Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sarah Conner vs. Ripley vs. Trinity: Tough Chicks Kicking Butt - Whose Your Favorite?

linda-hamilton sexy muscles
Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2
I'm a huge fan of female characters that can hold their own and kick some butt.  No waiting in a tower to be rescued.  So a few weeks ago I had to take a night off of writing when Terminator 2 was on.  Sure, Arnold's easy on the eyes (as least when that movie was made!).  And yeah, Robert Patrick is great as T 1000, the molten metal shape shifting machine posing as a cop.  But I'd watch that movie over and over just to see Linda Hamilton doing pull ups while she's in the crazy can.  Click on the link to see Linda scenes from T2.

Watching Linda kicking butt made me think of Sigourney Weaver in the Aliens movies.  In Aliens 2, her maternal instincts kick in and its mother vs. mother when she's battling the alien queen.

Then there's Carrie-Anne Moss, kicking serious butt in all three Matrix films.  I'm not sure there's ever been a character that looks this great while fighting for her life.

So what do you think - which one wins the prize for chick you'd most want watching your back if malevolent aliens were trying to take over the world?  Vote by posting your comments below.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review Friday: Shiver & Linger by Maggie Steifvater

I know, you're wondering why I have a picture of Anne Rice here when this post if about Maggie Stiefvater.  Here's why.  Back in my college days, I devoured Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles.  If you haven't read Anne Rice and enjoy paranormal romance and vampire lust,  you must check out Interview with the Vampire to see where it all began. 
But I had not read much in the way of romance novels for years.  I had picked up Twilight to see what it was all about and because I loved Rice's vampire novels, I thought I would enjoy it.  If you love Twilight, I mean no offense, but for me Stephanie Meyer is no Anne Rice!
While at the library recently searching for something new, the YA librarian pulled out Shiver and handed it to me.  "This is really good," she said.  I thought what the heck, I'll give it a try.  But truthfully I was afraid it was another Twilight wanna be.
2010 Author Photo, Batch 1 square
Maggie Stiefvater
Thankfully, Shiver is no Twilight.  Stiefvater's lyrical writing recalls for me what I liked most about reading Anne Rice's books.  When poetry meets prose, the reading feels magical.
The premise of Shiver is simple enough.  Girl meets wolf.  In summer wolf turns into boy. Girl loves boy.  The love can last only for the summer unless they find a way to keep boy from becoming a wolf again.
In Stiefvater's capable hands, this girl in love with wolf story is beautiful and profound rather than comic and cheesy.  She starts with a well thought out mythos for the werewolf.  Rather than the wolf being ruled by the full moon, they are instead beholden to the temperature.  Wolf in the winter, human in the summer.  This provides a poignant ticking clock to the love story.  They may have only the summer to love a lifetime.
Stiefvater not only creates a new mythology for werewolves, but she creates a romance that feels real.  Every romance story has to have a complication to their love.  In the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, the whole werewolf thing is the complication for the lovers and provides interesting twists and turns and makes the ride more fun.  For me this is one of the few of the genre where the love feels organic to the story rather than forced.
In Shiver, the love story between Grace and Sam is center stage.  Stiefvater introduces other characters such as Grace's parents and Isabel and Rachel, but they are in the background in Shiver.  The first in the series is told in the dual first person of Sam and Grace, switching back and forth between the two deftly.  Sam loves poetry and is a musician so his voice is more poetic of the two.  The reader is never confused about which one is telling the story.
Linger is Book 2 in the series and while not as strong overall as Shiver, it was still a wonderful read.  In Linger, the love story between Grace and Sam is still the main story, but Stiefvater also introduces a new character, Cole, and Isabel has a larger role as well.  This produced what for me was one of the few problems with the book.  In Linger there are four first person narrators and at times it became jarring to switch between story tellers so frequently.
In Linger Stiefvater explores further what the characters refer to as "wolf logic," as they try to figure out what makes the infected shift from human to wolf and other issues regarding werewolfdom.  At times it felt like Stiefvater herself was trying to figure out this wolf logic and there was a little "muddle in the middle" as pieces of the puzzle were being worked out.  But before long the book picked up pace again and it was a page turner to the end.  The last 60 pages kept me up past my bed time (and made me cry!).
One of the things I really enjoyed about Linger is the handling of the relationship between Grace and her parents.  Stiefvater laid the groundwork in the first book.  Grace's narcissistic parents are too busy with their own lives to be parents to Grace.  In fact it is Grace who seems to parent her parents.
In Linger the parents provide that additional tension and conflict to raise the stakes.  For me, it was so realistic it called to mind my own melodrama when I was 17 and dating a 19 year old who my parents were sure would corrupt me and make me "ruin my life."  (FYI, I married him and we're still together, 23 years later!)  Grace's parents have been so wrapped up in themselves that they haven't been around to pay attention to Grace let alone her needs and wants.  But when she does something they don't approve of (i.e. that may end up reflecting poorly on them), then they get up in her grill and attempt to control her.  Stiefvater's depiction of the adults shows the all too present condescension and paternalism of parents toward their teen children; the assumption that just because you're seventeen, you know nothing about your own heart.
I highly recommend both Shiver and Linger.  Now I can't wait to read Forever!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How I Used Real Magic to Win a Trip to Ireland

You read that title correctly.  I conjured a trip to Ireland. I'm not a witch and I didn't use a wand or cauldron. But I magicked it just the same.
Here's the true story of how I used real magic to fulfill my dream and go to Ireland to research setting for my novel Emily's House.

The idea for Emily's House came to me in late 2007 and I spent most of 2008 doing research for the book.  I read books and articles about Ireland and ancient Celtic myth.  But pictures just don't cut it and I knew I had to go to Ireland.

I put a farefinder up on Travelocity and kept my eye out for the deal. But it remained a dream and beyond my budget.

Then in late August, 2010, I went to Las Cruces, New Mexico and holed up for a long weekend in a hotel room to push through and get to the end of my first draft of Emily's House.  And on my way home on Sunday, a four-hour drive, I thought about what I needed to do next on the project and it was clear:  I needed to go to Ireland soon so I could re-write scenes that take place in Ireland.  So I spent four hours solidifying this intention.

The next day, a Monday, I was driving around town running errands.  I got in the car and switched on the radio.  I heard the announcer on XM say "last day to register for a trip for two to Ireland to see The Script . . ."  When I heard the radio announcer say that, it felt like she was talking directly to me!  I knew I had to register.

So I did.  One time, online. That was Monday afternoon. Hubby came home and I told him, "We're going to Ireland!"  He said, "What did you do!"  I then told him about registering for the contest and he just gave me one of those, "Okay, whatever you say Natalie," sort of looks. 

Thursday morning, the phone rings. I glance at the caller ID and it says "XM/Sony." I answered immediately.

A woman's voices asked "Is this Natalie Wright?"

"Yes," I said.

"And did you register for a contest to go to Dublin to see The Script?"

"Yes . . ."

"You won!"

"Shut up!" I said.

"No, really, you won."

Less than two weeks later, hubby and I were on a plane to Dublin. Free airfare and hotel and extra special bonus, The Script concert with VIP party before and after!

How is this "magic?"

I believe that magic is real. And you don't need a wand or a potion.  Anyone can create.
There are three simple ingredients:  Ask, Believe, Receive

I asked. My intention was clear. I knew what I wanted and why I wanted it.

I Believed. I had no doubt that I was going to win that contest. I just knew I would. 

I Received. Just allowed it to flow to me.

When I tell people this story, they say "Oh, you should play the lottery!"

But I don't play the lottery for one simple reason. I don't believe that I'll win the lottery. The belief part of the equation is required. You simply cannot manifest through your intention things that you don't believe you can have (or that you deserve or that's possible,etc.).

Woven throughout the pages of my novel Emily's House is a primer on how to perform real magic. Manifestation of intention. Emily's House is fiction, but the magic in it is real.

Do you have stories of magic?  Do you experience serendipity or have you had magical things happen to you?  I'd love to hear your magical stories.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Trip to Ireland Research on Setting for forthcoming novel "Emily's House"

At a writer's conference in 2009, I heard famed author Richard Peck say that he never writes about a place that he hasn't been.  As I heard that statement, I was in the midst of writing a novel, the good part of which takes place in Ireland, but I had never been to Ireland.

Despite the fact that I'd never been to Ireland, I purchased books, read articles online, viewed hundreds of pictures and videos and continued on with my writing.  I finished the first draft of Emily's House on August 25, 2010, still hadn't made it to Ireland.

Three days after I finished the first draft I got a call that I'd won a trip for two to Dublin to see the band The Script.  Less than two weeks later hubby and I were on a plane!  "Ask and ye shall receive."

We were able to extend our trip and visit each of the sites in Ireland that were settings in my novel.  I think it was important to visit these places and I think it will make a difference in the final novel.

A picture may be worth a thousand words but the pictures of the bucolic Irish countryside don't include the smellivision that reveals the powerful oder of cow dung so prevalent!  For anyone who lives in Ireland or has been to Ireland, I think I got a few details that they'll pick up on and they might say "Hey, that's right."  But will the verisimilitude of these details be lost on someone who has never been there?  Or will those details, even for someone who has never been, enrich the story anyway?
My trip to Ireland gave me sensory details to include that I think will enrich the story for all readers (such as the smell the cow dung in the fields or the smell the rain on the road or the newly fallen leaves).  A writer can't get these kind of sensory details from a photograph.

I only hope that I can capture in the words the feel of the place.  Like Monasterboice.  It's the site of an old monastery but is now a historic graveyard dating back to the 12th century.  Before going there, I thought it would be creepy, but it really wasn't.  Maybe it's because it was a sunny day.  Maybe it was the lovely lady volunteers that greeted us at the door.  Or maybe it was the rolling green hills all around it.
But then the clouds began to form and I looked up and there were crows circling around the tall round tower and suddenly it reminded me of a Vincent Price movie.  And that was the feeling I needed for my novel so I took it in and then imagined what that scene would feel like for three teenagers there in the middle of the night.
Loughcrew, County Meath, Ireland
That same afternoon we visited a megalithic site called Loughcrew.  This site is a setting for part of the "story within a story" in Emily's House that takes place over a thousand years ago.  In my first draft, I had a rather non-descript setting.  But when I went to Loughcrew, I knew it was the setting I needed.  It was up on a hill and there were only two other people there (brave enough to travel the twisty, turny narrow Irish roads and to come face to face with large sheep and dodge sheep shit!).  In my first draft, before going to Ireland, I had envisioned a marriage "bed" made of stone for Saorla and the King to sit on.  As we rounded the stone circle, there it was - a large stone slab that looked like it might have been an alter (or maybe a bed?!).  Perfect.  When I re-wrote that scene, I could totally picture a Druid priest performing a ritual amongst the stone circle with the bonfires and feasting in the valley below the large hill.  And the spritual energy of that place!  I can only say that I have never before felt such energy.  It was almost electrical.

St. Brighid's Well, Kildare, Ireland
The last site we visited was the Well of St. Brighid.  In Emily's House, she must enter a portal to another world at the Sacred Well.  In my research, I found out that there are "sacred" wells  dedicated to St. Brighid all over Ireland.  But there was one in Kildare that looked particuarly promising and legend has it that it had been a sacred well even before Christianity.  It had once been in a grove of trees and is known for its healing waters.  It is visited regularly by devotees of St. Brighid.

I hope that I have captured in the story the feeling of these places.

Not all of the trip to Ireland was walking in ancient graveyards!  We got to meet the band The Script at a concert at the Guinness Brewery as they kicked off their world tour promoting their CD "Science and Faith."
Danny O'Donohue, lead singer, with hubby
Gravity Bar, Dublin, Ireland
So why is it that hubby is the one who got to meet cute Danny and get his picture with him but I didn't?!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I hinted.  I asked.  I even begged my family to get me a Kindle for Mother's Day.  I don't normally ask my family for any particular gift.  Hey, on Mother's Day I'm just happy if I don't have to cook.  But this year, I really, really wanted that little object.  I think hubby knew I was going to be seriously unhappy if I didn't get a package with an electronic reading device on M's Day.
Why was I being a toddler begging for a toy about this?  

Here, the top 5 reasons I LOVE my Kindle:

5.   I can take HUNDREDS of books with me wherever I go and I don't have to lug them in a tote or my handbag.

4.  I can download FREE classics to my reader.  Amazon has so many public domain classics available for free.  Alice in Wonderland.  The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Grimm's Fairly Tales.  These are just a few that I recently downloaded (all works I have never read before).  Does it get cheaper than Free?

3.  There are a gazillion (don't quote me on that number) FREE and 99 cent books from self-published and Indie authors.  I can try out a new author for less than a buck (or even free).  Honestly, some have been not so hot.  But others have been really fun reads (for example Hollowland
by Amanda Hocking and Death Whispers by Tamara Rose Blodgett).  When's the last time you went into Barnes & Noble and had the choice of THOUSANDS of books for less than a dollar or free?  (And, you had to buy the gas to get there and get out of your pajamas long enough to go to the store.)

2. I can get books delivered to me INSTANTLY (okay, it actually takes about a minute, but that's pretty darn instant isn't it?).  Instant gratification is a beautiful thing.

1.  It's just plain COOL!  

There are other reasons I love it and I'm sure to discover more as time goes on (like being able to read my OWN books on Kindle when I get them published).

Do you have a Kindle?  Do you love it?  Or do you have another e-book reader?  If so, what is your experience? Share you thoughts on e-books, readers and such in the Comments.

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