's more.

Thanks again to Judith, I've loosely carved out a daily - a schedule that includes exercise, reading, photography (help, Jamie!), the day job, crafting, editing and writing. It means buckling down and spending the appropriate hours working according to the schedule...but in the end, it means guilt free time with my family and friends in the evening, or on weekends.

That I can buy into. Hopefully this week's muse avatar - Beckham, of course - can offer some solid advice and inspiration.

How about you? Any writerly (or otherwise) resolutions this year? 

Happy 2012! I have a feeling it's going to be a busy - but kick-ass kind of year.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Shatter Me, Tahereh Mafi

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Book 2: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is another of those books that have been sitting on the shelf collecting dust, waiting for me to emerge from my reading slump.

I should have read this one a long time ago.

Despite the breathtaking cover, I had no idea what to expect of this book, and had only skimmed the myriad of five and four-star reviews before cracking the spine (not literally, Karen, calm down).

I admit, I expected a bit more creep factor, and a little more of the paranormal. I didn't expect a kick ass romance storyline, or a male character that would cause my heart to flip.

Author Michelle Hodkin does teen romance exceptionally well. The dialogue is crisp, heated, and in many cases, swoon-worthy. Noah Shaw IS swoon-worthy.

The first chapter drew me in. Mara Dyer awakes from a three-day coma, her best friends are dead, and she has no recollection of what happened. Her parents aren't helping her understand. And the only solution to her misery seems to be for her family to pack up and move.

While the mystery of what happened - and Mara's role in the accident - is certainly compelling, I was more interested in Mara and Noah's developing relationship. There's an edge to it that I think more closely parallels youth relationships of today, and Hodkin took some liberties I appreciate - no fluff here.

It is this tight writing style, and absence of "fake" that kept me turning pages (not to mention Noah), but I can't claim absolute satisfaction by the end. I wanted there to be "more" - more creepy, more of an "a-ha!" moment. And instead of being thrilled by the knowledge that the sequel is forthcoming, I kind of wanted it all wrapped up in this book.

Not that it couldn't be series...I just thought there were a few too many loose ends, and I'm not sure I'll be racing to the book store for the sequel. (Walking, definitely.)

Of course, my opinion is subjective and you may feel differently. Have you read it? I'd love to know what you thought.

Happy New Year!

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Shatter Me, Tahereh Mafi