Wednesday, August 31, 2011

BACK TO THE BOOKS GIVEAWAY HOP

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Winners can be found HERE.

I am happy you decided to join me for this amazing giveaway hop hosted by I AM A READER and BURIED BOOKS. More than 300 blogs are participating, so there are plenty of giveaways to go around.


This is a seven day hop running from Thu Sep 1 to Wed Sep 7.

In case you were wondering, I am blog #284 252. Since I’m near the bottom of the list, I wanted to make sure your stop here would be extra sweet. How?

There will be 3 winners! Also, this is an International giveaway. All winners will be announced on Sep 8.

You have a chance to win one of three packages.

A. URBAN FANTASY PACKAGE:
Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Genesis of Shannara by Terry Brooks (Epic Fantasy set 8yrs in the future)

Night Myst by Yasmine Galenorn



B. PARANORMAL ROMANCE PACKAGE:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (YA)

Ravenous by Sharon Ashwood
The TAKER by Alma Katsu (Epic supernatural love story)









OR


C. $15 GIFT CARD value for Amazon or The Book Depository


***HERE ARE THE RULES:

1. In order to enter you MUST be a follower of my blog.

2. All you have to do is leave a comment, letting me know if you are a new or old follower and pick ONE gift package you would like to win. Sorry I don’t have a nifty electronic form for you to fill out.

3. You may ONLY ENTER ONE TIME, but you will get AN EXTRA POINT if you also follow me on Twitter, click HERE. Following me on Twitter is NOT REQUIRED to win, but it will increase your odds and I’d appreciate it. Please write “Twitter +1” in your comment (put Twitter handle for verification).

That’s all. Pretty simple.

Once you are a follower and have left a comment, you will then be entered into the draw for the package you have selected. Each entrant will be allocated a sequential number. If you are also following me on Twitter, you will be allocated an additional number, thereby increasing your chances.

After this draw closes (7 Sep 2011 at 23:59 EST/04:59 GMT), the winning numbers entered for each draw will be chosen by random.org.

Although I live in the UK, I’ve chosen to go with EST (Eastern Standard Time) for the start and stop of the giveaway because I’m American.

The three winners (one for each package) will be posted no later than 05:00 EST/10:00GMT on 8 Sep, along with instructions for contacting me to claim your prize. Winners must contact me within 36 hours.

Good Luck! To continue with the giveaway hop, click HERE.

Know Thy Purpose

Recently, I signed up to participate in two different groups for writers. One is Rachael Harries’s Platform Building Campaign, where authors and bloggers at all stages, beginner to pro, come together to have fun and build their online platform. Check out her site for more details. In my opinion, she’s a visionary for starting this.

The other is Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group. IWSG is open to all writers, whether your self-esteem is shaky or solid. Share your insecurities or simply support others. Alex is a social media ninja and you can learn a lot from him.


Many writers have signed up to participate in one or both groups. However, I wonder how many have done so with focused intent. When I first started blogging, my goal was to establish an online presence for agents and editors. After nabbing an ever-elusive unicorn, a.k.a. agent (who found me online by the way), I needed to reexamine my purpose in blogging and define my objective if I ventured into Twitterverse.

Proceeding with blind excitement would not have been an efficient use of my time or the way to maximize the benefits in participating. Learned that lesson the hard way when I first started this blog. So, before signing up for either group or hopping on the tweeting bandwagon last week, I carved out a definitive purpose that would guide my actions.

Sure I want to have fun on the campaign, support others in IWSG (need to keep the good writer karma flowing), and establish authentic connections with new tweeps. Yet one of my goals, which will drive the way I interact, is to forge a network of like-minded, passionate writers that have a sincere desire to help others.

If you're going to invest time and energy, consider doing it for the long haul. That way when the campaign is over and beyond the one day a month meeting of IWSG, you will have an ongoing partnership of friends that you can rely on and in turn can depend on you.

For those who have signed up for Rachael’s campaign, the IWSG, or that actively tweet, please share. What is your purpose? What do you hope to gain in the long run through participating? There are no wrong answers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pay It Forward: Liebster Luvfest

Two weeks ago, I received the Liebster award from the wonderful Laila Knight. For those who don’t know, Liebster means friend. Big thank you to Laila for thinking of me! Make sure you check out her site: http://untroubledkingdomoflailaknight.blogspot.com/

I figured passing it on would be a great way to start this week.


THE RULES:

1. Show your appreciation to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.

2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Post the award on your blog.

4. Bask in the camaraderie of the most supportive people on the internet—other writers.

5. And best of all—have bloggity fun and spread the love.


In random order, here are the five bloggers with under 200 followers who I think also deserve the award and are awesome people.


1. Jess Mckendry: http://writeskatedream-jmckendry.blogspot.com/

2. Mel Fowler: http://adventurewrites.blogspot.com/

3. Crystal Cheverie: http://www.littlebundleofcontradictions.com/

4. Marlena Cassidy: http://marlena-cassidy.blogspot.com/p/about-marlena-cassidy.html

5. TL Jeffcoat: http://mrtalkstoomuch.blogspot.com/

Please go meet the recipients and share the cyber love. Pay it forward by becoming a follower on their blog, look them up on twitter and follow them there as well.



**HONORABLE MENTION: I also wanted to mention these fantastic bloggers. The reason I didn’t list them as one of my top five? I have no idea how many followers they have (thank you wordpress).

Jamila Jamison: http://jamilajamison.wordpress.com/

Brinda Berry: http://www.brindaberry.com/blog.html

Robin Covington: http://robincovington.wordpress.com/

Regected Riter: http://regectedriter.wordpress.com/tag/writer/

Thanks again, Laila for giving me this award.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Starting Stories with Action: Hit or Miss

Whether you’re an avid reader or simply watch movies you’ve experienced a story starting in media res. Simply put, it means in the middle of action.

On the first or second page of a book, or as the movie opens, you’re thrown into a scene as something significant happens.

There’s enormous pressure on new writers to grab the reader, an editor, or agent on the first page. Otherwise it’s too easy to set the book back on the shelf. It’s even easier for a professional in the publishing industry to send out a form rejection letter.

Movies have a huge advantage over a published novel. They can lure an audience in with a gripping trailer and once the person has paid for their ticket—cha-ching. It’s also unlikely that someone will walk out of a movie or warn others not to see it if it had a slow start but later picked up, entertaining the audience in a satisfying way.

Regardless of the medium, there's an effective way to execute in media res. There's also a clumsy way that should be avoided unless under duress.

Marvel missed the mark in the opening scenes of Thor. The movie begins with astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) out in the middle of the New Mexico desert with her quirky team waiting for an aurora. Lights blaze in the sky and Thor appears in a swirling cloud of sand right in her path. Then the story the audience is engrossed in comes to a head-jerking halt and rewinds eons to dump the backstory of the Asgardian war with the Frost Giants. After the film, my husband (not immediately after because we were both caught up in our disappointment over the villain, Loki) turned to me and said, “The beginning was terrible. Didn’t flow smoothly at all.” I’m inclined to agree. The beginning was terribly, horribly disjointed.

Two solid examples of how to start in the middle of action, filling in the background information along the journey: the movie Cowboys & Aliens (a science fiction Western) and Kelly Meding’s Three Days to Dead (an urban fantasy).

In Cowboys & Aliens, the film opens to Daniel Craig’s character—a loner—waking up in the wilderness, dirty, barefoot, with a bizarre, futuristic bracelet locked on his wrist, and no memory of how he ended up there or even who he is. Before the unknown loner utters a single word, he kills three men, swipes a change of clothes from a dead body, armors up, steals a horse and gets a cute dog as a new BFF. Was the audience lost? Far from it. The audience was hooked.

I recently read Three Days to Dead. Kelly Meding does a fantastic job of opening the story in the crux of the heroine’s problem. She just died, is now in a new, strange body of another person, and has to figure out who killed her and why. Oh yeah, and she’s in a morgue, naked. Backstory is filled in piece by piece as we go on an adventure starting on the first page.

When done well, opening in media res can be a compelling and unforgettable experience. Done poorly, readers may never buy the book. Even worse, a writer may never have the chance to see their “baby” on the shelves of stores.

What type of beginning in a book or movie do you prefer? Dropped in the middle of action or with a little grounding in the main character(s) right before the inciting incident that sets the story in full motion?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Floating In Twitterverse

I've just done one of the scariest things in my life. Joined Twitter.

I debated for months about whether or not to do it. Why? It is a social media vortex where many writers lose themselves and no longer have time to write.

Yes, I've heard some writers claim, "I only tweet ten minutes a day tops." My question to them, "are you really reaping the true benefits of Twitter from ten minutes a day?" *Sound of birds chirping as writer friend doesn't respond.

Making friends and building a network of connections takes an investment of time, especially in the beginning. I knew this going in and I'll be honest, it terrified me. Still does.

So, many of you are probably wondering what convinced me to do it. Kristen Lamb.

My calling is to write. Getting published is the bridge to my ultimate destination. The land of successful authors selling books.

According to the brilliant Ms. Lamb, "In order to do what you love–WRITE–you must learn to do what you hate–SELL."

Building a "twibe" and becoming a tweep of other twibes is just the beginning.

After coming to terms with this nugget of wisdom, I knew I had to join, but still came up with excuses to wait. Today, I finally had a big bowl of courage and decided to dive in. I don't have my sea legs yet and it's scary to have no followers, so I'm appealing to all of the friends I've made so far.

If you'd like to connect with me on Twitter, you can find me HERE. I'll gladly follow all friends back.

I feel like I've just crossed the threshold into a frightening, yet thrilling new world.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Star Trek Blogest

Thanks Ellie Garratt for organizing the Star Trek Blogfest!

I must be honest with everyone before I get started. I can’t say I’m a Trekkie because I love Star Wars more and it would be a betrayal to Star Warriors everywhere. I can say that I’ve been captivated by all things Star Trek since I watched my first episode on TV. So I couldn’t resist participating in the blogfest. Also, I had a family obligation to sign up since my canine kiddie, Bella, was born with the Star Trek insignia on the back of her head. It’s true.


Okay, here are my top five favorite mix of movies, episodes, and characters in order.


5. Q: Although all beings from the Q continuum are called “Q”, I’m referring to John de Lancie’s character. His capricious temperament and mischievous antics were always so much darn fun I NEVER missed an episode he was in. And let’s not forget, he did introduce the crew of the Enterprise to the Borg. Gotta love him.



4. Uhura: Growing up, black characters on TV were scarce. When I did see one it was usually a guy, not a woman. The Jeffersons was a funny show, but one black woman was a maid. The other was married and didn’t seem to have a purpose other than being the sane balance to her husband. Then I saw Star Trek. Uhura (which means freedom) was beautiful and independent with a career of her own. Her role might have been smaller than some of the others, but seeing her on TV changed my life. No she wasn’t my reason for becoming an officer in the Air Force, but she did inspire many minorities to become astronauts and Nichelle Nichols even participated in the NASA recruitment program. I'm also thrilled they've paired the new Uhura with Spock.


3. Star Trek Movie 2009: I loved seeing old, familiar characters in a fresh, interesting light. Not to mention younger. The alternate timeline was a smart spin to open a whole new universe of stories. I’m extremely hopeful and excited to see where this film series will go. The reason I didn’t rank it higher is because the story was a complete rip-off of The Wrath of Khan. It’s hard to come up with a unique villain and radically novel premise, but the execution lacked the dramatic flair and passionate hook as the 1982 movie. There can be only one Khan and Nero wasn’t nearly as compelling.


2. Star Trek: The Next Generations Season 3 Finale/Season 4 Premiere


There were so many expertly crafted elements woven together to make it extraordinary. The away team was stuck on a devastated planet, Riker had to deal with ambitious Lt. Cmdr. Shelby, and the kicker--the Borg, a presumably undefeatable enemy, invaded Federation space and kidnapped Jean Luc Picard. When Picard stepped toward the screen as the newest member of the Borg, Locutus, it was chilling. Talk about an unbelievable heart-stopping finale! Yet the premiere was just as good. The writers and actors were on fire. The all-time best two parter in my opinion.


1. The Wrath of Khan: This is hands down my favorite Star Trek film and the earliest sci-fi movie I vividly remember. I was told I was taken to see Star Wars IV: A New Hope in theaters, but I was still in diapers and don’t recall it on the big screen. I was so young when I saw The Empire Strikes Back that the scene where Luke kills the Wampa (snow beast) gave me nightmares (seriously) and nearly scarred me for life (just kidding). However, the first Star Trek film was downright boring to me, probably due to my age.

The Wrath of Khan on the other hand seized my attention from the beginning and didn’t let go. What made this movie exceptional was the villain, Khan. Ricardo Montalb├ín gave such a powerful performance, making the character sympathetic through his pain and venomous hatred of Kirk. At the same time, he was one of the scariest Star Trek villains of all. It doesn’t get much more terrifying than mind-controlling leeches crawling through the victim’s ear. The dynamic past these two strong alphas shared only raised the stakes, increasing the intensity, deep-seated resentment, and hunger for revenge. Remember Kirk screaming Khan's name? And no fan will ever forget the ultimate, poignant sacrifice of Spock at the end.



To continue your Star Trek Blogfest tour, please click HERE to take you back to the list on Ellie's site. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, August 19, 2011

THE ULTIMATE GAMMA HERO



The concept of a Gamma hero is not new. It’s been around for about twenty years since Deb Stover defined the hero archetype, but you may not know what it means.

I like the explanation Jo Davis gives. “The Alpha male is tough, opinionated, stubborn, and sometimes downright rude or mean. But don’t judge him too harshly because there’s always a deep-seated reason he’s this way, and he’s a good man, through and through. Betas are affectionate, loyal, happy, and basically non-violent.” The nice guy you want your daughter to marry.

“The Gamma male is the perfect blend of the best traits of Alpha and Beta males. This type is funny, loving, and insightful. He’ll take his lady for walks in the park or whisk her to Paris. He may have a wonderful sensitive side, but he also has a hair-trigger when it comes to protecting the ones he loves.”


If you’re still confused, Wolverine or any of the heroes from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series are great Alphas. Most of the characters that Tom Hanks plays are good examples of Betas. Many have claimed that Han Solo from Star Wars is the perfect example of a Gamma, but I disagree.

Suzanne Brockmann uses Han Solo as an example of Alphas we love. She describes a scene in The Empire Strikes Back to illustrate why we love Han Solo, but I think it skillfully depicts what makes him an Alpha.

It’s the intense scene between Han Solo and Leia -- when Darth Vader is about to test Lando's carbon-freezing unit on Han. Proud, stubborn Princess Leia is in a near panic that within moments the scoundrel, intergalatic smuggler, rebel hero and her dear friend, Han Solo, could die. As Han is pushed toward his fate, he lunges for Leia, and she for him, and they kiss passionately before they are torn apart -- perhaps forever.

Leia, as strong as she is, is still a woman. "I love you," she tells him.

Han stands there, perhaps about to die, a hard, strong alpha male to the end with his head held high, and says, "I know."


It doesn’t get more Alpha than that. So who is the ultimate Gamma?

Captain America. The first Avenger.



I didn’t have high hopes for this movie (although deservedly higher than Thor and much higher than the Green Lantern, which I’m waiting for on video). Perfect heroes can be annoying and hard to love with all their…well, perfection. But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

By showing us the physically weak Steve Rogers first and his unflappable determination to serve the greater good despite his limitations, we are immediately won over by the sympathetic character. Far from a coward, he is an underdog with the heart, guts, and brains of a superhero. When he becomes Captain America, we’re already rooting for him to save the world and get the girl.

As he grows into his new role, we ache for him to have a chance to realize his potential. But it’s not given. He seizes it, succeeds, earns the respect he deserves and we love him even more. Through all of the sleek action, which didn’t feel repetitive, and death-defying heroics he never loses his compassion, develops an inflated ego, or is afraid to let his tenderness show.

The final scene of the movie nearly broke my heart. (Spoiler Alert) *All I could think was, awwww…Captain America is still a virgin.*
I thought for certain Iron Man would be my favorite Avenger. Besides the fact that I ADORE Robert Downey, Jr., he’s the kind of Alpha I can’t get enough of. But now I’m torn.

The film had some faults. See my complaints in the comments section if you're interested.

If you like underdogs, seeing a bully get what he deserves, action, and a hero anyone can believe in, then go see Captain America.

So which type of hero do you prefer, Alpha or Gamma?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

THE HARDEST DECISION YOU MAY EVER HAVE TO MAKE

Conflict is what keeps a story interesting, fueling the momentum. The deeper the protagonist’s conflict the more a reader or audience watching a film becomes invested.

There’s truth at the heart of every great struggle in a book or movie. However, a recent event in the news made me wonder if art truly does imitate life. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the riots that happened in London. Everyone over here in England is still talking about it. When I discovered that the mother of a talented athlete, who was going to be a 2012 Olympic Ambassador, had reported her daughter to the police for being one of the rioters, I immediately wanted to know more about that family. For research of course, not because I’m nosy.

After the mother had seen her daughter in TV footage of the riots, she called 999 (911 equivalent for those in the USA). Although she described the decision as “gut-wrenching”, what intrigued me the most was that she had reported her child without even having a discussion with her daughter first.


I’m not a parent (unfortunately my canine kiddies don’t count here), so I have no idea what that woman might have gone through emotionally prior to phoning the police. I do believe I would have spoken to my child to at least find out what led them to participate in a mob before I took any action.

In my book PARADOX, my heroine is faced with turning her father over to authorities in exchange for saving herself. The crux of her dilemma is that she doesn’t believe in betraying family, no matter what. Giving up someone you love can’t be easy, but is it always so clear cut that you could make the decision in minutes, perhaps hours? Or does parental instinct drive some to protect their child, not from punishment, but from ruining their future for a mistake?

In the book Before and After by Rosellen Brown (movie adaptation starred Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson), the mother and father decide to aid their son who accidentally killed his pregnant girlfriend rather than see him go to jail. The complex characters are beautifully flawed and we understand their journey as they grapple with making the decision. If you’ve watched the television show Friday Night Lights, then you can’t forget how far Landry’s father, a police officer, went to cover up his son’s crime of murder. There must be something emotionally honest about the choices of those parents for it to resonate with readers and audiences.

So, what would you do?

Please see the poll in the sidebar. Feel free to elaborate on your choice with a comment.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Review: The End of Harry Potter


Let me preface this movie review of The Deathly Hallows Part 2 by saying that I'm not a Potterhead (die-hard Harry Potter fan) who cried or felt as if something was now missing in my life at the end of the final movie. I haven’t read all of the books. I can’t tell you the title of many of them, or even recall who starred as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in every film. Gasp, shriek! Well, maybe I can on the D.A.D.A. professors, but not in order. Nevertheless, I did go see all of the movies because they were entertaining and well done.

Not only did J.K. Rowling create a fantastic series that captivated children and adults alike, she also knew how to end it.
In the movie, the dark and ominous opening scenes—with a perfect soundtrack—set the tone flawlessly. The audience is quickly reminded that “he who shall not be named” now has the all-powerful Elder wand, then segues to a glimpse of Snape as the headmaster of Hogwarts with Dementors looming over the school.

The magical world is locked in the ever-tightening iron fist of evil, while Harry and his steadfast friends race against time to destroy Voldemort. The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is filled with intense scenes, powerful action, and fantastic special effects packaged in cinematography that is somber yet stunning. The pacing worked so well that the movie never lagged and gave the audience appropriate breathers focused on the characters to balance gripping action sequences. It was also deeply satisfying on multiple levels, especially when I learned all that I had longed to know, and suspected, about Severus Snape.


A few liberties were taken with the film that deviate from the book, as to be expected, but loyal readers won’t be disappointed. My one complaint: how Harry makes it from the white train station (don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet) to duke it out with Voldemort is too vague for my taste. The timing of how it unfolded still nags me a bit.
Ultimately, the movie was so much more than the final installment of a fantastic franchise. It was an event that delivered.

I think a few key elements made this a successful ending of a series.

1. We were consistently reminded of the big stakes. The pressure for the hero and his companions didn’t let up. It only escalated.

2. I hate films or books where characters are faced with insurmountable odds and the author or director has a fantastic build up that goes nowhere. I read one extremely popular YA series (which shall not be named) where none of the main characters died in the “big face-off” in the last book or even got so much as a scratch during the battle that never quite happened. Oh, it was so disappointing. The movies have added far more action and I hope that the last film adaptation deviates dramatically to give the audience a credible fight scene. But I digress. In The Deathly Hallows Pt2, each life lost on the good side was a sacrifice that validated what was at stake. And each death on the other side was deserved.

3. We were taken on an unforgettable journey. I might not recall the films in between, but I will always remember Harry’s struggle to find the horcruxes, the impressive battle scene at Hogwarts, and the dramatic showdown.

4. Deep, dark secrets are actually revealed. Nothing worse than wondering, what about X, Y, or Z?

5. An epilogue that truly allows fans to say good-bye.


What have you enjoyed or hated about the way a book or film series ended?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My First Time Guest Blogging

I hope everyone is doing well. The last few days in London have been a tad unsettling with the riots, but on to happier things.

Head over to Under the Tiki Hut to read my very first guest blog. The hostess, Carol Kilgore (who is awesome btw), has a fun theme centered around distraction and inspiration.

http://underthetikihut.blogspot.com

Hope to see you there!