Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Book 36 - The Summoning

I've been on a bit of a Kelley Armstrong bandwagon these past few months, mostly because after falling in love with Bitten, I vowed I'd be much more responsive to my BF's recommendations.

So when Karen encouraged me to read the first in Armstrong's young adult series, The Summoning, I didn't hesitate. And for good reason.

The Summoning has all the good stuff - good craft, good characters, good plot, good pacing, good dialogue, good cliffhanger ending. It's just a damn good book. But then, I didn't expect anything less from the author who has fast-tracked her way to the top of my most-recommended list.

Fifteen-year-old Chloe Saunders has led a relatively normal life until one day she realizes she can see - and communicate - with dead people. Her family doesn't believe her (surprise), and Chloe is sent to the Lyle House, a place for...disturbed teens. Where of course, nothing is really as it seems.

While at the Lyle House, Chloe interacts with several sidekicks - some of whom are long dead. As typical with this author's work, Armstrong gives as much attention to the supporting characters as she does the protagonist, creating a wonderful cast of great people. I really love how the sensory detail throughout the book drew me in and allowed me to live vicariously through Chloe.

Between feeling sick and then playing catch-up at the day job, I didn't have as much time to read as I'd hoped - and so I'm not sure if the slight drag in the middle of the book was due to a lack of concentrated reading time or a bit of a plot sag. Nevertheless, I kept turning the page. When it comes to Armstrong, I seem to always turn the page...and then reach for the next book.

Not this time, though. Much as I loved The Summoning - and am very much aware that this is the first in the trilogy - I'm in the mood for a thriller by an author I've not read before. Last night I picked up a book I scored at a used book sale...and I have a feeling I'll be writing about it by end of week.

The Book In My Bag This Week: The Broken Hearts Club, Ethan Black

Monday, June 28, 2010

7 Things That aMUSE Me - Aside from my muse

I'm reluctant to give up Jason Statham as my muse avatar this morning. While he wasn't as productive as Brad Pitt after I gave him that shake-up letter - I wrote something like 65 pages that week, and ironed out a major plot hole - Jason executed some impressive martial arts moves on my adverbs and "was" words. As a bonus, he helped me figure out that my protagonist needs a change in attitude.

Not bad for a week's worth of work.

But it's Monday - and I'd hate to disappoint Suzanne, er, my blogger buddies.

And you know what they say: If you want something done, give it to a busy person. I figure with Eclipse launching this Wednesday, Kellan Lutz will have *just" enough time to squeeze in some muse avatar duty.

Don't recognize him from the Twilight saga? Google him - there's apparently a lot of Kellan we don't see in the movies... Thank goodness for muse avatar Monday, no?

Just one of the many reasons I love my profession.

In fact, blogger buddy Jan Markley tagged me with a "Seven Things I Love About Being a Writer" award. The rules, as you can imagine, are fairly simple. Jan's list is quite clever, - funny and quirky, a bit tongue-n-cheek.

If that's what you're looking for, check out her blog :-)

My list goes a little like this:

1. The power of words. The old cliche suggests the pen is mightier than the sword, and I'd tend to agree. I've been pierced by the written word far more than traditional weaponry (well, there was that one time...). Just this weekend I read a blog that affected me. And days later, there's still a little pit of sadness embedded in my chest for the pain felt by someone I once cared for deeply. While she isn't a writer of fiction, I've always said she could write - and her blog this weekend opened wounds I'd desperately been working to heal for nine months. Does my work evoke such powerful emotion? I certainly hope so. The ability to make someone laugh, cry, scream with rage, or cower in (brief) fear through fiction is one of the great things about being a writer.

2. Donning the mask. Very few professions allow you to live vicariously through someone else. A few of my characters have pieces of me in them, but most of them, to be honest, are people I'd love to be, doing awesome things I don't have the guts to do, in places I would love to visit. When I am immersed in writing, I get to LIVE these characters' lives. How cool is that?

3. Friends. Blogger buddies, writerly friends I've met through various conferences, mentors who've steered me toward a publishing path, a critique partner who rocks my world - the writing community offers a safe, encouraging support network like no other. I am very lucky.

4. Muse avatars. Nuff said?

5. Diet Coke. Over the years, people have *tried* to tell me that I don't NEED Diet Coke (or Coke Zero) to pump out perfect prose. They are all wrong. Oh yeah, I've heard all of the statistics about aspartame, I understand that water would be healthier, but the first short story I wrote was fueled by Diet Coke - many, many, MANY years ago. My family might not appreciate the sentiment, but I love that for me, writing and Diet Coke go hand-in-hand. (And yes, sometimes I add whiskey...)

6. Therapy. Let's face it, life is rough sometimes. Writing provides a healthy outlet for pent-up frustration or anger, or happiness, or pretty much any emotion. Whether its in a diary, a blog, an article or a piece of fiction, writing provides escape from life. And sometimes we all need that.

7. Life-long learning. Steve Berry often says: No one ever got better by being told they're a great writer. This is the mantra that allows me to filter constructive feedback. It's also the reason I continue to study the craft of writing. I am happiest when reading other people's work because I learn SO much. And while I sometimes get hung up on the technical side of writing, I love watching my continuous studying morph into something quite magical on the page - even if it's only me that thinks so.

At Thrillerfest two years ago, Sandra Brown says she never forgets that writing is a privilege. I consider myself pretty lucky to be able to do something I love every day.

As tags like this go, I'm supposed to pass it on to four bloggers. Check out these four blogs...

Watery Tart

But really, I'd love to hear from ALL of the writers out there. What do you love about writing?

The Book In My Bag Today: The Summoning, Kelley Armstrong

Friday, June 25, 2010


In a way, I grew up with "theatre." My amazing grandmother was a wonderful actress (and doll maker, mother, friend, and...) My awesome Uncle Don was in a number of broadway-style shows - and sometimes I can still hear him singing New York around the campfire of our summer cabin.

Those examples don't even scratch the surface of the family talent pool. My cousin Larissa sings like an angel (or a rockstar, or truly, whatever range she feels like hitting that day) and several of my aunts have stunning vocal range.

Somehow, the performance gene seemed to miss me.

Maybe that's why I can sing all of the songs in Moulin Rouge (albeit when no one else is around). I even loved Chicago, despite a lukewarm performance by Richard Gere.

But my favourite musical, by far, is Phantom of the Opera. I've been lucky enough to see if five times - once in New York with my beautiful mother-in-law. So. Awesome.

I think it's the masquerade scene that excites me the most. All of that brilliant color spinning around the stage with mesmerizing choreography and drama. The sudden appearance of the Phantom - one of the most chilling masks in memory. (Well, unless you count the Jason mask from Friday the 13th...)

From the first time I saw Phantom I've been fascinated with masquerades. I actually went through a brief stint where I planned my "phantom" wedding around a masquerade. (Not sure what I'd been drinking to make me think my dad would actually walk me down the aisle holding a mask but it was a stunning wedding in my mind...)

I watched Phantom again yesterday, the movie version of course, because I was home sick and writing and reading wasn't an option. When I got to the masquerade scene, I paused the DVD to absorb all of the cool characters, the beautiful masks, the amazing costumes. And then it hit me.

My protagonist in one of my WIPs is wearing a mask.

In the other WIP, Heartless, my girl Jagger is stripped raw. What you see is what you get. And I LOVE her. She's sassy and fun and fearless and sexy and *takes breath* - I could go on about her all day. But when you ask me about Cait, the protagonist in Absolution, I struggle to find the words to describe her. Not physically, but on that more intimate level. As expected, when I look at her scenes, I can appreciate her character is technically sound - she's just lacking in the personality department.

On Wednesday, I blogged about my critique partner and how she's taught me to take risks. For Cait, that means ripping off the mask and digging deeper to figure out who she really is. Up until now, Cait has been a solid, steady protagonist. Nice. Cute. Reliable.

But not anything like Jagger.

Oh, I understand they each need to be unique. And although Jagger LIVES in me, I'm not planning on cloning her in Cait.

It's just that, if Jagger called me right now, I'd trip over myself to pick up the phone. If Cait's number came up on call display, I might be tempted to hit the "ignore" button. That has to change. If I don't want to spend time with her, why would you?

For the next few days (after I stop feeling blech), I need to peel back Cait's masquerade mask. It's a necessary risk - even if it means the Cait I thought I knew is not at all right for this book. Honestly, I'm excited to finally learn who she is.

Are any of your characters wearing a mask? What tools do you employ to strip your protagonist to her rawest form? 

The Book In My Bag Today: The Summoning, Kelley Armstrong

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Taking Risks - Lessons from my crit partner

Last week was big for my critique partner.


Not only did she marry her troll (her word, not mine) after 14 years, she also completed the first draft of her paranormal-ish romantic suspense, Thoeba.

I've blogged about Donna before. But right now I'm missing her while she's on her honeymoon in Prince Edward Island and I'm home, trudging through revisions. (Again)

If she were here, she'd say that I've taught her a lot in the almost year we've been critique partners, but I'm only now beginning to fully understand everything she's taught me.

Like about taking risks.

I had the honor of being Donna's official photographer at her wedding and I took my job seriously, snapping almost a thousand pictures of the beautiful bride and her new hubby. There's some awesome, traditional shots I'm proud of. But the photographs that make me smile the most are in the non-typical series - like the one on the left.

I wish I could claim this as my own idea, but truthfully, Donna's troll requested a bodice-ripper / Fabio-ish picture - something one might find on the cover of Donna's books. Donna hates having her picture snapped, but when I look back at this picture, I grin every time. She took a risk. A relatively safe one, mind you, since she could delete the photo if she hated it.

But she wasn't afraid to try something new -- a philosophy she carries into her writing.

Donna's mind is like a sponge. She sucks up every piece of writing advice anyone is willing to give her, and she applies that new knowledge the next time she sits at her gorgeous solid wood desk (*envious*). But don't think that means she simply does as told. Donna has an incredibly firm grasp on what her story is about, who her characters are, and the kind of writer she wants to be. She isn't afraid to stand her ground.

And she isn't afraid to take risks.

I've had the pleasure and honor of studying writing craft with some amazing authors. I've memorized Steve Berry's 8 Rules of Craft, studied Gary Braver's 10 Ingredients for Writing a Thriller, and recited (repeatedly) James Rollins' list for creating sympathetic characters. I've given myself permission to write crap, and given numerous faces to my muse for inspiration. Technically, I'm covered.

But this draft isn't about the technical craft. It can't be. If this book is to stand out in a vast sea of really great novels, the writing must be much more than technically sound.

It has to take risks. As a writer, I must take risks.

Just one of the very important lessons I've learned from Donna.

What risks have you taken in your writing? Or in life? And how have they shaped you as a writer or person? Did some not work out? 

The Book In My Bag Today: The Summoning, Kelley Armstrong

Monday, June 21, 2010

A buffet of aMUSEment

I had the weirdest Father's Day.

My handsome husband twisted things around, making *his* day all about me and his daughter. While I made coffee, hubby went to the store for my special (very sweet) creamer. He then made breakfast - an amazing breakfast of eggs, bacon and hash browns - while I sat at the kitchen table and read. Yes, read.

Despite repeated attempts to engage in some kind of typical Father's Day activity - like scoping out the car show, fishing, indulging in a homemade dinner made by my stepdaughter, or picking out a total guy movie, handsome husband declined. All day.

He puttered around the yard while I wrote. He took us to the pet stores to ogle the fish (because that's what we like to do as a family). And then, he made a wonderful, healthy dinner.

But if that wasn't enough, when we settled down to watch some TV, I encouraged him to pick the program. I volunteered (with enthusiasm) to watch hunting or Prison Lockdown or some other cop reality show. Even re-runs of UFC fights, if that topped his list.

What did he choose?

Spike TV's Guy's Choice Awards 2010.

Now I'm sure he thought he'd selected something quite masculine for his Father's Day entertainment, but seriously, it was the capper on a day all about everyone *but* him. Two friggin hours of intense eye candy. We're talking Sylvestor Stallone, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Kiefer Sutherland (sigh), Jason Statham and so many more - ALL IN ONE ROOM. A literal buffet of choices for this week's muse avatar.

I had to choose one.

I've been a fan of Jason's since Transporter. He gives off that whole tough-guy vibe without having to look like the Hulk, not that there's anything wrong with my favorite green hottie (Kermit is a close second.)

And, sigh, since I'm knee deep in revisions that require a tough - and perhaps harsh - reality check, I figure Jason's up to the task. I'm counting on him to backhand excessive adverbs and roundhouse kick those "was" words right out of my MS. He can bully characters back into voice, and put the fear of God in my protagonist - at least until she figures out how to get herself out of hot water.

I believe Jason will even do this all with a smile - which is pretty amazing because he's got a great one. (I know, with all those ab muscles glinting at you it's tough to see the cute curve of that mouth. Just keep staring, your eye will eventually be drawn upward...)

The Book In My Bag Today: The Summoning, Kelley Armstrong

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book 35 - The Girl Who Played With Fire

There's a fight scene in The Girl Who Played With Fire that every writer should read. It's a perfect ballet of action and internal dialogue, creating a wonderful example of the power of sensory detail. Stieg Larsson knew what he was doing.

That scene doesn't happen until almost the last third of the novel, but there's plenty of action to keep you engaged until then. After falling hard for Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I had little doubt I'd love the second in Larsson's trilogy - Salander plays prominently in this plot.

And like the first book, this second novel is as weighty as the first - both with wonderful storytelling and actual text. The Girl Who Played With Fire is just over 700 pages, which is a pretty big time investment.

But so worth it.

From a craft standpoint, there's some things that drive me nuts. Like random points of view (even a short scene in the POV of a FOX) and some author intrusion. But I'm not the only one on the bandwagon that seems to turn a blind eye. The plot is just that compelling. Or maybe it's the characters...

In this book, Salander is implicated in the murder of two journalists the night before their explosive story about sex trafficking in Sweden is slated for publication at Millenium. The evidence is alarming: Salander's fingerprints are found on the weapon. Mikael Blomkvist - whose life Salander saved in the first book - believes her innocent and plunges into his own investigation of the killings. Along the way, we meet some shady people.

I started this book on my way to Nova Scotia and thought for sure I'd finish it on the flight. Sadly, I was forced to put the novel down in favour of some day job work and then was too busy - or tired - to read at all while across the country. Despite the disjointed read, I enjoyed the book very much.

And fell a little more in like with Salander.

Which is why I HAVE to buy the third book, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, soon. Larsson left me with an annoying cliffhanger. By the same token, I'm hesitant to read it because I know it's the last one the author wrote before he passed away.

With some series, you can get away with reading the second or even third book before the first but I'd advise against that in this case. Larsson does an incredible job of setting up the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael and while it seems natural now, it would come off a fairly confusing without the back story.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Book an adventure for a young writer you know

I had a teacher in elementary school named Mrs. Kratky. The students called her Mrs. Crabby - and apparently she was.

My recollection of her is a bit different. I feared her. Looking back, I think it's because she challenged me and in Grade 6 I wasn't up for the challenge. I worked my butt off in her class because she was the type of teacher who called your parents if you weren't meeting her expectations, but I held no illusion I'd ever become teacher's pet.

So imagine my fear when after Mrs. Kratky handed back a short story assignment, mine was absent a grade. Instead, she'd written these words: See me after school. Your parents have been invited.

I spent the rest of my day questioning everything about that story, cursing myself for not keeping a copy. Had I completed it? Chosen inappropriate content? Swore?

As it turns out, after reading my short story about a witch named Wanda, Mrs. Kratky felt compelled to encourage my parents to foster my love of literacy. She immediately enrolled me in a creative writing course for junior high students, where we did fun assignments like use the phone book to think of cool character names, or write paragraphs of dialogue without tags and description.

Until that day, I'd spent a good portion of my school days dreaming of being like my friend Kim. Even in elementary Kim possessed serious talent when it came to drawing and painting. Her work was plastered all over the school. It wasn't that I wanted to draw - though that would be cool - but I longed for a talent of SOME kind. Anything I could be excited about.

Mrs. Kratky gave me that inspiration, that initial spark of I-can-do-it attitude.

Over the years I've had some amazing mentors. Gary Braver, Steve Berry, James Rollins - three outstanding thriller writers who have molded my craft, boosted my confidence, fueled the belly fire first lit by my elementary school teacher. In a society where artists - literary or otherwise - are typical loners (and misunderstood), these mentors allowed me to "be me."

Which is one of the reasons I'm so proud to work for the Young Alberta Book Society and support Wordsworth, a camp for youth who like to write. For one week, participants have an opportunity to be mentored by amazing literary artists from across Alberta. Surrounded by their peers in picturesque Bragg Creek, AB, these kids are immersed in the arts - from writing stories and articles, to creating poetry in movement, learning the basics of cartooning, and the wonderment of performance.

It's a camp like no other I've ever seen.

I've attended many writer's conferences and am a true believer in peer bonding. I met many of my closest friends at these conferences - people I talk to almost every day.

The kids who attend WordsWorth experience this same camaraderie. They attend workshops by day - awesome, craft and confidence building sessions - and by night sing around a campfire (often songs they've written during camp) or review each other's work.

It's impossible to describe the magic of WordsWorth - it's just that amazing.

Do you know any young writers (ages 11-19) you think would be perfect for a literary camp? I'd encourage you to send them the link to the website ( and check it out. Maybe you'd even like to sponsor a young writer? 

The camp for the younger writers (11-14) runs July 4-9, 2010. The older camp (15-19) takes place July 11-19, 2010. Deadline for registrations is June 23, 2010.

I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

The Book In My Bag Today: The Girl Who Played With Fire, Steig Larsson

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bloody aMUSEing

After months of waiting, I didn't watch the season premiere of True Blood last night - which is a darn shame since Alexander Skarsgard is reputed to have several scenes in the buff.

Truth be told, after the hectic schedule of last week and an early (very early) flight home from Nova Scotia on Sunday, I could barely keep my eyes open let alone give the show the attention it deserves.

Not to worry, I'll rectify that tonight after work. (I LOVE having a PVR for this reason...)

I know Alexander (Eric) has been my muse avatar before, but after last week, I need someone who knows the ropes. I'm a fickle girl and Alexander has my creative routine down to a science.

It wasn't Jason's fault he failed, by the way. I had all of the elements of inspiration surrounding me last week - a hot muse avatar, the Atlantic ocean, the beautiful Nova Scotia landscape, and the sound of my nephews laughing. I also had my sister's wedding, which made for busy days, fun nights with family and friends, and total exhaustion. I didn't work on the WIP (s) once while across the country, not even after visiting Peggy's Cove or reconnecting with an old friend.

I didn't write a single word.

I barely even opened my laptop.

Needless to say, I have a lot of making up to do. Having missed a week of work at the day job, I anticipate a fairly crammed schedule. I've let Alexander know, and although he appears to be lying down on the job at this moment, he promises to be ready to go by this afternoon. We've discussed our target word count, outlined the editing schedule, and penned in time for my awesome crit partners. It's going to be a great week.

Actually, if the buzz over last night's episode of True Blood is half as exciting as it appears, it's going to be amazing. Wishing you an equally as awesome week.

The Book In My Bag Today: The Girl Who Played With Fire, Stieg Larsson

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book 34 - Skinny Bitch

I worked in the agriculture industry for many years so I've heard most of the anti-dairy, meat-is-bad messaging out there. Skinny Bitch is essentially just another way of delivering these messages, albeit more bluntly than I've come across in a while.

The authors, Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, straddle the line between clever sarcasm and outright rudeness. There is a difference. Luckily, these skinny bitches know when to back off before I completely turn off - I've known a few gals who think putting other people down in public is a sport. Trust me, sugar, I 'get" you, I just don't think you're funny (but that's a whole other conversation...)

Despite the careful deliverance of the know-it-all advice in Skinny Bitch, I'm not convinced the authors do, in fact, know it all.

The book is billed as a no-nonsense guide to getting healthy and, well, skinny. In my opinion, far too much of the text is spent trying to convince me to steer clear of meat and dairy products.

I admit, the authors provide (a little) food for thought surrounding the nutritional debate, but it's going to take a whole lot more than this to encourage me to give up my chicken and cheese. And I don't buy the factory farm crap, either.

I've toured processing plants and ranches.

I've researched food safety protocols and witnessed first-hand the aegis of biosecurity measures voluntarily enforced by Canadian farmers.

I've been a part of organizations like Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC), which has spent countless hours and resources to educate everyone across the food chain about animal care. Indeed, Canada has some of the most advanced humane animal standards in the world.

I also believe completely in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and that the government does care about providing consumers with safe food.

Clearly the skinny bitches don't. But, they live in the U.S. and I know little about agricultural practices across the border.

For the most part, I found the book annoying. I kept wanting to fact check their blunt - and sometimes degrading - statements. Old PR habits die hard, I suppose.

Still, Skinny Bitch delivers its promise as a no-nonsense guide to losing weight.

As someone whose ridden the weight loss train back and forth more than a couple of times, I can appreciate some of the recommendations offered. But I don't see myself becoming vegan or vegetarian anytime soon (although a close family friend is, and often when I see her at the lake over the summer, I am envious of her healthy glow and awesome physique).

The voice, while sometimes preachy, is engaging and will get you through the book. If you're looking for a quick diet fix, however, you won't find it here. The bitches dish up a routine and lifestyle program I believe would work - if you're willing to give up Rolo ice cream, steak and peanut butter.

Unfortunately, I'm not. I'm okay with that - it's been my experience this past year that there are far too many bitches in the world already.

The Book In My Bag Today: The Girl Who Played With Fire, Stieg Larsson

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Inspired by beauty and youth

I remember the first (and only) time I saw Peggy's Cove. It was about six years ago in what friends might call my "lighthouse phase." Not only did I have a small collection of lighthouse figurines, mapped out a plan to visit 100 lighthouses at some point in my life and read all about the coolest ones, I also dreamed of converting a lighthouse into an inspired writing den. In particular, I wanted to live in Peggy's Cove.

I imagined myself sitting in the watchtower as the waves lapped against the rocks, and anxious ocean water churned and frothed below.  I'd weather each storm, furiously tapping at my keyboard while thunder echoed in the vast Nova Scotia sky and lightening crackled right. before. my. eyes.

Sadly, there was no For Sale sign on the lighthouse during my first visit, and there isn't one there now. Shucks.

But you don't have to hang out in a lighthouse to be inspired in Nova Scotia. It's a stunning province, similar, I suppose to British Columbia, but somehow different. More laid back.

The weather hasn't been stellar - June is the start of hurricane season and while I've been lucky to avoid rain, the wind is cool. I'm certain the sun is saving itself for Saturday (my sister's wedding) but even the cloud cover can't disguise the sheer beauty of the landscape. In the small city of Bedford, where my sister lives, there are 25 lakes - which translates to several beaches, gorgeous rock formations and cottage-style homes. (If I was here as a tourist rather than my sister's wedding, I could do an entire picture blog of dream houses.)

Ironically, it isn't just the beauty that makes me want to sit at my computer and write. I'm hanging with my two nephews whom I've only just met (blended family) and who I absolutely adore. Aside from being cute, they're also full of youthful energy. I love to listen to the sound of them having breakfast, the way their laughter winds up the stairs as they talk about last night's Stanley Cup game and admit to being dog-tired after staying up way too late to watch the winning (anticlimactic) goal.

As part of my day job - which seems slightly removed while I'm sitting in the red kitchen of my sister's amazing home - I judge youth writing submissions for the Martyn Godfrey Young Writer's Award. I have a four-inch thick stack of them in my bag to be read on the plane ride home. But this morning, when I wondered whether my nephews would choose cereal or Dino Eggs for breakfast, and I caught the youngest boy peering around the corner of my guest room to see if I was also dog-tired after watching the game, I couldn't help but drag out my computer, and the contest entries.

My muse avatar this week is definitely hot, but it isn't his face that inspires me here. Instead, I'm caught up in the energy of two young boys and the revised dream of writing from the watchtower at Peggy's Cove.

The Book In My Bag Today: The Girl Who Played With Fire, Stieg Larsson

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Late aMUSEment

Judging by the myriad of True Blood tributes throughout the blogosphere, I know I'm not the only fan patiently counting down the days until the new season starts. With Vampire Diaries taking a seasonal hiatus (sigh), I'm more than ready to welcome Sam, Eric, and of course, Jason back to my television screen.

Uh, that's Sunday night in case you've been living under a rock too busy to check the TV guide.

In the quest for Sookie's love, I'm solidly on Team Eric - and Eric has been my muse avatar before and undoubtedly will be again very soon. Like, maybe Monday if I don't get enough of him Sunday night.

But I think Ryan Kwanten got dealt a bit of a raw deal last season, causing some people to forget he existed - or was, in actuality, one of the show's original heart throbs.

Not to worry, Ry. I got ya covered. (Sidenote: a quick Google search shows a lot of pictures of Ryan uncovered *bites knuckles* - he isn't shy in the slightest...)

Anyway, Jason wasn't the most reliable guy in the first season and while you might think that would make him a lousy muse avatar, I have a different opinion. Just as Jason is a little scattered, I figure I'm going to be pretty scattered this week as well. My lil sis is getting married Saturday and I'm in beautiful Nova Scotia to do whatever I can for her.

Inbetween making centerpieces and wrapping wine bottles, I hope to get some writing done. It's not going to be to schedule (my muse avatar post is even a day late - but hey, I was on a plane for most of Monday...) but it will be inspired.

And let's face it, Ry is rather, er, inspiring.

While I have every inclination to spend some quality time with my laptop, I don't think a 'task master' type muse is realistic, at least not this week. So if Ryan is a little distracted, I'm ok with that. If he would rather sit back and have a beer in the Nova Scotia sun, I'm ok with that, too.

And if he'd prefer to sluff off the entire week, hey, I accept even the hardest working muse deserves a few days off.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Book 33 - Anywhere She Runs

Holy crap.

Why have I never read a Debra Webb book before?!

I was fortunate to win this book (twice, but that's a different story) after commenting on the Murder She Writes blog. I always enjoy Debra's posts, but I'd yet to check out one of her books. We all have our silly moments, right?

Anywhere She Runs is a near-perfect book. Strong female character. Sexy-as-hell male lead. A unique and awesome bad guy (actually, Debra gives us a couple in this book, both with just enough "villain" in them) and a compelling, suspenseful plot.

Add to that well-honed (read: amazing) technical craft. Tight, tight description. Brilliant pacing. Oblique dialogue. Wonderful characterization. And smoking hot sex scenes.

I loved this book.

A quick plot outline: Police officer Adeline (Addy) returns home after a ten-year break with a painful past. She's hunting a kidnapper - and he's hunting her. Somehow Addy is connected to two women he's already taken, and he seems to always be one step ahead of her and the entire department. If his warnings come true, she'll be the final "princess" in his scheme. But just as he has his outside resources - Addy has (somewhat begrudingly) hers. Like Wyatt, the sexy man from her past. Not to mention her kick-ass cop skills.

There's enough plot twists in this book to keep your mind in constant action, and the final mystery leaves you guessing right up to the end. So well done.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to pick my jaw up off the floor and get to the bookstore. There are five Debra Webb books out there I don't own. Yet.

The Book In My Bag Today: The Midnight Club, James Patterson

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book 32 - Dead Frog on the Porch

When I was a kid, I devoured Nancy Drew books - and when I'd caught up in the series, I read them again. And again. Much to my mother's dismay, I think Carolyn Keene is the reason I not only wanted to be a novelist, but also why I became a journalist.

I still remember, with vivid detail, the cover of my favourite Nancy Drew book - the Secret of the Glowing Eye. Crimson cover. Nancy looking kind of scared. The word CYCLOPS popping from the red glow. (It's ok to admit you Googled the title to check my accuracy...) It was the first novel that scared me (discounting Bunnicula, of course, since rabbits aren't 'real' vampires...)

It's been a while since I've read a Nancy Drew, but all of the characters came back to me while I read Jan Markley's middle-grade book Dead Frog on the Porch. Even before I met this Alberta-author, I was desperate to read her novel - isn't that a brilliant title? It just begs to be read!

Her young twin sleuths - Cyd and Jane - emulate their hero perfectly. In fact, I think their unofficial motto might be: What would Nancy do? Snippets of classic Nancy Drew trivia made their way smoothly into the text. I remember Ned, and Bessie, and George, and Nancy's cool car, that has apparently changed with the modern rewrites. Jan took me through a wonderful (and often funny) walk down memory lane.

In this first Megabyte Mystery, Syd and Jane are on a quest to learn why someone is genetically modifying frogs into giants. In the opening scene, Cyd steps on her sister's pet frog, Frogzilla - hence the brilliant title - and the ensuing theme. There's a great chapter where Jan describes the larger-than-normal amphibians that had me rolling with laughter.

Although this is Jan's first book, there's much to admire. The plot is fast-paced and filled with great information for young readers. Jan's also included a great "conversation guide" for teachers who might want to use the book in the classroom. I can see where it fits with many subjects, including science, language arts, and health.

Throughout the book - and I suspect the series - the twins maintain a blog. Many of the posts are written in Haiku, a form of poetry I've never really been able to wrap my head around. It's well done here, and if young readers are paying attention, these blog posts contain clues to the mystery. (And yeah, I figured it out fast...but I'm a *little* older than her ideal reader.)

Although the characterization was fairly light in this first book, I'm eager to get to know these twins better throughout the series. She's completed her second novel, Dead Bird Through the Cat Door and is already working on her third. Jan is known to collect all things frog, hang out (a lot) in her writing cave, and compose witty blog posts at I encourage you to check her out.

The Book in My Bag Today: Anywhere She Runs, Debra Webb