Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cotton Candy and the Bronte Sisters

Yesterday morning I started my goal of writing a thousand words per day.  I got up earlier than I normally do, and sat down at my laptop with a squirming one-year-old who forgot that he should still be sleeping.  I placated him by balancing him in my lap, and began to work.

The subject of cotton candy came up in those thousand words.  I tried to remember exactly how the fluffy candy tastes and feels in my mouth, and the fact that I couldn't remember bugged me to no end.  "Well, it's too bad that I can't get that stuff around here," I muttered.

Later, after James came home from work, I went grocery shopping.  (I will leave out my adventures in the hurricane-like weather we had, that included me getting soaked to the skin in five seconds flat and sloshing around Walmart in my drenched sneakers.) At the first store I went to, they had shipments of special purchases that had just come in.  My jaw nearly dropped to the floor when I saw small tubs containing mixed colors of pink and blue cotton candy (the same colors as I put in my manuscript) for a dollar each.

Never in a kazillion years had I ever thought I'd be buying cotton candy for "research".  I even *gulp* took that as a teensy bit of a sign.

I took a couple of pinches for the sake of my manuscript (sounds like I was doing snuff, huh), and the kids blissfully stuffed their faces with the rest.  Even Bean smacked his lips and screamed when I put the container away. 

No doubt they hope I'll be writing piles of doughnuts, snack cakes, and Hershey bars into my book soon. 

***

Now for the second part of this post:  I saw this video somewhere and got a huge laugh out of it.  This is a "commercial" that's a minute and a half long for Bronte Sisters Power Dolls.  If you ever wanted to see the beloved Bronte sisters as action heroines, here's your chance! 


My favorite part was the Brontesaurus.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review: Defensive Tactics by Steve Westover

Defensive Tactics

Author: Steve Westover

Published: August 8th, 2010

Genre: LDS Fiction, Suspense, Romance

Pages: 256


Back Cover

IN A WORLD OF CORRUPTION and moral relativism, how far will you go to protect the ones you love?

PAUL STEPHENS HAS IT ALLa wonderful job at the FBI, a potential new girlfriend, Emily, and a great apartment.  Even when Jimmy, a friend from his past, unexpectedly ends up on his couch, Paul manages to keep it together, despite Jimmy’s eccentric ways and sudden interest in Emily.  But when a plan to arrest a corrupt judge puts Emily’s life in danger, Paul is forced to make decisions that put everything on the line.  And with Jimmy along for the ride, anything can happen as they race to save Emily.

FULL OF SUSPENSE, ACTION, AND SURPRISES, Defensive Tactics navigates the maze of burgeoning relationships and the rigors of investigation to ultimately show just how much the bonds of friendship can endure.

 
I have been acquainted with Steve and his family for many years, so I’m excited for the opportunity to review his debut novel!

Review

The author has a great imagination, and his characters were fun to read about.  Paul was my favorite character. Although he was a bit on the stuck-up side at first, he grew on me.  In my days as a single woman, I would have been quite taken with Paul!  He's strong, noble, does what he feels is right, and takes no thought for himself when defending those he cares for.

I cheered Jimmy on and was rooting for him to find himself and be able to come to terms with his tragic past. Some of his antics and quirky sayings made me laugh out loud.  I sensed that underneath his charisma he was a very complex character, and a whole book could have been written from his point of view, delving further into his personality.  I also wondered what happened with his old girlfriend, but perhaps that's being saved for another novel.

There is a sweet, touching scene between Emily and Jimmy where she urges him to confront the demons from his past.   The prologue shows the tragedy that turned Jimmy into the shoddy, wisecracking mess that he is, but I feel there would have been even more emotional impact on the reader if that information had been saved and revealed to us as Jimmy shared with Emily.

Emily, at first, was too perfect for me to find her believable.  However, as the story progressed and she struggled with life-altering decisions, she showed more personality and I really enjoyed her character. I appreciated how she was a strong, independent woman who retained a lot of femininity, a quality that is lacking in much currently published fiction.

One thing I need to mention: the book would have benefited from a thorough, professional edit.  There were enough errors that they interrupted the reading flow and pulled me out of the story.  However, I was able to set them aside and get back into the plot.  *Edit: the author assured me that many of the editing errors were resolved with publication of the hard copy.  I reviewed the electronic version.*

Without giving too much away, there is a cool action scene that I loved because I really saw Emily's character and quick wit shine as she battles the bad guys.  She was calm, collected, and efficient.  She made me hope I would be at least one tenth as capable in such an emergency!

The storyline with the corrupt judge was interesting, and kept me guessing.  There were a couple of places toward the end that had me figuratively biting my nails!  Agent Rick Stark is a fun character, and I'm still wondering what kind of guy he will turn out to be in the long run.

What I enjoyed most about this book was how the main characters all grew and changed in various ways. They all had to search deep inside themselves to find out what they were willing to do (or weren't willing to do) to maintain their personal standards.

Overall, I found Defensive Tactics a quick, intriguing read that earns its place in the world of LDS-themed fiction.

Visit Steve's website: Steve Westover  and blog: Westover Writes to learn more about the author and his current projects.

*Disclaimer*  Other than a free, electronic version of this book for the purpose of review, I have not been compensated in any way for my opinions.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Battle of the Yucky Bugs!

We've been battling fruit flies lately; they're pesky, evil little bugs that dive-bomb us at every opportunity.   I feel like a special ops agent sneaking around the kitchen to assemble a salad!  The darn things catch one whiff and they turn into produce-seeking missiles. The military really should explore that option. 

These nasty bugs aren't like regular fruit flies; they are almost sticky, crawl a lot and are sluggish when they fly.  Years ago, my mother christened them "Yucky Bugs", and the name, well, stuck.

This morning, the kids were covering their juice glasses with their hands, trying to think of ways to get rid of the Yucky Bugs.

Lion was the first to pipe up. "Maybe we could take all the fruits into a jar, and the fruit flies will get in the jar, and we can take spiders and put them in the jar with the fruit flies, and the spiders will eat them."

Professor liked the spider idea.  "What if we capture some spiders and take them inside, put them near the fruit, then when the fruit flies get near the fruit they'll get caught in a web?"

Lion sat there eating his scrambled eggs, scanning the counter for weapons.  "We could slice the watermelon in half, then the fruit flies will go in and we'll close it and trap them inside."

Professor shook his head.  "But then we couldn't eat it!"

Lion thought for a second.  "Yeah, that's true."

Princess just sat there eating her breakfast one-handed, since she wouldn't remove her palm from the top of her glass.

Bean was blissfully eating toast, unaware of the dire straits we were in.

My cheering section hurrahed from the table as I quickly emptied out the fruit bowl and filled it with hot water, drowning five flies.  My children joined me in shouts of triumph as I yelled out the number of how many I killed.  I shook my head at cries of "I want to do it!" while I smashed fruitflies with a paper napkin, fighting the urge to hurl all the while.  (My biggest fear about learning to drive wasn't that I'd be in charge of a ton of metal hurtling at 70 mph, it was continuing to watch the road and not get sick when a bug splattered on the windshield.)  I didn't want to chance little bug legs, wings and smashed innards wiped anywhere I might find them, so my volunteer extermination squad was out of luck.

Finally, most of the fruit flies were vanquished. Our juice glasses and salad bowls are safer now. 

Peace reigns.  Especially now that I've cleaned off all the counters and the bugs have nowhere to hide. 

A Yucky Bug was just crawling on my shirt and glasses, no joke.  He is no more.  E's bleedin' demised.  He has joined the choir immortal...if there is a choir down there.

He is an ex-Yucky Bug.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Love and Dating Escapades #2: Scott

For the first installment in this series, go here:  Love and Dating Escapades #1: First Crush

When I was around thirteen years old, we moved from Springfield Missouri to West Valley City, Utah.  For a newly blossoming teenager, Utah was like stepping into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory--if you replaced the candy with boys.

I wasn't horribly boy-crazy, meaning I didn't think about them every second of every day, but I had my fair share of crushes.  I also kept to my no-dating-until-I-was-sixteen rule.  I could have dated earlier, since my mom told me that she would let me choose.  Smart thing for her to say, since she knew that I followed the rules to a fault.  In fact, the first time I had ever heard of a "pity party" was one I was invited to by my fifteen-year-old friends who were missing MORP (prom spelled backwards, girls asked guys) held a couple of days before my sixteenth birthday.  (We had a blast, especially since one of our friends was such a fluffy-headed gal that she thought potatoes came from some kind of animal.  Seriously!)

When I was fourteen, one of the boys I had a big crush on was in my ward, an older brother of one of my guy friends.  Scott was sixteen, and I was completely gaga.  I knew there was no hope for us, since he treated me as a friend, and was dating the older sister of one of my friends.  She was a sweet girl, cute and blonde.  Talk about a triple threat--but she wasn't a threat since I wasn't even remotely in the picture.

Scott's family had an extra ticket to go see the Christmas Devotional at Temple Square, so his mom invited me to go.  I adored his mother--she was both classy and fun.  So, I went.  I got to sit next to Scott, who I was all too aware of, and noticed that he put his hand on his girlfriend's knee during the devotional.  She was still fifteen.  After the devotional was over, sometime in the next few days Scott's mother asked me if  I thought what her son did was appropriate.  I told her "no", and she agreed with me.  I wondered why she asked me.  Maybe to find out how I felt about being the third wheel on the pew.

Ah, the sweet innocence of youth.  

For some reason though, Scott and his girlfriend were extra nice to me.  I loved to dance, so they invited me to go over to her house so they could teach me to swing dance.  Since Scott lived right by me and she lived about a mile away, so he offered to pick me up.

I was so excited!  It would be my first time riding in a car with a boy.

When I only had around ten minutes before he was supposed to arrive, I couldn't stand the anticipation anymore--I went outside to wait in front of the carport.  I walked around, grasshoppers jumping in my stomach.  Then the unthinkable happened, about two minutes before my watch said he should be there.

I don't know what I had eaten the night before, but I'm guessing it was the equivalent of a big batch of homemade, unsoaked, fully cooked pinto beans.  I was a pressure cooker that had nearly reached its limit.  I didn't need a bathroom, but I did need a quiet space where no one would visit for a few minutes.

I thought about waiting, but decided not to.  Wait and then what?  Try to sit tight in the car and hope a bump in the road didn't prove my undoing?  Wait until we got to her house, then run to the bathroom and risk someone hearing or invisible trails following me out?  No, that wouldn't do at all.

So I quickly ran to the back of the carport and...well, you fill in the blanks.

When the strength and caliber of what had just transpired hit my nostrils, relief flooded me head to foot.  Thank goodness I didn't wait!  I turned to walk back up to the front of the carport--and froze.

Scott had just arrived, and was coming up the driveway on his bike.  No car, no air-conditioned windows separating him from the air in my yard.  I was confused, disappointed, and horrified all at the same time.

I flew into full-on panic mode.  This can't be happening.  Oh please, please don't come any closer!

I walked over to meet him, hoping to stop him before he hit the invisible wall.  He smiled his gorgeous smile and said, "I couldn't take the car because...(insert reason I forgot here)...so I thought we could ride our bikes."

Recovering at the speed of light, I nodded.  Anything to get us out of there as soon as humanly possible!  "Sure, that'll be fine." 

I hurried to the carport post where my bike was chained.  Please, oh please don't follow me!

He did.

What was I supposed to say?  "Um, I'm sorry, you have to stay there because I just proved how much of a lady I am not!"  Right.  Totally uncool.  So I tried to get my bike loose as fast as I could.  My fingers turned to thumbs as I fumbled, but I finally got it and pulled my bike up to where Scott had stopped, a few feet from me.  

 I swung onto the bicycle and we set off.

I will never forget what a great guy Scott was.  Not only did he pretend to ignore the noxious cloud hanging in my yard (I guess he could have not noticed, but I doubt it!), but on my birthday he took my bike and put new tires on it.  I had wondered about the lame excuse he gave me for needing to borrow it the day before.

His mother raised him well.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sharing Villainy

Back at good 'ol Storymakers 2010, J. Scott Savage spoke about how to write interesting villains.  The presentation fascinated me, and I've spent time since then thinking about my favorite villains.

My favorite villains all have several things in common.  But since I've been to Storymakers, I've been learning to show instead of tell, so let's take a look!  (For those of you with short attention spans like me, I've kept all videos far less than a minute in length.  If you already know the character, feel free to skip them!)

 Yzma from "The Emperor's New Groove" is quite possibly my favorite villain.  She shouldn't be likeable since she hasn't even a flea-sized bit of love in her body and tries to kill Kuzco. However, her tarantula eyelashes and pointy elbows make me laugh, and who can resist a villain who has a weakness for keeping eye candy (known as Kronk) around?  Yzma cares nothing for anyone except Kronk--and I bet the instant his muscles show signs of atrophy she's outta there.  Yet, she has enough personality and humor to be quite memorable.

Yzma: scary beyond all reason.



  This is my favorite scene from the movie, only 30 seconds but it sums Yzma up quite well!




Next up is Coach Sue Sylvester from the hit TV show Glee.  I love the roller-coaster ride Sue takes us on.  She's funny, but so cruel in her dealings with Will and the Glee kids that she's oh-so-easy to hate.  (Legalize cane lashings, anyone?)  Then, we learn she has a sister with Down Syndrome, and we discover Sue's tender side.  I begin feeling sorry for her and want to like her, then the next scene she's bitterly heartless again.  Oh yes, Sue, I hate your emotional roller-coaster but I ride it anyway--the thrills are just that good.

Not my kind of Cheerio


Here's a good example of Sue's hate for Will's hair.  Vicious!



The ultimate villain (in my eyes) is Dr. Horrible.  I rooted for him against the insufferable hero Captain Hammer.  I felt Billy's desperate need to be someone, to get into Bad Horse's good graces.  I agonized with him over his unrequited love for Penny.  His singing voice?  Awesome!  Then, when his dastardly plan backfired and hurt the girl of his dreams, he buried his pain and used his sorrow to his advantage.  Dr. Horrible could have used that terrible incident to turn things around and do good, but he didn't.  Nope, he used his giant mistake to further his own world-dominating dreams.  Jerk.

I hold a P.H.D. in Horribleness


This clip is from Bad Horse, head of the League of Evil.  Dr. Horrible would do practically anything to get into Bad Horse's good graces. 



I know there are other, more evil villains out there.  Darth Vader, Voldemort, Hannibal Lecter.   But for me to really want more of a villain, to feel something for them, I have to identify with them somehow.  My favorite villains have to have a great sense of humor, and not be pure evil.  They have to have something in their life that helped influence them to be that way.

I believe that's why Heath Ledger's Joker was so good.  We got small glimpses that showed us he wasn't born a tortured soul, but became one.  We didn't know all the whys, but his twisted mind made him even scarier--because he rejected any sparks of humanity he might have once had.  The Joker is not one of my personal favorites though, because he makes my stomach churn and I feel sick when I watch him.  I guess I prefer tamer villains.

When it comes to writing the children's fantasy I have in the works, I'm thinking a villain who tugs at your heartstrings before stomping on them will make him (or her) more appealing to my readers.  At least, that's how I feel about it.

That about sums up this glimpse into my favorites list.  Who is your favorite villain, and why?