Monday, September 29, 2014

Oh the book funk blues

So typically I'm a crafty lady, but today I want to talk about a book.  As any book lover is aware of every now and then you hit what some refer to as a book slump. For some reason, no matter what book you pick up you can't seem to get into it. You keep finding yourself reading a page and then putting the book down.
As you relax in the tub, candles lit, glass of wine on the tub lip, pickles in a bowl (yes I eat and drink in the tub, don't judge), your kindle wrapped in its special water proof case, bubbles up to your chin you feel ready. The setting is perfect to dive back into your book.

Even among this perfect setting you find yourself putting the book down. Never mind that this is the fourth book you've attempted to get into and still nothing. No stirring in your chest, no sweaty palms as you wait to turn a page to find out what happens next. Nothing.

Of course, you pop the drain, toss out the wine and put the pickles back in the fridge because what's the point of a relaxing in a bath if you don't have something to read. Okay, maybe it's just me but I only take baths so that I can have me time, and my me time always involves reading. And baths are the only way to get the kids to leave me alone.

Well, that was me in a serious book slump for the last few weeks. I tried over 20 books on my TBR and none of them could shake the book funk I was in. And I was trying books by may favorite authors, George RR Martin, Dan Brown, Colleen Hoover to name a few, and nothing. No sweaty palms, no tension in my chest just a deep seated sadness that I may never read again. I was starting to lose hope, thinking it was the end, that my life was over (yes I am that dramatic so sue me) and then one of my author besties recommended a book to me.

Of course, I was skeptical.
But sure why not, I'd tried everything else what was the worst that could happen?

So I picked up
And OMG, it was the book!!! Archer's Voice by Mia Sheridan was amazing. I missed an entire night of sleep so I could finish it. Not only did it throw me out of my book funk, but it moved to my top ten favorites. This was absolutely the most beautiful love story I've read in a long time. I cry reading books a lot. And this book made me cry first very sad tears because your heart will get ripped out trust me, but then at the end I was crying happy tears and a book has NEVER done that for me. As a matter of fact I read it twice, back to back, because it was that good. So after the good cry fest I reached out to Mia and gushed like a little fangirl to tell her how much her book touched me. Now over a month later and I'm still like this 

thinking about Archer's Voice. So if your looking for something that will give you all the feels then this is your book. I warn you though bring kleenex. And be prepared to fangirl, just saying. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Where are the Urban Fantasy movies?

I've heard it said that right now is a golden age for fantasy movies and television shows. And it's true, there is more fantasy content out there than there has ever been. The success of The Lord of the Rings films (which I consider one of the best book to movie translations) definitely opened the door for fantasy. Now we've got the Hobbit films coming out once a year (coincidently I think they are rather poor as far as adaptations go) Game of Thrones and Once Upon A Time on TV. The Harry Potter movies dominated the box office as much as the books dominated the best seller lists. There's the Into The Woods movie coming soon. Maleficent was a big hit and Thor the Dark World felt a lot more like high fantasy than the traditional super hero fare. It really is a good time to be a fantasy fan.

Then why is one of my favorite subgenres pretty much nonexistent from screens big and small? I'm talking about urban fantasy. UF is a huge market when you're talking about books. Type the phrase into Amazon's search box and hundred of thousands of results pop up. For the uninitiated, urban fantasy simply means that the story features traditional fantasy elements in a (usually) modern urban setting. Fairies walking the streets of Minneapolis. A whole other city with it's own laws and relationship to magic lying below the below the streets of London. A seen-it-all wizard negotiating treaties between warring factions of mythical treaties in a pub in Chicago. That is urban fantasy. Though of course there are infinite variations.

The truth is that urban fantasy is all over popular entertainment right now, but it's hidden in plain sight. Nearly all super hero movies take place in big cities. And most recent paranormal movies and shows have been about the vampire or werewolf or what-have-you trying to blend into the modern world. They take the element that most defines a fantasy, magic, and call it super powers or a monstrous curse or a genetic mutation. The Syfy channel's Lost Girl is the only show I can think of at the moment not hiding what it is.

Two of my favorite urban fantasies, the Dresden Files and Neverwhere have already been television series. However both were severely limited by budget constraints. The Dresden Files show became little more than a police procedural with a minor magical element per case. While Harry Dresden does sometimes work with the Chicago PD in the books, the scope of the stories is much broader and often sees Harry and his crew traveling across dimensions and battling monsters that would need a Guardians of the Galaxy level effects budget to realize. Neverwhere was actually a BBC miniseries before it was a book. Neil Gaiman, who'd written the screenplay, was disappointed that what wound up on screen didn't match what he'd imagined (the original Neverwhere show while not without it's charms, makes the Dresden Files show look positively bug budget). He adapted it into a novel so his vision of the story could get out there. It's been at least a decade since either was brought to the screen. The time is ripe for adaptations that will truly to bring the books to life.

But those are just the tip of the urban fantasy iceberg. Hollywood has literally thousands of books to choose from. Someone just has to have the guts to be the first to take the plunge, like Peter Jackson was for high fantasy. Once the floodgates open, who knows what tricksters, ogres, and gryphons will fly out?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tone (noun): a quality, feeling, or attitude expressed by the words that someone uses in speaking or writing.

Over the last few months I've noticed that people have responded negatively to emails I've sent.  I've heard people say things like, "Did you read Sylvia's email?  She was mad.  Don't mess with her." OR someone will respond, "You tell 'em, Sylvia!"  Well, I'm beginning to think that maybe it's the 'tone' of my emails that they are mistakenly taken as being mad, angry....bitchy.  Even when I have a conversation with a co-worker, it is often repeated, to someone else, like I was speaking in an angry tone,  "...and you could just see her wagging her finger as she was talking!"  I find that I'm misunderstood and need to find a way to correct this problem.

Case in point: I am a part-time worker and only work forty hours every two weeks.  I have an assigned cubicle.  Some of my co-workers are what we call "mobile workers," meaning they have no desk in the office, they work from home, and come to the office occasionally for interviews, meetings.  Although there are places set up for them, in various locations in the office, to plug in their laptops, they seem to like using my cubicle when I'm not there because it's well-stocked, quiet, and so forth.  Every time I come back, there is always something I have to correct or straighten out.  I've complained in the past, but...well, grown folks sometimes just don't care.  This last time I sent out a 'polite' email saying that, from that day on, if I find things left on my desk, they were going in the trash...staplers, three-hole punches, pictures of their kids, CDs, a realm of paper, ink cartridges (new)...everything, and anything, was gonna be tossed.  I didn't think it was a nasty email.  I thought it was very factual.  "You leave it. It's gone. Don't bother asking me what happened to it."  I get the feeling it was the 'tone' of the email that made them upset.  Not sure....

I have the same problems expressing my characters' thoughts when I'm writing.  I remember in my last book critique, one of my fellow Crazies pointed out that my characters were always shouting, shown by the large number of exclamation points I had after their dialogue. My characters are excitable people!  They shout! They yell!  Yet, I get the sense that I need to learn how to 'tone' down my characters' voices and teach them to express their feelings some other way.

Maybe have them hit each other with floppy bats as they talk.  That may lighten the tone.  Right?!!!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Six Degrees of Tawni

All right, I promised on my other blog to post about the surreal photo shoot Tawni O’Dell (my new idol) was subjected to back when she published her debut book, Back Roads. But I thought I'd include a Labor Day tie-in, since I was supposed to have this post done yesterday and it was Labor Day. Hmm, let’s see. Tawni O’Dell writes about coal miners. Coal miners have unions. Labor Day commemorates the economic and social contributions of workers over the years. Poetic. (Or merely an illustration that you can contrive a connection in anything…especially while blogging.)
     Anyhoo. If you’re unfamiliar with Tawni O’Dell’s books, I can’t recommend them enough. She has been complimented with phrases like pitch-perfect prose and authenticity of place, both of which are well-deserved. Her writing is elegant but never pretentious; it cuts to the bone. I think it’s amazing how she captures a male voice (in first-person narration, no less) in both Back Roads and Coal Run. As a matter of fact, that’s what got her into trouble. With Back Roads, her publisher figured she sounded so much like a male writer, she should opt for an androgynous pen name that might make people think she was one. Tawni wasn’t quite what they had in mind, since it brought to mind “biker chick” over accomplished woman with a degree from Northwestern. Her literary agency supported her in fighting for the right to use her own name and everything seemed fine…until the publisher hired a photographer to snap some publicity shots. Hailing from New York, the guy they hired had, how do I put this?—let’s just say he had a different vision of O’Dell’s artistic identity. Comical hijinks ensued. Or they might’ve been comical if they didn’t basically obliterate the strides women have made gaining respect in publishing (at least, I thought women had made strides) over the past ten years or so. Portal yourself straight to the whole story by clicking here: Stung By Gender Bias, Author Tawni O’Dell Stings Back (Alternately titled: How to Become a Wood Nymph.) 
     Tawni O'Dell has also been lauded for her portrayal of coal miners—and not just by the literati. She's received letters from coal workers and their families expressing appreciation for the pains she's taken to get all the details right. Within the framework of her stories she manages to call attention to the plight of men who perform a dangerous job with pride. She captures the quiet dignity of the miners as they face off with their own demons as well as callous corporate Goliaths, i.e., owners who at any moment might resort to cutting corners to increase profits.
Just released August 19!
As I embark on writing a mystery series set in Detroit, I see some parallels between O’Dell’s Pennsylvania coal country backdrop and the demolished urban landscape of my own city. They are structurally and cosmically, if not cosmetically, the same. And on this Labor Day, I wonder whether I’ll be able to grant the UAW workers who must populate any book set in The Motor City the same nobility and mystique of Tawni O’Dell's coal miners. Does anyone offer a workshop for that? Probably not. But--on the bright side--Tawni O'Dell has a new book out!