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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nancy Drew and The Curious Mystery of the Haiku Reviews

I went antiquing over the weekend. Doesn’t that sound grown up? Like I should be sitting in front of a fire sipping a cup of tea from 18th Century china while resting my feet on an early American leather ottoman. Well, it wasn’t that romantic. Mostly because I was in Maryland.

Not there’s anything wrong with Maryland, it’s just not one of the fancier states in my opinion. Now, if I was antiquing for jewelry in New York or scouring for Civil War artifacts in Georgia, that might be worthy of the Antique Roadshow (sad, that PBS symbolizes the pinnacle of success in this business). But alas, I was looking for lamps and mirrors in Maryland to go in my new house, which is currently buried under snow. (Old Man Winter and I have some issues right now.)

But while immersed in furniture antiquities, I did not forget my day job. Not that I could, those places are swimming in books. And thankfully there are a few Nancy Drew enthusiasts in the area. So I picked up a couple hardbacks to contrast with the more modern versions Simon & Schuster put out after that Emma Roberts movie.

The over-designed paperback Nancy Drews I bought in a box set on clearance at Borders. The others I bought for $2/piece at antique stores, one of which (the blue one in the middle), was published somewhere during 1942-1945 (you can tell by the really poor quality, we-can-barely-afford-tree-pulp-because-we’re-at-War paper). The rest are from the ‘60s and 70s.

I’m not really a book collector (unless you count signed YA novels), put I’m rather pleased with my new Nancy Drew shelf, which corresponds to the other mysteries I’ve been reading as research as of late.

And this of course brings to me to more….


NANCY DREW (multiple novels), Carolyn Keene

Love those ghost writers
They created an icon
who now says “You know..”

A coke-snorting sleuth
with super intuition
Mentalist rip off


Will shag any girl
but will not notice her brain
Until he’s tortured

VALENTINE’S DAY, the movie
Cute, okay chick flick
If we just had that gay kiss
to rival Brokeback

I hate this new scoring system. It makes it virtually impossible for people at home to understand what a good score is. One skater gets 152, another 172—is that a big difference? An insurmountable difference? What’s a perfect score? Is perfection even possible? I miss the days of the standard 6.0s. And I miss when judges weren’t using a 400-percent zoom on a skate to determine whether a jump was a good. It just doesn’t seem much in the spirit of the Olympics. What’s next? Penalty flags when they don’t finish a rotation?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Writers Can Learn From Olympians

During the Summer Olympics (God, I can’t believe I’ve been blogging that long), I wrote a blog comparing my writing style to water polo. It’s oddly, to this day, one of my most read blogs ever, so I’m taking it that I have a lot of Olympic fans out there. And since I’m obsessed with the Games, have watched every minute, and I tear up every time I see a montage about an athlete’s search for “redemption,” I’ve decided to expand upon the topic.

Let’s face it, we’ve got some hardcore sob stories here. The Canadian skier racing in honor of his disabled brother. The American snowboarder famous for a hotdog move gone bad who came seeking respect. The 30-plus-year-old Chinese figure skaters with a Romeo & Juliet love story. Apolo speed skating rather than dancing (wait, he’s not just that guy who tangoed with Julianne Hough?). The Russian male figure skater hoping to squash his “enemies” like an evil secret agent.

So in honor of these athletes (who remind me of USA Network’s “Characters Welcome!”), I’ve decided to extrapolate what we as writers can learn from their personal histories.

Alexandre Bilodeau
If that older brother of his can defy the odds and walk long after people insist it’s impossible, then we can all get the heck out of bed and write 3,000 words per day. Writers have a gift not that dissimilar to athletes. Only we don’t run laps and drink wheat juice to train, we sit ourselves in a chair, alone, with no coach, and force ourselves to pound out those words. It’s hard work and athletes do it for years, every day, before anyone acknowledges their efforts. Sound familiar?

Lindsey Jacobellis
Just because you think you’ve earned respect, and just because you try as hard as you possibly can, you don’t always get what you think you deserve. Hers would have been the ultimate story of redemption, she could have shown the world how much she’d grown these past four years, but still she fell short. Sometimes, you don’t always get what you want when you want it. So anyone out there querying agents, or sitting on submission, think of Lindsey and then watch that Dan Jansen Visa commercial. Because if you work hard enough and don’t give up, your time will come, you just can’t control when.

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo
Sometimes it’s nice to have someone you love beside you when you fight for your dreams. Whether it’s a spouse, a friend, a parent, or a sibling, having someone tell you repeatedly not to give up can make all the difference.

Apolo Anton Ohno
Even when you’re in fourth place, getting shoved and elbowed farther back, watching person after person pass you by as they soar closer to the goal you’re trying to achieve, sometimes the unforeseen happens. There’s a little bit of luck involved everything, whether it’s winning a short track race or getting a book deal. But you have to be there prepared, well trained, and ready to take advantage of that luck when it comes your way.

Evgeni Plushenko
If you guys do all of the above and do reach the pinnacle of your career, sometimes people just aren’t going to like you. It could be an Olympic competitor or an Amazon reviewer. So you can either take those comments in stride and appreciate that they come with the success you’ve worked so hard for, or you can make a video montage that makes you seem like an evil Bond Villain bent on destroying your “enemies” with a death ray. Either works.

Okay mega coffee house, I give you props for finally creating a system to give frequent visitors free Internet access (if you don’t yet have their loyalty card, get it). But for the love of God, when did you start playing a mind-numbing mix of Easy Listening and Golden Oldies? Maybe it’s the switch from the city location to the ‘burbs, or maybe you’re going through an awkward phase, but I can’t tell you how hard it is to work when a loud, unbearably annoying version of the “When Saints Come Marching In” is blaring in a speaker above your head.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Very Snowtorious Birthday Festivities

I was born in a blizzard, and I have now come to realize that this was an omen for birthdays to come. I had many an elementary school party canceled because of snow. I was stranded in NYC once when my husband and I went to see Wicked. I got stuck shoveling my sister’s driveway one year when we went to tour D.C. So I am aware that snow and February 10th go hand in hand. But nothing—absolutely nothing—can compare to the “Snowpocalypse,” “Snowmaggedon,” or “Unusually Large Snowstorm” (as The Daily Show said) that occurred yesterday.

All of my sad little birthday messages from friends and family were like, “Hope you’re not shoveling on your birthday!” “Hope you asked for a blizzard for your birthday!” or “Snow My God! It’s your birthday!”

So what do you do when your area is blanketed with 17 inches of snow on top of the 56 inches you’ve already gotten this winter? Well, I’ll show you. But first a moment of silence for the birthday plans that should’ve been…

Here’s What I Had Planned to Do Yesterday For My Birthday:

Eat an awesome brunch in a South Philly restaurant that usually has a 45 minute wait.

Visit my new house, which is still under construction but which might have our bathroom tiles now installed.

Shop for cute antiques to put in said new house by perusing the store’s on Pine Street.

And finally have a romantic dinner at Buddakhan with a charming candle placed in my fancy dessert.

Here’s What I Actually Did on My Birthday:

Made up for a lost day at the gym by shoveling snow that weighed more than I do.

Danced on top of a snowdrift compiled by all the snow we shoveled.

Took time to read the paper.

Attempted to make a snow angel only to realize despite gym efforts my legs could not push that much snow.

So there you have it! This will truly, unmistakably, be a birthday I will never forget. And thanks to “Those Who Will House Me ‘Til Then” for the special birthday breakfast and the candles in the cranberry bread. We’ll make up for the lost festivities this weekend!

Anyone else think it’s beyond silly that there are 10 movies up for Best Picture? The cartoon Up is nominated? And The Blind Side? Really? Now, I’m not doubting these are good movies. But best of the year? It kind of takes the prestige out of the nomination if nine of your closest friends get nominated too. Don’t get me wrong, I typically am not a fan of any of the movies nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture. But I can still appreciate the quality of the film and the style of movie associated with such an honor. We have the Golden Globes to recognize the best comedies, and the MTV Awards to recognize the best blockbusters. Leave the Oscars to the indie films, like ‘em or not they deserve it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

How to Write a Prequel and Keep Your Sanity

You ever wonder why in the world bizillionare George Lucas would create the mind-numbingly awful character of Jar Jar Binx? I think I know why. Not that I can relate to the mountains of cash Lucas sits on while drumming up these wild ideas, but I’m starting see how writing a prequel can make you cat poop crazy (I don’t like bats).

Here’s why:

You’ve already written the next book.

Seems obvious, even helpful. At first.

Consider all the perks: you know your characters, you know how they speak, how they think, what would do or not do in any given situation. You know exactly where the story is going. These are valuable steps in the writing process.

Here’s the part that makes you long for a padded cell:

You’ve already determined exactly where the story is going.

See how I’m talking in circles here? It’s kind of like the quantum physics lessons in Lost: on one level, your brain is wrapped around them; on the other, your eyes are glazing over.

Because writing a prequel is not that different from jumping around in time with a bloody nose (sometimes I think my laptop and I are on that island). A prequel jumps you forward, so that everything you now write has to get to the end result that you’ve already determined. If your character makes one bad decision, the actions of the next book no longer make sense (nor do those scenes you love so much).

It’s really hard, and for some reason, I’m setting off on the journey anyway.

Don’t get me wrong. My process is not nearly as complicated, or glamorous, as George Lucas’. The novel I’m prequelling (yes, I made that word up) hasn’t been published yet. (If this book has to go out posthumously from my grave, ANASTASIA will see the light of day.)

But to prove that I will never give up on her (yes, I think Anastasia’s a real person) and that I will not rest until her story is told, I am taking my mother’s advice, splitting my book into two, and writing myself one heck of a prequel. I’ve even tackled an outlining process I’ve never attempted before (mostly because I’ve never outlined before, I’m more of an organic writer).

See, mom! There are notecards and everything:

I’m only a few thousand words in, but to keep myself sane until I reach “the end,” and to not make “Those Who Will House Me ‘Til Then” regret housing me during this process, I’ve decided to blog about my Adventures in Prequeldom (yes, I made that word up too). Stay tuned and hope I don’t ever get to the point where Jar Jar Binx sounds like a really good idea.

POP CULTURE RANT: General Hospital
I think all of us GH fans need to send the original Lucky a thank you note, because he’s resurrected this character of the depths of “I don’t give a crap.” Honestly, until he came back, I could’ve cared less if Elizabeth jumped in bed with half the town. Now, miraculously, I do. And tell me you didn’t all hear those wonderful suggestions of Sonny “losing all legitimate assets,” of “Jason becoming a P.I.,” of Franco preventing them from ever killing again, and not think: Hallelujah! Wouldn’t it be awesome if the mob suddenly ended? If the show went into a different direction? If we got something different for once? Not that I mind a little gun fighting, it would just be nice if the fights weren’t simply part of a recycling program drudging up stories we’ve seen a million times. I say, arrest Sonny and hit the reset button on this sucker.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Smitten Kittens Rule With GCC Member Suzanne Young

“Mashed potatoes and gravy!” I’m so excited to be talking about GCC member Suzanne Young’s new book, The Naughty List. I read an Advanced Reader Copy, so I can tell you it’s “Holy Canoli!” awesome. It’s written with a very cute and very funny YA voice that’s just going to make you love those cheerleading Sex Kittens. (I mean Smitten Kittens).

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

As if being a purrfect cheerleader isn’t enough responsibility! Tessa Crimson’s the sweet and spunky leader of the SOS (Society of Smitten Kittens), a cheer squad–turned–spy society dedicated to bringing dastardly boyfriends to justice, one cheater at a time. Boyfriend-busting wouldn’t be so bad . . . except that so far, every suspect on the Naughty List has been proven 100% guilty!

When Tessa’s own boyfriend shows up on the List, she turns her sleuthing skills on him. Is Aiden just as naughty as all the rest, or will Tessa’s sneaky ways end in catastrophe?

Follow the squad online.

Here’s what Suzanne had to say:

Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper?

Suzanne: Good gravy, I’m terrible at secrets. If you can’t read it on my face, then I’ll probably tell you in five minutes anyway. Imagine Christmas at my house. I walk around giggling all day, asking my husband, “Are you sure you don’t want to know?”

Q: What is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?

Suzanne: I’m still waiting to have that amazing trip abroad. For now, my favorite time was when me, my husband and my kids got in our RV and roadtripped for ten days. We drove down to Disneyland, then Phoenix, then the Grand Canyon and finally Las Vegas. Sure, the last day we almost died in a snowstorm, but the trip was still 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?

Suzanne: I LOVE psychics!! One time when I had my tea leaves read, the woman told me that I’d soon have something happen to my car. Sure enough, when I got outside, someone had smacked it and left a note. Talk about predictions!! Another time I had a psychic tell me never to get on a motorcycle. Later that night, I sort of did. And I’m still here!!

So you don't think the psychic whacked your car herself? :)

Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?

Suzanne: I’ve never personally researched my family tree. I know my grandmother was Italian and my grandfather was Polish. So my cooking skills consist of lasagna and kielbasa recipes.

Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published?
Suzanne: This is humiliating. But I recorded this a few days after I found out: http://lipglosslit.blogspot.com/2008/07/suzs-book-deal.html

Too cute!

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

Copyright © 2008 Diana Rodriguez Wallach, All Rights Reserved