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Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Love The Smell of Plot in the Morning

Or late last night, if you want to be specific. Finally, finally, finally getting over that blasted hump I was stuck at! Now I can go on with the regular schedule of fluff and UST (because we all know how much I love UST). Sydney and Ayden were kind of balky at first, but I think we're over it now. And Violet is just hanging out in the wings, waiting for her chance to pounce and in an terrible awful author kind of way, I'm sort of looking forward to the havoc she's going to wreak. Drama's always fun...*evil grin*.

And even better, I got three more new songs on my iPod! Jackson by Johnny Cash and June Carter, because you all know I had that one playing on a loop in my head for over a month. I'm singing it all over the place now.  Rolling in the Deep by Adele, which drives my brother Adam nuts, but that's just him. I like her. She sounds like Carole King to me, strong and soulful. Lastly, A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. I have no other reason for this song except that's it's pretty. It really is a lovely song. It's one of my few "I'm feeling unabashedly romantic at the moment" songs. Mostly those consist of Taylor Swift and some Paramore, but this song feels like a nice addition to the list.

Hmm...what else can I blather on about?

Oh, wait, I know. A book review! Because that's always good fun. I get to put on my critic hat for a bit.

Today's victim...ahem, candidate is The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. It is much darker than my usual fare and I think I just want to talk about it. The Replacement is about a young man Mackie Doyle living in the dark and mysterious town of Gentry, where children go missing every seven years and no one talks about the inhuman things that live underneath the slag heap. People still use charms, amulets and spread salt across window sills to protect themselves from the Other Ones.

Mackie himself is what old folklore would call a changeling--a Faery baby left in the place of a human one. He's allergic to iron, blood and consecrated ground and slowly dying in the human world. His father is the town pastor, trying his hardest to do what's right and protect his son from questions and stares.  His mother is withdrawn and quiet, trying to overcome her own Faery-related traumas and his older sister Emma does her best to treat Mackie as normally as possible.

The oldest trick in the book is "Put an extraordinary or unusual character in an ordinary high school and see what happens."  Ms. Yovanoff does that here with darkly fascinating results. Mackie just wants to be normal--play his bass guitar, hang out with friends and maybe go out with Tate Sawyer, the angry, defiant girl who's just lost a sister and refuses to keep quiet about the circumstances surrounding it. But normality eludes Mackie, who knows every trip into the outside world, even being inside his own home is dangerous to him--iron and steel are everywhere and slowly killing him. Mackie is eventually drawn into the Faery Court of Mayhem, home of the Morrigan and her living dead girls. Mostly with the promises that they can temporarily relieve him of his pain.

It's a dark, scary place, populated with rotting princesses and sadistic Faery executioners. Namely, Cutter, who straps his own body with cold iron just to cause those around him (and himself) pain. He's one of the scariest characters I've encountered in recent young adult literature. Mackie is a decent young man trying to live normally--he loves his sister and tries to obey his father and Tate's loss  pains him sincerely. It takes a while for him to finally pull himself up by his bootstraps and become the hero, but I couldn't help but cheer for him when he did. I loved Tate, who drives Mackie to finally accept his abnormalities and goes toe to toe in armed combat with Cutter--and wins. She's hard-core, this girl. I love it.

This is not a light, happy story--it's dark and intense and there's use of strong language, but at least sparingly in times of stress. One of my pet peeves is authors who make their characters drop swear words like adjectives or metaphors. I don't care if it's "real," "intense," or "gritty," it's lazy language skills, plain and simple. But back to the book--if you want a scary, hypnotic read just in time for Halloween, read this one. One of the best things about it, to my mind, is Mackie finally accepting that, replacement or not, he is loved by his family. He has friends. And that drives him to be brave.

Taking Off My Critic Hat, I am Over & Out,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Happy Anniversary...

To me! If you want to be specific.

Yesterday was the one-year mark, an exact year to the day when I first started this blog on a whim in my English 1A class. I couldn't help it, I was bored and needed distraction. Facebook was out for that moment, so I impulsively set up a blog, on my then-new Google account. Not the most inspired way to begin a blog, true, but I have to admit some of my best acts come from impulse and instinct.

I would've posted yesterday in honor of the date, but I was up to my eyeballs in biology review (mid-term today...ARGH!!!) and I didn't want to be distracted. But I CAN be distracted now, since I'm going to review with my best friend Kirsten later today! In the half-an-hour before class, no less. But I'll manage somehow.

I've had a lot of fun posting up on here. Sure, there's been some spats and angry impulses (all on my part, I will concede), but the good kind of outweighs the bad, in this case. I've posted what few writing advice I can give, recommendations/reviews for books, my music preferences, and every so often, did some shameless fan-girling (the last post...heh heh) and maybe (possibly, more than likely) bored you all to tears chatting about people I made up in my head and their trials and trouble. I've changed the background of the blog more times than I care to admit and will probably change it again once the season does. (I'm thinking some cute Thanksgiving/fall/harvest motif. What say you?)

There are times (more than a few) when I doubt myself. That when I start thinking that my family and my loved ones are just humoring me, that my writing ability isn't half as great as I think it is. That all I am is a twenty-year old college student who still lives at home with her parents, and dreams about growing up, getting out, getting a job, a license, getting married and one day, having kids. Oh, and winning the Pulitzer Prize and getting on the New York Times  best-seller list.  And becoming a librarian. These are the extent of my ambitions at the moment. Am I up to it? I wonder. Am I just fooling myself with delusions of grandeur?

It isn't really the fear of inadequacy that I have. I already know I'm inadequate, in more ways than one. What frightens me more than anything is the prospect that I am as good as people seem to think I am. I'll look at what I write and think, This is not that great. I don't even know what I'm typing half the time, I'm just putting words together in my head and I think they sound okay.  I get nervous when my brother Aaron, who I know loves me and is always honest with me about my work, tells me that I am a better writer than he is (though he's the better story-teller, we both acknowledge). Surely the twenty-year old who has never been out in the world on her own, the twelve-year old who was scared and bullied, the fifteen-year old who was socially awkward and angry at the world, can't come up with anything that particularly brilliant, insightful, or interesting.

But  those of you who read this strange little blog of mine seem to think my tangent-riddled, rambling style of writing is worth reading. Even amusing and funny. Even insightful and interesting. That my words mean something, that I am better than I hope. And for that, I thank you all, most humbly.

Stick with me, good people, and we'll go far. Farther than I could ever dream or hope or imagine. I hope you all are watching. The day is coming when I'm going to light up the sky. So I hope and pray.

Over & Out, I remain, Your Blogmaster,

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Fun Part

So some of you (the few, the proud, the related...) know that I am big, big fan of the TV show Bones. I've been watching it since 2005 and well, I'm love it. Not right now, 'cause the executive producer Hart Hanson decided to make the main character pregnant (for no apparent reason), but the actress in real life is pregnant herself and I guess it adds something to the story line. But I still don't like it. I do not appreciate that kind of twist coming out of left field!

It's beyond me how Beckett resists this face. I couldn't.
So for lack of Bones, I watch Castle. Because I need something to distract me until November 3. (And the David Boreanaz withdrawal. I miss my favorite fictional FBI agent so dang much, Netflix notwithstanding. It's not the same as seeing new episodes every week.) I am an unabashed Nathan Fillion fan-girl, after watching all 14 episodes of Firefly (the entire series...darn you, the network!!!) and the movie tie-in Serenity. Do you see the picture and the caption to the right? Because, holy mackerel on a shingle, seriously!


Because if you thought the UST (Unresolved Sexual Tension) was bad in Bones, it's a hundred times worse in Castle. I didn't even know such a thing was possible. But it is. And it does.  

Nathan Fillion plays the lead character Richard Castle, a murder-mystery writer tagging along after the NYPD and more specifically the hot female detective Kate Beckett (played by Stana Katic, prettiest brunette in television) and her band of merry sidekicks, Detectives Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito (both of whom I already love inordinately). I'm barely in the fourth season and I'm already screaming (in my head, really quietly, so no one else hears) at Castle and Beckett just to put us all out of our misery and shut up and kiss already. And I haven't even seen the three seasons that came before it. 

Why is Castle worse than Bones, though it hasn't been around as long? Because Castle admitted to loving Kate at the end of the third season, just after SHE GOT SHOT. By an still-unknown assassin. AND WAS LYING IN HIS ARMS, BLEEDING OUT. And then she told Castle she didn't remember, but she admitted to her therapist THAT SHE  DOES. While Castle is trying really, really hard not to push her too much, while it's so freaking obvious what they're not saying to each other. And what everybody else around them already knows. So that's what we have to deal with the rest of the season. That's infuriating. 

Am I taking the whole thing just a little too seriously? Maybe. But the fun in watching it kind of makes up for the frustration we feel at the characters.  

So yes. I am inexorably, irrevocably drawn to TV shows where the main female/male leads drive everybody crazy with their unspoken attraction and covert glances and wordless communication. And everyone else around them is going, "You like each other, just get over yourselves and make out already!" Probably because that's what I write and what I'm good at.

And really, that's the fun of it! Where's the fun in having the main romantic leads just admitting to their affections, right off the bat? Where's the story? The plot? The twists and turns? The conflict? It's just not worth watching/reading if there's no conflict. Not there's nothing wrong with an early declaration of affections. But there needs to be some kind of balance of the mushy-gushy romance bit. You admit it, that's great, but after that, then the conflict comes after admitting it. 

There has to be a real conflict and disrupting of the relationship. An crazy, obsessed tracker-vampire does the job pretty nicely (depending on the story) or an unknown assassin. Just make sure to put the relationship back on track...or at the very least avert the danger so the characters can go on making everybody else around them nuts, not to speak of themselves. 

And that's my story/character spiel for the day. And my shameless fangirling. Heh. 

Over & Out,