Friday, March 30, 2012

You with the sad face...Spunk's Sad Song Blogfest

My husband hates when I listen to sad songs. I think he feels I'll get wrapped up in the emotion of the lyrics and sink into some kind of depression. 

Maybe he has a point.

Don't worry, it's not like I'm reaching for the Grey Goose or crying in my Budweiser, but a well-done sad song has the potential to cut pretty deep. 

Sometimes I'm in the mood for that kind of emotional tug-o-war. Which is why I couldn't resist Spunk on a Stick's Songs That Inspire Through Sadness Blogfest

The object? List the songs that move your spirit, cut deep into your soul, and threaten to break your heart. 

And of course, inspire you. Music is vital to my writing. Every character, every scene, every story has a soundtrack as eclectic as my own musical tastes. I am inspired by lyrics or motivated by a specific beat, and together they help create an atmosphere.

When the scene calls for sadness, here are my Top 10 Go-To songs. (In no particular order.)

1. Someone Like You - Adele
Good grief, can this woman sing! I love every song on this album, but none have as much emotional impact as Someone Like You. Lost love - the inspiration behind many a ballad. Adele nails it. She has inspired me to write some of my best heartache scenes. (Hey, I write thriller!)

2. Painted on my Heart - The Cult
There is something so haunting about this song - the desperation, the devastation, Ian Astbury's voice.  I first heard it on the movie Gone in 60 Seconds, and it's been on my iPod ever since. Helps that I also love the movie. Fast hot cars, Angelina Jolie, and Eleanor. (If you don't know who Eleanor is, I may have to reevaluate our friendship.)

3. Last Kiss - Pearl Jam
Car crash. Girlfriend dies. Man hoping for redemption so he can see her again in heaven. Nuff said? This beautiful, but sad Pearl Jam song is reserved for the most emotional of scenes - and for when the Vodka is safely locked away. Get out your kleenex for this one, friends.

4. In the Air Tonight - Phil Collins
While not necessarily the most sad song on this list, In the Air Tonight might be one of the most powerful for me. I love to listen to the dark. Loud. And then wait for the chills when that kick-ass drum beat hits. 

5. November Rain - Guns and Roses
Wow. This is one of those songs that cuts deep into my soul and breaks my heart, every time. My Nono (grandfather) was one of the most important men in my life. It's been years since he died, but his picture can still bring me to tears. He passed away when this song was popular...and I listened to it on repeat. It's not on my iPod. But it's never far from my heart. Settle in, it's a long one.

6. Love Hurts - Nazareth
Yup, love sometimes does hurt - and few sing about that pain better than Nazareth. This track is best saved for lover-scorned the ones you might find with Jagger Valentine. (Wow, 1976...)

8. Always - Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi could sing me the phone book and I would melt into a puddle of fangirl goo. But sing me a love song? I'm a snivelling mess. So many Bon Jovi ballads could have made this list (probably even 10 of them) but something about the lyrics to this song make me want to shout, "You don't need to be Romeo, Jon! I will love you always!" *cough* My husband has a wee problem with that, though.

9. Better than Me - Hinder
My heart physically hurts when I listen to this song. And I wrote one of my most powerful "emotional" scenes with this track on repeat. I won't be watching the video now...

10. If I Close My Eyes Forever - Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford
If "emo" was a thing back when I was a kid, we would have all listened to this song. And then I might have reached for the Vodka. Love the emotion this song still evokes.

Deep breath. Wow. Some of those tracks brought back some memories, and a few even inspired me to push through the scenes that are giving me slight writer's block. 

Starting Sunday (and throughout April), I'm participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge, where I have teamed up with amazing Jessica Bell for a battle of bands that will hopefully entertain you. I can guarantee my playlist will be very different from Jessica's - expect a lot of 80s cheese from me.

Now, check out the rest of the blogs in  Spunk on a Stick's Songs That Inspire Through Sadness Blogfest including the blog of Jagger Valentine, where her assistant has taken over the post with a list of sad love songs guaranteed to make Jagger throw up. 

- Dawn

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book #13 - The Boyfriend List

I honestly have no idea why I picked up this book. My bedside table is piled high with new releases by my favorite authors, their (mostly) paranormal tales begging for my attention. Heck, I even have a new Nora Roberts romance waiting to be read. I never put Nora in a corner.

I'm not really an impulsive book shopper, either. I like to browse the shelves, read the back cover blurbs, sometimes check out the first chapter.

It wasn't like that at all with The Boyfriend List. I wasn't even book shopping when I saw this title winking at me from a table of other YA books. (It wasn't even the "book in my bag" this week.)

The tagline kind of says it all: 15 guys, 12 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs and me, Ruby Oliver.

Yep, that about sums it up. Ruby Oliver is a high school senior with a somewhat messy history with the boys in her school. After one of the guys dumps her (the bf who gives her four ceramic frogs...cute), Ruby suffers a panic attack and goes to see a shrink - who makes her write down and discuss every boy she's ever dated, or even thought about dating. The list makes her sound a bit more experienced than what's reality..but of course, it's high school. Imagine what could be done with a list like that...just saying.

Ruby has some impressive snark, and many of her boyfriend adventures made me laugh at loud. But with every chapter designed to dish about one of the names on her extraordinarily long list, I started to think all of her adventures had a similar theme. Part of me wanted a bit more...something.

E. Lockhart is a great writer, and the Ruby character is well-developed. The story lacked action, but still managed to make me turn the page. It's a fast read, with no supernatural elements (shocking, I know) and I *think* it might appeal to my teenage stepdaughter.

One small nit - the author uses footnotes throughout the book, and I found myself getting a bit lost as I scrolled down the page to read the text associated with each number (sometimes there were up to 4 per page) and then scroll back up the page to find my place again. While I can appreciate the technique, I personally found it distracting and I don't think I was ever truly able to get IN to the story.

And now, back to the real book in my bag.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag (for realz): Rot & Ruin, Jonathan Mayberry

PS - This Sunday, I'll be joining more than 1,000 bloggers on the A-Z Blogging challenge, where we'll be blogging every day except Sundays throughout April. On this blog, I've teamed up with Jessica Bell to chat about music that has inspired us over the years - trust me, it will be an interesting battle of the bands. I'm willing to bet we don't have a single blog post in common. The "other me" is blogging about great YA books, and on the Most-Wanted Monsters blog, Judith and I will be waxing poetic about 26 creepy monsters. You don't want to miss out - those posts could save your life!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Touched by the muse

It's no secret I love Kiefer Sutherland. I have since Lost Boys where of course he played a vampire. Huh...I guess he was kind of my first paranormal crush.

I followed all eight seasons of 24, and own all of the DVDs. Most nights, I watch an episode while working out on my elliptical.

But it's not ALL about Kiefer. As I have mentioned before, watching 24 gave me great insight into how to write a thriller - the cliffhanger endings, the random "offing" of key characters, the constant building of tension, and the ability to create a "likeable" character even when he/she does some pretty unlikeable things. A lot of people still don't like Jack Bauer...but I did.

And so, I thought it would be difficult for me to transition my love into Kiefer's role on the amazing new show, Touch.

Kiefer plays Martin Bohm, a widower whose 11-year-old mute son is a genius at seeing patterns in numbers. Martin is not Jack, though there is occasional shouting, a take-down or two, and some fast-paced action. But there's also so much more - including intricate storylines, compelling characters, and fabulous acting. When all of the story threads come together - usually in the last five minutes of the show - it's almost magical.

I can't say enough great stuff about this show. And I am so glad Kiefer is back on prime time, making my Thursday nights even better.

It's almost the end of March and April is going to be smoking busy. So I'm hoping to tag Kiefer for one more role this week - muse avatar. Sure, I know he's busy saving the world on the small screen, but let's look at the bigger picture here: I have been a faithful, loyal fan since Lost Boys. I even suffered through Bright Lights, Big City.  I applauded Flatliners, gushed about Mirror, Mirror (even though it wasn't awesome), and I STILL watch 24. When the movie finally comes out in 2013, I WILL have opening night tickets.

So what do you, say, Kiefer? Should I sign you up as muse?

- Dawn

PS - This Sunday, I'll be joining more than 1,000 bloggers on the A-Z Blogging challenge, where we'll be blogging every day except Sundays throughout April. On this blog, I've teamed up with Jessica Bell to chat about music that has inspired us over the years - trust me, it will be an interesting battle of the bands. I'm willing to bet we don't have a single blog post in common. The "other me" is blogging about great YA books, and on the Most-Wanted Monsters blog, Judith and I will be waxing poetic about 26 creepy monsters. You don't want to miss out - those posts could save your life.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oh the drama!

I have a pretty amazing day job.

My role at Theatre Alberta is fairly un-creative, which is a true divergent from my usual career forte. That doesn't mean I'm not passionate about's just different not being in on the planning stages of events like...

ATRSTREK. A summer school for teens that explores the exciting world of theatre and theatre production. Or - theatre boot camp.

For one blissful week at the Red Deer College, Artstrek students discover acting, voice, movement, directing, sound/music, design, creation and collaboration. Whew! As many past participants attest, "Artstrek is the greatest place in the world."

Artstrek is NOT a talent-based program. For more than 50 years (50 years!), the program has welcomed all teens who are passionate about theatre and learning about theatre.

Well, all 300-ish teens that manage to register before the program sells out. Believe me, it does. For the past seven years, there's been a waiting list of 100+ young theatre enthusiasts...which is why Theatre Alberta will add a third week of Artstrek programming in 2013.

Each year, Theatre Alberta selects a different play of study and contracts a new team of theatre professionals to develop curriculum centered around that script. How lucky for this year's participants that we (well, not me...a committee of people) chose Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. 

If I could go back in time, I'd be in drama - and I'd register for Artstrek. Especially THIS year.

Standing up in front of a crowd has never been my thing. And before each author reading, I experience crippling stage fright. (Hey, some of those Grade 4 kids can be brutal!) Maybe if I'd gone to Artstrek as a teenager, I'd have more confidence.

Although frequently thought of as only entertainment, the imagined and enacted world of theatre is also one of the primary ways children can learn about life: about actions and consequences, about customs and beliefs, and about others and themselves. 

From birth, children instinctively use pretend play as a means of making sense of the world. They observe and respond to their environment, imitate words and actions, create situations to play and assume roles, and direct one another. Children arrive at school with rudimentary skills as playwrights, actors, designers, directors and audience members.

Cool stuff, right?

I couldn't agree more.

The Theatre Alberta Society is a registered charity. Please consider supporting it through an individual donation, corporate sponsorship, or by becoming an Angel of Theatre so that this good work can continue. Every little bit helps.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Rot & Ruin, Jonathan Mayberry

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book #12 - Divergent

Divergent wasn't at all what I thought it was going to be.

But to be fair, I bought it based on its comparisons to the Hunger Games. I loved Suzanne Collins' trilogy and am just as stoked for the movie as the other billion fans who already have their tickets in hand.

Veronica Roth's book is not The Hunger Games.

That doesn't mean it isn't good. It is. Very much so. It just took me a little while to shake The Hunger Games comparisons and recognize that the similarities kind of end after "dystopian future."

Beatrice Prior is part of a society that has maintained its peaceful existence by separating citizens into five factions, formed on the basis of their virtues. On her sweet 16th birthday, Beatrice must decide if she will stay with her parents in Abnegation, or forsake her virtue of selflessness for Dauntless bravery.

In a choice that surprises even herself, Beatrice abandons her parents.

But becoming Dauntless isn't easy. If the gruelling initiation phase doesn't kill her, her attraction to one of the Dauntless leaders might.

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I finished it a couple of days ago, and have been mulling on it ever since. I wasn't as connected to the characters as I wanted to be, though "Four" held his own in the brooding romantic interest category. The chemistry between Beatris and Four was believable, even if it took a while to get there. And I think Beatris' character arc was well done.

Veronica Roth can absolutely write, and I definitely see the mass appeal of the story. Maybe I just wasn't as ready for a dystopian future book as I thought I was. Not blown away - but impressed enough to get the second book in the series, Insurgent, which is due out...soon?

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Rot & Ruin, Jonathan Mayberry

An open letter to my muse

Dear Colin:

I hope you've recovered from all of your St. Patrick's Day festivities. I understand the occasion is quite important to the Irish - and celebrations can sometimes take on a life of their own.

It's time to come back to reality now, though. Because I could really use your help.

Through (almost) no fault of my own, I've fallen behind a little bit.

April is shaping up to be a busy writing month with book launches, YA novel deadlines, and a couple of script projects (not to mention Script Frenzy!) - and to get through the month with my sanity (or whatever is left of it) intact, I'm going to need a push in the right direction.

You can do it, right?

I remember when your career was in a bit of a downturn. How your bad boy image was hurting you a little. You stood tall and strong. Climbed right back up to the top. And now you're kicking ass and taking names.

That's what I need to do.

Can you help? Please say you'll take on the role of this week's Muse Avatar.



- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Rot & Ruin, Jonathan Mayberry

Friday, March 16, 2012

Book #11 - Second Skin (and an interview with the author!)

When I first met Judith Graves, I admit to being a little star struck. Okay, maybe a lot. 

I'd read her first book, Under my Skin, and had perused her website - a few hundred times. (Go's very cool.) 

Clearly, this Alberta author was not only a fabulous writer, she knew how to market those chops. I had to know her.

Judith writes young adult fiction to DIE for. I believed that statement after Under my Skin - and believe it even more after reading (again) Second Skin, the second in Judith's SKINNED series.

It would be easy for me to be biased. Judith and I fast became critique partners, which morphed into writing partners, and of course, friends. But frankly, she's one of the most talented, down-to-earth people I know.

And, in Second Skin, Judith writes her ass off.

Here's the official blurb:

With FIENDS like Eryn…
Monsters. Bloodsuckers. The evil. The damned. Eryn McCain knows they exist— she’s been hunting them since she was a child. At sixteen, she’s ready to take on all comers. Being a shapeshifter gives her an advantage when it comes to her unusual part-time job. The hours suck and the pay is, well, non-existent, but bonuses like inhuman strength and night vision make tracking scary beasties a dream come true. Especially in a town like Redgrave.
When an ancient demon targets Redgrave High, Eryn and her crew of hunters must face their innermost fears to prevent the Harvest Moon Dance from becoming one serious Monster Mash. Loyalties are tested and temptations abound. With questions ever brewing, can Eryn share a future with the brooding, noble, human Alec—the hunter after her heart? Or will she succumb to her enemy’s son, Wade, a seductive predator as bloodthirsty as she is?
What happens when you’re both the beauty and the beast?
I had the pleasure of enjoying this book from its draft beginnings - one of the benefits to being one of her crit partners. Here's what "other me" had to say about the book then:

“If tasked to recruit a monster-hunting army, I’d want Eryn on my side – her tongue is as sharp as the athame she brandishes. In Second Skin, the second book in Judith Graves’ thrilling SKINNED series, Eryn goes head-to-head with a chilling new paranorm, her lingering feelings for two of Redgraves’ hottest boys, and an endearing cast of family and friends. Prepare to be engrossed – Graves digs in her claws and doesn’t let go until the mesmerizing cliffhanger end.” ~ Dawn Dalton, author of Thread of the Past, SPIRITED (2011)

And here's what I have to say about it after the final edits have been added and I hold the book in all of its awesome matte-cover glory:

Wow! In Second Skin, Judith definitely ramps up the tension and the action - and has created a "big bad" guaranteed to give you sleepless nights. Her characters explode onto the page in a three-dimensional tutorial of how characters should be written, and the love triangle that began with Eryn, Alec and Wade positively smoulders. Second Skin has enough twists and turns you'll wonder how you don't get whiplash as you read the whole thing in one sitting. Because I dare you to put it down. I can hardly wait for the third book.

No, seriously.

Read it.

And now read this interview with the uber talented, Judith Graves. 

If you were to cast Eryn in the Second Skin movie, which three actresses would be your top picks for the role?

Ellen Paige, Ellen Paige, and maybe, Ellen Paige. She’s actually who I modeled Eryn after – the wit, the snark, the vulnerability. However, Eryn is practically an amazon and Ms. Paige – not so much.

Perhaps she could heighten with boots? Have implants graphed to her leg bones? Actors do that sorta stuff for roles, right?

Music is an instrumental muse in your writing. What are some of the songs on the Second Skin soundtrack?

Oh, so many wonderful tunes helped me along with this book! From Halloween classics like Monster Mash, Thriller, and Boogeyman by Rob Zombie for the lighter scenes, to offbeat and heartfelt songs like Die Alone by Ingrid Michaelson, The Battle by Missy Higgins and quirky ditties like Psycho by Imelda May for interactions between Eryn and her boys. But the driving force song for Second Skin, which embodies the crew’s creature of the week, the night mare, is Enter Sandman by Metallica.

The paranormal "big bad" in Second Skin will definitely make you want to sleep with the lights on! What inspired you to write about the beastie known as the Night Mare.

In Under My Skin I established that Eryn was plagued by nightmares regarding the fate of her parents and that, being half wolven, meant she had extraordinarily vivid dreams. She is even pulled through time via a dream.

It seemed natural to then pit Eryn against a creature that resided in the dream realm. After a bit of research regarding dreams, dream meanings, common nightmares, etc. I discovered this 1781 painting by Henry Fuseli, aptly titled the Nightmare:

I knew this would be the big bad Eryn would face in Second Skin. He’s one scary demon and he knows your every fear, every secret, every suppressed memory – because he walks through your dreams, feeding off your fear.

Nasty, but a worthy opponent for Eryn.

What's the stuff of YOUR nightmares?

I suffered from night terrors as a child, had horrific reoccurring dreams about dolls coming to life, being hunted in my own house by an unseen force, and even to this day have nightlights in our hallways that provide a comforting glow in the depths of the night.

But what truly terrifies me is the idea that there are men, women, and children out there who are unable to seek refuge in the world of reading, or to fill out employment forms, or to write down their dreams.

That’s why I was thrilled to have a story published in SPIRITED, an anthology of ghost stories published by Leap Books with proceeds going to 826 National, a literacy-based charity. SPIRITED also features authors such as the brilliant Dawn Dalton, Maria V. Snyder, Candace Havens, Shannon Delaney, Halli Dee Lilburn, Kitty Keswick and more!

Please consider purchasing a copy, because illiteracy is a scary beast.

You can visit Judith on her website, follow her on Twitter @judithgraves, or find her on Facebook.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Divergent, Veronica Roth

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cam, I need of your help

Holy crap I have a busy - but awesome - week ahead.

Any minute now, I should receive copies of SPIRITED. Don't have a clue what that is? The "other me" has a short story published in this dreadfully awesome anthology, and I'm stoked to be included with such awesome talent. Like bestselling authors Candace Havens and Maria Snyder!

And on Tuesday night, I'm going to this. The emerging screenplay writer in me is SO excited to network with a couple of top industry players...some that may even want to hear one (or more) movie/TV show pitches. Or not. Maybe they'll just want to sip martinis and talk about new movies and TV shows. Whatev. I'm in.

And, the second book in the Chase Duffy elementary school series, Gotta Jet, will be out on Friday. Squee!

If that isn't enough, I'm prepping my middle grade book for submission, polishing off my paranormal romance, plotting my new script, developing beat sheets for a couple of scripts I'm writing with Judith Graves (follow her blog tour, you could WIN stuff! Cool stuff!), flushing out a series outline with Kyle Kerr, sending out acceptance letters for the April issue of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, finishing up some Bridge proposals and contracts, meeting the beautiful and patient Jessica at J'Adore Dance, getting A-Z Blogging Challenging posts ready for April and hoping to catch up to Karen in our 100 Books in 2012 Reading Challenge. Whew!

No wonder I need to cast Cam Giganet as this week's muse. When Jessica was here last week, we curled up with some popcorn to watch Burlesque, reminding me again of how much I adore Cam. Here's hoping he likes me just as much - well, enough to get me through the week.

- Dawn

This week's highlights:

March 16 - Judith Graves will be on the blog, talking about Second Skin, the second in her YA SKINNED series. And I'll be on hers talking about SPIRITED.
March 17 - Judith will be on the "other me" blog...still talking about Second Skin, but also about luck. Try YOUR luck for a chance to WIN cool stuff. Including beautiful tote bags I really wish I'd thought of.

The Book In My Bag Today: Divergent, Veronica Roth

Friday, March 9, 2012

Book #10 - Save the Cat

I've always been a little bit afraid of writing scripts.

But then I met the awesome Judith Graves, and suddenly I'd stopped dreaming in novels alone, and have become a little bit obsessed with writing for TV and film.

I'd completed one TV script on my own - and have since written two more with Judith, including a pilot series, complete with a full treatment and six episode ideas in the can.

Judith and I have, er, a few more ideas on the go, not to mention the couple of projects I have on tap with Kyle Kerr, and um, yeah, this new screenplay I'm dying to write.

If that seems ambitious, I won't disagree - but it's just the tip of the iceberg now that I've read (thanks again to Judith), Save the Cat: The Last Book On Screenwriting You'll Ever Need.

An apt title.

Author Blake Snyder has absolutely changed how I view storytelling, forcing me to look beyond "going with the flow" and actually pinpointing major plot points, and paring down my words to something even my mentor Steve "Write Tight" Berry would be proud of.

The book has also inspired me to go on a bit of a movie watching binge. Hubby and I settled in for Terminator tonight (an oldy but frankly, a classic thriller and one of my favorite movies...ever...) and if I'm lucky I'll convince him to watch a few more of our living room classics (Breakfast Club? Silence of the Lambs? Pretty Woman? The Princess Bride?) before I drag him to the theatre.

I've always considered myself a bit of a panser, but Snyder makes plotting look fun (plus, it's an excuse to peruse the aisles of my local stationary store.) His screenwriting principles transfer nicely to fiction...which means almost all of my projects are going through a plotting overhaul this weekend...

Inbetween movies, of course.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Divergent, Veronica Roth

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pick-me-up Muse

My friends and I saw The Vow last night.

I'm not sure how I feel about his acting skills but one thing's for certain, Channing Tatum is easy on the eyes.

The Vow was cute, though I didn't cry like everyone thought I might. (I'm a sap.) I'd classify it as a feel-good, pick-me-up kind of flick - which seems apt since I'll need a bit of a pick-me-up after I put  Jessica Bell on a plane tonight.


It's been 10 days since she stepped on Canadian soil for the first time ever - surely the fastest 10 days of my life. She arrived in a blizzard, and if the weather holds true, she'll be leaving in a blizzard, as well. The snow prevented us from making day trips (or even weekend trips) to Banff or Jasper...or anywhere but my out-of-the-city home. Old Man Winter has a funny sense of humour.

While Jess didn't get to see much of Canada, she made a huge impact on my family and friends. I know tonight when I finally crawl into bed, emotionally spent and eyes puffy from tears, her presence will be missed...a hole that won't be so easily filled by our daily gmail chats.

I wondered how Jess and I would get along, having only really met through the blogosphere a year and a half ago - but I shouldn't have worried. Jess's blog persona is no fake. She's the real deal, and those of you who know her through the blogosphere understand her to be beautiful and wonderful - inside and out. She's just like that. And more.

This month is filled with all kinds of exciting things - a book launch (maybe two), preparation of blog posts for the A-Z challenge, beat sheets for a couple of scripts, participation in blog tours, crits for friends, my own writing to catch up on, and the second issue of Vine Leaves Literary Magazine to get out the door.

This week, I'm going to lean on Channing to give me the pick-me-up I need to make that happen.

And try not to miss Jessica with every waking breath.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Rot & Ruin, Jonathan Mayberry