Monday, May 28, 2007

Must Reads: Stray

Coming in June 2007 I had the great fortune of receiving a copy of Stray by Rachel Vincent before its official release date. After tearing open the envelope the night the book came in, I settled in to read a couple chapters before bed. I turned the last page of the book about the time my alarm went off the next morning. I was so riveted by the story, I didn't even notice the entire night fly by!

Stray is a stunning debut novel which I highly recommend reading. The book is filled with snappy dialogue, vivid descriptions, plenty of attitude, and killer fight scenes. The world Rachel created is engrossing, and the characters jump right off the pages. The main character, Faythe is a little immature (though she does a lot of growing) and extremely independent, with more than her fair share of caustic sarcasm and a penchant for kicking ass. These traits tend to end up with her butting heads with everyone around her, and keep the reader empathetically frustrated on her behalf. With a little romance, a little mystery, and a lot of action, this is a book that will sate a readers appetite, even as it refuses to be put down. It will hit shelves later this week, but until then, go here to read an excerpt from the first chapter.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The pencil test

So I've been reading The Taste of Night by Vicki Pettersson (the second book in her Zodiac series, which I highly recommend) and near the front of the book is a quirky little scene involving the main character's friends and a pencil.

Without giving anything away, the friends are slightly air-headed socialites, and the main character, Joanna, walks in to find them standing naked in front of a mirror performing what they call the 'pencil test'. Circumstances being what they are, Joanna has to pretend she knows what they are talking about, and to be honest, at the start of the scene, I was just as lost as her.

So what is the pencil test?
--A simple test that measures gravity's damage on the female body by lifting and tucking a pencil in the areas with the most potential to sag, such as under the breast and buttocks. If the pencil falls, congratulations, gravity has not yet wrought horror on your body, but if the pencil settles into a fold, it might be time to hit the gym to get some lift back.

The scene surrounding this test is hysterical, and one of those well placed scenes that despite it's frivolity, helps the rising tension by controlling the pacing so it doesn't wind up too tight too fast (as well as getting the characters into a place where important information can be revealed... it is amazing how much a good writer can fit into scenes that seem like only comic relief at first.)

Being the dork that I am, once I got to the end of the chapter, I closed the book and tried the pencil test. I won't tell you the results, but I found it hilarious to perform the test (and explain to the hubbie what I was doing.) I'd love to know if Vicki made it up or if she ran across it somewhere else. I have the feeling that even if I eventually forget what the rest of the book was about one day, I'll always remember that silly, mostly insignificant scene.

When you think back to some of your favorite books read recently, what scenes stick out the most? Does anyone else have a silly and/or insignificant scene that stuck with you that you care to share why it stood out?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Real World

I was having a conversation with my hubbie the other day when it ended abruptly with the comment that I didn't live in the real world.


Now there are lots of reasons someone could look at me and say I didn't live in the real world. The most obvious reason might be the fact I write fantasy so I spend a lot of time thinking about things and people who don't exist. Or maybe the fact I don't work a regular nine to five in an office, but spend ungodly amounts of time in the spare bedroom I've converted into a office/studio unless I have to run out and see a client face-to-face. Being able to go to work in my PJ's tends to earn some people's scorn. But neither of these reasons is why my hubbie accused me of not living in the real world.

Why then?
Because I think paying $100 for a pair of shoes is absolutely preposterous.

I've always been under the impression clothes should be inexpensive and last forever. (Which I'm reminded is not true every time something wears out after only a year.) I still have a pair of jeans I used to wear in high school (they were slightly baggy in high school and are considerably not baggy now, but no holes, so still good pants, right?)
I know women are supposed to own closets of shoes and go out on expensive shopping sprees, but that's just not me. I'm a bargain hunter, and I typically aim for clothing in the $10 range. I might spend up to $30 on a nice dress or full suit, and though my "scrawl a name brand over my ass" companions might not realize it, those prices are not terribly hard to find during season changes when stores put clothes on major clearance.

Now don't get me wrong, there are situations where it is either unavoidable or important spend a lot on clothes. A ladder climber who needs fitted suits obviously isn't going to be able to gamble on clearance racks if he needs something now, and of course, there is that dress that you only wear once (hopefully) that quickly sucks up a couple hundred dollars (and one of my friends dropped honey mustard on mine during the reception.) But come on, who needs a pair of jeans that cost a hundred dollars or clogs that cost two hundred?

One of my very best friends regularly walks around in clothes that between hat, shirt, jeans, and shoes, costs the same as a seven day cruise. Me? I'd much rather take the cruise and not be a walking billboard for Tommy/Ambercrombie/or whoever, and I think I'd look plenty cute on the deck in the sandals I found in a sidewalk sale and the swimsuit I bought last August.

But, that's just me, and it apparently marks me as not in touch with reality. So what about other people out there? Are you on the top of the fashion world and ready to drop $100 for those cute peek-toe shoes to show off your new pedicure? Are you a bargain hunter like me? Or maybe something in between? Throw in your two cents about why you wear what you wear.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The plot wall

Several months ago Rachel Vincent posted a fun way of plotting using a dry erase board and post-it notes. I kept meaning to try it, but never got around to it until today.
My dry erase board went MIA recently...well actually I don't remember the last time I saw it, so I don't know when it went missing--and how do you lose a classroom size board anyway--but the point is it wasn't available. So, I resorted to claiming a good hunk of wall (much to my husband's chagrin.)
This was a fun and enlightening endeavor. Being a painter and a writer, I tend to think in pictures (and dialog--very internal movieish.) So color coding and laying it out this way really clicked in my brain. We will see if it works out once I get it down on paper, but at least while plotting I could see: "hey too much pink (just guess what that stands for) in this part" or "gee I haven't used a slip for that subplot in a while." Then of course the whole being able to pull a slip off the wall and move it somewhere else was great too.

Well, my little brother will be graduating tomorrow, and the day is pretty booked up with ceremonies and relations, so I think I'll try to squeeze a little extra work in tonight. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Is accomplished related to exhausted?

I (mostly) finished two really huge projects today that I had on the back-burner for a little too long, so I am feeling very accomplished at the moment but I also have that foggy feeling behind my eyes like I'm teetering on the edge of burn out. I suppose that happens when you devote seventeen or so hours a day, several days in a row, to the same task. It is nice to feel like I really got something done though...I'd been going through a bit of a monotonous dry spell for a couple days.

Now to get on with the other things that need to be done. *glances at the list* Or maybe later...

The good news is it's Friday, so I don't have to feel guilty about not being productive over the weekend. Plus, my chapter meeting is this weekend, so I'm really looking forward to that. (And I should be getting my pro pin this weekend--very exciting.)

Well, now I think I'm going to indulge in some completely useless activity...like playing the new pokemon (Yes, I know I'm a dork) or tackle something on my TBR pile.