Monday, January 25, 2010

New Love

I have found something AWE-some to share with you all.

- to a degree. The lead singer is a bit over the barrel on this one. But still. I like beards.

Also Rock Dulcimer!! Woo Hoo!

These guys (and an ocean of coffee, let's be honest) are getting me through this round of revision.

Thank you Foxes.

P.S. This album is also fantastic to ski to.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Literary Tastes of a Flying Green Marshmallow

We all have our preferences for the stuff that works for us, so we stick with it even in the face of improvement. My grandmother has her window air conditioning unit and refuses to get central air, my mother has a VCR and refuses to get a DVR or TiVo of any kind, and I still ski, despite the fact that snowboarding is infinitely cooler.

See, I learned almost 20 years ago, and I'm now proficient enough to actually have fun while skiing. Even though my very first ski experience was a disaster in which I was knocked over and clocked in the head by the ski lift while on a class trip, and this got around the school faster than I could get back, resulting in widespread rumors that I was in the hospital with some kind of skull fracture.
Ah, eleven year olds. It was just a goose egg, people. I kept right on skiing, although it would explain a lot.
When I got my first lift ticket, snowboards were brand new. Like, most hills wouldn't allow them, and those that did had special times and places to keep those punk kids away from us normal, respectable skiers.

No freaking wonder this caught on like hot cakes.

After high school I got a little busy, with things like college and jobs and a husband and a kid, and I didn't get out for years. In the last few years, I started hitting the slopes again, and holy crap, those kids are everywhere.

There are still a lot of us old, crusty 25- and- up types on our comically long and ridiculous skis, with out silly poles and our little knees bent like we're trying to sit down daintily the whole way to the bottom of the course. But everyone under 18 who isn't training for the giant slalom is riding a snowboard. Its just so undeniably cool. And the outfits are way better. Snowboarding gear is in some kind of graphic design renaissance. And everything coordinates, from the ear buds to the boots to the hats has the same design as the image on the bottom of the board. You know, the one nobody can even see unless you're sailing off a huge jump and spinning through the night over our heads.
(also, stuff they NEVER let you do when I was a kid, but now they have whole terrain parks where you are free to smash your face into rails and poles and moguls embedded all over the hill.)
My skiing ensemble is not very cool. Big puffy lime green jacket, big puffy dark green snowpants, mitten-gloves, and a complimenting lime green hat with poofball. Classy.
No, it's not very cool, but I'm warm, and dry, and I don't have to stop at the top and bottom of every hill to take my boots out of their bindings. (Which has to be annoying enough to make up for the coolness, right? No?... Fine)

So my point was- really, this was going somewhere- I know what I like by now.
I don't read a lot of contemporary, or high fantasy, or mysteries. In the interest of professionalism, I'm trying to put more on the list, expand a little, even though I'll probably never write something like that myself. If I'm selecting something I want to read for my own enjoyment, it wouldn't be one of the above categories, either. I prefer adventure, paranormal or magical realism type stories that start off with reality, and then make up a few new awesome rules. But genre categories, unlike the definite ski/snowboard divide, blur a lot. Which is why I will probably never try snowboarding, but I will keep picking up new books and at least giving them a shot.

(spell check does not like the words "snowpants" nor "poofball". Stop being such a snob, spell check)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Youth in Revolt

I'm not the biggest Michael Cera fan.
Superbad was alright, Juno was pretty meh. And then I saw Jessie Eisenberg in Adventureland, and thought "How is this kid not a bigger deal than that Cera guy?"

Youth in Revolt almost changed my mind a little bit. Cera is perfect for the role of Nick Twisp as written for the screen. If you've read the book, you might have wondered how 20- something Cera was going to play a 14 year old character. Easy. By jumping him up to 16. You could argue that casting a real 14 year old instead of cashing in on Cera's built-in dweeb appeal might have been funnier, but it would have made the movie much darker. Count your blessings, writers, that you can always get away with more in a book than you can on the screen.

Cera's Nick Twisp is close to the stock issue sex obsessed teen. He's so frustrated with his lack of accomplishment with the women that he is actually envious of the amount of action all the adults in his life seem to be getting, despite the complete trainwrecks they are the rest of the time.
After meeting a girl who's actually interested in him on an impromptu lake vacation, Nick determines to be reunited with her by any means necessary, including the creation of a "supplementary persona" with the much cooler name of Francois Dillinger.

Unlike the suggestion in the trailers that he undergoes a personality makeover, Francois is more of a split personality along the lines of Fight Club's Tyler Durden. Nick, however, is always present when Francois takes charge.

From there, the plot becomes completely implausible, and the characters are a little too indy-quirk. Note to film makers everywhere: some of your stock "Indy-Quirk" trademarks are about to become cliche, including obsession with hideous suburban interior decor, teenagers who would rather listen to vinyl records and don't own an iPod, and drugging the uptight parents are on that list.

But it's a movie, after all. It's just as offbeat as Adventureland was surprisingly earnest. The characters are far from realistic. The dialogue sometimes sounds like it's all coming from the same mouth. The teenagers are able to manipulate their situations to such a degree that the initial conflict seems like it would be much easier to overcome that all the hoop jumping that comes between the credits. Similar to a Charlie Kaufman or Wes Anderson project, Youth in Revolt takes place in a semi-self contained alternate world, where the characters all speak with the same voice. Sometimes literally.

But it is still a lot of fun.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Okay, Go

Alright, now I'm ready for Christmas. It's like this every year. It's such a rush from Halloween through New Years, with way, way too much going on and then the first two months of the new year are... nothin'.
Which is kind of nice, but just as everyone is packing up the ornaments and lights, I'm feeling like I'm finally in the tinsel and cocoa mood.
Oh well.
It's not like we don't have enough going on. In fact, here's a link to Mr. Cate's new project, which will probably take up most of our free time in '10. (note: writing time is not valid for transfer to "free time" hours)

I know the new year means a lot of new writing goals, besides all the resolutions to become Perfect within 12 months.
What were they for you? What is the plan for this 20-10 thing we have going now?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Artwork Day

No thanks to the Scanner Beast. (see below) But regardless, I have found a way! This Bunny is the first of the Nouveau Zodiac. Next is my Year - the Sheep.

Also, Steph Bowe is hosting a first five pages critique contest over on her blog, and I need some eyes to look at any and/or all of my YA, so I'm in.

Was This Helpful? NO!

Sometimes, I really hate new stuff. Especially when it has 4000 new features, and none of them are what I need.
I used to have this oooooooooooold sewing machine. It was my mother's actually, and it was made in about 1973. I used it for years. She used it for years. Then the motor finally blew. I wanted to get it fixed. Instead, Mom went out and bought me a nice new one, with computerized controls, and all kinds of fancy push button features. (like, Instant Buttonhole, which I still can't use right) It actually sews great. The problem came when the teeny, tiny little screw that holds down the sewing plate came loose. I don't know when, or how, I just know that the other day, my machine was suddenly @$#! and one of the teeny, tiny little screws seems to have fallen out. (??)
Let's parallel this with my printer/scanner situation.

I used to have an Epson scanner. That's all it did, was scan. And it did a FANTASTIC FREAKING JOB. Perfect, crisp scans, with super accurate colors. Awesome. Perfect. Except the plug port broke, and then it was crap.
Of course, by the time it broke, that model had been discontinued. When I went out to get a new scanner, everything was a scanner/printer combo. I didn't need this. I had a wonderful, cheap-piece-of-crap printer that none the less printed beautiful, clean images on anything I jammed through the paper feeder, from photo paper to fabric sheets. It was wonderful.

And then it all ended.

I bought one of those stupid scanner/printer combos. I hate it. No, literally. It does absolutely nothing I need it to do. The scans are fuzzy, the software doesn't give me as many options for setting the scans as my old one did, it won't print on anything besides printer paper (even though the box said it would handle card stock and photo paper. It lied.) It just all around sucks.

Meanwhile, for some reason before I knew the new scanner beast was a useless paperweight, I let Mr. Cate take Old Trusty to work at his non-profit office day job. Grr.

I now have two useless machines, and a ton of work I need those machines for.

But wait- we live in the internet age. I can hop online and figure these problems out.
First, the screw on the sewing machine. It is such a weird size and shape that there is nothing, even in my engineer dad's office, that quite matches. But, I think, maybe I can just order a new one over the ol' computer.
The company does not sell replacement parts for my machine- or any other- online. In fact, to just submit a question or comment, I have to register a new account, with all kinds of info they don't need- unless they just want to send me endless spam and junk mail.

Same thing with the printer company. In order to submit a question to their troubleshooting page, such as "how do I get this !@#! machine to do what the box says it will do??" I have to register an entire account I don't need. I hate doing that.
So much, that I would rather buy a new printer/scanner from someone else, and never deal with these Epson people again.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to say, to all companies that make it a total hassle to get some customer support- YOU ARE USING THE INTERNET WRONG.
You loose.
This is supposed to be more helpful. Don't make me long for the days of those horrendous phone menus. At least there was always a way to mash down the buttons, and get a person on the phone. They never had any answers either, of course, but there was sometimes a little satisfaction when they sounded like they were trying to help.

Monday, January 4, 2010

First and Last Book of the Decade

I'll start with the last book I finished in 2009. Which was Impossible, by Nancy Werlin. This was the first book I've read by Werlin, and I think I'm going to pick up another, for comparison. I grabbed Impossible because of the premise- a paranormal story revolving around an ancient curse hidden in the lyrics of Scarborough Fair. This was a song my sixth grade teacher made the whole class learn, and I thought it was fairly depressing even as an eleven year old. So I thought I would connect pretty sharply with a story that basically parallelled my initial reaction to the song.

Werlin does have a great concept here, but overall the story seemed to suffer from something I see a lot of in YA, especially girl-centric YA- Perfect Characters. Not just the MC, Lucy, but the whole, entire human supporting cast. The only real baddie is the supernatural villain. Everyone else, from the saintly foster parents to the obvious eventual love interest, are just unbelievably, overwhelmingly Kind and Understanding. Even the rapist isn't really a bad guy. (when there would have been plenty of ways to make the story more interesting without the rape, actually)
There is also a lot of scrambling in the beginning of the book to set up the plot.
Overall, it's a romance, and a fantasy, so I give the characters a little bit of a pass, but it would have been refreshing to see at least one negative reaction, other than a lot of worrying that everything will reach it's inevitable happy conclusion.

Impossible is by no means the only book I've read lately with characters that seem a wee bit too nice.
In fact, here's a short list of the Random Writing Trends I noticed in the past 6 months or so.

Fraternal Twin Protags.
This is mostly in MG, but last summer it seemed like every other book I picked up featured a set of brother/sister twins at the helm.

Super Short Chapters
Like, less than a page. These are everywhere. Of course, that's not new, it just seemed to be in a lot of the new books I've picked up lately.

Super Disgusting Characters
This is for adult fiction, actually. I'm not an especially queasy person, and I like a bit of grit and realism, sure, but I could use less graphic descriptions of aging bodies and "performance" issues among the guys. Yuck.

Now, on to the First Book of 2010, Sarah Dessen's Lock and Key. Which I picked up simply because her books are freakin' everywhere, and yet I've never read one before.
I'm about 50 pages in, the chapters are nice and long, and we're barely into the plot outlined on the back cover, which was essentially nothing.
The Brother In Law is shaping up to be one of those Preternaturally Nice Characters, but the bitchy sister has some potential. We'll have to read on and see just how good this gets...