Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

It was inevitable. At some point, I had to read it. I'm surprised that I didn't read it at the height of the Da Vinci Code fuss, but it took messed up ligaments to get me sitting in bed and reading.

It's interesting the amount of negative criticism on Dan Brown's writing. Before I read the book, I remember thinking that someone doesn't take off like he did without good writing. Now, I'm not going to criticize him. Much.

Flashbacks are difficult, I admit. 'Had' seems to be a dirty word, from what I hear. But still, if you're going to flashback, I think it's acceptable to use at least ONE 'had' so that we have some clue that we're actually moving back ten years in the middle of a paragraph.

And if one does flashback in the middle of a paragraph, there seems to me a promise that one should come back to the future by the end of that paragraph, not a page later.

While reading The DaVinci Code, I kept reeling in confusion for a few sentences, and then having to skim both forward and backward to confirm that yes, we are flashing back right now. And then I'd have to go back and mentally adjust before re-reading the flashback.

That was a criticism, wasn't it?

But all in all, it was much better than the movie. *grins* The movie is just like coloring in the lines: you need to read the book and then watch the movie.

As far as his writing ... well, his story crafting is obviously fantastic, because I couldn't put the book down. There's a lot of information/idea dump in it, but let me tell you, it's fascinating. So break those rules all you want. The flashback-ing?? Well, I felt like I was devouring my dad's perfectly-seasoned ribs and drinking my mom's warmish sun tea on a sunny July picnic, and flies kept swarming around me.

The flashbacks are annoying pests in The DaVinci Code! They don't undermine the fascinating story, though!


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Nora's New Book! Morrigan's Cross is out!!!!!!

Yay, yay, yay!

I gotta tell you, I was a little worried about the Nora Roberts - vampire thing. As soon as I picked it up and started reading, though, I knew my fears were completely unfounded. She pulled me into her world right away, with a very sexy man no less. As usual, she's better than ever!

DH pulled it out of my hand so that I could get some writing done (forgivable because then he bought it for me). I'm working on story that I'll get paid for up to 4200 words, but a sudden twist happened and now it's probably going to be about 5000. I don't like to not get paid for words, but hey, I'll pretend I'm giving the extra words to my readers. I'm just so grateful they read anything I write!

Now I'm reluctant to read Morrigan's Cross, because once I read it, it'll be over! Isn't that crazy? I know I'm going to sad that it's over; I always am! I wish I could stay in her words and worlds forever. Maybe I'll have to go back and read Angels Fall, which I didn't like so much the first time, probably because I rushed through it and skipped bits. I've never read anything of hers that I didn't like.

(Sorry about the ADD post, skipping back and forth between topics.)

May I just interject something? I think it's so awesome of Nora Roberts, how respectful she is of Wicca and witches. And in the prologue of Morrigan's Cross, a storyteller is relating the story, a little girl pipes up, "And women, too!" Also, in the first couple chapters, she says that some people were afraid and in their houses praying to "the gods of their choosing."

Nora, you're one hell of a writer and you know what? A great lady shines through your work.


Friday, August 25, 2006

John Rain ... sexy man!

I wonder if Barry Eisler, after all the painstaking research, storycraft, and fantastic writing he does, would be a bit taken aback to learn that the thing I love most about his novels is the sex.

I sprained a couple ligaments the other day in taekwondo class, and spent two days reading. The John Rain books (Rain Fall, Hard Rain, Rain Storm, Killing Rain, and The Last Assassin) have been in my TBR pile forever. I'm almost happy at the injury, because otherwise I wouldn't have had two glorious days devouring all five, one after another.

Thank God, he does not write corny James Bond sex scenes meant only to remind us that Bond is a ladies man. (Not a big fan of Bond, here. Not saying that Brosnan and Connery aren't sexy, just saying that James Bond does not trip my trigger.) No, all the sex scenes are full of conflict and are the most character-enlightening that I've read.

Bond would definitely be described as tall, dark(ish) and handsome. Rain, on the other hand, doesn't do much for me on a physical level. But his mind, his character ... major drool factor. First, he's a conflicted dark and brooding bad boy with a good heart. Kind of good heart, pretty much as good as you can get when you're an assassin-for-hire. Second, he can pretty much protect you from anyone, as long as they don't have a gun. (Although, he has been known to shoot, and he has been known to wrestle a gun away from someone.) Third, he ... well ... he's definitely alpha material.

Which brings me back to the sex scenes. Romance novels cut out all the dominant sort of sex that pervaded those 80s bodice rippers in order to be more politically correct. The latest surge in erotica has brought the dominant man back (the publishers finally figured out: women like sex, too!), but mainstream romance and other commercial fiction seem to tiptoe around anything but vanilla sex.

Eisler seems to get that even a strong female character can love a little show of male dominance. And that sex under such circumstances does not diminish or disempower a woman. The whole act of sex is dominant and submissive; nature didn't make sex PC. Ever watch two horses go at it? Two animals? Nature did not make the sex act an act of equality. And you know what? What's natural is erotic to me. (With the exception of rape--obviously, I hope!)

Does that mean that woman is lesser than man? Nope. Does that mean that women are better than men? Nope. (Debatable, though.) Equal rights are great, but all humans are not created equal. Some have talents that others don't. Some are stronger; some are weaker. I believe in equal rights, but I accept that we are all different. Don't think for a moment that I won't fight to the death for women's rights. I'm just saying, sex and what's erotic are a different topic altogether.

Please don't let my drooling downplay Barry Eisler's amazing talent. His novels are truly the best espionage novels I have ever read. Well-developed and multi-layered characters, fine storycraft, strong and original voice, and great action. Barry Eisler writes the perfect novel. Exactly what I want to read. If I could find more novels like his, I wouldn't want to write a spy novel myself!

I need to confess something here. I'm a total fan of spy fiction and yet ... there's not a whole lot of it that I'm crazy about. The writing is often clunky, the characters are flat, and you know what? Sometimes I just feel plain stupid. And when I sit back to read, I don't want to be questioning my intelligence.

While I was propping up my foot, I tried starting the espionage classic, A Small Town in Germany. I read the first page and felt stupid (could've been the painkillers). I couldn't figure out who was who, on which side, who was even narrating, or what was going on. I put the book down and read Barry Eisler, and felt smart.

Yes, yes. A Small Town in Germany is a classic and all that. I'll get to it. I loved reading many of John le Carre's works. He's a master, no doubt at all about it. A Small Town in Germany was an earlier work, so maybe after the rocky start, I'll catch on and won't feel stupid.

Anyway, back to the point. Mr. Barry Eisler, any chance for a bondage scene in your next book? Or maybe just a little blindfold? What would Delilah do if Rain gave her a spank, like he did Naomi? (Could be deadly, or ... could be sexy as hell!)


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Be amazed, be stunned ... read Darkly Dreaming Dexter!

I'm afraid to write a recommendation for the most amazing book I have ever read in my life. NO exaggeration. It shocked me, took my breath away, stunned me, horrified me, and just amazed me from start to finish.

I don't know if I can say that it was the best book I'd ever read, but it was the most affected I had ever been by a novel.

At one point, my jaw dropped open. Hah! That phrase sounds so silly. I write it all the time. My characters jaws drop open far too much. I realized that yesterday, when my own jaw dropped. I realized then that I could not remember a single other time that my jaw has dropped open in shock.

But that's what this book does to you. Please, please, please go and read Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.

I don't dare say more. I'm afraid I'll turn you off by a simplistic review. I can only promise two things: first, you won't be able to put the book down, whether you love or hate mysteries; and second, you will be affected by this book. It will make you stunned, shocked, sad, and laugh in ways that will horrify you.

It's an experience, and a fine--very fine--example of craft.


Friday, August 18, 2006

To stray off the topic a little ...

The CDC found a genetic basis for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome! You can read about it here at Science Daily.

I read it first in Oprah’s magazine today. I had/have chronic fatigue syndrome. I try not to tell people, because I get the impression that people think I was lazy, or that I just didn’t have the wherewithal to just ‘get over it.’ It comes as a surprise to some people, but believe it or not, it is not socially acceptable to be sick in our society.

I didn’t help matters. Since there is no cure and no treatment, my last resort was to ‘will’ it away. I’d read all the miracles. There are people who have thought enough happy thoughts, breathed deeply enough times, or just been plain lucky enough for their cancer to just up and disappear. For their body to perform its own triple bypass operation on itself.

So I spent the majority of my energy trying to pretend, or at the very least, trying to appear normal. Happy. Energetic.

I would sit in my chair with a smile pasted on my face. I swear to God, I may have nodded and smiled, and said halfway-right things when people talked at me, but my entire focus was on the floor.

And how I was going to prevent myself from laying down on it.

Imagine, having a conversation with someone in public and they just get up and lay down on the floor. Wouldn’t that be nuts? I somehow managed to make it through eight years without embarrassing myself that badly.

Even worse was when I was going through the day, and I would suddenly realize that I hadn’t had a thought for hours. You know that mental mind chatter? Now my brain is constantly at work, often in my character’s lives, but also in my own. What time is it? I wonder what I’ll eat for dinner? I have celery and salad and fish and fruit, but boy, wouldn’t that frozen pizza be good with some ice cream for dessert? Why’s this car so damn slow? Doesn’t she know it’s 45 mph here?

I went through my life, constantly yelling at myself to think. And my brain would sit there stupidly, staring back at me blankly. They call it “white” something. White brain, white mind, something white. It’s because your body is sending all its blood to your body to protect and heal your vital organs, thinking takes a backseat in the priorities of survival.

Even worse, is that everything became my fault. I didn’t dare eat anything but healthy and organic. I did everything in my power to get better. Did it help? Nope. I carried my will to control and master the disease way too far.

I once got cut. A little cut on my pinky. No big deal, right? I called up a friend completely panicked. I was sure that the little cut was going to be the last straw that would tip me back in bed for weeks on end. My body was so completely out of my control that I actually had a panic attack and hyperventilated over a stupid little cut that didn’t even need stitches.

But I’m a million times better now. It always hovers though, ready to take over my life again if I don’t do yoga and eat healthy and just … I don’t know.

The CDC finding a genetic marker—it’s like vindication for me. I wish I could take the article and shove it in the face of everyone who didn’t understand, who looked at me like I was lazy, who thought I was just a failure.

Not that I blame them.

Because the person who least understood, who kept yelling at me to just get over it, and who thought I was a total failure, was me.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Books... to buy new, buy used, borrow, give away ... oh my.

Last week there was a lively debate on the chicklit loop on buying used books and/or swapping used books.

One woman claimed that it was terrible karma to read anything but books that you buy new, if you were an author or wanted to be an author some day.

*sigh of defeat*

On one hand, I definitely agree. I feel guilty buying used, I feel guilty getting freebies, I feel guilty reading through part of a book at Borders, and I feel guilty selling my old books to a secondhand store.

On the other hand, I definitely disagree. (I'm a Libra, give me a break.)

What about those that can't afford to buy as many books as they read? Would you prefer they found a new hobby and STOPPED reading altogether???? Do you really think that would help authors out?

Okay, I agree that authors would benefit the most by everyone buying their book new.

BUT, I can't afford it. I simply cannot afford it. As it is, my very tiny royalties don't even cover a week's worth of reading. I swear to God, I would fill my house to the brim with books if I had the money.

I know I don't make my living solely from writing, so what right do I have to speak? But if anyone told me, "I really want to read your latest story, but I just can't afford it," I'd give it to them for free. If my choice were having them NOT buy my book and NOT reading it, or NOT buy my book AND read it, then I'd choose the latter.

But I still feel guilty.

One woman went so far as to say that she burned her books once she ran out of room, because if she donated books to a shelter, she would buy them new. Burning them? Why can't she just give them away? At least drum up a new fan or two for an author.

Then one woman posted about how she had two children that she was raising, and buying new books was a once in awhile luxury. So authors, would you rather she NOT read because she can't afford it?

There's the library, I'll give you that. A few authors felt it was bad to use the library, a few felt that one should never buy used but one may use the library.

Yes, I think everyone would rather buy shiny new books, but the reality is that if you are an avid reader, it's nearly impossible to buy all the books you want to read. I spend about $40 - 200 a month on books--money I can't afford in the first place--and that doesn't even begin to cover my reading habits for the month.

So I'm very sorry. But I just can't afford any more than that. If I ever sell a book to a "real" publisher, and everyone runs out and buys my book who can afford it, then I'll run out and buy the whole store and then some.

I HAVE read a book at Borders, and later bought it when I had the money because I was so entertained.

After an unlucky week, one author responded to my post by offering to mail me a copy of her book for free. I got tears in my eyes. Hey, I wanted to run out and buy her book just then, but eight clients owe me money and who knows when they'll take the time out of their busy schedules to pay me. (How dare I have the audacity to actually need the money I work my tail off to earn??)

My computer broke, my lawn mower broke, and my piano broke.

And one author offered to mail me her book for free. It was so unexpected and so nice, I didn't know what to do. I can't get the money I earn, and to randomly get a free gift??

I swear, as soon as people pay me, I'm going to buy five copies of her book and give them to people. And then I'm going to buy every book she writes for the rest of her life.

So tell me again ... giving away an old book: is that really such a bad thing?


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Nora agrees with me!!! Nora! THE Nora Roberts!

Okay, she wasn't here. She doesn't read my blog, and she doesn't exactly agree with me, per se. In fact, she doesn't even know I exist.

But she did have a bit to say in the comments of Kate Rothwell's Blog about that lady's letter! The great, esteemed, Nora Roberts! And a bunch of other people are speaking up, too.

I'm so glad. After I vented about that letter, everyone just seemed to shrug and sigh in disgust at what the world is coming too. And most of them (although some did!) didn't give it a second thought.

Truth be told, that letter was in one of the first issues of RWR that I read cover to cover. I've only been a member for eight months. When I read that letter to the editor, the first thought that came to my mind was, "Is this how people in RWA think? Is this sort of prejudice widely accepted?"

As you probably noticed before, I was very upset by that letter. My heart dropped. My stomach clenched. I wanted to throw up. Honestly!

BUT look ... Lauren Dane, Smart Bitches, Sybil, Karen S, and Selah March all posted about it, too!

You may find my happiness at this turn of events a little weird. Yep, it is. But I'm just ecstatic that there are nice people in RWA who are equally outraged! I'm so happy that there are people who just don't shrug and dismiss it without a second thought!

There are good people in this world! Thank the Goddess!!!