Monday, November 29, 2010

Muse causes me Glee

I'm out of the closet now.

Officially, a GLEEk.

I tried to avoid Glee, holding out for an entire season, even when commercials taunted me with special Lady Gaga episodes. I held out when my own dance journey almost pushed me towards shows with a cast of dancing, singing stars. And knowing my husband wouldn't watch it, I didn't hover over the channel in hopes of a sneak peek one day.

But I can't deny it for even one second longer. I'm hooked. Big time.

I'm sure it hurt Karen a little to download the entire first season of Glee for me - it really isn't her kind of show. And I KNOW it hurts my handsome hubby a little when I squirm after not watching an episode after, oh, a few hours.

It's just that the show is so...catchy.

And there's considerable eye candy. Like Matthew Morrison, who is not only one of the main stars of the show, but has also landed the role of muse avatar this week.

My stepdaughter thinks he looks a little like a grown-up Stefan Salvatore, which I might concede if the "other" Vampire Diaries hottie didn't make a regular occurrence as my muse avatar (yes, I CAN find a way to bring Damon into every post if I try...) Although Matthew looks pretty smoking in the above photo, it isn't his abs that make him muse-worthy.

It's the way he performs.

No question the guy can sing, but when I watch him on Glee, I get completely caught up in his stage presence. There are quirks in his character that kind of annoy me - and truthfully, there are a few people on the show that make me want to pull my hair out at times - but the minute he opens his mouth to sing, I'm mesmerized.

After a few weeks of break from writing anything of real substance, I'm on the hook to really perform this week. At work. At home. On the page. *sigh*

Luckily, I spent a good portion of the weekend studying Matthew's technique. I figure if anyone can help me out in the performance area, it's Matthew's abs, er, talent.

The Book In My Bag Today: Going Bovine, Libba Bray

Monday, November 22, 2010

Muse inspired by Book 54 - The Cellar

I went to bed last night thinking about zombies.

No shocker, then, that I also dreamed about them. And just when an astonishingly good looking zombie named Adrien was figuring out the best way to eat my brains, Damon Salvatore, er Ian Somerhalder swooped in and turned me into a vampire. Hey, it's my dream.

Ian's been my muse a few times before, but in light of the fact that he essentially saved my life last night, that deserves another shot at inspiration. Ian, you're hired! (And since Vampire Diaries is on seasonal hiatus, I doubt you're that busy...)

I don't often think - dream - of zombies.

But Adrien is special. He's the antagonist in A.J. Whitten's not-yet-released YA novel The Cellar, book 54 in my 100 Books of 2010 challenge.

A fellow blogger pointed me to Galley Net, a cool place where book reviewers / readers can download digital advance reader copies. It's no surprise Karen and I picked out the same title - for her, I suspect "zombies" caught her attention. I was drawn to the "Romeo and Juliet" (and zombies) part.

The Cellar is like no other book I have ever read. I don't have an e-reader, and thus was forced to read this galley on my computer. If ever I needed inspiration to buy a Kindle, this is it. Mesmerized by the first page, I wanted to take The Cellar everywhere - into the bath, my bed, my purse. And when a power outage in my neighbourhood meant I couldn't charge my laptop, I bit back a string of curses.

Adrien is a zombie - a good looking, sweet talking, brain eating zombie. He has his designs on Heather, a lost teen who is guilt ridden over the death of her father. But standing between them are  undead, and human obstacles, like Heather's sister Meredith.

Meridith has an interesting problem with her eyes, so when she sees worms swimming behind Adrien's normally sunglassed gaze, she isn't sure whether to trust her instincts or head back to the psychiatrist.

The plot is fast-paced, and the description is beautiful - and freaking gory. Like, way too gory for what I might expect from a YA book. That's not a bad thing, because, if it's possible, the brain-eating, bug-crawling narrative is so well done it's actually tasteful. The Cellar is tightly written, and to my shock, has fast tracked it's way into my top 10 books I've read this year.

The Cellar launches January, 2011, and though I've read it, I'll be waiting outside the book store to be one of the first to buy a hard copy. An excellent book about zombies - and a tragic love story.

The Book in My Bag Today: Going Bovine, Libba Bray

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book 53 - Happily Ever After

In the past few years, my reading tastes have largely veered from traditional romance to suspense and thriller, but every so often I can be gobsmacked by a particularly well-done novel.

Happily Ever After, the final book in Nora Roberts' bride quartet, certainly qualifies. 

I read the last fifty pages of Happily Ever After through a waterfall of salty tears, in part reminiscing about my own wedding. But mostly just awestruck by Nora's seemingly effortless ability to draw out this kind of emotion.

I've ploughed through just about every one of Nora's series, and while many stand out as just damned good books, there's something special about the bride quartet.

Four women - best friends - merging their skills to build a successful wedding business, Vows, all living in pieces of a mansion style retreat home. Who wouldn't want that? 

The photographer in me loved Mac's story in the first book,Vision in White, and since I've always loved flowers, Emma's story was of particular interest. And last year, I had a brief love-in with shows like Cake Boss, so Laurel's story came at just the perfect time. But with Parker - the detail-oriented dynamo of the group - I wasn't sure what I'd connect with.

Should have known it would be the man.

Malcolm is a bad boy, though with Nora, they kind of come out of the shoot a little tamer than I'm typically drawn to. He's a mechanic with a past (shocking, I know) and I fell in love with him the minute I understood he and I could have a great conversation about (fast) cars over an ice cold Bud. He drives a motorcycle AND a vette (swoon) and by the way I pictured him nicely fills out a pair of jeans or a tux. 

The chemistry between Parker and Malcolm is swift, and hot - and not too over the top. Nora always 
seems to know what fine line to walk. My only regret is that there wasn't enough page real estate to truly flush out their relationship. Being the final book in the series (sniff) meant there was a number of loose ends to tie up, and while I enjoyed every page, I could have happily spent another few chapters with Malcolm.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The nature of things

I've been a bad blogger buddy this past week.

My own posts have been sporadic, at best, and I've only managed to make it to a handful of the blogs I normally visit at least once a day. I can't even begin to imagine what I've missed - the learning, the celebrating, the laughs...

Believe me, I could have used a few of those for sure.

Truthfully, I've been shifted - temporarily for now - into a new position at the day job and the learning curve is steep. I've been trying to wrap my head around budgeting and program development and these days admit my "a-ha!" moments are more likely to come after figuring out the intricacies of Quickbooks rather than successfully unravelling a plot snag.

I allowed crappy weather to keep me from dance. I've not written a single NaNo word this week and have accepted defeat on that particular challenge. And, though I've plugged away on the WIP, my efforts have been lackluster at best.

A myriad of stressors, and some particularly sad news about a dear friend, have made sleep difficult. There's been little time to stop, let alone smell the proverbial roses.

My family and I did take some time last night, though, to observe one of nature's wonders. Last week I watched my female Angel fish lay more than 500 eggs, and witnessed with awe the sheer energy that took for her. This wasn't the breeding pair's first attempt - four times Eden has eaten her young before they've had an opportunity to hatch.

I think she got it right this time.

I wish I had the right camera to capture Eden-the-nurturer in all her golden splendor. While Gabriel (papa fish) stands guard, Eden herds her fry into small balls of wiggling tails and black eyes. She breathes them into her mouth, where they stay warm and protected, as she moves them to a new area of the tank. Exhaling, the tiny tadpoles latch themselves to the surface of a plant, an ornament, or the breeding slate. If one threatens to fall, Eden scoops it into her mouth and places the fry gently with its siblings.

The process brought tears to my eyes.

And was a stark reminder that even in the midst of chaos, it is important to take time for life's beautiful moments.

I'm looking forward to next week when I hope to get back to YOUR blogs, shake it on the dance floor, and - gulp - catch up on the NaNo word count.

The Book In My Bag Today: Happily Ever After, Nora Roberts

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Book 52 - Crescendo

At some point over the last year, I began loitering in the Young Adult section at bookstores.

I can't pinpoint, precisely, what was the catalyst event for this shift in reading, though certainly welcoming a teenager into my life could account for some of it.

More likely, though, it has more to do with quality. There are some incredibly talented authors writing amazing teen fiction. Of course I remember all of the classics from my youth, but I don't recall - with few exceptions - them being this raw, this gritty. This compelling.

Since Karen and I started this 100 Books in 2010 challenge, I've discovered many new authors. Some of my favourites are those who write for teens - like Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely series), Judith Graves (Under my Skin), and Kelley Armstrong, who writes for both youth and adults.

Perhaps my most favourite, though, is Becca Fitzpatrick.

From the nano-second I fell in lust with Patch in Hush, Hush, I've been dying for the sequel, Crescendo. Thank goodness Karen picked it up first (launch day) - and was willing to part with it so I could DROP EVERYTHING and fall in love with Patch all over again.

I. Adore. This. Series.

Patch is a fallen angel, assigned to Nora as her guardian angel - and of course, there's love between them. Swoon-worthy love...

Like many of the romances in this genre, Patch and Nora have an unorthodox relationship, and predictably, Patch is a rebel, exactly the kind of bad boy I'm drawn to.

There's an aura of darkness that sets the tone in the very first chapter, and hovers over the whole book with an intensity that almost forces you to turn the page. Fitzpatrick is a talented writer with a firm grip on characterization and suspense. She even managed to make me like Vee, Nora's best friend, who I had a luke-warm reaction to in Hush, Hush.

Despite my enthusiasm, I admit, Crescendo isn't as strong as Fitzpatrick's debut - and though I think I understand why I felt that way, I can't really explain without spoiling the plot. That said, the "adventure" kept me flipping pages until I found - almost near the end - the sigh-inspiring satisfaction I sought. Cryptic? Sorry - I really don't want to ruin the book for you.

There was a time in my life I stuck pretty close to the authors that have been by my side for most of my adult life - Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Iris Johanson, Tami Hoag... While I'm still loyal to them, my tastes have expanded in the last few years and I've experienced not only new writers, but also whole new genres.

I am so thankful.

If you haven't read Becca Fitzgerald, I dare you to take a chance on Hush, Hush. And then go back and get Crescendo. Of the 52 books I've read so far this year, they'd rank in the top 10 for sure.

The Book In My Bag Today: Happily Ever After, Nora Roberts

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Simple Pleasures...

A new Nora Roberts book, spine waiting to be cracked

Homemade peanut butter cookies, fresh out of the oven

Sweet puppy kisses

Watching my beautiful angel fish lay eggs

The safety of feeling wrapped in handsome husband's loving embrace

A glass of Dad's wine, chilled to perfection

Listening to One Republic's "Secrets" on repeat - my song obsession of the month

Planning for next week, next month, next year

Reconnecting with myself

Muse avatar Mondays.

I'm posting early because I have an early Monday meeting and didn't want to miss assigning this week's muse. Fine by me. Turns out, I needed the peace of a rainy Sunday to reflect on the simple pleasures in life - and Johnny Depp is definitely among them. While I admire his, er, physique, I bow also to his diversity and skill. Few actors have embraced their career with such determination and integrity.

As I prepare for significant career changes on the horizon, I can only hope I employ the same work ethic as this week's muse. 

The Book In My Bag Today: Happily Ever After, Nora Roberts

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Book 51 - Fantasy in Death

I did everything wrong when I started Book #37 in the In Death series by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts).

A copy of Crescendo, the follow-up to Becca Fitzpatrick's NY Times Bestselling YA novel, Hush, Hush was sitting at the top of my TBR pile - and I'm dying to read more about (heart) Patch. I joined NetGalley and received a couple of ARCs that quickly wiggled their way to the middle of the TBR stack. I signed up for NaNo and reconnected with the protagonist in my WIP - two separate projects. And I stocked up on used books at the Edmonton Public Library  sale last weekend.

Not very conducive to immersing myself in a world I've loved since the first book in this series, Naked in Death.

Nora Roberts hit pay dirt when she created tough cop Eve Dallas and her hunky husband, Roarke. I'm in awe of her ability to continue each character's growth while working through an often complex plot. To say I idolize Nora would be an understatement on many levels.

Yet, something about the story of Fantasy in Death didn't quite work for me. The concept is wonderful -- advanced technology, high stakes, and four friends with just as much motive for success as for the kind of competitiveness that can destroy even the strongest relationship bonds. The opening scene, with its "tasteful decapitation," is textbook.

But things kind of drag on from there. Not in a pacing sense, because it's very rare with a Nora Roberts book that I'm not compelled to turn the page. It's just that the reader can almost guess the who, what, where and why in the first few pages of the novel, and it takes Eve - whom I respect and admire tremednously - another 300-ish pages to figure it out.

And, if I'm being honest, I couldn't quite wrap my head around the resolution. Throughout the novel, I kept hoping my instinct was wrong and there would be a less "fantastical" solution to the murders. I'm not afraid to suspend my disbelief, but I didn't quite get it. I admit, this could be a result of my overly-distracted mind, coupled with the fact that I'm not really a "gamer."

As well, there were a couple of instances where Roarke just felt...wrong. I've sustained a mostly healthy obsession with him for 37 books, so I feel quite qualified to note that I think Nora took him off the familiar path a bit in this book, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

That said, I'll read the next In Death book, and the one after that, and sometimes, when I'm needing a kick in the writing-craft-pants, I'll re-read my favourites. Because at the end of the day, very few authors can match Nora's seemingly effortless skill and awe-inspiring productivity.

The Book In My Bag Today: Crescendo, Becca Fitzpatrick

Monday, November 8, 2010

The "It's all Greek to me" Muse

There is a celebration of gigantic proportions going on at the Alliterative Allomorph blog site. The talented and beautiful Jessica has just learned that her debut novel, Dead in the Corner of my Bedroom (new title pending) will be published by Lucky Press, LLC.

Fellow writers should check out today's post - her journey is a shiny example of never giving up.

So why the random Greek hot guy on Muse Avatar Monday?

Well, Jessica is not only celebrating her impending pub date, but also the fact that she's reached 400 blog followers. Although a native Australian, Jessica lives in Greece (I know, tough life) where she writes beautiful poetry and debut novels obviously worth publishing.

To acknowledge her growing legion of fans, Jessica is giving away Amazon gift cards - and a surprise gift of something from Greece.

I, uh, vote for the guy pictured above.

If I win, I'll immediately put him in the role of Muse Avatar.

Congratulations Jessica! You absolutely deserve this.

The Book In My Bag Today - Crescendo, Becca Fitzpatrick

Friday, November 5, 2010

Breaking up is hard to do

Before I married handsome husband, some people thought I *might* be addicted to the adrenaline rush of falling in lust. You know, that whole butterfly-in-stomach sensation you get when you're faced with something fresh and exciting - like new "love."

But at some point - in most cases - those butterflies morph into moths, and that fluttering isn't desire, but more like an illness that festers until you realize you and your beloved have nothing in common, his kisses make you go "eww" instead of "aww," the thought of intimacy makes you throw up a little in your mouth...

The rose colored glasses are not just off, but rather smashed on the concrete and ground into the sidewalk.

In the interest of honesty, I admit, I often hit that stage quickly.

While some (*cough - insert ex-boyfriend name here - cough*) blamed the "break-up" on my love of obsession with romance novels back then (I mean, who really can compete with the likes of Jamie from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, or Roarke from J.D. Robb's In Death series...), I believe now that "some people" may have been right. (Celebrate that admission with a GG & DC, hon.)

After two near-alter experiences, even my husband was a little worried as he waited for me at the end of the aisle last year. But he didn't need to stress - the minute I met him, I knew my addiction was cured.

At least in my personal life.

I haven't quite figured out how to draw the boundary lines when it comes to other affairs of the heart.

You see, I'm an ideas person, and sometimes they spew out of me with utter abandonment. If I've shared it with you, it's because I trust you, and expect you'll share in my joy...even if the lust lasts only a few hours. Because frankly, my excitement begins to wane when the romance gets limp.

I've spent a lot of time these past few months looking at ways to spark the creative fire that when lit, typically blazes out of control. Muse avatar Mondays (you're welcome), Dance Desire, becoming the proud owner of a new-to-me beautiful Mac... And though these tactics were meant to strictly fuel my writerly drive, my idea factory isn't a one-product-shop. Apparently.

Instead, the factory spits out prototypes that stretch my comfort zone and encourage collaboration, commitment...the ability to curb the addiction of falling in lust with a new idea and see it through to the happily ever after.

As I plug through NaNo (6,400 words!), I'm reminded of the many 3-chapter books that lay dormant in my bottom desk drawer. Like many of the prototypes from the idea factory, something turned the butterflies at the start of those stories, into moths. The thought of commitment got scary. Or the idea - story - concept - was somehow diminished by someone, or even myself.

It took a surprising wake-up call today for me to realize that I've invested too much time in relationships, ideas, projects, that are starting to make me throw up a little in my mouth.

I understand now that it's time to break up with them (yes, that means you 3-chapter manuscript, too!) and commit fully to the people, projects and WIPs who will not only work to keep the butterflies active, but who have also vowed to stick it out for richer and poorer, and through sickness and health.

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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hey, it's okay!

Super blogger/writer/Internet pal Whispering Writer got this idea from Glamour magazine, where they have a section called Hey, It’s Okay. 

Essentially, it lists a bunch of things to be okay about. You're welcome to join in and do something like this on your blog - it's a wonderful way to get a few things off like your chest. 

Like, it's okay...

To not quite have met yesterday's NaNo goal. Last year I didn't even make it past the first two days - #nanofail. But I'm only 300 words behind so far. Progress!

To have missed dance (again) last night. Best laid plans, and all that jazz (ha!). As important as the J'Adore Dance team is to me (and how great I feel after), life happens. 

To feel a bit out of sorts after yesterday. A shake-up at the day job means big changes ahead for me. Does anyone really like to be in limbo?

To slightly obsess over artist Rose Cooper. Uh, handsome hubby, if you have not ordered the items I asked for from Rose's Etsy shop, please hurry. And best ever, a portion of the proceeds from Rose's online store will be donated to Candyland's inspiring cause. Do eet!

To miss your Mom.

To chart the week by your favorite TV shows and be uber excited that Vampire Diaries is on tonight. Translation: Damon is on tonight.

To know darned well you ain't going to read 100 books this year, but feel proud of surpassing the 50 mark and keeping pace with the queen of reading. Wahoo! 

To seek revenge on your adult bully - in fiction, of course. Heck, it's even ok to seek revenge on your childhood bullies. I'm loving this new WIP

So - what are you ok about today?

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

Monday, November 1, 2010

Post Halloween blues muse

Yes, I know, Halloween is over (sniff), and this picture does not at all reflect my typical "hot guy" Monday muse avatar.

But under that scary mask is my handsome husband, who fully embodies the role of muse this week. Truthfully, every week - but he deserves an extra special nod the day after Halloween.

My house is covered in fake blood, there's remnants of a graveyard scene in my front yard, and a full sized coffin takes up a portion of my garage. And yet, I'm sporting a giant grin this morning after what just might be the best Halloween ever.

It's the start of NaNo (yeah, I'm doing it) and I've got a To-Do list a mile long, so instead of writing a long post, I'll let these pictures do the talking.

A Halloween feast my stepdaughter and I prepared.

My stepdaughter (Red Queen) kisses her Dad before heading out for candy.

My fave skeleton bride hanging out with my hubby.

Random kid who wanted his pic taken with hubby.

A classic moment of fear...short-lived since then ALL of the neighborhood kids wanted pics. One man even video-taped our house for about an hour.

Handsome hubby's pumpkin carving. Yeah, he's talented like that. Sigh.

Handsome hubby not at Halloween, but still being a kid <3

I hope each of you had an awesome Halloween. And if you're gearing up for NaNo, good luck!

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