Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book 40 - Wicked Lovely

One of the greatest things about this 100 Books in 2010 challenge has been discovering new authors. In Melissa Marr, I've absolutely found a keeper.

Wicked Lovely is a dark and beautiful faery tale. Marr has created a world that is haunting and vivid - and so enticing. I want to live among the Pointy-Faces, or at least be able to see through their glamour as Aislinn does.

Aislann, however, seems immune. Gifted (or cursed) with the Sight, she has "seen" faeries all of her life, though they walk hidden in the mortal world. Guided by three important (and life-saving) rules, she has learned to ignore them. She knows better than to stare at invisible faeries, or speak to them, even when she hears their whispered taunts. And she knows never to run, for if she does, they will only take up chase.

Most importantly, Aislann understands she must never attract a faerie's attention.

Except that Aislann does. And Keenan is no normal member of the fey. He is the Summer King in search of his Queen - and his pursuit is relentless. Few mortals have resisted his ethereal pull, his unwavering charm and ridiculous good looks. Until Aislinn.

She does not love Keenan, nor does she fall willingly into his arms. Her heart already belongs to someone - a mortal she is not prepared to give up. (And frankly, I don't blame her. Seth is beautiful - and real - in a way Keenan could never be.)

In a seemingly never-ending sea of supernatural-ish young adult novels, Wicked Lovely is surprisingly fresh. The author captivated me from first the epilogue with its chilling premonitions, and then with the opening chapter. The details create incredible atmosphere. So much so that I read the first two chapters out loud to two separate friends, encouraging them each to buy the book. Immediately. I stand by that recommendation 328 pages later.

I am in awe of the author's skill, and in love with her faery world. Each night when I reluctantly closed the book, I thought of Aislinn's faeries. Marr's descriptions leapt from the page and into my dreams...and several of my nightmares. Wicked Lovely is both haunting and riveting.

I've no doubt Ink Exchange, the next book in this series, will have jumped to the top of my TBR list.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Let's get Naughty, Naughty

EROTICA is a strutty tease.

One minute she's sitting on the couch cross stitching - cross stitching! - and the next she's straddling a chair, flipping her blonde red hair back, and arching into a semi awkward circle.

Oh, and sweating.

Welcome to EROTICA'S second Naughty Hottie session, where she and the girls at J'adore Dance aren't slithering to Britney Spears but rather strutting with Lady Marmalade (and a chair).

Oh what fun! No, seriously. I, er, EROTICA hasn't laughed that hard since, well, she can't remember when. Sure slithering down the side of that chair felt a little uncoordinated - until the amazing Natalicious demonstrated a simpler way. And yeah, my her knees are feeling the "pop" (not in a good way) of all that sliding this morning.

But even from the back of the dance class, and with the mirrors in view, EROTICA checked (most) of her insecurity at the door and just. had. fun.

Of course, it helps that the chair provides coverage for all those parts you might not think are all that sexy - yet. Bellies and boobies are camouflaged behind the back of the prop, and by the time you're supposed to booty your way out of it, you're swept up in the rhythm of the song, trying to figure out how to look elegant while sliding down the chair and slithering back up again to worry about feeling ridiculous.

Admittedly, even EROTICA isn't a fan of the class ending performance. Especially now that Juicy J has allowed cat calling. While it's doubtful - even laughable - to think the eyes of half the class are on EROTICA, performing for the likes of Dangerous Dawn, Blam Pam, and Natalicious is really stretching the old comfort zone.

There may be fewer aching muscles this morning (don't mistake that as an indication the class isn't a good workout - it is) but there are few more laugh lines etched into EROTICA'S jaw.

And, er, EROTICA isn't the only one smiling this morning.

The Book In My Bag Today: Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fish out of water

About an hour after Salsa Burn last night, I was slumped sitting on my wheelchair love seat praying watching my Oscar fish play in their generous tank. I find this relaxing on most days - seeing how effortlessly Groucho glides through the water, or how Oskarella winds her way through fake brush with Ernie in hot pursuit.

But last night, the more I watched my fish, the more anxious I seemed. Heat crept along the back of my neck (and not from the hot water bottle resting on my hips) and my cheeks became flushed. (Admittedly, that might have been from the third shot of whiskey...but after the handful of pain killers, it's all a bit of a blur...)

I recognize the symptoms of jealousy.

Yep. I'm envious of my Oscars.

Before you dig out the straight jacket, let me explain. Oscars are not the common belladonnas of the household tank - they're big (and get bigger) and don't have the same ethereal beauty as an angel fish, or the sleekness of a shark. Their googly eyes kind of pop from their head and their mouths are massive caverns of doom. They can swallow minnows with one gulp - and have been known to eat much bigger prey when tempted, sometimes ripping it to pieces.

And still, their scaly fish bodies move with such elegance through the water. No matter how big Oscars grow, their fins sway like the flowing dress of a Salsa dancer. These fish understand the concept of choreography - heads gliding to the right, while their tails wind to the left. It's beautiful.

And natural.

I can't help but wonder if my body will ever move with such grace. For now, I'm still very much a fish out of water.

At Fit Hop on Tuesday, I came to the realization that looking in the mirror while flopping around the dance floor wasn't doing anything for my self esteem - so I practiced the same theory at Salsa Burn. I think I might be on to something.

What could have been daunting - a triple threat of perky, talented instructors (Kasha, Mel AND Jessica, oh my! Not to mention Sue's constant muttering about the many ways she'd like to kill me...) -

We samba'd. We meringue'd. We cha cha cha'd. We did that "wacka wacka" Shakira dance. Kasha taught us how to, um, gallop. And Jessica demonstrated the appropriate way to don a pink cowboy hat and "yip" like a cowgirl (while smacking her iron buttocks) - just a couple weeks too late for the Calgary Stampede, shucks. (Better luck next year, no?)

We took fewer breaks, and worked straight through the hour and 15 minutes to the point where (cover your eyes if your tummy is queasy this morning) I actually almost threw up. As Jessica points out, you can burn up to 750 calories in a typical dance class - which wipes out the spaghetti / meatball dinner I ate an hour before class. Salsa Burn is no joke.

I've accepted (surprise) Jessica's challenge to take my dance training up a notch - four classes next week - but honestly, I am relieved for tonight's break. What about Naughty Hotties, you ask? I'm leaving that class for EROTICA. She's all excited about the promised Lady Marmalade chair routine. I'm sure I'll be doing a little sitting myself tonight, just as soon as I figure out how to get rid of this "numb bum."

TIME IS RUNNING OUT! Have you checked out Candy's epic contest yet? Not only do you have an opportunity to win some amazing (AMAZING) prizes, you also have a chance to help out women in need. Spread the love. But do it fast - deadline is JULY 31, 2010.

The Book In My Bag Today: Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Every time I dye my hair red, I think of Jagger.

Not Mick. But rather the protagonist in one of my works in progress, Heartless. Jagger's a tough chick, not afraid to squeeze into a leather pantsuit and kick some serious ass. She couldn't care less if her fiery halo of hair is matted, or if her mascara is trailing from her eyes like Alice Cooper. Mirrors do not frighten her.

It's been far too long since Jagger and I spent quality time together, so I decided to take her to Dance Hall Fit Hop class last night.

I suspect our friendship took a serious blow.

As Jagger is often fond of saying, she doesn't dance. She likes racquetball and running, high-impact exercises that serve a dual purpose - building up her cardio and working through the frustrations of her day job.

But last night dance instructor extraordinaire Jessica offered up a few words of advice for me and my feisty heroine. Low impact exercise is better for you.


It's true. That pop, pop, pop you might hear when you run is not the same "pop" Jessica encourages in dance. And yet, I sweat so much last night red hair dye left a trail from my neck to the middle of my back. Totally unsexy.

But Jagger doesn't care about vanity. She's more interested in the challenge. So as I took to the floor for the second week of hell Dance Hall, I thought: What would Jagger do? (WWJD)

In reality, she'd avoid dancing at all costs. That and elephants. But if the story warranted it - or her yummy sidekick Torek challenged her - Jagger would rise to the occasion. She wouldn't give a crap about how she looked while learning the steps. She'd simply get it done.

I tried that.

I don't have near the amount of confidence Jagger does, but having lived vicariously through her adventures for about, oh, 80,000 words, I've picked up a trick or two.

Somewhere near the half way mark of Dance Hall last night I stopped worrying about the mirror and focussed, REALLY focussed, on the actual steps. My arms are beginning to move in tandem with my feet, and even though I falter when the beat changes from eight counts to two, I feel somewhat less ridiculous than I did three classes ago.

I also hurt. Every muscle - especially my hips and abs - are singing the "Achy Breaky" blues. Off key, of course because I can't sing either.

If Jagger actually danced her way off the page and into the studio, I have little doubt she'd be just as clunky. Like me, she doesn't quite feel the beat true dancers do. Her hips are more accustomed to pivoting versus swaying (or even popping), and she certainly does not know how to "wind" (WTF? I'll never get THAT step!) - but she'll keep practicing. Her personal drive to compete - to *win* - will make her push her body to the extreme. And then she'll kick it up a notch.

Because that's what Jagger does.

Unfortunately for Jessica, Jagger is also quite adept at using a bow, and this morning, I have little doubt she's pointed one of her black arrows at J'Adore Dance. I'd recommend ducking.

The Book In My Bag Today: Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Book 39 - Kindred in Death

It's no secret I'm a J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) fan.

I've been reading the In Death series for so many years I've lost track of which ones I haven't read and which of the more-than-30 I've read more than once. There's a certain level of writing quality and story I've come to expect from this series - and as expected, Kindred in Death didn't disappoint.

When the daughter of a decorated high-ranking police officer is brutally murdered and raped in her own home, the grieving father asks Eve Dallas to lead the investigation. The case is high profile - but for Eve, who still relives the memories of her horrible past - it's also personal. She must not only solve the mystery fast to provide some peace for the family (and get the media off her back), she must also learn to push aide the demons from her youth and keep focussed on the present.

To do this, she pulls together a team of regulars, including Peabody and Feeney, Truebody, Dr. Mira, and of course, her handsome husband, Roarke. (In my head, he's very handsome, though when I considered him for Muse Avatar Monday I had no idea what "celebrity" might play his role. Ideas, anyone?)

As always, Kindred in Death is a fast-paced thriller with snappy dialogue and plenty of plot twists. Nora is wonderful with scene setting, and something I noticed with this book is how easily she navigates transition moments. Like how to take characters from point A to point B without breaking the scene or awkward "and then" phrasing. I've always felt this to be a bit of a weakness in my own writing and as a fix, I tend to shorten my chapters. Not a terrible tactic, but I could learn a lot from Nora on alternatives.

Of course, I've been saying that for as long as I've been reading her.

I'm fascinated with mysteries, even though I don't have any desire to write a traditional one - thriller's more my genre. Still, it's inspiring to see how neatly the crisis is righted, and how the ending is flipped to take you away from the gore and into some kind of teary-eyed finale. I cried. Hey, don't judge me, I've always said Nora is the Queen of Emotion.

I'd absolutely recommend this book - but with the usual caveat: Read at least the first five in the series before you get out of order. At least then you have a good sense of the characters who will star in almost every book, and you'll understand how Eve and Roarke could definitely qualify for "Greatest Love of All Time" status.

Although I'm rarely bored in an In Death book, I admit to racing through the end of Kindred. My TBR pile is already groaning and I have a book from my BF that's burning a hole in my shelf, but last night, Handsome Hubby bought me Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. It's a young adult supernatural-ish story (faeries, not vampires or werewolves!) and I foolishly read the prologue and first chapter. I didn't want to stop.

In fact, if I didn't have dance tonight (Dance Hall, gulp) then I would actually plant myself on the deck and read until I couldn't keep my eyes open. Can't wait!

Monday, July 26, 2010

More bark than bite?

I missed True Blood last night.

The drive home from my Dad and (new!) stepmom's house is just over 10 hours, and no matter what time my husband and I leave BC, it's a long, windy, and often emotional drive home. Yeah, I'll throw it out there, I'm a bit of a Daddy's girl.

But this time, the 'good-bye' felt a little more poignant. After a stunning wedding, I've just gained an awesome stepmom and three new siblings - two beautiful stepsisters and a handsome - albeit accident-prone stepbrother.

Not to mention the joy of a brief visit with cousins, aunties and uncles, grandparents, old friends, and my sister, who I rarely see since we live on opposite sides of the country. I love how weddings can bring a family together, no matter their typical geographical distance.

In two weeks, my handsome hubby and I will be making that trek again, not for a wedding, but to celebrate our one year anniversary at the lake where we got married. It's not just a celebration, but also personal solace, an opportunity to give the proverbial finger to the naysayers who said we wouldn't make it. No, one year is not a lifetime, but my husband and I faced some incredible obstacles over the past twelve months and still, my love for him continues to grow.

Thankfully, we didn't have to fight those obstacles on our own. For the past two years, my stepmom has been the one person I could talk to about life, about love, about hurts and fears. She's a straight shooter, but like me, she wears her heart on her sleeve. She understands there are two sides to every story and offers unwavering support. My stepmom has taught me to be 'me' - without judgement.

I need to spend a lot more time with myself.

Which means writing again.

I'd considered making my stepmom my muse avatar this week, but despite her beauty, she isn't a fan of having her picture posted on the Internet. (Which is too bad since her dress had everyone - including my Dad - awestruck.)

So instead I give you Joe Manganiello, a new character on this season of True Blood where all the men seem to have ripped abs. He plays a werewolf on the show - as well as Sookie's protector. I figure since she's got half of Bon Temps vying for the job, she won't mind sharing Joe this week.

I'll have no time keeping him busy. In addition to the role of muse avatar, I could use a tough guy to help me fight through a bit of emotional upheaval. Here's hoping Joe's bite is just as strong as his bark.

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

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dawn of the Dead (er) - The Dance Remix


SUE and DAWN arrive at J'Adore dance studio fifteen minutes before Salsa Burn class. DAWN is wearing a bright pink shirt and leggings. She smiles while watching the Pilates class finish their stretching. SUE is not wearing pink. Nor is she smiling. Aside from Sue's dark mood, the studio is bright and cool.

DAWN: (points to cover of Men's Health Magazine featuring Kellan Lutz): Hot!
SUE: The next word that comes out of your mouth better be some brilliant (expletive) Mark Twain (expletive). Cause it's definitely going on your tombstone.
DAWN: (looking surprised): Really? You can't still be mad at me for dragging you to last week's class. That's crazy!
SUE: (stands and whispers in Dawn's ear): We all go a little mad sometimes... Haven't you?

(Cut to previous night's Dance Hall montage. Cue Rihanna music. Dawn glimpses sight of herself in mirror. Shudders. Fade out.)

Perky, blonde Salsa instructor KASHA takes to the floor and immediately launches into Latin dance warm-up. DAWN smiles as the steps appear to come more naturally than previous weeks. SUE is not smiling.

SUE: 1, 2, "Sue" is coming for you...
DAWN: (mops sweat off brow with the back of her hand) Coming? Coming where? To class next week? Awesome! I knew you'd love it.
SUE: 3, 4, better lock the door
DAWN: (squats and sways hips side to side): Didn't you hear the beep? We locked the car doors.
SUE: 5, 6, grab your crucifix
DAWN: (circles hips around, and around...) No, I'm ok. I'm sore from Dance Hall last night but not quite begging for help from a higher power. (pops hips side, front, side, and back) How are you feeling?
SUE: 7, 8, Better stay up late.
DAWN: (pops chest to the front, to the back, to the front) Are you kidding? I'm traveling 12 hours tomorrow. Early to bed for me.
SUE: 9, 10 never sleep again.
DAWN: (finished warm up and takes a long drink) Nah. I can't do all nighters anymore. Getting too old.


KASHA turns up the volume on the stereo and begins Salsa movements. DAWN seems to be keeping up with the steps that have become more natural now. Twilight descends over the studio. (Nobody sparkles.)

DAWN: (whispers to Natalie in row ahead) I'm so sore from Dance Hall. (Natalie smiles and nods. Her reply is drowned out by the music.) I wasn't sure I could get out of bed after that workout. I almost cried.
SUE: No tears please. It's a waste of good suffering.

KASHA hands floor over to MEL who announces she will be leading the class through some random steps in time with the World Cup theme song by Shakira. DAWN smiles - she secretly longs to *be* Shakira. (Cut to Shakira dance montage. Fade back to studio.) MEL introduces four new steps - they look fun. They are not easy. SUE fixes DAWN with murderous glare.

DAWN: (shrugs) Let's give it a try. Should be challenging, right?
SUE: A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.
DAWN: (shaky laugh) Uh, good one.

Shakira song ends. Class claps and compliments MEL on her improvisation. KASHA launches into Cha Cha steps.

DAWN: Nobody puts baby in a corner.
SUE: che che che che, ha ha ha. Che che che, che, ha, ha , ha
DAWN: I love how I'm starting to understand this. It's an amazing workout when you're actually doing it.
SUE: che che, che, che. Ha, ha, ha.
DAWN: (frowning at mirror) But I still don't think I'm doing the arms right.
SUE: Che, che, che, che. Ha, ha, ha.
DAWN: Are you saying something? It's not "ha" - it's CHA.
SUE: che che, che, che, ha, ha, CHA.

KASHA completes several Latin dance routines. DAWN is proud of the relative fluidity of her hip movements, and has even tried timing the arms. Her chest is slightly puffed out with pride. Sweat is pouring from her skin. She has almost polished off her second bottle of water. With 15 minutes left in class, she is confident she will survive the night. KASHA announces she will lead two intense exercise moves before stretching. One will focus on the abdominals. The other on the glutes. SUE fixes DAWN with a murderous glare.

SUE: (grins, though not in a happy way, but more in a Jack Nicholson, Shining, way): What an excellent day for an exorcism.
DAWN: (grunting through first full song of ab crunch things) I am so glad you're going to do something about that attitude. I know you're having fun! Go ahead, exorcise that gloom away.

(Cut to montage of fun things. Like hot baths. Chocolate. Stopping to smell the flowers.)


SUE and DAWN stagger toward SUE'S locked vehicle. DAWN is sore and sweaty, but she is smiling.

DAWN: So, any premonitions?
SUE: I see dead people.
DAWN: (scans the parking lot. Waves to new dance friends.) Where? Here?
SUE fixes DAWN with murderous glare.
DAWN: Oh! Me! You still want to kill me?
SUE: (grins) Be afraid. Be very afraid.

To be continued....

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Let me hear your body talk

There's a considerable amount of chatter going on between my muscles today. My abs are doing their usual day-after-dance protest, and my thighs are in competition with my shoulders for who can complain the loudest.But overnight a new muscle has gone from whispering to screaming - making it uncomfortable to sit this morning.

Quite literarly, Jessica worked my butt off at Fit Hop last night.

I'd love to boast that after two weeks of Fit Hop Flop I'd mastered the steps and could pop it like the best of them, but in the haze of a busy day, I forgot Jessica was going to switch it up a bit.

Actually, she switched it up a lot.

Not just with a new routine, but a whole different style of hip hop.

Dance Hall.

Go ahead. Google it. Got an image?

Now erase it. Class wasn't anything like that.

Just when I thought I'd figured out how to make my hips "pop" without looking seriously ridiculous, Jessica took away the "pop." Dance Hall requires a smoother motion - less jerky, more sexy. The steps are a little Latin dance-ish, with the occasional "pop" for effect. (Marking the only spot I could truly keep up.) The new routine includes only one move I'm familiar with - a scoop, scoop, chest pop step - and even that one felt out of step.

Never mind the whole African dance free-style motion introduced at the end of a complex series of unfamiliar moves. I'd been flailing my arms for almost two songs before I finally figured out I shouldn't be waving them in the air, but rather swaying them in front of me as though doing the limbo after a couple of margaritas.

Maybe next time I'll try the margaritas first.

In the comfort of my living room, of course. Because there is NO way I'll be grooving out my shaky Dance Hall moves while waiting for the bus (nice try, Jess) or shimmering my booty like J-Lo down the grocery aisle. Ha!

I'm not going to lie. Dance Hall threw me for a loop - a giant, hip circling loop. I focused really hard on the basic step, making sure to push rather than pull my leg into a side step. I even figured out how to move my arms. And I didn't actually get lost until AFTER the front step (right, hip pop, left, hip pop) lesson - because then Jessica added "different" arms.

Progress, right?

Absolutely. But here's something better. When I crawled (yes, crawled) out of bed this morning, plugging my ears against the chatter of my aching muscles, I pulled on a pair of pants that felt...looser. And the shirt I'd been yanking over my love handles last week slid a little easier over a tank top that wasn't turning me into a sausage today.

I haven't changed my (bad) eating habits, and other than dance three times a week, I haven't exercised. So, could my body be changing already?

Good question -- and a conversation I'll have with my muscles when they're in a better mood.

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

Monday, July 19, 2010

Love the way you inspire

I've got the new Eminem song stuck in my head.

I first heard Love the Way You Lie yesterday while driving home from WordsWorth. Since then, I've downloaded it and listened to it more than a dozen times. Yeah, I've been known to obsess like that.

There are very few Eminem songs on my playlist - despite a crazy crush on him about ten years ago, I never truly latched on to his music save a few of the most popular songs. But this new one, featuring the haunting voice of Rihanna on the chorus, seems to be stuck on replay.

I may not agree with everything Eminem does or says, but I can't argue with his personal drive. Eminem understands about chasing the dream, pulling out all stops to beat the odds.

Truth be told, he's inspired me in the past. I've watched 8-Mile. I've listened to the lyrics of songs like Lose Yourself and turned up the volume more than once when my butt threatened to leave the chair in favour of something less...difficult.

In many ways, his life story is inspirational - against some heavy-duty obstacles, Eminem has made it.

And let's face it, he ain't hard on the eyes.

I've blogged about music and lyrics before, and how they often inspire me. On this latest track, Eminem has fun playing with words (even though the song itself is slightly disturbing):

But you lied again
Now you get to watch her leave

Out the window
Guess that's why they call it window pane

I've resigned myself to the fact that Love the Way You Lie will repeat in my head and on my iPod until I get sick of it. So I might as well enjoy the scenery while I'm going through this latest obsession.

Welcome to muse avatar duty, Eminem. Please send some of that crazy writing mojo my way, huh?

HEY! Have you checked out Candy's epic contest yet? Not only do you have an opportunity to win some amazing (AMAZING) prizes, you also have a chance to help out women in need. Spread the love. 

The Book In My Bag Today: Kindred in Death, J.D. Rob

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Dawn of EROTICA (uh, not the genre)

I might as well lay it out there: I bought this. The Carmen Electra Aerobic Striptease DVD. Actually, I bought the whole series. The day it came out in Canada.

More accurately, I stalked its release.

Back then I *might* have had a bit of a girl crush on Carmen Electra, or maybe it was her then girly-yet-hot husband, Dave Navarro. Regardless, I had a resolve - to play and replay Carmen's DVDs until I, too, could slither like a stripper, in the comfort of my living room, of course.

(I love myself, I want you to love me. When I feel down, I want you above me)

Wait! Not yet, E.

So anyway, Carmen's DVDs just didn't do it for me - and I promptly forgot all illusions of dirty-ish dancing.

Until Jessica introduced me to her Naughty Hotties.

(I search myself, I want you to find me. I forget myself, I want you to remind me)

E! Shhh... We're not ready yet.

Carmen Electra has nothing on Jessica. With her new red-hot hair, the gorgeous Juicy J led a room full of women in several degrees of comfort through a series of sultry, sexy moves. Naughty Hotties is all about confidence, and Juicy J is certainly not lacking there. It was all I could do not to gasp during even the warm up - no WAY my hips could move like that, right?

Maybe. But my alter ego is considerably more liberal.

(I close my eyes, and see you before me. Think I would die if you were to ignore me)

Sigh. Alright, Erotica, come on out.

(I don't want anybody else. When I think about you I touch myself)


Erotica is my Naughty Hotties alter ego - or, my stripper name. The name generators on the Internet spit out several options in various shades of ridiculous (sorry, Megs, I simply could not go with Mimi Glitzy-Thighs and Double D was taken). I consulted with my friend Rita, who suggested I look for a literary connect. How awesome is Erotica? (Well, some, like Tielle St. Clare's work, is, but I've read some choppy stuff. Heck, I've written some questionable erotica...But I digress.)

So, who is Erotica?

Right now she's a rough character sketch, a blank page of mystery. Last night she wore a long, black t-shirt - which she won't be wearing again. Too hot - and not in a naughty way. Erotica took tentative first steps from the shadows of the back row, but by the end of the night, had hip checked a little more sexy into her dance (I use the term loosely as a whole lot of Dawn remains prominent) and, um, "performed" for her peers. She hung out with hotties like Dangerous D, and *almost* memorized a short routine to a Britney Spears song.

(I don't want anybody else. When I think about you I touch myself)

And yeah. She touches herself. *cough* Not in a crotch-grabbing hip hop way, but more of a seductive S-curve kind of motion. 

No whiskey required!

Erotica and I laughed last night. A lot. But we also got our first taste of something truly special Jessica's studio embodies. Naughty Hotties is not about exploitation, but rather empowerment, and discovering how amazing a woman's body can be - and how it CAN move. Jessica has created a safe environment where me and Erotica can learn about each other - and have fun.

Last night wasn't about the steps, because clearly Erotica has the same directional challenges I mentioned yesterday. Instead, "we" focussed on letting go of some fear.

How amazing to have found a place within J'Adore Dance to do that. I can hardly wait for the Lady Marmalade chair routine.

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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Night as a Naughty Princess (or How I Almost Lost a Friend)

Calm down, handsome hubby. Kasha (not to be confused with Ke$ha) says "naughty princess" is the technical term for the Cha Cha.

Well, maybe not technical so much as descriptive -- your upper body mimics the poise of a princess, but everything below your torso moves with just a little bit of naughty. (Cha cha cha!)

Or in my case, ridiculous.

No, this is not the post you've been waiting for. Naughty Hotties is - gulp - tonight. But as I am quickly learning, there's a little bit of "naughty" in pretty much every style of dance.

Not something I warned my friend Sue about when I bribed encouraged her to join me for my second class of Salsa Burn.

Sue: Will it be hard?
Me: Not at all. It will be fun.
Sue: Fun sounds good. What time should I pick you up?
Me: Uh, 6:30?
Sue: But class starts at 7:15, no?
Me: Yes, but I like the back row.

I actually don't *like* the back row. I need the back row. Still camouflaged behind a sea of waving arms and swaying hips, I can keep one eye on Kasha's butt feet and the other on Sue. And when the class is jam-packed (as it was last night), I can't even see myself in the mirror. Cha-ching!

Sue: I'm sweating.
Me: This is the warm-up.
Sue: Really? How long have we been here?
Me: 10 minutes.
Sue: *scrunches face in disapproval* Will we be friends after this?
Me: *smiling* Doubtful.

I confess, after Tuesday's Hip Hop Flop and last week's Salsa Fizzle, I fully expected to crash and burn last night. I definitely burn - my thighs and abs and butt muscles are still on fire - but much to my delight, I didn't crash. At least not fully.

Me: Don't worry about your arms right now.
Sue: So, you're an expert now?
Me: What? No! I just don't want you to be frightened away.
Sue: Are you calling me a chicken?
Me: Huh? No! It's just there's a lot of coordination. You know, moving your feet like this. (*demonstrates basic Salsa step*) And then popping the hip, and...
Sue: So I'm not coordinated?
Me: That's not what I meant...
Sue: Perhaps you should clarify.
Me: *turns to front* I'll just look this way.
Sue: You do that.

I confess to loving the class. LOVING. Kasha exudes a confidence that is contagious, and much like Jessica, her smile is infectious. Maybe it was having Sue whining crying  sweating along with me, or my inability to see my two left feet in the mirror, or replaying Jessica's encouragement email over and over in my head - but something just felt...different. Almost like an a-ha! moment (not THAT A-ha, Mi. Sorry.)

I allowed myself to get swept up in the music and the laughter. Did I hit the steps? Not even close. And don't even get me started on the two new moves Kasha introduced (but thanks to Mel, last week's instructor, for giving me a little one-on-one help with that...). My arms refuse to move with my feet, but apparently my hips don't mind the gentle sway.

Sue: You said this wouldn't be hard.
Me: I lied.
Sue: Clearly. Anything else I should know?
Me: I don't think so.

Well, except for that (long) song-and-a-bit worth of squats.

Sue: I hate squats.
Me: There's just a few.
Sue: *scrunches face in disapproval* I hate squats.

We finished with some wonderful meditation-style stretches, the kind that might have put me to sleep had I not heard Sue's whispered threats.

Sue: Are you hurting?
Me: Yes.
Sue *louder* Anything I can do to make your pain worse?
Me: Shhh.
Kasha: How's everyone feeling?
Sue: Like I want to kill my friend.

Sue's threats continued throughout the drive.

Sue: I've never sweat so much. I'm going to melt.
Me: Time to dust off the broom?
Sue: Broom? Why would I need a broom?
Me: Uh... wasn't that a reference to the Wicked Witch? You know, melting and all?
Sue: *gasping* I meant sugar!
Me: Oh crap.

As I climbed out of her car with ginger-like care, Sue stopped me with a murderous glare. My breath hitched.

Sue: I have a premonition.
Me: You're going to kill me tomorrow?
Sue: Probably. But I think I'll be sore tomorrow.

Yep, you will. But I also have a premonition, Sue. You'll be back next week.

The Book In My Bag Today: Kindred in Dead, J.D. Robb

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dance GPS: Hey, is there an app for this?

Sometimes I think it's a miracle I ever passed my driver's exam.

It's not that I'm a bad driver. Not in the slightest. It's just that at times, I'm directionally challenged. When I worked in agriculture, I got used to figuring out north and south - or even "turn at the red barn." But when it comes to left and right?


Not a problem though, since my trusty iPhone has a fabulous GPS application, complete without the whiny female voice yelling at me when I turn left instead of right.

Sadly, my iPhone is useless at J'Adore Dance.

It's the morning after my second Fit Hop class and friends, I'm a hurting unit. Jessica, my new She-Ra (sorry Tara) worked my butt off, and muscles I'd forgotten about are reminding me of their presence. Why hello abs - I couldn't feel you down there under that layer of fat.

I assumed I'd remember the steps from last week. Silly, silly Dawn. And in my ache-induced morning state, things are still a bit fuzzy.

Friends and family know I have no problem getting lost. I've tackled major highways in foreign countries, navigated my way across Canada and the United States, faced detours with nary a scratch. But "popping" my left shoulder when I should be "popping" the right? I'd rather stumble my way through a traffic circle - in rush hour.

Maybe it was the gloomy weather taunting me to stay home and dry, or perhaps I was feeling the strain of a highly emotional day. Either way, my fit hop felt a bit like a flop, despite laughing so hard my sides hurt (or maybe that's from the "scoop" step Jessica introduced last night.) Still, it's tough to get frustrated when Jessica is waving her hands in the air with a smile so wide you could fall in if you get too close.

I don't. Get too close, that is. I quite enjoy the back row, where I have the illusion of dancing in my living room. Jessica says she thinks that's where people are their most free, and when the best dancing emerges.

I'd recommend adding whiskey. (I wonder if I could come to class half corked? Just kidding, Jess!)

All joking aside, here's the thing: I felt kind of deflated last night, worried I was "never" going to pick up the steps or feel comfortable facing that wall of mirrors. But then I got an email from Jess - and my attitude changed.

She noticed a difference.

In me!

Not in technique, exactly. But definitely in spirit. How cool is that? Just two paragraphs of well-placed encouragement and I'm ready to tackle Salsa tonight.

But if anyone has seen an iPhone app for GPS that will help me with my dance navigation, you know where to find me. (In a hot tub somewhere soothing my sore muscles...)

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

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book 38 - Haunted

I'm almost certain I could sum up my thoughts on Haunted by writing: Kelley Armstrong rocks, read this book.

Of the 38 novels I've read since January 2010, a good portion of them have been by Armstrong. Thanks Karen and Jeff for introducing me to Bitten (grin). This is the fifth in the Women of the Otherworld series, and next to Bitten, my favourite.

As always, the writing is spectacular, creating the illusion that I'm living the protagonist's life. Not a bad deal when the protagonist is Eve Levine, half-demon, black witch and now ghost.  Eve has a sexy love life, and can't be killed again - which is perfect since she's amassed a number of enemies over the years.

But when she is tasked by the Fates with capturing an evil spirit known as the Nix, Eve's comfortable life takes a dangerous turn. And suddenly Eve has an opportunity to have everything she thought she wanted - though not without sacrifice.

I've been thinking a lot about sacrifice lately. I'm hitting crunch time for deadlines and can't seem to buckle down with the actual pen-to-paper required to take the WIP over the finish line. Muse avatars help, learning to dance is making a difference, and working for a literacy organization that hosts awesome youth writing camps is definitely inspiring. But am I willing to sacrifice some of my creature comforts to truly work toward my dream?

Good question - and one that lingers without answer even as Eve makes her choice and I close the cover on another amazing Otherworld tale.

Armstrong's books have a way of always making me ponder the big questions. Like sacrifice, but also whether I've got the chops - and belly fire - to make a living at this. My heart says yes, even when my brain plays devil's advocate.

What remains clear, always, is that I have much to learn. With Armstrong as my instructor, the answers to my haunting questions become a little less fuzzy.

If you've not read Bitten, start there. I dare you to try not to make it to Haunted.

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

Captivating muse

There are weeks I struggle for a muse avatar - and then some days the answer is so clear it all but knocks me out. Adrian Glynn is a prime example.

Never mind the fact that he vaguely looks like Ian Somerhalder (though admittedly not in the pictures I could find online) but the sheer depth of his creative talent is muse-inspiring.

Among other things, Adrian plays the "triangle thing" (balalaika) in a band called The Fugitives, a Canadian group of talented musicians and spoken word poets.

Although the entire band could probably pull off muse-avatar duty this week, I've given the job to Adrian for obvious - and some not so obvious - reasons.

I had the pleasure of watching The Fugitives perform at WordsWorth, the Young Alberta Book Society's camp for youth who love to write. Like everyone else, I was blown away.

There are people who are meant to perform, folks who possess a certain star quality that seems to erupt on the stage. Adrian is definitely one of those people.

He commands the stage, filling it with his presence - and in turn, making girls of all ages swoon. It isn't just his style, or the sexiness of his genuine smile, or even how his eyes twinkle with mischief under the dim lights. It's in everything he does.

Adrian's voice is magical, his expertise with instruments brilliant. (Not only has he mastered the "traingle thing" he also plays a mean harmonica and has a piano credit on the band's latest CD - for two days AFTER the performance, Adrian's "joke" words to that brief piano interlude were sung at Kamp Kiwanis by awe-struck youth...and, um, adults.)

Plus, he's a nice guy.

By the end of the night, I was itching to write - a clear signal of Adrian's muse avatar qualifications. (So yeah, I bought the Team Triangle Thing t-shirt and asked him to sign it.)

Yes, I'm well aware I'll likely be sharing my muse avatar with a contingent of young writers, but I'm quite certain there's enough of Adrian to go around. And I have a secret weapon - an original copy of Aladdin. I hear he's a big fan...

PS - The Fugitives are on tour. Check them out on iTunes, CD or YouTube. Go now!

The Book In My Bag Today: Haunted, Kelley Armstrong

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More fizzle than sizzle

One of my favourite scenes from Dirty Dancing is Jennifer Grey's introduction to the employee after-hours party. Dressed somewhat conservatively, "Baby" takes in the grinding, the drinking, the laughing with a slack jaw of wonderment. When asked by the hunky Patrick Swayze why she's there, she says: I carried a watermelon.

That scene sums up Baby's awkwardness, her sudden plunge into the unknown. She's frightened, but excited. (And hey, who wouldn't be after watching Patrick's sexy dance moves!)

Of course, before long, Baby's learning the Meringue.

I can totally relate.

I learned the Meringue last night, too! Kind of.

It was Salsa Burn evening at J'Adore Dance and in addition to the salsa sway, my sassy instructor Mel guided our class through a couple of Meringue steps. And some Cha Cha moves. My brain went into latin dance overload.

I assumed Fit Hop would provide the most challenging "choreography" in this dance challenge, but I've never felt less coordinated than while trying to learn the footwork for the Meringue. Or maybe it was the Cha Cha. It's all a bit of a blur this morning.

And once I kind of figured out each basic step, Mel added arms - I might as well have been carrying a watermelon. Shakira I am not.

But this is not your typical dance studio, and while Jessica's hope is that people will be inspired by movement, her philosophy also encourages a commitment to total body wellness. So, amidst the slightly confusing dance steps, Mel infused typical workout moves - like a song's worth of squats and lunges, and some abdominal exercises that have me groaning today.

If Fit Hop is a series of exaggerated pops, latin dance is more focused on smooth, sexy motion. It's hard to say whether my hips simply won't move like that, or whether the giant mirror is simply mocking me. In my opinion, I look kind of ridiculous.

It isn't Mel's fault. Like Jessica in Fit Hope, Mel did break down the steps into what should have been digestible bites. Perhaps I just ate too much before going to class.

Tonight would have been my first Naughty Hotties session - truthfully, the class I am fearing most. But the day job calls and I'm heading out of town. Although I'm excited to spend time with the young writers at WordsWorth, I'm a little sad to miss Naughty Hotties. I have a feeling I'm going to need every second of class time.

I'm hopeful my boss won't mind me taking up some space in our shared dorm tonight to practice the Meringue. Cha cha cha!

The Book In My Bag Today: Haunted, Kelley Armstrong

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Snap, crackle, hip hop

Above the wall of mirrors *gulp* at J'adore Dance are the words: Sweat. Breathe. Live. Dance.

I've got the first part down to a tee, but I've a long journey ahead of me before I can dance.

No problem. Baby steps, right?

Uh, not if you're in Jessica's Fit Hop class where the slogan "Go Big or Go Home" is redefined.

Hip hop is all about large, exaggerated movements - hip thrusts that pop, side slides that sizzle, shoulder shrugs that shout "whatever." There's an attitude you're supposed to bring to the floor, and even a simple front march has a certain crotch-grabbing swagger...

Me? Not quite at the swagger. Never mind the giant mirrors mocking my lack of coordination, I spent the majority of the class trying to mimic Jess without gawking. The Jessica I met for coffee - and the girl I worked with at Chapters many years ago - is not the same superstar who lets it out on the dance floor. Don't get me wrong, I've always thought there was something special about her -- her passion for life, her commitment to friends and family, her ability to love without condition.

But on the dance floor?

Well, that's a whole new level of wow.

And it's infectious.

Intimidating, yes. But definitely addictive.

I stumbled through most of the moves - heck, I even stumbled through the warm-up - but I appreciated how the sequence of steps was stripped down to the basics. Like learning the rules of writing before actually putting pen to paper. I may not be able to entice Usher with my shoulder rolls (hey, that's a tricky move), or snap my fingers with Beyonce-inspired confidence (yet), but my hip thrusts may someday rival Shakira's if I stick with it - and my first manuscript wasn't written overnight.

With the exception of Naughty Hotties, I think I'd set Fit Hop up as the class designed most to intimidate me, but in reality, it's my own self-esteem issues wreaking havoc on my ability to fully break out of my comfort zone. I do believe dancers come in all shapes and sizes, but when your instructor is a mesmerizing picture of confidence and grace, the obstacles seem larger than life.

*I* seemed larger than life.

Admittedly, much of my anxiety melted by the end of an hour packed with laughter and great music. It's easy to get swept up by the beat - and when your feet decide to be difficult, it's ok (says Jess) to pretend that's what you meant to do all along.


Kind of like vomiting on the page, no?

Even in my sleep I continued to hear Jessica's enthusiastic voice, encouraging us to "pop it." This morning, I can still picture her lithe form leading us through a series of moves that actually looked like Hip Hop. (Word!) And my abs are stinging from repeated, sweat-inducing hip thrusts.

More than that, though, is the ache across my jaw from smiling and laughing.

That's the ache that will inspire me to go back again. Because let's face it, it ain't my stellar dance moves ;-)


The Book In My Bag Today: Haunted, Kelley Armstrong

Monday, July 5, 2010

My muse asks: Shall we dance?

I'll be honest, friends. Last week's muse avatar sucked. My BF thinks I might not have used the right picture of Kellan Lutz, thus throwing off the writing mojo. I actually think it had more to do with the whole Eclipse launch thing. Just saying.

So who's the hottie to your left and what's she doing on muse avatar Monday?

Meet Jessica. She's a long-time friend, former co-worker, and owner of J'Adore Dance. Beautiful, no? This is after two kids. Two stunning little girls, by the way.

Still wondering why her gorgeous face is taking up muse avatar Monday space?

A little back story.

I've been in a literary funk for several weeks. Maybe it's lack of confidence but whatever the reason, I've spent more time staring at a blank screen than producing anything of worth. Oh, I've had eureka moments - many of them documented on this very blog. But for some reason, the "aha!" hasn't transferred onto the fiction page.

I'd been struggling for answers - and making excuses - for several days.

And then I met up with Jessica, after FAR TOO LONG, and things kind of clicked into place. Five minutes into our conversation and I had the cure for my writing blues. Well, actually, SHE had the cure, I just didn't realize it.

You see, I'm the queen of the yo-yo dieter (no really, I have the crown to prove it). And since my wedding almost a year ago (love you, Jeffrey xo), I've put back on the weight I'd lost. Because my handsome husband would love me at 300 pounds, I've let it slide - to the point where I'm scrounging in my closet looking for something - anything - that fits.

I hate that feeling.

Of course, weight gain impacts my confidence. It also affects my ability to write.

I should know this. After all, I polish my crown every couple of years when I've dropped 40 or found someone else's 20. It's in these times that my writing suffers.

But I've been down every diet road and at each turn come up to a dead end. I've trained with She-Ra unti l I couldn't afford her anymore (she rocked my world). I've been to Weight Watchers, suffered through the Berstein program, and followed the Curves diet to a point of obsession. I'm a runner. A cyclist. And I took a few years of boxing. Loved that (but that's a whole other blog post.)

Jessica suggested I try dance.

Dance? Me of the two left feet? I laughed. She didn't.

Ever since I can remember, I've loved dance. My cousin Larissa is stunning - tap, hip hop, contemporary...the girl is truly a beautiful dancer. My uncle Rick, my cousin Kile -- awesome moves. But I have always shied away from dance - even while coveting my So You Think You Can Dance? TV time and watching (much to hubby's dismay) all kinds of dance movies.

Truth be told, dancers intimidate me.

Jessica says that's part of what the dance community has cultivated (albeit somewhat inadvertently) - and it's an image she'd like to alter. J'Adore Dance aims to make dancing accessible - even for people with two left feet. It's clear Jess is passionate about her business, but more than that, she positively glows when she talks about dance.

It's infectious. Jessica is infectious.

And now, I'm signed up. For not one dance class, but several. Like Hip Hop. And Salsa. And, er, Naughty Hotties.

I know myself well enough to know that this new challenge, this commitment to wellness and health (more in another blog post), will inspire confidence. Even if I fall flat on my two left feet, I'll have broken out of my comfort zone - which always inspires me to write.

So, miss muse avatar, shall we dance?


The Book In My Bag Today: Haunted, Kelley Armstrong

Friday, July 2, 2010

Book 37 - The Broken Hearts Club

No matter how much water I drink, I can't seem to get rid of the taint - and I can't decide if its repulsion or awe.

I wasn't prepared for the graphic content of The Broken Hearts Club - neither the description of each brutal murder or every sexual encounter. It's not that I don't read those kinds of books, I'm just trying to figure out if it's a little over-the-top in this case.

Like when I watched Hostel in the theatre, almost crawling under the seat at the absolute gratutious sex and violence - and yet, still feeling something about the movie. Even weeks later.

The Broken Hearts Club is going to stick with me for a long time.

But I'm having a hard time understanding why. The premise is borderline brilliant - a small group of men who meet in the back of a dingy New York bar to share their broken-heart stories. Their rejection soon turns to hate, and hate morphs into rage, which of course leads to a string of murders. Brutal murders.

Enter Detective Voort, a rich, good-looking cop assigned to homicide. (What does good-looking and rich have to do with anything, you ask? I have NO idea, but the author must have deemed it relevant because it's talked about a lot throughout the novel. A lot.) Voort falls victim to his own broken heart (surprise), while his ex-girlfriend becomes the target of the very serial killer he's hunting. (Ok, so that last part is slightly cliche, but the first half of the book is quite clever...)

There's just something...weird...about the execution of the plot. I pride myself in writing deep third person point-of-view, hopefully allowing the reader to live the story rather than hover above it. My mentor, Steve Berry, would call that tight psychic distance, and its a trait I typically find in my favourite books. I enjoy the escape of living another person's life - even for 300 pages or so.

The Broken Hearts Club does not have tight psychic distance. It's written in third-person, present tense - sort of. It's a bit inconsistent in places, which I'm not sure was intentional, and is somewhat distracting.

And yet, I turned the page.

I turned the page after figuring out the mystery in the first third of the book. I turned the page when my suspicions were proven correct at the half-way point. I even turned the page when I knew exactly how the book was going to end long before I could no longer turn the page.


Honestly, I have no idea. I'm desperate for my BF to read this just so I can talk about it with her. Ethan Black breaks so many craft rules, his writing sometimes comes across as sloppy. And yet, there are paragraphs or snippets with such awe-inspiring detail I can see the scene with absolute clarity. I almost never like floating above the story, but I do with this novel. I think. And while Voort is not as well developed as I'd like to see (since he is a series character), I'm left with a strange aftertaste, not entirely unpleasant.

For some reason I want more. More Voort. More Black. Even more of The Broken Hearts Club.