Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book 9 - The Paris Vendetta

While writing, NY Times Bestselling author James Rollins recommends that authors pick one textbook, a "reference" manual, of sorts. For me, that textbook is anything written by Steve Berry.

I've learned a lot on writing craft from Steve over the years, in person, but also by studying his work. The Paris Vendetta is a prime example of why his novels have vaulted onto the NY Times bestseller list - and why I still have so much to learn.

This book is tight. Steve is the master of using appropriate, explosive verbs and succinct description. There is not one extraneous phrase in the whole novel - every word counts. And don't even get me started on dialogue. While I often struggle to create conversation that is distinct and natural, Steve makes it seem effortless.

Often I am so caught up in Steve's impeccable craft that the lessons on pacing, structure, tension and character development can overshadow the plot. Not in this instance.

The Paris Vendetta is a killer of a story. The action begins on the first page, and from there, "stuff happens." Exciting stuff! Cotton Malone, Steve's signature protagonist, is thrust into action again and the story moves at breakneck pace, interweaving Napoleon-era history with modern treasure hunting. The stakes are high and the players are powerful - together creating breathtaking suspense.

I love, love, love Cotton, a kind of unassuming action hero who simply gets the job done. He is complex, of course, but his actions, his words, his emotions are all in sync with the character Steve has developed over the course of his other bestselling novels.

I also love Eliza Laroque, one of the primary antagonists in The Paris Vendetta. With her, Steve has created a strong, independent woman whose wit often made me smile, another testament to Steve's incredible ability to write compelling dialogue.

Doubtful dialogue can have such an impact? Check out this example, a fabulous conversation between the characters of Sam and Meagan:

She came closer. Barely a few inches away. "Did you know that a kiss shortens life by three minutes?"

He considered her strange inquiry, then shook his head.

"Not a peck on the cheek. A real kiss, like you mean it, causes palpitations to such a degree that the heart works harder in four seconds than it normally would in three minutes."

"Really, now?"

"There was a study. Hell, Sam, there's a study for everything. 480 kisses - again like you mean it - will shorten a person's life by one day. 2,300 will cost you a week. 120,000? There goes a year."

She inched closer.

He smiled. "And the point?"

"I can spare three minutes of my life, if you can."

After reading that, I immediately awakened my handsome husband and stole six minutes of his life.

The Book In My Bag Today: Smash Cut, Sandra Brown

Monday, January 25, 2010

Inspirational magic

Truth be told, my January muse avatars haven't been slam dunks. While they certainly fit the profile in many respects, they appear to be lacking in the inspiration department. And as the end of the month approaches, I can't say I've made much headway on any of my works in progress.

Criss Angel is about to change that.

I'm in need of a magician, a multi-talented illusionist to make me believe I CAN do this, while also stirring up some potent writerly mojo. So when Criss starred in last night's dream (performing magic, people, sheesh!), I couldn't help but take notice.

And of course he's the perfect choice.

If you've ever watched his show MindFreak, you'll know Criss is a risk taker. Adventurous sorts are good muses. He's also diverse, performing a variety of illusions in a variety of locations. Diversity is a strong muse characteristic. And he's an entrepreneur, which means I can hit him up for some advice about the launch of my new endeavor.

Oh, and he's hot.

Being that it's Monday and all, I figure it's time to get started. So for his first trick, I've asked Criss to make all of last week's crap...disappear.

The Book In My Bag Today: The Paris Vendetta, Steve Berry

Friday, January 22, 2010

Myth busting

Cait Willis is a myth buster. In Absolution, my adventurous protagonist seeks the truth behind Italy's ancient Nivola ceremony.

In her next adventure, she sets out to explore the fabled Devil's Triangle vortex - but uncovers something much more important.

I can thank Steve Berry for encouraging me to point Cait in the myth-busting direction. And over the course of my research I've discovered enough conspiracy theories and urban legends to keep Cait busy for a long time. Still, she'll never get to them all.

So, for fun, I present four myths busted by Psychology Today magazine - another of my guilty reading pleasures.

Myth: Venting reduces anger
It might be best to bite your tongue. Research shows that aggression begets aggression. Taking a deep breath and counting to 10 (or 100 if you need it) is healthier than "venting" your hostilities.

Myth: Liars avoid eye contact
Actually, habitual liars have been proven to make more eye contact. Why? Because that's the behaviour they expect us to look for.

Myth: Cell phones disrupt planes' navigational equipment
The truth is, there is no significant interference between planes and phone systems. I wonder if this also applies to doctor's offices?

Myth: Opposites attract
Actually, they don't. According to research, one of the most powerful predictors of liking is similarity, regardless of the type of trait - personality, values, interests, or physical characteristics.

How about you? Any myths you'd like Cait to bust?

The Book In My Bag Today: The Paris Vendetta, Steve Berry

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Goida, be gone!

It's my friend Sue's birthday today, and all she asked for was a new blog post. Yes, I checked her temperature and her meds - she seems to be mentally sound. At least as "sound" as she can be. So, this post is for her - and if you aren't Sue, you can close out if you want.

Except if you're Karen. Because this blog is also for her. Although Karen didn't request a new post for her birthday (which was on the 19th), she loves guts and gore. (Sue pretends she doesn't like horror, but I remember how much glee she took in Mario's torture throughout Absolution...Clarity, right Sue?)

And so, to celebrate Sue's birthday, and satisfy Karen's thirst for blood, I thought I'd share a little story not for the weak stomached. (Jess, that definitely means you...)

My family, at least on my Mom's side, has a history of goidas. I'm certain that isn't the medical term (and Jan, if you're reading this, feel free to correct my lingo). Goidas, as defined by my Nona, are unexplained head bumps. There's been much speculation as to their origin and purpose - a holding cell for brain overage (my personal favourite), a collection of fat cells (which might explain why they grow when I gain weight), a reserve for oil build-up, or alien abduction contact points.

These...goidas...start small, a little bump, barely visible beneath the hairline. But over time, they begin to grow and harden. And at some point, they become too large for even thick hair to cover.

My Mom was the first to brave their extraction. The one on the back of her skull could no longer be disguised with clever hair placement and she grew tired of my sister and I shouting, as she exited the car, "Your goida is showing!" So, unlike my Nona, she had hers removed. Blood, she said. Lots of it. (I envision Karen jumping up and down with glee here...)

About three or four years ago, I discovered my own little "goida" - on the top of my head. Small, at first, but big-time annoying. Whenever I bumped my head, I invariably nicked the thing. I lived in denial for a few years, confident I had inherited my Dad's hair and thus would never suffer the embarrassment of the peek-a-boo goida.

But then, all of a sudden, it seemed to multiply, and they (three of them now) grew with alarming speed. The most obvious one was the monster near the front of my head. A small mountain of flesh that seemed to be thinning my hair and not even thick bangs could cover it.

I'd run out of stories to tell stylists, and dodged enough close calls to realize the inevitable. The goidas would have to go.

Note: This is where weak-stomached peeps might want to bail.

I like my family doctor. He, like many health care professionals, has limited time for chit chat, but when he does speak, he's quite witty. So today, as I hopped up on his trusty table and admitted my fear of needles, scalpels, blood, pain and doctors with the last name Arnold, he told me to suck it up and stop being a wimp. At this point - and for Sue's benefit - the doctor shall be renamed, Mario.

Mario tackled the front goida first, distracting me with some skin numbing ointment and a splash of peroxide (and presto, I became a blonde) before inserting the needle into my skull. Painful, yes, but not as excruciating as I expected. I closed my eyes and tried to go to my happy place, but all I could picture was my Mom's description: blood streaming down her head and in front of her face. Five giant needles inserted into her scalp...

Me? One needle. No problem, right?

Wrong. I could hear the blade scratching into my head, and then the pop as Mario squeezed, like a giant zit, out a long wormish tendril of puss and blood. And then I felt the pressure of his hands pressing onto the open wound and tugging at the fat pocket attached to....brain? Skull fragments? Flesh? (Help me out here, Jan.) A gush of blood - though way less than I imagined, followed up with a triumphant, "There it is!"


Mario marveled at the thing he'd extracted from my head, but would not let me see it. Yet. First, he wanted to tackle the second goida, the monster of all head growths!

Again, one needle. But unlike the first time, the numbness didn't quite take and I not only HEARD the first slice, I felt it. I squirmed under his firm grip and inhaled, then exhaled, and sucked in gulps of air. Blood oozed down the side of my scalp and tangled my hair.

Mario jabbed at the fat sac, poking and prodding. But this goida wasn't done partying on my head, and the stubborn guest tried to overstay his welcome. Sensing Mario's frustration, I tried humour to lighten the mood, and cried to attempt to sway his compassion. But Mario remained focussed on his task of torture.

When he finally released the stubborn fat pocket, he placed them in jars and presented them to me with a sly smile. Two pea-shaped ghost-white balls, one with a lingering piece of pink flesh. They looked, truthfully, like pieces of beef fat.

A quick look, then several stitches and a couple of of pain pills later, I'm shoed out the door.

And now, my head feels somewhat distended from my body, floating in the atmosphere.

But the goidas are gone, and as my Mom says I'm going to love my new head.

Epilogue: Enraged with the amount of bloodshed spilled on Mario's table, Jeff marched into the doctor's office and bludgeoned him with a stethoscope of unusual size...

Ahem. You can figure out what's fact and fiction :-)

The Book In My Bag Today: The Paris Vendetta, Steve Berry

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Once upon a time

Writing fiction allows me to live in a world of fantasy and make belief. There, I direct whether characters turn left or right. I can supply them with any emotion I want - fear, happiness, sadness - and ultimately, the consequences of the decisions they make throughout the novel are (typically) forgotten once the reader shuts the book.

Oh sure, there's that niggle of hope you've written something poignant enough to leave a lasting impression, like the brilliant creep factor of Hannibal Lecter, or the spectacular emotion evoked in The Lovely Bones. But in the end, it's just fiction.

My job as a writer is to compel the reader to turn the page. They expect that I will tie up any loose ends before "the end" so that they can close the book in satisfaction.

True life is a different story - and often, one more difficult to write.

I can spend months agonizing over a plot, shaping character decisions to create conflict (says the thriller writer in me), passion (says the romance writer in me) or pain (says the horror writer in me) - yet, I can make life-altering decisions in the blink of an eye.

And I can't write away the consequences.

In fiction, I can manipulate a fantasy world to facilitate whether my characters find true love, are killed in an avalanche, or uncover a lost treasure. At the beginning of each project, my protagonist and antagonist whisper their dreams in my ear - and I get to decide which character will reach their goal - and what dream I can crush. Of course, the "good guy" will almost always have a happy ending.

In general, readers like that. It's what I look for in a book - an example of someone chasing a dream and seeing it come true. Or finding forgiveness from the best friend they've let down. Rekindling a love in danger of being lost. The triumphant victory of good over bad. By the time I hit the end, I'm eager for satisfaction, the ultimate escape from reality.

Sadly, the real world is not so easily manipulated and you can't "fake it" to "make it." Real life obstacles can prevent the "good guy" from winning. Not all kisses are magic. Decisions can have long term consequences. And unfortunately, there isn't always a "happily ever after."

Is it any wonder I consider a good book virtually priceless? I'm grateful to be surrounded by a complement of talented writers and authors who provide me with an opportunity to follow my dreams within the pages of theirs.

The Book In My Bag Today: The Paris Vendetta, Steve Berry

Monday, January 18, 2010

This muse bites - in a good way

Sometimes, life sucks.

I know it's advised, even prudent, to look for positives, no matter how unbalanced the world seems. For every negative, I suspect there is a plus. But when you're knee-deep in "kaka", the magic crystal ball of forward thinking can sometimes appear blurry and there isn't enough Windex in the world to rub it clean.

At least that's how it seems in the moment. The drama of a situation can lead you in all the wrong directions and its easy to lose sight of what's important. Priorities can shift, sometimes they have to. It's called survival, and yeah, it bites.

But if there's anyone who can help push past that, it's True Blood's Eric Northman. He'll tell me to - er - sink my teeth in and hang on. Suck up the last of my strength reserves and just write. Forget about everything else for a few hours and...


Sigh. Okay, Eric, you win. I guess it's time to sharpen my fangs. I know just where to start.

The Book In My Bag Today: The Paris Vendetta, Steve Berry

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book 8 - Covet

Sigh. Shitkickers, again.

I know I said I wanted - no, needed - a break from J.R. Ward after struggling to finish Butch and Marissa's story in the Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) series. But after reading Gargoyle, I needed something less intense to clean my reading palette, something that wouldn't suck my emotional well dry. I figured, since Covet was the first of a new series by Ward, I would be taken back to her earlier writing, when I fell hard for Wrath and Dark Lover became one of my favourite books of 2009.

Unfortunately, Covet reads just like the BDB series, right down to the dialogue and character descriptions. (There's actually even a cameo appearance from Phury...) I have trouble believing business-man Vin (one of several protagonists in the book) would show up in an Armani suit driving a hot car and say "what's doing?" - especially since "fallen angel" Jim says exactly the same thing.

Maybe that's why I had a hard time connecting with any of the men in the book. There is little variation of author voice between characters, and often I needed to recheck point of view to determine through which character's eyes I should be viewing the scene. Most of them are told through Jim - and as a potential love interest for me, the reader, he was just "eh." I'd be hard pressed to tell you a singe detail about him - except, of course, that he wears shitkickers. The cover art led me in a way different direction...

Marie-Therese, the book's main love interest, has a little more meat to her. Despite unfortunate circumstances - or perhaps in spite of them - she doesn't come across as whiny and needy. Her back story is compelling - but given everything going on in the book, not enough space is given to really developing her character and I was left with too many questions.

Covet leaves the reader with many loose ends, and not just because the book is the first in a series. The "bad guy"(a phantom stalker of sorts) kind of drifts off into the sunset after an encounter with the "bad girl" and I'm not certain how it all ties together. Admittedly, that could be because I'd long ago lost interest in making sense of the book and was simply going through the motions of finishing it.

The thing is, the concept, with some tweaks, is solid (and a bit Supernatural-ish, which is fabulous) and there are snippets of really unique, good writing. Though this novel is riddled with cliches, there are some great phrases that pop from the page - and are reminiscent of one of the reasons Ward vaulted to the NY Times Bestseller list with her early BDB books.

For those looking for Ward's trademark sex scenes, they're in there, but you'll have to wade through some other stuff to get to them. Personally, though, the characters lacked the chemistry I needed to feel the heat between them, and I kind of skimmed through the intimacy - which isn't like me at all.

If you're looking for romance in its truest sense, you won't find it in Covet.

Bummer. I had high expectations.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writery quirks of the famous - and not-so-famous me

Did you know that Virginia Woolf reportedly wrote all of her books while standing? Apparently, she isn't alone. Lewis Carol and Ernest Hemingway also wrote while hovering over their desk - not a method I could channel.

I prefer the comfort of my office chair, or my living room couch, or even the cushioned seats at Starbucks. I'm not fussy, though I suppose I have a few writerly idiosyncrasies - like a steady stock of Coke Zero and appropriate music loaded on my iPod. (This week, it's still Adam Lambert.)

Stephen King likes his creature comforts as well. As noted in his memoir of the craft On Writing, King sits down to a glass of water or tea, a vitamin pill and music. He writes in the same seat everyday and his papers are arranged in the same place. Perhaps this organization is why he's able to crank out 10 pages a day - even on holidays.

J.G. Baurard has rules as well: 1,000 words a day, even with a hangover. I'd be interested in his elixir of choice...

Edgar Allan Poe always wore black when he wrote; Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain wore white. I like my flannel button-up shirt, though anything comfortable will do. Unlike Sandra Brown, I don't dress for writing as though I'm going into the office - I prefer my sweats baggy and my hair in disarray.

As documented in the book Drood, Charles Dickens walked 20 to 30 miles a day, and Dan Brown keeps an hour glass on his desk and when it empties, he puts aside his manuscript to do push-ups, sit-ups and stretches. Based on how long it took for the follow-up to the DaVinci Code to come out, I bet he has abs of steel! I understand that exercise and creativity go hand in hand - but I'm barely making time to crank out my "x" pages a day (I say "x" to remain non-committal...) so I've had to choose. Working out is winning this month.

But when I do settle in for the long haul, I like writing on my Mac. In addition to sentimental reasons, I like the way the keyboard clicks, the sound of "wonderful" prose making its way from my head onto the screen. Like my addiction to Coke Zero, I consider the perfect "click" the difference between genius and idiot mode. Ok, maybe I do have a few quirks.

Some authors could write on napkins, I'm sure. Nabakov wrote on index cards, at a lectern, in his socks. Ray Bradbury wrote The Fireman, an early version of Farenheit 451 in novella form, on a rented typewritter (at 10 cents per half hour), and Michael Ondaatje writes everything longhand.

I could learn a lot from these famous authors, but perhaps more importantly, I am reminded of Steve Berry's number one rule - the only ritual that should matter is diligence. Write everyday. No exceptions.

Indeed, sensai.

How about you? Any occupational rituals you'd be willing to share?

PS - If you are a writer and you haven't seen Finding Forester, shame on you :-)

PPS - For a list of some R-rated writerly quirks, check out The Quick 10. Um...interesting.

The Book In My Bag Today: Covet, J.R. Ward

Monday, January 11, 2010

The "other" demon hunter

A lot of people think Jensen Ackles is the hotter of the two Winchester brothers on Supernatural. But based on this picture of Jared Padalecki, I'm hard pressed to commit either way - each of them has their own natural, er, charm.

What I do know is that on screen, Jared (Sam) is less of a player, more committed to the purpose, more logical and practical - thus less easily distracted.

Life kind of got in the way of my writing goals this week, not necessarily in a "bad" way, though I'm sure my mentor would be tsking my lack of focus over the last couple of weeks. It's not that I don't want to get back into the swing of things - it's just there's so many fun things to do.

Like read.

And hang out with my family.

And watch season four of Dexter.

But this morning I woke up with Jagger's throaty (and cranky) voice reminding me - again - of my Valentine's Day promise and at the risk of being pierced by one of her less-than-fun arrows, I resign myself to getting down to business.

Jared is going to help. I've watched him *drool* steer his brother Dean in the right direction, and Supernatural is still on hiatus for one more week - which means he should have plenty of time to star in this week's role of muse. Right?

The Book In My Bag Today: Covet, J.R. Ward

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book 7 - Gargoyle

In the opening pages of The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, a pornographer high on cocaine runs his car off a mountain road. The vehicle bursts into flames and burns him beyond recognition. Thus transforms the world for a cynical, 35-year-old man who loses everything -- his career, his looks, his penis -- in those first fiery minutes.

The protagonist, who remains nameless throughout the novel, is undeniably a creep, the kind of guy I'd walk across hot coals to avoid confronting in real life. But somehow Davidson uses extraordinary talent to draw out his hero's redeeming qualities - and by the end of the book, I liked him. Well, almost.

Davidson's voice is unique and strong - it took me almost a week to read the novel, and often his "voice" lulled me to sleep like a macabre lullaby. I have no idea what the hero of the novel looked like before the burns, but Davidson's writing is so vivid, imagining his protagonist's broiled and scarred face presents no challenge now.

And at times, my heart ached for him.

One of the most important people in my life was a victim of a tragic house fire when she was just four years old. Her body, much like Gargoyle's narrator, was badly burned and though clothing covers the majority of her damaged skin, she has a constant reminder of the accident every time she looks in the mirror - a small scar burnt into her cheek, just under a gorgeous blue eye. This burn is not the first thing people see when they look at her, nor is it what they remember most about her - she has one of the most beautiful hearts I have ever known.

Unfortunate consequences forced us to end our friendship, but I think of her often. While reading Gargoyle, I thought of her at every sentence.

Which may have skewed my impression of the book.

At its core, Gargoyle is a love story, meant to transcend the boundaries of time. The narrator's love interest is a "wild-haired, schitzophrenic sculptress" who tries to convince him that they have not only known each other for 700 years, but they have also been in love for all of that time. Marriane's story - and the tale of their love - is told intermittently through the book, and while interesting, I didn't find the prose as captivating as I'd been led to expect.

While in the hero's voice, Davidson is brilliant. His phrasing is incredible, and as my friend Kyle promised, I found myself in awe of the literary style the author obviously commands. Almost every scene ends with a quotable sentence, designed to not only make you turn the page, but also marvel at the words. At times, I wanted to skip through the Marianne nonsense and move back to the hero's descent into hell - and his climb back to salvation. I encouraged my muse to suck up some of that brilliance.

Despite the jacket cover's assurance that Gargoyle would leave me "believing in miracles, in love, and in the power of storytelling", I was more than ready for "the end" when it finally came. The book could stand to lose about 75 pages and the ending could use a little more emotion.

Still, even as I finished the book late last night, Davidson's voice sung me to sleep and it was the first thing I thought of this morning. I'm hopeful putting the novel back on my shelf will now silence his voice for a while -- but I'll need to read something much lighter and less intense to be certain. Covet? A likely choice.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Affairs of the heart

My heart is full today. Overflowing, in fact.

Buoyed by an amazing critique group meeting last night, followed up by an incredible morning with my handsome husband and stepdaughter, I floated into the office thinking about all of the wonderful people surrounding me. I "heart" my life.

Ironically, this abundance of warmth in my chest has rekindled my desire to get back to Heartless. In the midst of finishing Absolution, I'd lost Jagger's voice and this morning, she taunted me with her trademark sarcasm even as I mused about my positive outlook toward the future. Valentine's Day is just over a month away and I've targeted February 14 to finish (first draft) her story - she was quick to remind me the clock is ticking.

Ambitious, perhaps, but I "heart" deadlines.

I also "heart" research.

A good friend of mine popped by the office yesterday to say hi and tell me about her latest project. Joan writes children's books (her Dot-to-Dot series is all about helping kids understand the stories in the sky) and supports her creative habit with non fiction work - such as her Day Trips from Edmonton guidebook, and her latest WIP, a book about donkeys. She assures me she'll enjoy working on it - learning is half the fun.

I can relate.

I've blogged before about my love of the library, and I pour through science magazines monthly for the latest factoids to add to my growing list of cool stuff to talk about. Sometimes, those facts lead to story ideas. And so, as tribute to my overflowing heart (and Jagger's nattering) this morning, I present these random factoids, courtesy of the "Cool Facts" application on my iPhone:

• A blue whale's heart is the size of a Voltswagon Beetle
• The heart pumps about 1 million barrels of blood during an average lifetime.
• The human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood 30 feet.
• The heart of an astronaut actually gets smaller when in outer space.
• A shrimp's heart is in its head.
• A hedgehog's heart beats 300 times a minute on average.
• Your heart rate can rise as much as 30% during a yawn.
• How does a shark find fish? It can hear their beating hearts.
• A woman's heart beats faster than a man's.

Cool, huh? I "heart" my iPhone.

The Book In My Bag Today: Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pink toe nails and the on/off switch

My friend Sue and I have matching hot pink toe nails.

We noticed this as we readied ourselves for karateaqautics, the latest "workout" added to my growing complement of fitness tools.

My tool box is full of them (tools, not pink toe nails, just to be clear) - access to an elliptical trainer, treadmill, and weights, a personal trainer on standby, boxing with fellow WindWarriors. There are water workouts, land workouts - heck, I'm even working out in my sleep, which might explain why I feel drained when I wake up.

This obsession is nothing new.

Like most people, I have a love/hate relationship with fitness, or rather the "quest" for fitness. Guilt kicks in about January (though, it's been known to start in December or remain silent until April) and I enter what my friends call "the zone." This period - usually defined by a string of increasingly challenging workout regimes - lasts until I burn out.

I don't have a "slow" or "medium" switch - when it comes to fitness, I'm either on or off.

Right now, I'm on.

Today, I'm relishing in the beauty of aches that demonstrate I've worked muscles who've been on vacation far too long. I'm loving the fact that the simple act of walking creates a tightness in my thighs and that my derriere is resisting my resolve to take the stairs. Sure, my body feels as though I went a few rounds with Rocky (not you, Rocky...the other Rocky), but it will all be worth it.

Until it stops being worth it.

I've become familiar with the cycle. I push and push until I see the results of such hard work, and during this phase I vow to never let myself "go" again. And then suddenly, it's as though I can't push any more, and instead of slowing down, I simply stop.

Not this year.

This year, I'll search long and hard for my "medium" switch - beginning, of course, at my shockingly hot pink toenails. (Incidentally, it wasn't there...)

The Book In My Bag Today: The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson

Monday, January 4, 2010

Found: Lost Muse

I don't do New Year's resolutions.

I can make a list better than anyone else I know - in fact, creating a to-do list is one of my daily highlights. I appreciate the satisfaction of "checking" off what I've completed and starring the items of most importance. But lists and resolutions are two very different beasts.

For one thing, lists tend to be manageable. And because I love ticking off my accomplishments in red pen (okay, who am I kidding? I love stickers. And stars. In fact, sticky stars are best.), I'll add just about anything to the list. Like eating. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or checking e-mail. If I check off everything on the list, I reward myself with Rolo ice cream. (And if I'm being honest, I eat Rolo ice cream when I don't accomplish everything - what better way is there to drown the failed checklist guilt?)

Resolutions, on the other hand, require a much longer time for the pay-off. Like, "lose weight" doesn't happen overnight. And "write more" is kind of a progressive thing. Chances are good I'd lose the list before I could actually put a big sticky star next to an accomplished goal, and where's the fun in that?

So every year, I resolve not to resolve.

But I also can't ignore that 2009 is over, and while it had its ups and downs, it's time to forget it and move into a new decade. Happy New Year, by the way.

So in lieu of resolutions, I'm prepared to make some sweeping statements of intention.

1. I will write more.
2. I will read more.
3. I will take care of me more.

And this week, Josh Holloway is going to help me.

That's right. Be jealous.

I heart my muse.

The Book In My Bag Today: Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Book 6 - Hush Hush

When I was young, my Nona and I watched Days of Our Lives. I fell in love with Patch. Oh sure, I know "Bo" was the more popular hunk, but he was too pretty-boy to be a true rebel without a cause, and his love of Fancy Face, though sweet, made him perpetually unavailable.

I blame my Nona for turning me on to bad boys - and Patch was definitely worthy of my affections.

There's a new Patch to woo me, now.

In Hush Hush, Becca Fitzpatrick offers a cure for the common Edward. Patch is a fallen angel, and he's fallen for Nora. Hard. When he isn't trying to kill her, he's trying to protect her. I love the way their relationship evolves - through witty (really well-done) dialogue and adrenaline-pumping scenes.

Patch is tall, dark and mysterious and I fell for him from first introduction. He's a bad boy, no doubt, but even his tender, redeeming qualities are peppered with sarcasm.

Thankfully, Nora is no wallflower. She's intelligent and strong-willed, and unwilling to put up with Patch's crap. She doesn't "need" Patch, or any guy for that matter - and that makes her a better role model than I've seen in many young adult books this past while.

Sadly, the book started with a bang and teetered off toward the end. Something about the "love" circle didn't quite connect, and the climax felt a bit rushed. Fitzpatrick had plenty of room to flush out the sub-plot story line, which would have taken it from a bit on the fluff side to something deeper. Still, I read the book in almost one sitting, lured only by the season finale of season 3 Dexter.

Fitzpatrick's writing craft is almost impeccable, making the book all that much easier to read. Although I know it won't count towards my "100 book challenge" I'm thinking about reading it again to see if I can suck up some of Fitzpatrick's talent. Throughout the novel I wanted to highlight a passage and shout, "Now that's how it's done!" But doing so would have marred a beautiful book I wasn't even tempted to spine crack. Gasp.

I'm crossing my fingers the follow-up novel, Crescendo, makes it into my 100 book challenge as well. Yep, thoroughly impressed with Hush Hush and 100 percent smitten with Patch.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Book 5 - Lover Revealed

I expected a greater sense of - something - when I finally, blissfully, finished the fourth book in JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Lover Revealed. In what has to be a record, I started, and stopped, reading it four times before making it to the somewhat anti-climactic end.

Lover Revealed is Butch and Marissa's story - two characters I never particularly cared about before starting the novel, and two I still don't give a damn about now. Butch is too lame, Marissa too whiny, and their story didn't compel me to turn the page at break-neck speed. I do appreciate that Marissa became a little less needy, and Butch a little more manly - but even that didn't make the read any less tortuous.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just over JR Ward. I wasn't the first to jump on the Brotherhood bandwagon, but I admit, I was enraptured by Wrath in Dark Lover. But even Rhage and Zhadist's story left me feeling a little empty - so much so, I almost didn't start the fourth book at all.

And now I've started to pick apart the writing. The "gangster" dialogue grates on my nerves, and the lesser sub plot line doesn't hold my interest - in fact, I almost want to skip right through all of that crap. The characters feel a little too over-the-top for my liking, and in the last two books, I haven't been feeling the heat. At all.

The fifth book is sitting on my book shelf, right next to Covet, the start of a new series by JR Ward. And even though I peeked at the first chapter of Covet, and Karen insists I'll love V's story, I think I need a break from JR Ward.

Thankfully, my TBR pile is nicely stacked.