Monthly Archives: May 2012

Launch Countdown to SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN!

We all grew up with fairy tales, those mesmerizing stories that gripped our imaginations, first read to us by our parents and later, tales we read (and maybe even reread) on our own. Then there were all the movie versions and spin-offs that we probably saw, and of course the figurines, games, coloring books, tea sets, costumes, and pink sparkly bikes with characters on the basket that we no doubt collected. No matter how much we may try to downplay them, fairy tales are a part of our culture—little pieces of magic that live within us even beyond the years we knew them by heart.

That said, I am in full countdown mode for Snow White and the Huntsman!

The dark version of the classic tale is directed by Rupert Sanders and debuts this Friday. Starring Charlize Theron as the malevolent Queen, Kristen Stewart as Snow White, and Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, it promises to be one heck of a show. I will admit, there have been a few movies that I’ve been eagerly anticipating this year—The Hunger Games and The Avengers, to name a couple—but this one is by far the most exciting for me. Take a little girl who loved all fairy tales merged with a grown woman who loves a solid dark fantasy, and there you have it!

Based on the preview, the movie looks like a fantastically decadent new take on an old tale. You can check it out here: Snow White and the Huntsman preview. I’ve actually re-watched this clip about 30 times myself, I am that excited! 🙂 I’ll be back to share my thoughts this weekend, but I don’t expect that many of us will be disappointed.

So the question remains—will you be heading out to see Snow White and the Huntsman?

🙂

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Dance as a Story

After a long day of editing yesterday, there was nothing I wanted more than to curl up on my couch and finally watch Wednesday’s season opener of So You Think You Can Dance. SYTYCD has been one of my favorite shows since the day it first aired, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I recommend you do. I’ve long wondered how so many people who watch American Idol don’t watch SYTYCD, but I suspect it’s because they simply haven’t been awakened to the beauty of the dance world yet.

So perhaps I can be the one to awaken you.

My love of dance started when I was young. I wasn’t a good dancer, you see—even now, the best you’ll get out of me is a good “club dance”—but my sister was amazing. She could emulate nearly every style, and I remember her hardly needing to practice for any of her classes or performances. The kid even beautifully choreographed my first talent show performance of Mariah Carey’s “Someday”—oh yeah, I sure did—but the kicker was that she choreographed when I was 11…and she was 8. (What the heck?!)

A couple years later, my sister ended up with a performance after having had minor surgery to remove a large mole. She was terrified to go onstage because she didn’t want to rip open her stitches, and we’d wrapped her leg in a careful attempt to prevent it. The time came for her to go on, and we cheered and cheered—until we suddenly realized that her ace bandage was dangling from the end of her pant leg.

Now, I need to remind you that my sister was ridiculously talented, and though I’m sure she’d tell this story quite differently than I do, here’s what I remember: she kept right on dancing, not an ounce of terror showing in her face as she kicked and emoted and threw that leg at all the right cues until finally she snapped it hard enough that the stupid bandage flew off onto the stage. And then she kept right on dancing, lovely powerhouse that she was, ever so triumphant over that lame little ace bandage. I squealed and cheered from the audience, of course because she was fantastic, but more because I’d never seen such determination and poise (especially in a 10-year-old) as she managed to maintain her artistry and still beat that damn bandage off her leg. She was in that moment, telling her story in her dance, and it was stunning.

Years later a little show called So You Think You Can Dance aired, and I was hooked. I admit, my first interest was all the hip hop…but I soon came to love so many styles, from contemporary to jazz, Broadway to salsa, and more than anything, the effort these dancers put into their performances. Several of them had emotional stories of how they came to dance, having persevered through intense hardship to follow their dancing dreams.

But the reason I watched was not because of their personal stories, or their struggles—it was about the story in the dance itself. Within a few episodes I started to understand contemporary and lyrical dance, and I was mesmerized by choreography that actually told a story. It went beyond “put this leg here and that arm there” and into a whole new world of acting and story-telling, something that gripped my heart because the dancers moved about the stage without ever saying a word, and still they could tell the loveliest story.

I suppose this is why two of the show’s choreographers, Mia Michaels and Travis Wall, have earned so many accolades. Their pieces are dramatic and artistic, driving the dancers in a mind-boggling physicality that will leave you breathless almost every single time. They don’t create dance as something to fit the music and look pretty—they fashion dance as a story, a complex tale in one three-minute segment that will grab you by your heart and take you places you’ve never been.

So after nine seasons, should you start watching? Yes. Absolutely, yes, yes, yes. The dancers that make their way onto the show are phenomenal, and since the show is evolving and growing, dancers are coming in with new and unique takes on dance. Sure, some of them “just” dance, and they look pretty and have a good time and everyone is delighted—but then there are those who tell a story with their dance, choreographing a full arc, from exposition to climax to denouement, and you can feel it all the way into your soul.

There were a ton of great auditions in the first episode Wednesday night, but one I wanted to share with you was a dancer that fans are rather excited about. His name is Hampton Williams, and what he brought to the show is indescribable. To be honest, when I watched his explanation of what he was about to do, I rolled my eyes—and then when the dance was finished, I wondered why everyone was crying on the show…until I realized I was teary-eyed myself. His piece was fascinating, and his style was something I’ve never seen before. It’s definitely unusual, but what is clear is that this dancer has put his whole heart into sharing a compelling, engaging story—and that is exactly why I love dance.

If you’d like to see a clip of his audition, you can do so here: Hampton Williams. I hope you find it as riveting as I did!

In the meantime, happy Memorial Day everyone, and you know where I’ll be on Wednesday night. 🙂

And much love to Sisser Face!


What’s In a Name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

—From Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

I’ve been editing my WIP, Kyresa, for the last time (and yes, I really mean it!). Since it is a fantasy book, it has a collection of unusual names, as do many of the books I read in the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genres. Add to that my plethora of friends with wildly interesting names, and I got to thinking—what’s in a name?

Parents often spend months coming up with a suitable list of names for their soon-to-be-born, one that will need to stick with the child as she grows up, takes on her own unique traits, and eventually becomes who and what she is as a person. So how is it that parents pick the perfect name?

And in a similar manner, how is it that we, as authors, pick our characters’ names?

We almost have an easier task, I think: we have a vision for a character, a set of traits, experiences, and journeys already in mind as we set about to write, and from this we can choose a name to match. Sometimes, we may already know the name in advance—and like the choosing of a baby name before parents know anything about their child, somehow, the name tends to fit. (And if it doesn’t, we can always change it later without the hassle of legal paperwork. Thank goodness!)

When I write, I usually have a vision of a character and then suddenly the name just comes out on paper. I really can’t explain how this happens—I see the character doing A, B, or C, and start typing, and then suddenly said character’s name is right there, typed in front of me. Usually, the name sticks. If nothing’s called to me immediately, the name will be a placeholder. I won’t lie—[the chick], [sassafras], and [what’s his face] have been used as temporary holds before. 🙂 Still, it’s generally pretty rare for me to not feel the rush of a suitable name. Even rarer is a name change—Kyresa actually underwent a slight change a year ago, requiring me to undo over a decade of pronouncing her name the old way as I talked about her character. That was tough. But tougher was finding a new name for a character I’d known so long. (Envision post-its with different spellings of names all over the house for a month and you’ve nailed the experience.)

Since I usually feel the name as I write, I suppose that explains how parents can look at their newborn and know the name they’ve chosen is the right one. So I’m curious—how do you pick names for your characters? Do you flip through baby books, or keep a catalog of names alphabetically? Do you sound out syllables until they match the feeling you have for the character? Or, do you simply drop them on the page like I do, changing them only if they conflict with your vision of the character?

Please feel free to share your methods in the comment section below. Whether it be for baby names or character names, how do you smell a rose? 🙂


Review of SUCCUBUS IN THE CITY, by Nina Harper

Almost two years ago, I wrote a short story about a succubus (which, by the way, I’ll soon be building into a full length novel—more details to come). Since I hadn’t read much fiction on the fascinating creatures, I took a perusal of good ole Amazon and found Succubus in the City, by Nina Harper. 

Though the style, context, and plot is far different from where I’m headed with my tale, I enjoyed Nina Harper’s take. Succubus in the City is actually the first book in a trilogy and follows the life—or rather, part of the long life—of Lily, a succubus living in New York. Spoiled as one of Satan’s chosen, Lily has a day job as an accessories editor for a fashion magazine, and a night job as a sex demon who delivers male souls to Hell. The book is a light, fun, and entertaining read, merging elements of Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada, and also the classic tale of the demon spawn that is a succubus—except this particular succubus wants to find love. Lily, it seems, can’t catch a break with men, since certain details of her demon contract put a damper on her dating life.

If this sounds hilarious, then you’ve caught the general feel of the book. It’s one part fashion, one part fantasy, one part romance, and two parts comedic sass. I couldn’t help but giggle at Lily’s plights, while also appreciating the gal-pal power that Harper weaves throughout the story. Lily’s closest friends are Eros, the Demi-Goddess of Sex; Desi, the Demon of Desire; and Sybil, the Demon of Greed. Together they make a sort of Spawn and the City quad, each of them exhibiting the classic Miranda, Samantha, Charlotte, and Carrie traits that a SATC audience member will most certainly recognize.

It’s definitely not a deep book by any stretch of the imagination, and the plot is perhaps spread a little too thin since it’s part of a trilogy (I myself probably won’t make it through all three). Nonetheless, it is a fun, quick read. Something I really enjoyed was Harper’s attention to the fashion detail both at Lily’s job and in her own clothing; the author has some experience with these pieces having been in the fashion industry herself, and it showed. I’m not sure that these details would appeal to a broad audience, but I appreciated them.

For many years, my favorite books were those you could find on the shelves of a grocery store checkout stand—the paperback bestsellers that boasted suspenseful, smutty plots filled with sex, crime, and some sort of female protagonist who usually fell in love with the wrong man. (Erica Spindler, by the way, is one of my favorite authors in this style.) Though Succubus in the City lacked the crime and thriller elements I favor, it did have that silly, over-the-top raunch drama that I can appreciate in my reading.

I’ll give it three stars. I like a little fluff sometimes, so this one did the trick.

🙂


An Idea; the Love Affair

From heaviness sprang an idea

—A tantalizing whisper, a glimmer of thought,

Speeding the pulse and setting the mind afire.

We danced around, back and forth

This idea and I

Circling, panting, and colliding

As though we were meant to be

Two parts together; a whole

We raced into the room

To create, to craft, to burn

Grappling frenziedly as we whispered into each other’s ears

Clothes fluttering to the floor

Exposing our wants, our wishes;

And then we

Pieced together our dreams

Our destiny,

Becoming one in a moment,

Blooming from the confines of our once lonely lives

Into the fire of an idea,

Our idea.

And it was love.

***

Just thought I’d try something new today…and yes, there’s a little spark of an idea brewing in my mind right now… Can’t wait to see where it leads!

Happy writing, everyone. 🙂


Protected: So You Wondered Why I Joined the Circus…

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Kreativ Blogger Award

I have been nominated for the Kreativ Blogger Award!

Thank you so much to Rebecca Lane Beittel for nominating me. What an honor! Rebecca is a fellow SheWrites member as well as an author of YA Science Fiction and Fantasy. She is currently working on her second novel, Kingdoms of Blood & Magic. Can’t wait to see how it turns out, Rebecca!

The Kreativ Blogger Award has been winding its way around the blogger circuit for a while, as a way for all of us to share our appreciation of one another, as well as to get to know each other a little better. In addition, it’s a fun way for us to promote the great blogs we’re reading to our own followers.

The Kreativ Blogger Award rules state that I must thank my nominator and provide a link to his/her blog, list 7 things that readers might find interesting about me, and nominate 7 other bloggers.

So, here are 7 things about me that might intrigue you…

1. I wanted to be a doctor when I was a teen. Specifically, a neurosurgeon. I even interned at a hospital and sat in on a surgery! Ultimately, I decided that it would get in the way of writing, and that I didn’t want to be in school my whole life…which is somewhat ironic, considering my day job as a teacher puts me in school. For my whole life. 🙂

2. I have friends with names for almost every season. That’s right, I know a Winter, a Summer, and a Skye (she’s practically a Spring, since she has an incredibly refreshing personality). On the one occasion I got them all together, I threatened to call myself Autumn all night!

3. I use to be an aerial rope artist. I get asked about my circus days a bit, so this seemed a great opportunity to share. I started aerial acrobatics at 25 with a wonderful teacher, Rachel Stegman (she has since started a school in Arizona, and I still think she’s the best!). I’d spent the majority of my life behind a book and occasionally running, so when I started, I didn’t have any strength to work with…but eventually, I trained enough to start performing with Rachel and on my own. I also taught 3 to 7 year olds with her in a few summer camps. My focus was the rope (corde lisse is the official term), and I performed in some demos and cabaret-style shows in San Francisco before a wrist injury took me out of practice for about a year. After my recovery period I gave up performing, picked up other apparatuses, and decided to just practice once or twice a week for fun. This also gave me more time to write, so it turned out to be a very good thing!

4. I am obsessed with knee-high socks, leg warmers, high heels, undergarments, post-its, and nail polish. And by obsessed, I mean I have amassed an impressive collection of each. The knee-high socks get worn at home a lot. The leg warmers don’t get quite the circulation anymore since my circus training lessened. I’m always looking for an opportunity to wear heels, because I most certainly won’t wear them to teach. Undergarments are pretty self-explanatory. The post-its decorate my entire kitchen, car, and bathroom vanity with notes-to-self. As for nail polish—name a color and I’m probably wearing it. Really, it’s just all about options with me. 🙂

5. I taught myself to sew at 23. I had some sewing machine help from my mom, but having decided I needed to make a new costume for Renaissance Faire (yes, I worked that for about eight years, too), I set about on a mission to make my own patterns and create my dream costume. I figured I was a math teacher, after all, so the logical brain would pull it all together somehow. I ended up making three beautiful pieces—again, all about the options—and then made shirts, dresses, pants, costumes, baby clothes, underwear, bathing suits…I even considered started a design company.

6. I have seventeen cousins on my mother’s side alone. And this isn’t even counting step-cousins! My mom is one of eight children so I suppose this isn’t so surprising, but it always boggles my mind. As the oldest of all of them, I’ve watched the family grow and grow…and was delighted as I sat with the youngest cousin last year and we realized that we were twenty-five years apart. Oh my!

7. I feel cheated if I don’t have a pancake breakfast on the weekend. I love pancakes, and I also love making them for friends (this habit started in my teen years). At least one day of the weekend, I make blueberry banana pancakes with a big cappuccino and enjoy them before I do anything else. Sometimes I add bacon, and today I ate all three. 🙂 I love breakfast, and I particularly love pancakes!

Okay, enough about me. Here are 7 other bloggers that I’m following and whose work I deeply enjoy. Be sure to check them out:

1. Jessica Vealitzek’s True STORIES: Jessica’s blog is real, emotional, and also fun. She focuses on the encounters we have in real life, and her tales—as well as her voice—are deeply moving.

2. Vanessa Grassi: Vanessa’s blog follows her journey as she writes and moves into publishing. She is extremely thoughtful in her work and I love the way her heart shines through her writing.

3. theRibz* by Ribal Haj: Ribal writes series fiction, short stories, and poetry on his blog. Remember that phrase, “I love it so much I want to marry it”? That’s how I feel about his poetry pieces. I enjoy his longer works as well, but I’m touched by nearly every poem he posts.

4. Ashley Jillian: This gal has more sass and spunk than a leopard print leotard paired with sparkly sequined shoes. (Okay, terrible analogy, but you get the idea.) I’m still not entirely sure how I found her blog, but her humor is undeniable. She’s tearing up the internet world with her comedy and I love every piece.

5. Dr. Shay Fabbro: Author of Scifi and Fantasy: “Dr. Fab” is just that—completely fabulous. She is an author as well as a University Biology professor. Her posts are both caring and sassy, making her blog extremely fun to read. Her latest entry was titled “Building Webs is For Suckas,” so if that doesn’t give you an idea of how much fun you’ll have reading, I don’t know what will. 🙂

6. Kitty’s Inner Thoughts: Catrina Barton’s blog follows her as she “learns the ins and outs of writing, marketing, and publishing.” She’s shared some great finds in her posts, and has done extensive research on many interesting fantasy and SciFi topics.

7. My Lived-in Life: Mike Manz maintains a blog that I started following fairly recently—he also entered a piece in the Once Upon a Time Unexpected Fairy Tale contest—and so far I’m enjoying his positive thoughts. He is a Canadian author living in China, and his blog is both honest and reflective.

So, there you have it folks! 7 random facts, and 7 entertaining blogs for you to investigate. Thank you again to Rebecca, and of course, to my fabulous readers!


Professing My Love for Anne Bishop’s THE BLACK JEWELS TRILOGY

About two years ago, it occurred to me that I’d been writing a fantasy novel for a long while, and yet I’d somehow forgotten how to read fantasy. Sure, it was there in the back of my mind—a very young Eva devoured sci-fi and fantasy books, while the adult Eva had developed an addiction to urban fantasy vampire novels. Still, I’d ventured somewhat from the roots of the genre.

So, a friend of mine—a gal I often refer to as the Fantasy Queen—shared a few recommendations. I spent that summer reading many good books she’d pointed out, but none of them were as sensational as Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels Trilogy.

Published yearly from 1998 to 2000, the trilogy follows the powerful young Jaenelle Angelline as she learns to wield her magic and eventually rule as Queen. The story travels through three worlds—essentially dimensions—introducing us to characters both living, dead, and in between. Across the levels is a definitive caste system, based on specific jewels that each character holds as his or her birthright power. While there is some ability to increase one’s strength, those born into the darker jewels hold the highest ranking in power and usually in society.

There are some conflicts in the jewel system of course, many of which have led a group of upper-level women to retaliate for the horrors wrought upon young girls of power—but to explain this further would give away far too much. Here’s what you really need to know: the trilogy contains a brilliant storyline rich with masterful themes of greed, love, power, domination, and a general hope to save humanity.

Perhaps the most beloved aspect of the series is the love story between Jaenelle and Daemon and the father-daughter relationship between Jaenelle and Saetan. While the former share a gripping, addictive chemistry, the latter display a charming familial bond; both of these relationships tend to carry you rapidly and enthusiastically through the books. However, for many fans—myself included—the end of the trilogy left several questions about the complexities of Daemon and Jaenelle’s relationship, as well as the entire jeweled family. In response to this, Bishop ended up crafting a more conclusive story that she published in a collection of trilogy-based short stories. It is clear through perusing the many fan blogs and reviews about the story that this last addition delighted most everyone.  (I myself read it on vacation, likely driving my friend insane as I stopped every other page to gush about the series, and about how amazing I found Bishop to be in writing it!)

If you’re aching for more thorough summaries, I would recommend those at the Bodice Rippers, Femme Fatales, and Fantasy blog. They devoted the entire month of March to Ms. Bishop, starting with the first book of the series, Daughter of the Blood. You can also find numerous websites focused on the trilogy thanks to a plethora of enamored fans, so a quick Google search will find you most anything you want to know…short of the awesomeness of reading the trilogy, of course. 🙂

After reading the series, I realized that not only was I thrilled to be writing fantasy, I was exhilarated to be writing in a genre with someone as gifted as Anne Bishop. Her talent is extraordinary, and I haven’t found myself so inspired in a while. If you haven’t already checked out The Black Jewels Trilogy, I highly recommend that you do—and I hope that you find the series as truly phenomenal as I did. I’m certain I will read it again myself…if not once, than two or three more times!

Happy reading, everyone!


Once Upon a Time Flash Fiction Pieces to be Published in an Anthology!

Who can wait to blog with this kind of news?! Honestly, I’ve been somewhat sitting on this over the weekend because I kept pinching myself to see if I was dreaming. But I’m not!

You may recall a series of flash fiction pieces I posted a couple of weeks ago, each contenders for entry into the Once Upon a Time “Unexpected Fairy Tale” Flash Fiction Contest. You read and voted, and I submitted your pick: “Rapunzel Had a Bad Hair Day.” Results of the contest won’t be in until National Flash Fiction Day on May 16th, but in the meantime…

I am delighted to share that the lovely ladies running the contest, Susi Holliday and Anna Meade, decided to put all the entries together in an anthology! That’s right, a published anthology available in both book and e-reader form!

I’m still reading through the 88 entries myself, but I’ve read nearly half so far and I can attest they are delightful works. Now you can not only read the entries online, but you can get all of them together in one charming little book—a collection of unexpected fairy tales in your very hands!

Turns out, all 88 of us authors had our own unexpected fairy tale waiting in the midst. Thank you to Susi and Anna for this wonderful gift! (They’re like real-live fairies!)

You can check out Susi’s blog for more information here: SJI Holliday. The book should be available on May 16th, to correspond with National Flash Fiction Day. I’ll keep you posted as well.

I’m going to sign off now to jump up and down and squeal. And kick up my heels. And dance around in circles as sprinkles rain down from the heavens. Yay! Happy day!


On THE AVENGERS!

Well, I was going to wait one more day to share my thoughts on The Avengers, but the teenage girl trapped inside me simply couldn’t stop squealing in giddy excitement—so here I am, posting! 🙂

I had tentative plans to attempt to see the movie today, since I’ve been counting down to its release and somehow didn’t make it opening night. Having chaperoned our high school’s prom last night—which, by the way, was a lovely event; all of our students looked sharp and beautiful, and seemed to have a smashingly good time—I was still in bed debating the course of my day when I received a friend’s text, inviting me to see The Avengers at 10:30 a.m.

A 3D movie at 10:30 a.m.? Who does that?

I figured I’d give it a go—and am I ever glad I did.

If you are one of the few who somehow haven’t yet heard about The Avengers, it’s been a highly anticipated superhero action flick in the works for some time. The best part of the movie is that it’s not just a superhero movie, it’s a group superhero movie, thus packing a wallop for most any audience member, young or old. Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Captain America in one movie, contending with the eternally devious Loki? However would director Joss Whedon pull this off?

Seamlessly, as it turns out. Pick your favorite Marvel character from the list above and you’ll be satisfied. All of them hold their own, the actors falling gracefully back into their roles as the characters who at first are at war with one other, but who soon find the power of working together as an incredible team. It is the exquisite dynamic between them that is the real fun of the movie.

The plot is straightforward: a group of heroes is sought out to save Earth from the evil demigod Loki and his power-hungry other universe allies. Meanwhile, our group of heroes is really a collection of ferociously independent super creatures, each wracked with some sort of torturous doubt or hubris that risks everything—but in this case, everything is our planet. Thor feels tremendous guilt for bringing the creatures to Earth. Hawkeye/Agent Barton seeks vengeance on Loki for mind-control. Hulk/Bruce Banner is distraught over his uncontrollable rage. Captain America is still confused by the present, as well as the degenerate cooperation amongst the team. Black Widow/Agent Romanova is the tough girl with a sordid family history. And of course there’s Iron Man/Tony Stark, with his huge ego insisting on handling everything solo.

The good news is that they all figure out how to use their strengths to work together and make good. The results are delightful: a team of superheroes bouncing their powers off one another as they save the day. Who couldn’t love this story?

Hardcore action? Check. Killer special effects? Check. Plentiful wisecracks interlaced throughout? Check. Pretty images? Again, check. Cool costumes? Yep, check. A cohesive story-line and great dialogue? All there, check. And of course, badass heroes? CHECK. Potential for sequel? (You’ll have to see it to answer that question!)

So there you have it. Granted, I’ve always been a sucker for superhero action movies, but I think The Avengers was by far the best. Nothing in it disappointed me, and I think most theatre-goers would be hard-pressed to say otherwise. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly advise you scrap the rest of your plans and see it today. Or at least this week. You won’t be disappointed!

All right, everyone, enjoy the show. Now I’m off to save the world…or at least, pay some bills. 🙂


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