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Monday, November 30, 2009

Hi, My Name’s Diana, And I Didn’t Like The New Moon Adaptation

It’s painful to admit it. And I know it’s unpopular. But I have chosen to confess publicly that I did not enjoy the big screen version of The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Like, I thought the special effects guys should get a raise and the director should have to sit in time-out and “think about what he did wrong.”

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not read the book(s), please lift that rock above your head and read no further. Because I’m going to delve into plot points.

DOUBLE SPOILER: Also, if you haven’t seen the movie, plan to do so, and don’t want me to ruin it with my critical opinions, stop here.

Okay, so let me first say that I love the Twilight book franchise. I’ve read them all more than once, and I even own the DVD of the Twilight movie.

Now given that, I had some problems with the first movie, namely the special effects--like, I honestly laughed when Edward jumped from his bedroom to that tree and they looked like they were suspended with the Peter Pan wire from your community’s last theater production. I also thought the love story was rushed in Twilight and could have used a few extra scenes to better show the evolution of their relationship from strangers to soul mates.

However, comparatively speaking, I have now come to appreciate Catherine Hardwicke’s vision. She was creative, she was edgy, and she went off script (or off book). She gave you fun relevant scenes that weren’t in the novel. Like the vampires killing that guy in the fishing boat. Like the opening with the deer in the woods. Like the “Say it, out loud. Vampire,” scene. And her montages during Bella’s lullaby and the ballet studio, all gave viewers peeks into moments we didn’t get to experience as readers.

Chris Weitz, however, showed the creativity a tree stump. If Stephenie didn’t write it, we didn’t see it (with the exception of one brief fight scene with Felix in the Volturi chamber).

When the movie opened with Bella’s dream of her grandmother, my heart sank with disappointment. It was so boring compared to the deer in the woods. Or even the glimpse of Bella in Arizona. Those “extra” scenes in Twilight made me excited for the rest of the movie.

The dream was dull. I would have much rather have had a montage of Bella and Edward all happy and in love during the summer, something readers never got to enjoy. Show us the honeymoon period, so the impending loss would be more dramatic. My DH didn’t even realize that New Moon was supposed to be set in a new school year, he thought it was the day after the end of Twilight.

And Bella's depression? I can't believe they just had her sit in a chair and flash the names of the months. It was a great technique in the book, but for a movie, I would have rather seen Renee show up and try to pack her things, the doctor call her comotose, her dad frustrated by her pain. Something blurry and warped through the lens of her depression.

And don't even get me started on the quickie rush through the Volturi. After the millions of trailers, I thought (hoped) half the film would be in Italy. And it should have been. Michael Sheen as Aro rocked to the point he should get a spin-off prequel: “Twilight: The Rise of the Volturi.” But no, we were in and out of there.

Overall, halfway through, the DH turned to me and said “this movie sucks.” And I have to agree. It was just too literal. I know as a reader and an author, I should appreciate a movie being so closely tied to the novel. But I felt it was just missing that “movieness,” that little something extra that captures the essence of the book without boring you with a page-by-page Cliff’s Notes synopsis.

So props to the special effects guys—those wolves were awesome! And props to the make up people because all of the actors looked unbelievably better—the Cullens no longer look like the Adam’s family. And props to the actors for doing the best with what they had (this includes Taylor’s abs).

But thumbs down to the director for giving us a film with no more artistic vision than a play-by-play on SportsCenter. Let’s hope the director of Eclipse, David Slade, has a bit more spunk. I want some advanced glimpses of that newborn vampire army, and a heck of a montage of the vampire wars in the South.

But nevermind me, what about you guys? Did you love New Moon? What grabbed you or what didn't? And what would you like from the next film?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My White Whale Swims Again

So back in May, I blogged about my White Whale. My first manuscript. The one that got away. The book that despite a heaping helping of rejection letters, I just can’t let go of. I told you I was going to dust it off, polish it up, and send it out into the world all shiny and new. And I’m happy to report I did just that.

Okay, don’t jump to conclusions. I didn’t sell it. Yet.

But I can say that for the first time in the five years since I conceptualized it, I finally feel at peace with this great white beast. I have conquered my objective to create a realistic depiction of the (often nasty) friendships that exist between 13-year-old girls with enough internal monologue to make even the great Angela Chase proud.

It’s told from four different girls’ points of view and each contains snippets of thoughts and observations that I pulled from my own middle and high school journals. No joke. I really cracked open diaries to get a fresh perspective on how I looked at my friends and boyfriends at that time. And here's what I found.

The Collected Wisdom Of My Teenage Self:

• It’s the feeling you get when he smiles at you and says hi. And the feeling you get when he’s talking to another girl.
• As much as I hate to admit it, I think she’s too much like me. And that’s what makes our friendship so boring.
• Some of the cheerleaders on our squad don’t deserve to be there.
• It hurts every time I see him with her, which is often.
• We’re not friends anymore. Actually, it’s as if we’re acting like we’ve forgotten how much time we used to spend together.
• I have to wonder if he ever thinks of me, and if so does he think of me as much I do him? I don’t think I want to know the answer to that question.
• I’ve said goodbye to a lot of people in my life. But it’s only been one day and I already miss her. Maybe because this is different. I’m missing someone who’s standing right in front of me.
• For that one instant, I had his full attention.

There you have it, a sneak peek-- thoughts plucked from my own teenage brain that I’ve embedded in my manuscript. So if THE EX BFF (current title, the manuscript’s gone through many) ever does make its way to a bookshelf, maybe I’ll do a contest and ask you all to guess which thoughts are mine.

Because much like the Breakfast Club, I discovered that I was once a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Okay, not really. But you get my drift. Ahh, middle school...

POP CULTURE RANT: General Hospital
So James Franco has officially made his debut in the soap world, and so far he’s really creepy. But in a good way. Yesterday’s episode almost felt like a movie, which is about as high of praise as you can give to a daytime drama. It seems as if all the other actors are stepping up their game to match their Oscar-nominated guest star. And it’s impressive. Maybe if the writers and actors put this much effort into all of their work, the genre wouldn’t be in so much trouble. Just saying…

Thursday, November 19, 2009

GCC's Laurie Stolarz Has Two Hot Holiday Books

It’s been awhile, but the GCC is finally back in full swing. And I’m thrilled to kick off this new round of tours with Laurie Stolarz who is the author of not one, but TWO, great new young adult novels: Black is for Beginnings, and Deadly Little Lies. One is even full of pictures for those graphic novel enthusiasts out there.

As always, here’s a little bit about her books to get you hooked:

The BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES series that put a spell on more than half a million readers continues – in graphic novel format! Prophetic nightmares. Near-brushes with death. Killers pursuing her and her friends. Stacey Brown knows that being a hereditary witch isn’t all it's cracked up to be.
All she really wants to do is work things out with Jacob and figure out what to do with the rest of her life. But before Stacey and Jacob can have a future, they must face their pasts. BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS reveals the never-before-seen backstory - and what lies ahead - for the young, spellcasting lovers.
BLACK continues the harrowing adventures of Stacey and Jacob in the wake of Jacob's brush with death. Ever since he lost his memory, Jacob hasn't been able to remember Stacey - his own soul mate. He leaves Massachusetts, returning to his childhood home in Colorado, hoping to jog his memory. What he remembers is Kira, his ex-girlfriend. As Jacob works to piece together his past, will there be room for Stacey in his future?

DEADLY LITTLE LIES: Last fall, sixteen-year-old Camelia fell for Ben, a new boy at school who had a very mysterious gift – psychometry, the ability to sense the future through touch. But just as Camelia and Ben's romance began to heat up, he abruptly left town. Brokenhearted, Camelia has spent the last few months studying everything she can about psychometry and experiencing strange brushes with premonition. Camelia wonders if Ben's abilities have somehow been transferred to her.
Ben returns to school, but he remains aloof, and Camelia can't get close enough to share her secret with him. Camelia makes the painful decision to let him go and move on. Adam, the hot new guy at Knead, seems good for her in ways Ben wasn't. But when Camelia and Adam start dating, a surprising love triangle results. A chilling sequence of events uncovers secrets from Ben’s past – and Adam's. Someone is lying, and it's up to Camelia to figure out who – before it's too late.

For more, watch her awesome book trailer.

Here’s what Laurie had to say:

Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper?
Laurie: I’m the best secret keeper. Seriously, when you tell me something in confidence, it’s like locking it up in a vault. I feel flattered when people feel they can open up to me by telling me something private. I’d never want to betray that. Even if I stop speaking with the person, I feel it’s not my place to tell their secret or story.

Q: What is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?
Laurie: In college, I studied abroad in Cannes and Paris and had the time of my life. I backpacked across Europe with some friends, staying in hostels and sleeping on trains. It’s hard to choose the coolest thing I saw or did because it was all so amazing.

Q: I often tell the story of how a psychic once predicted that I would go on to write children’s books. Have you ever visited a psychic?
Laurie: No, I never visited a psychic, but once when I was in TJ Maxx, Laurie Cabot, Salem, Massachusetts’ official witch, shoved a crystal cluster rock into my hand and told me the entire plot of my novel (one that had already been written and was sitting in the hands of my thesis advisor). She didn’t “sense” it was a novel, however. She pegged me as the main character and she told me my life was in danger and that I had 4 days to do something about it. She went on to describe the killer and told me not to go anyplace alone for one week. All the while she was talking to me, I just kept thinking: this is my novel. Blue is for Nightmares came out about a year and a half later. There’s no way she could have read the novel beforehand. Only some fellow classmates and my thesis chair and reader had access to it.

My fated visit to the psychic was in Salem! Gotta love it!

Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?
Laurie: I’d love to go to Ireland and trace my grandfather’s heritage. Unfortunately, I never got there when I was in Europe.

Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published?
Laurie: I actually got the contract in the mail before I even got a phone call. I thought it was a little odd, so I wasn’t really sure it was real.

Thank you, Laurie! Now, everyone go out and buy books, lots and lots of books!

Monday, November 16, 2009

I’m Leavin’ On a Jet Plane, Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again

Okay, actually I’m not. I’m driving in a UHaul, but same deal. “All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go…” And the DH and I are moving to places unknown.

You see, while we may have sold our house and purchased another, the new abode isn’t expected to be ready for habitation until the daffodils bloom. Yeah, that’s a little while from now considering we’re still in the season of mums and pumpkins.

So where are we going to live ‘til then? See I thought you’d ask, but unfortunately, I can’t tell you. It’s not that I don’t want to tell you. Or that I’m scared you’re gonna go all Single White Female and start following me in stilettos (well, not entirely because of that).

It’s that I promised “Those Who Will House Me Until Then” that I will not blog about the experience. At least, not directly. ‘Cause you know, they’ve got friends who peruse this blog and it might make for awkward dinner party conversation if they’re like “Hey, I read you left the water running!” Some people just value their privacy more than us bloggers. Weird, I know.

But I will tell you this: a) there are no potholes where I’m going; b) my cat will like the views from the windows; c) there is a cleaning lady; d) it will significantly cut my DH’s commute to work.

I’ll try to slip in some more clues about my undisclosed hidden location as time goes on. And, of course, I’ll post pictures of the new house when there’s more to show you then studs and electrical wires. Not that our studs aren’t awesome. The DH is already very excited about the formation of the ceiling beams (I’m not joking).

And I also have to give a huge shout out (yes, I said that) to everyone who helped us move our unfathomable pile of stuff yesterday. Our awesome neighbors loaded every single box from our house into the moving truck! This was unplanned. They all had other things to do on an unseasonably warm 70 degree Sunday afternoon. But when they saw our moving truck pull up, they came out to volunteer a hand. How nice are they? Seriously. I will miss these people.

Also, thanks to my brother who carried a leather chair and a television set down three flights of steps. And thanks to Jen, Craig, Krav, and Matt for unloading the UHaul. And of course thanks to “Those Who Will House Me Until Then” for, you know, housing us…until then.

While we’ve moved all of our stuff, we technically don’t settle on the house until Friday. So we’re squatting in our Philly residence with nothing but a bed and a tiny kitchen television until then. This means we have four days to watch everything saved on our DVR. Because once we go to “Those Who Will House Me Until Then,” we will lose our cable box. So here’s hoping we find time to watch half a season of Mad Men, most of 30 Rock, the Office, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and everything else we’ve got stored to capacity. The outlook doesn’t look good.

Monday, November 9, 2009

This Is Where We Used to Live, Broke In To The Old Apartment

So I’m officially moving. The date is set. The truck is booked. And the inspection hoo-ha is finally over (finally!). Now I just need to put stuff in boxes, tape ‘em shut, fold some clothes, bubble wrap some wine glasses, take some pictures off the walls, clear some closets out… or, I could just ignore that whole packing thing and throw a party with my neighbors instead. Um, I think I’m gonna go with the last one.

Yesterday, the DH and I hosted a party I’ve aptly named “Goodbye Sweet Neighbors! I shan’t forget you!” (If anyone gets that cultural reference, I’ll send you some packing peanuts.) After six years, I can now officially say that we can cram 20 people into our house (including neighbors, a sprinkling of family, and some pint-sized toddler friends).

I made butternut squash and sweet potato soup; grilled thyme chicken sandwiches with brie, apple butter, pears, granny smiths, and spinach; and a spring mix salad with apples, pears, cranberries, pine nuts, and goat cheese. Fancy, right? Though I hardly ate anything. That’s my problem with cooking for large parties, I spend so much time working on the food that I no longer have interest in eating it. I wonder if Rachael Ray has a cure for that?

Anyway, the best part of the whole party was the champagne toast where my DH and I got to look out at all of our full-of-awesome neighbors who have lived next to us for the past six years. That really will be the saddest part of this move—not the house, or the location, or the Starbucks down the street. But I’ll miss our courtyard friends who throw BBQs, Halloween parties, Christmas parties, and even feed my cat when we go on vacation.

I hope the new owners appreciate them as much. If not, I’m leaving specific instructions with our ghosts to haunt them freely until they do.

POP CULTURE RANT: Bare Naked Ladies
You can’t pack up a house without having “The Old Apartment” stuck in your head. I keep dusting off vases and packing books humming, “I know we don’t live here anymore…This is where we used to live!” Another artist really needs to make a song like this. All these sappy tunes about romance, break ups, heartbreak--we need more moving day representation in modern lyrics. Everybody moves.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me! Paparazzi!

I’ve always liked dressing up on Halloween. My earliest memory of the holiday is of wearing yellow footy pajamas with a Tweetie Bird mask in my old house. Ahh, memories. Years past I’ve gone as a genie, a witch, an M&M, a hippy, and more recently, white trash Britney.

Usually I have to force my DH into costume. He says he’s “not that into” the holiday. But when you get invited to awesome parties, you can’t just throw on a cheap wig and call it a costume. You need (as the teacher says in A Christmas Story) a “theme.”

So this year, I thought creative, I thought pop culture, I thought US Weekly, and I came up with what I think is some very timely attire: Lady Gaga and Papa, Paparazzi!

Yes, I realize I look like a complete nutjob, but it's Halloween! Loosen up! Sing with me, “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me! Papa, Paparazzi!” (Believe me that song sticks in your head especially if you go around all night singing it.)

And I’m not the only one who thought of it!

Turns out our hostest with the mostest, Regina (of the awesome fashion blog, Here Comes Gina) also went GaGa this year. But with a very different look.

So here we are in our dueling Lady Gaga ensembles with the real lady herself in the photos below.

Not bad, right? Considering I bought my outfit on South Street in what passes as a real clothing store (the headpiece is a feather boa twisty-tied onto a headband). Gina’s outfit, I am fairly positive, was purchased in much more classier establishments. And in case you’re wondering, my MTV “moon man” is actually one of my DH’s second-place soccer trophies covered in tinfoil. See, there’s a reason his parents didn’t throw out that room full of little league memorabilia!

POP CULTURE RANT: Alanis’ Lady Lumps
I know I’m late to the party on this, but I heard this song on the radio for the first time during our traffic clogged drive to our romantic hot air balloon excursion. And it took me a good minute to realize what song this was. I’m like “Hold on, is this?” “Wait, no, this can’t be…” “Um, I think it is…” Yes, Alanis Morissette is covering the Black Eyed Peas “My Humps,” and it is straight up fantastic. So check it out. SNL should have thought of this years ago.

You can see the entire video here, they just wouldn’t let me embed it for some reason.

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