Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Going dark for NaNo and stuff

Halloween kind of came - and went - with so little hoopla, I barely even got my skeletons out of the closet, let alone scatter them throughout the house in some kind of spooktacular fashion.

It's not like me. I'm the girl who dresses up, even when the rest of the office doesn't. I'm the pumpkin carver, the Halloween cookie decorator, the scare-the-crap-out-of-the-kids neighbor. Yeah, that girl.

But this year, I couldn't quite muster that Halloween feeling - which is actually kind of nerve-wracking since I write thriller and paranormal suspense.

Instead of dwelling on it, I'm moving on...right into November.

This will be the third time I have signed up for National Novel Writing Month. I'm not a NaNo success story. In fact, generally, announcing that I will be taking part in NaNo almost guarantees I will have a record low word count for the month.

But let's be honest. My word count these past few weeks - since I completed Heartless - has been lack lustre at best. I can really only go up.

I've registered for NaNo as "the other me" since I'll primarily be working on NEED, one of my young adult endeavors, along with Killer's Instinct, Heartless revisions, two elementary school graphic novels for the Alberta Canola Producers' Commission and a few other odds and ends projects including revisions to a feature film script, the first few chapters of an exciting new thriller, and book two in the Jagger Valentine series.

Clearly, it's not all getting done. Realistically, I won't even complete one actual book, though I'm going to try really hard. But I will write 50,000 words - which is the magic number to complete the quest. And who knows, maybe it will become a habit.

I know my limitations, my distractions, my barriers to success. I'm eliminating some of them after tonight. I'm going to set the PVR to record all of my favorite shows and reward myself once a week with a catch-up TV binge. (Thank goodness I'll be all caught up on Revenge after tonight!)

I'm also shutting down the blogs. Throughout November, I won't be regularly posting here or at - not even a Monday Muse Avatar. *Gulp* However, I may do very short weekly posts on the Dawn Dalton blog with a NaNo update.

And of course, I won't be on Facebook or Twitter - much. Hey, some habits are hard to break.

Despite this crack at discipline, I've still got the day job, my family and friends, a few contract jobs, critiquing for a couple of writers and Vine Leaves Literary Journal to keep me busy when I've completed my daily NaNo word count.

1666 words a day.

No sweat, right? *deep breath*

And so, here we go. To my fellow NaNo writers, good luck! Looking forward to seeing everyone on the other side.

- Dawn

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pure aMUSEment

Ack! I love James Purejoy.

I first discovered him in the movie A Knight's Tale, and have kind of semi-stalked him ever since. I even half cast him in the role of Nic, the leading man in my novel, Heartless.

But then, James made a (too short) guest appearance on one of my new favorite TV shows, Revenge, and my love for him came rushing back.

Which is why I am super stoked that he'll be starring alongside Kevin Bacon in a thriller TV series starting this January called, The Following. Yeah, I know, Kevin Bacon as an FBI agent - predictable. But get past that, because James is going to be the serial killer.

Love him. LOVE!

And so it makes complete sense to cast him as this week's Muse Avatar.

When I'm not obsessively watching for the latest Frankenstorm news, I'll be kicking off November with some long awaited projects - revisions to Heartless, continued work with Judith Graves on Killer's Instinct, a NaNoWriMo young adult project, the start of an adult thriller and a quirky experimental project with Jessica Bell. Exciting!

But before all that...I'm back to checking Hurricane #Sandy tweets and praying for the safety of my friends and family throughout the United States. Stay safe everyone!

- Dawn

Thursday, October 25, 2012

When bullying hits home

The issue of bullying isn't going away. It's happening at places of work, on the Internet, in schools - within local sports organizations.

Despite repeated tragic stories of torment - and even death - as a result of bullying, the epidemic (pandemic? disease?) isn't getting better. If anything, it's worse.

I've known a lot of victims of bullying, faced my own childhood tormentors, and even now continue to deal with an adult bully, despite repeated attempts to take the higher ground.

But today, I'm at my breaking point. Maybe it's because we're at the tail end of Anti-Bullying Month that I'm even more sensitive to the issue, but this latest instance is not only breaking my heart, it's making me mad.

A dear friend of mine is taking a stand against a group of bullies. Megan is one of the most intelligent, beautiful, caring and funny women I know. She's also a lesbian. Megan and her amazing partner play soccer on a team predominantly of lesbians - and they're a damn good team. They practice hard. Play hard.

And they play fair.

I'm all for friendly competition, and good-hearted razzing on the field is fine, even expected. But a group of girls on an opposing team have taken it too far. Verbal abuse, threats, pushing and shoving during the game and after. They've crossed every line of fair play.

But that's not even the worst of it. Despite numerous complaints against this team, the league has not only decided to do nothing about it, they've turned a blind eye.

Megan is doing what we encourage our youth to do. The team has reported the incident. They've filed complaints. They've rallied friends and family for support.

Isn't THIS where the league should also take a stand?

If a strong, vocal, passionate ADULT victim of bullying stands up and speaks out against this abuse - and her concerns are pushed aside, then HOW can we expect our youth to feel secure that if THEY stand up for themselves, they'll have the support they need?

This is Megan's story and I'll do whatever I need to help her tell it, not only because she is my friend and I love her, but because it's important for victims of bullying everywhere to understand the that one voice CAN make a difference.

Please, read Megan's story and share, because awareness is only the start of the battle.

- Dawn

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Writerly Wednesday: The Comma

I'm the last person in the world to preach about proper sentences. The main character in my book HEARTLESS is snarky, abrupt, sometimes rude - which means many of the sentences throughout the novel are abrupt, choppy, even incomplete. *gasp*

Contrary to what my stepdaughter believes, I was not an A-student in Language Arts and English. Sure, I loved to read and write, but the essay isn't my BFF, and I never quite figured out when to use a colon or a semi-colon. Heck, half the time I can't even remember which is which.

Instead, I tended to overuse the comma.

Until I attended a writer's class with NYT Bestselling thriller author Steve Berry who gave me this great comma advice: Insert a comma only where your eye needs a break.

I'm sure English teachers all around the world are sending me dirty looks right now (my Grade 6 teacher, Mrs. Kratky, included) but hear me out. You want to make the reading experience as smooth as possible, right? You want tight writing, fast pacing, sentence variation. Don't you?

Commas can bung that all up.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't follow some of those basic comma rules, like using them to separate items, etc. But it's a good exercise to go through your manuscript and look at your comma usage. Some of them may be misplaced - or *gasp* not even required at all.

Have a great Wednesday!

- Dawn

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

TV Tuesday: Chicago Fire

I'm not generally into traditional police procedurals, or TV shows that feature doctors, nurses, or firemen. Exceptions include House and CSI (the Grisham version, not this weird Ted Danson thing), though when I drill it down, both of those shows had much more to do with characterization than the setting. House - in the beginning - was a brilliant character.

But there's something kind of appealing about Chicago Fire - and yes, I'm talking about more than the aesthetics. Because let's face it, the show is filled with beautiful people - handsome, muscular firemen, and gorgeous female EMTs. No stereotyping here, right?

Aside from their striking good looks, there's nothing truly outstanding about the roles from a characterization standpoint. There's the fireman with the drug problem, the dude with fiancee problems, the female EMT who has bad luck with men, and the female EMT who has great luck with the ladies, the brooding hunk, the domineering boss, get the picture. Been there. Done that. Like 1000 times.

Chicago Fire has plenty of drama - fires blazing out of control, heroic rescues from burning buildings and the like. And of course, the there's internal conflict aplenty, with the story lines from each character crossing over, intersecting or merging with each other, which all sounds so complex...

Except it isn't.

And perhaps, for me at least, that's exactly the allure of Chicago Fire. Not quite mindless TV, but maybe one of the only shows on my PVR list that doesn't get me thinking about a new idea in a similar genre.

Yet. Let's see what happens after the first season.

Watching Chicago Fire? What do you think?

- Dawn

Monday, October 22, 2012

The walking muse

I'd actually selected a different Arrow-toting hottie for the role of this week's Muse Avatar. But then I watched The Walking Dead last night, and yeah, I'm just going to say it - I love Daryl.

Sure, he's a redneck with anger issues and a chip on his shoulder. And, yeah maybe some of his actions are... questionable. But can you blame him? He's one of the few survivors in an epic zombie apocalypse. Sometimes stuff's just gotta get done.

Which is how my week looks. I'm fighting the flu that has plagued my husband, and powering through on a few projects that I've put on the backburner while finishing Heartless. If I'm lucky, I'll be making an announcement about exciting news I've sat on for months. Not to mention, the "other me" is taking part in the Crossroad Blog Tour hosted by Judith Graves. (Today I'm hanging out with Karen at the For What It's Worth blog talking about spiders, Killer's Instinct, and Alexander Skarsgard... Check it out for a chance to win a KINDLE preloaded with 13 haunting tales!)

And of course, Halloween is less than 10 days away. My house is decorated for the season and hubs and I spent hours on Sunday icing sugar cookies - ghosts, monsters, spiders and more. (The kidlet was working...don't judge!)

It's another busy week, but for some reason, the plate feels manageable with Daryl as my muse. Something tells me if I need a pick-me-up (or someone's butt kicked), he'll be more than happy to step into action.

Have a great Monday!

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

TV Tuesday: Revenge

I love Revenge.

Not the act of, of course, but rather, the TV series. I'm a bit behind on the 8-ball with this show, but after a solid tip from my awesome mother-in-law and some gushing about the series by my fabulous employer, I picked up the first season of Revenge this past weekend.

I'm almost done - and it's 22 episodes.

I know I've been doing a lot of binge TV watching (I swear, there's a reason), but few shows have compelled me like this one - and truthfully, it's not in my traditional wheelhouse. Typically, I go for the supernaturally-inspired series, like The Vampire Diaries, Walking Dead and True Blood. Don't get me wrong, those kinds of shows still own priority position on my PVR schedule.

But I've been forcing myself out of my comfort zone lately -- and Revenge definitely hits the mark.

The show centers on a young woman who integrates herself into a rich community with people who don't realize she's only there to exact revenge on those who had destroyed her family.

Though I do believe in karma, I'm not big on the act of revenge and by all accounts, I shouldn't be obsessed with this show. There's nothing supernatural about it. It isn't a thriller. It's not twisted like American Horror Story or funny like Friends. And it's definitely not a reality show featuring Adam Levine. 

But here's the thing. When I was a teen, I LOVED The O.C. - a show about a group of young people living rich, and dealing with typical teenage drama. (Sidenote: I also loved Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210 - the originals, of course.) Writer Mike Kelley was a consulting producer on The O.C., and he's the showrunner/creator of Revenge. Basically, the show boils down to this: a group of rich socialites and their drama - The O.C. for adults. 

And a proven recipe for mindless TV?

Not quite.

Revenge isn't mindless. The plot lines are complex. The characters - all of them, not just the leads - are three dimensional. The writing is spectacular. And even though I can't quite put my finger on it, there's something crazy addictive about the series.

Any ideas?

- Dawn

In case you needed another reason to watch - a beautiful cast.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Revenge of the Muse

I've watched a lot of TV in the past two weeks, fresh shows (Arrow, Beauty and the Beast, and more!), old favorites (hello The Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries!), and even a couple new-to-me series. After some deliberation, I've programmed the must-see-TV shows into my extensive PVR list and started weeding out the ones I really should let go if I want to get any actual writing done.

I'd planned a whole week's worth of posts devoted to Chicago Fire - lots of muse avatar potential on that show, let me tell you. I'll come back to this series eventually (especially since one of the stars has eyes that rival those of muse avatar favorite, Ian Somerhalder) but I'm making a last minute switch and assigning the muse role to Nick Wechsler of the show I'll be gushing about on tomorrow's TV Tuesday post, Revenge.

I'll save the review for tomorrow but I'd be happy to blabber about Nick right now. I'm totally hooked on his character, Jack. He isn't the leading man - though a case could be made that none of the guys on the show really are. Yet, he's the character I keep thinking more about.

Maybe it's the slow build of characterization, or the subtle way he seems to command the scene, even when it's not really his scene. It could be our emotional connection (yes, through the TV), and how my heart kind of aches for him, even though he's about to make a really silly move (I'm on episode 10 of the first spoilers, please.) Or heck, maybe it's just that he's so damn hot.

Regardless, there's something about him that keeps me coming back for...more.

With that kind of hold on me, there's no doubt Nick is a worthy choice for this week's muse avatar.

Happy Monday and have a great week.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Writerly Wednesday: Research

I love writerly research.

Whether I'm Google mapping street addresses for a better sense of place, digging into ancient history, or learning a new skill, my research notes help to flush out the details in my manuscript, giving my work a level of authenticity that can't be achieved with simple guesswork.

One of my mentors, NYT Bestselling author James Rollins, taught me one of the keys to good writing: specificity. (I can write it, but it's sure a tongue twister to say!)

Most times, I rely on the Internet. It's not possible to travel all over the world - especially when I like to write internationally-inspired stories. But the world wide web is good for everything from looking up a street address to scrolling through pictures of that street for a suitable setting.

When Wikipedia steers me wrong, I head to the library, where I stock up on books related to my research topic. And then, I buy one or two "bibles" - the key texts that give the most authentic background material.

But every once in a while, I need to get a bit more intimate with a subject.

Which led me to buy a recurve bow. No, I'm not going all Hunger Games, but my character in Heartless carries her bow, Chester, everywhere she goes. I couldn't quite understand the challenges of that without experimenting myself. But I also needed to know more about archery - the difficulty in hitting a small target, the feel of the arrow firing from the bow, the strength required to pull back the string.

So, I started taking lessons, bought myself a recurve, and set up a target in the backyard using hay bales and, erm, zombie print-outs. Consider it research for a couple of books.

While I typically like to complete most of the research at the start of any new project, I'm excited to infuse these archery details now, after finishing the first draft of the book. The scenes are really starting to come to life.

And at close range, I'm not a bad shot.

No head, no undead, right?

Learning archery was the right move for this book, but I'm about to start an exciting new project and I've already begun a list of the research required before I actually put pen to paper. I won't need to learn how to shoot another weapon (though, I enjoyed an excursion to the gun range last year), but I will get to face some of my fears...and learn about a whole new exotic location. I can hardly wait.

- Dawn

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

TV Tuesday: 666 Park Avenue

At the Drake Building, the setting for ABC's new drama 666 Park Avenue, all of your dreams and desires can come true - wealth, sex, love, even revenge. But be careful what you wish for, because the price you pay...could be your soul.

Cue: audience "oohs" and "ahhs"

666 Park Avenue is billed as a horror, but only in the lightest sense. It's certainly not going to test any TV boundaries like FX's brilliantly creeptastic American Horror Story, and at times the attempts at "scary" come off as more campy.

I'm really picky about my "camp" and two episodes into this series has me straddling the fence. Despite a fairly solid main cast, including Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams, the supporting characters often make dumb choices, lending an overall tone of disbelief to the show.

Still, I can see the appeal. 666 Park Avenue is a soap opera with supernatural undertones, a show filled with Melrose Place-esque juicy gossip, beautiful people and drama. The plot isn't complicated - or rather, doesn't appear overly complicated based on what I've seen so far, and if you can overlook the lack of genuine creep factor, it's 40-ish minutes of mindless fun. Providing you have time for that kind of guilty pleasure.

Tell me, is 666 Park Avenue in your address book or are you going to bypass this Manhattan block?

- Dawn

Monday, October 8, 2012

Diverse aMUSEment

I love the diversity of Johnny Depp.

Determined not to be pigeon-holed as a pretty boy - despite his startling good looks - Johnny has taken on some of the most challenging, unique, and brilliant acting roles of the last two decades, proving he is much, much, much more than a pretty face.

While there are similarities in many of the roles Johnny has taken on, there's a big difference between his character in Secret Window vs Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for instance. But they also have one thing in common - Johnny is amazing in both movies.


I'm striving for that in my own career. Not just in mediums - journalism, screenwriting, short stories and novels - but in genres, as well.

In just a few short thousand words, I'll finish my paranormal-ish suspense/romance (talk about diverse!), and then will move on to my second thriller novel, a comedy-inspired screenplay, a paranormal young adult, the third educational canola book, and a semi-secret horror project that literally haunts my dreams. (Hey, it's the month of Halloween...scary is allowed.)

Yeah, I know, diverse. But I think that's what inspires me.

A little like Johnny Depp does. Which is what makes him the perfect Monday Muse Avatar. Don't you think?

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends and family. Have a fabulous week!

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag This Week: Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thriller Thursday: Book 17 - Kill You Twice

Chances aren't great I'm going to hit the 100 Books in 2012 goal - not even close. I don't know what's up with me lately, but I've been seriously slacking on reading - I've even delved into one book and then moved on to another novel before finishing the one I've started.

Until Kill You Twice.

In my humble opinion, Chelsea Cain is one of the best thriller writers in the world, and her Archie Sheridan/Gretchen/Susan series never fails to thrill.

Or inspire a healthy dose of writerly envy.

Kill You Twice is the fourth book in a series that follows the always captivating, sometimes gory ongoing story of tortured cop Archie Sheridan, and his unorthodox relationship with the mesmerizing murderess, Gretchen.

Yeah, I'm a little obsessed with Gretchen.

Like each of the characters in all of Chelsea Cain's books, Gretchen is beautiful and flawed, compelling - and most of all, memorable. From the first book, Heartsick, I found myself reeled in by Cain's brilliant writing style, not only from a technical standpoint, but from her ability to make me feel, to make me fall in love...with a serial killer.

Kind of in a Dexter sort of way.

It would be impossible to disclose the details of this plot without giving spoilers on the previous books, so here's the basics: Archie is still flawed, Susan still dyes her hair in neon, the new mystery is creepy, the descriptions are gory, and Gretchen is...perfect.

Read this book. No, really.

- Dawn

PS - This series was optioned for development of a TV show slated for FX. I can't WAIT to see who they cast for Archie and Gretchen!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Writerly Wednesday: Conflict

I'm not good with conflict in my personal life. In fact, I'll pretty much do just about anything to avoid it.

Even if it means not standing up for myself. In 90% of instances, I'd rather walk away from a situation than fight or debate my point of view - even when I'm not to blame. Or perhaps, especially when I'm not to blame. Call it a character flaw or an act of cowardice, but it is what it is - conflict is not my BFF.

Which is why it doesn't come as a big shock to realize my current manuscript lacks...conflict. Pretty much the kiss of death for authors, right?

Oh sure, I've figured out how to craft those clever cliffhanger endings, my sentences are so tight adverbs have to lose their "ly" endings to squeeze in, and I know my characters better than I know myself. Truth.

But when it comes to the natural (and then ramped up fictionalized) conflict that is inherent in all human relationships, I struggle. A treasured beta reader for HEARTLESS, my editor, and a number of writerly and non-writerly friends have showered the book with praise. There's just this one little caveat - Where's the conflict?

Good question!

As I finish up the first draft of the book this week (so close!), I'll be thinking about the revisions process and ways I can ramp up the conflict. In the meantime, maybe my characters will teach me how not to become a doormat in my personal life :-/

So...what are your strategies for dealing with conflict? On the page, of course.

- Dawn

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

TV Tuesday: Revolution

As a super fan of the TV show Supernatural, I've been patiently waiting for Eric Kripke and JJ Abrams' new series, Revolution. I'm three episodes in, and I admit, I haven't quite made up my mind about it yet.

The premise is intriguing - set 15 years after a global blackout, a world without electricity. No iPhones, no vehicles, no light after sunset.

I'm a fan of Billy Burke, so I'm happy to see him as a leading guy, and with my new Breaking Bad obsession, I'm thrilled actor Giancarlo Esposito is back on TV in another edgy role. Perhaps relieved is a better word, since the generic characters - Burke included - lacked some of the grit I'd hoped for. After all, Kripke did create the Winchester boys.

The pilot had a Hunger Games-esque vibe, so strong in fact, I'd actually begun casting Katniss, Gabe and Peeta. I'm rethinking the boys after the third episode but Katniss is a lock.

Actress Tracy Spiridakos (Go Canada!) plays a wicked crossbow shooter named Charlie Matheson.   After her brother is kidnapped and her father murdered, she leads a small group of survivors on a quest to Her uncle? Electricity? The real motive is still a bit unclear, and while there's no question Charlie is beautiful, and skilled, she's kind of all over the map and her character hasn't yet resonated with me.

That said, the visuals are stunning - and symbolic. A broken ferris wheel in the middle of a field, overgrown with weeds and wild flowers. A main street turned into a car graveyard. Wrigley Field, an empty stadium, barren and lonely. Each episode is peppered with reminders of a former life - old photographs stored on a battery-dead iPhone, abandoned airplanes now used as shelters, looters seeking the last of the canned goods. It's not going to compete with the cinematography of shows like Game of Thrones but then, not many can.

While I'm not blown away, I am intrigued enough to keep Revolution on my PVR list. I'm not willing to exchange it in place of The Voice for Monday night real-time viewing (yes, I do like my talent reality shows), but it provides great background noise when I'm making dinner or catching up on social media.

For sci-fi fans who are still looking for something to replace Lost, Revolution might be the key - but for me, this post-apocalyptic world needs to get a little dirtier if it's going to compete against my very full slate of fall TV shows.

Are you watching Revolution? I'd love your take.

- Dawn

In My DVD Player: Breaking Bad

Monday, October 1, 2012

Muse of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy is on my TV show hitlist - and let's be honest, a lot of it has to do with Charlie Hunnam.

Nope, I've never seen him act (though I hear he's amazing on the show as JAX), and I really have no idea what the show is about - but I was late to the Breaking Bad party and the same people who turned me on to that show are talking about Sons of Anarchy. 

 Who am I to argue? Especially when the show clearly boasts some impressive eye candy talent.

I'm (just) 3,000 words (or two chapters) shy of finishing Heartless (minus a whole book rewrite, of course) which means two things: Finishing season 4 of Breaking Bad as reward, and the promise of a new project in the horizon. Maybe Sons of Anarchy will be my new series, as well.

I know, it's a Muse Avatar stretch - but I'm betting with the promise of Charlie ahead, I'll have no problem polishing off those last 3,000 words. And THAT is muse-worthy.

Have a great week!

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr