Monday, May 31, 2010

As a total side note....

...I don't care much for moderated comments, but if I have to delete one more Japanese porn spam message, I'm going to go nuts.  What to do, what to do?

Friday, May 28, 2010

The 'Lost' finale and how it gave me permission to let go of 'Happy Hour of the Damned'

You would think that sometime between giving up on the Anita Blake series and accepting that paranormal romance and urban fantasy are not interchangeable, I should have gotten that not all stories are for everyone.  I did get it.  And yet, I've read the same opening paragraphs of Happy Hour of the Damned over and over in my quest to get through the first chapter.  I wanted to like it because Mark Henry's such a likable guy (and what if he's been watching the blogs of everyone who got an e-arc and has been heart broken by my silence?) and the book has fabu potential.

Right.  So my husband and I watched Lost's finale on Sunday night like millions of other people.  I cried.  We enjoyed and discussed.  He Tweeted, I updated my Facebook status.  And we awoke to a world in which, for all of us that ranked it among the top show finales ever, almost equal amounts either just didn't get it, or didn't get everything they wanted and therefore hated it.  Not wanting to follow the episode's theme of letting go, I mistakenly tried to enter into rational conversation with one of the haters.  Bad move.  He didn't want his questions answered, he wanted answers to questions that had never been apart of the show (i.e., the writers suck no matter what).  I turned my need for further discussion to Lost's official FB page where, among the heartfelt goodbyes there were posts of rage, some causing head/desk (not necessarily my own head) desires.

Why didn't the finale answer the question about the polar bear?!  Um, cuz it was answered like, two or three seasons ago.  The writers can't help it if you didn't watch or forgot.

What was with Richard?!  They did a whole episode to explain that.  Hulu is your friend.

What happened to Walt's storyline?!  They cast an 11 year old to play an 8 year old; puberty had the bad grace to occur on schedule.

I'll leave alone any Q&A about the actual episode for anyone who's holding off, and I left alone discussion because...well, we're not all wired to like the same things.  I'm a woman; I don't know why the so-called women's networks offer so little that appeals to me while I can watch Spike for days.  Who knows why some of us watch sports while others hate them, or why one person's favorite band is audio crap to the next person?  I'll never get why anyone would prefer dark chocolate to milk...

And thus, I finally loaded Happy Hour of the Damned into the e-reader I got for Mother's Day, started to force my way through, and found it was OK to let go.  It was still smart and witty, even if I didn't like it, and I could still tell you all that.  Funny thing is, now that I've allowed myself to not like it, I sorta like it.

“Happy Hour of the Damned—is it a comedy? An urban fantasy? A whodunit? Who cares! Mark Henry’s written such a clever and engaging story that fans of any genre will totally adore it. Amanda Feral is the freshest,funniest character to come out of fiction since Bridget Jones,and my only regret is she’s not real and we can’t go out for drinks.(Because,really? Zombies are the new black.) In short?I loved this book!”
—Jen Lancaster,author of Bitter Is the New Black

My problem is that I wouldn't go out for drinks with Amanda.  I might not use a quicky two minute Access Hollywood segment on her as a bathroom break, but I would not be a fan and I was not thrilled about reading her pov like she was a female Perez Hilton and my brain was her blog.

Released from my need to like it, I loved the wit that went into the character and her voice, the "breaks in the 4th wall" that make it like Amanda really is telling you this story, and the fantastic footnotes.  I'm totally going to go liquor shopping one day soon and make myself a Flirtini.  

My taste didn't exactly change; like a brilliantly crafted hors d'oeuvre, the book leaves me hungry for a meal--a setting that I want to live in for a while populated with characters I want to spend time with.  But now I do appreciate the hors d'oeuvre's flavor and can suggest you try it, too, without watching to see what face you make.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

If too many cooks spoil the broth, what do too many writers do?

We have fun...and maybe some frustration, but mostly fun!

After months of pretty good activity, my little writer's group got an infusion of new blood from the larger group.  I don't know how twice as many people translated in half as many posts, but it did.  Poking Julie (the muse and task master) to have something for the group next month, we found we're in the same boat--working on edits with nothing else we're prepared to share. 

A couple of jokes later and we started to work on a pretty serious collaboration.  

My experience working with other writers pretty much consisted of two childhood friends and I doing rounds for a few pages and then not, and with my husband who lays out fantastic story ideas and then decides that his work there is done.  Yep.  I've had experience in *not* collaborating. 

I went in search of advice on the web and found a ton of crap.  But knowing I'd seen something worth while out there, I went through a few blog archives until I found Holly Lisle's How To (and how not to).  It covers the obvious issues of who writes what, and also the the business aspects that you might not consider when you think, "Hey, won't this be fun!"  And Julie linked me to the two authors writing as one Moira Rogers--a good look at joint writing from a pair successfully doing it.  

For me, the last 24+ hours  have been a crash course in compromise.  It certainly started easy: she took my not-really-kidding joke seriously and we discussed genre, then narrowed down the genre elements.  For good or for ill, I "said", I've had this idea that fits, but I've never fully developed it.  Instant progress!  But as we developed the idea, it went places I would never take it.  That was a little less fun.  But part of collaborating is having that fresh mindset and seeing beyond your own point of view, right?  Right.  

It got later.  She presented me with a host of ideas for the main character that, if I saw them on the back of a book cover, I'd put it back on the shelf and look for something better.  I knew, even in my tired and grumpy state, that "better" really translates into "more my taste," but tired for me translates into bitchy, so I think I just projected, "You're wrong."  Lucky for our friendship, if not for my mood, being sleepy becomes being silly for Julie, so the ideas she gave got more and more humorously away from what we were trying to do, but she never told me to go to hell.

Sleep came to our rescue.  In the morning, destructive personality quirks were gone and we were able to get down to business; for me, that meant I could articulate the flaws I saw in certain things and stop holding on to others that kept my world from becoming ours.  After a few hours, magic happened--we'd type the same thing at the same time, like old friends who knew each other's mind.  Then we were back to negotiating, 'cause this stuff isn't easy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

If you must be distracted, may it be by books!

I should not have started reading the sequels I ordered, but I couldn't help myself.  At first, I used them as rewards: finish some bit of homework and I could read a few chapters of Jabril.  Fortunately, I got a lot of work done before I reached the point that I couldn't put it down.  Now I've gobbled up all three, and I think I'm having Seanan McGuire withdrawal.  Not that the others weren't great, too, mind.  But finishing A Local Habitation had me walking around the house like a junkie, as though if I looked long and hard enough, I'd find the remnants of some former stash (or, ah, the next book would just appear in my apartment, four months before it's supposed to hit the bookstores).


In my original Raphael post, I wrote: "Cynthia Leighton is an ex-cop P.I.--I know, I know, been there done that.  BUT she's her own character, not a rip-off of any P.I.'s we've seen before.  She's "smart, tough, and sexy" without crossing the line into obnoxious.  When a certain powerful vampire (and yes, he's a hottie alpha male) hires her, she holds her own against the creatures of the night with her brain and a few high calibur weapons, and without losing her humanity."

Hmnph.  I so hate spoiling anything that my "reviews" are terribly vague.  It's worse for sequels, generally, since telling you about them may reveal something you wanted to find out for yourself from book one.  Can I be more detailed without giving things away?  Maybe.  I'll tell you this: Jabril doesn't disappoint--in fact, the danger was pushed to a higher level.  Cyn gets called to Texas to find a missing girl, only to discover that the girl, and the sister still trapped by the vampire that hired her, need to be rescued.  She's in strange territory and working under circumstances where even winning might mean her death.  

For those of us who read a lot of paranormal/urban fantasy, there's a little voice in our minds going, "Yeah, sure.  Even if she 'dies', she'll survive."  But the mortal danger to the girls, and the possibility of other damage to Cyn, was so real that I was held captive until the end.

Hell Fire (Corine Solomon, Book 2)Blue Diablo: A Corine Solomon Novel 
My post for Blue Diablo (click to go to it) was more detailed, so I'll let that stand. Hell Fire (Corine Solomon, Book 2) gave me pause.  It seemed a little more "American Gothic" than I was in the mood for reading.  Though delving past the preview chapter left me with that same sense, in typical Ann Aguirre fashion, the book was just too good to set aside for something else.  Corine made a deal with Chance in Blue Diablo--if she helped him with his problem, he would help her discover who killed her mother and why.  In Hell Fire, he makes good on that promise.  

Kilmer, Georgia has more secrets than the mystery behind Corine's mother's death, and someone is ready to kill to keep them.  The town seems lost in time--so cut off that neighboring towns don't even know it exists.  Something dark and hungry haunts the woods around Kilmer.  While it reads more like horror than urban fantasy, it's a damn fine story.  The only draw back is an ending that makes you want to know what happens next NOW, but the book three won't be out until April 2011.

A Local Habitation: An October Daye NovelRosemary and Rue: An October Daye Novel 
Of Rosemary and Rue, I originally wrote: "It struck me as a fantastic blend of the "old" urban fantasy with its emphasis on the mythic and the "new" hard-boiled/kick-ass urban fantasy."  October Daye was...a Changeling knight, a P.I., a wife, a mother... At the start of her story, she's on the case for her liege lord, thinking she'll be home in time for dinner.  Caught in a fairy trap, October becomes lost to the world for fourteen years.  Unable to understand what happened, her human husband and child want nothing to do with Toby.  Faerie wants her back, but having lost so much to it, she refuses.  A spelled phone call takes the choice away from her; Toby must solve a murder mystery or die herself.

See?  That's the problem with reviews...with the appearance of book two, you know that Toby lives.  What you really should know is that this is a world where the magic of Faerie is alive but hidden in the streets of San Francisco.  Kelpies lurk in foggy shadows ready to run into the sea with anyone foolish enough to ride them.  The King of Cats slinks through alleyways and a flock of pixies makes its home in the produce section of a local supermarket.  

Did I mention I'm going through withdrawals?  Finishing any good book makes me want to read more by the author, but Seanan McGuire has become an instant favorite.  I don't know how I'm going to make it until book three's release in September!