Friday, December 4, 2009

Happy Holidays...

Well, still no word from the last agent yet. Still, I've decided to wait until January to send out the next group of agent letters anyway. Also, for whatever reason I'm having a bit of writer's block this month, so I'm mostly concentrating on getting my chores done and getting ready for Christmas.

I've thankfully finished sending an announcement for the Christmas party (it was a little later than I wanted it to be since the party is on the 19th, but I'm at least hoping to have a little participation.) Like last year, I'm having everyone involved bring something to eat, so this time hopefully I'll have a little less to do to prepare. Even though costume parties are fun, I tend to be more laid back at the Christmas party and actually enjoy it more because I'm not stressing out as much over refills of food, etc.

I'm excited about Christmas. Like I said, it's a more important time for me since it is a religious holiday. I'm trying to keep that in mind since it's easy to get caught up in all of the lights, decorations, food, parties, etc. without remembering why it's so important. I'm actually involved in Lake Murray's Baptist Church's production of "This Man Called Jesus," this year, which should also help me keep the true meaning in mind. (Friends who are reading this, you should come see it. It's a very elaborate production with a very powerful message.)

I'll keep you updated on the writing. Right now, though, I'm thinking there won't be much writing this month. Next week I'll probably write a review of the book I most recently finished, Ted Dekker's "Sinner." It will actually probably be a general review on Ted Dekker's books involving the "Circle" series. I've read almost all of them now and I am a big fan. Talk to you then, in the meantime, Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stephen King's Everything's Eventual

Once again, I've read another Stephen King masterpiece. Everything's Eventual is an excellent collection of horror that I had trouble putting down. The stories were perfect length as well, letting me read one each day as I exercised. I'm going to focus mostly on my favorite stories in this review, but I will say that every story was worth reading, there were just some that I really liked.

For once, I don't even have really any criticism for this review. The stories I "didn't like" were more out of personal preference than any flaw on the part of the writer, and even those stories I liked at least on some level, even if they weren't normally the types of stories I read. All of them were polished, pretty unpredictable, and intriguing. I definitely recommend this book and I think it's a very good example of the art of the short story. (As, according to the introduction, it was meant to be.)

The Man in the Black Suit - This story stuck with me. It's an example of a sort of modern day folk tale, about a boy who literally meets the devil. (Apparently this was loosely based on the account of the Grandfather of one of Stephen King's friends, which makes it particularly scary. I have no doubt the devil does walk around the earth, since it is his domain.) Anyway, this story actually scared me. The accounts of the dead grass where the devil sat by the kid, and the cruel trick that he plays on him, make this story have an authentic feel. I also particularly like the way the child is able to substitute himself for an abnormally large fish that he caught, meaning the forces of good were also at play in the story as well. It has a very folk tale feel, once again showing us the versatility of Stephen King's writing style.

The Death of Jack Hamilton - This story was particularly interesting to me because I've never really bought into the glamor or the honor involved in the stories of John Dillinger or other famous criminals. I have trouble sympathizing with criminals in general. However, this story actually made me rethink some of that. It's an account about the death of one of Johnnie Dillinger's partner's, Jack Hamilton, from the perspective of Homer Van Meter, one of his gang. The language seems authentic for the time period, and it does portray a more civilized sort of crime and a more sympathetic criminal. I was very impressed by the authentic feel of the story and the fact you end up rooting for the "bad guy" by the end of it. It's a very interesting new take, that I do think could be called a "modern myth".

The Little Sisters of Eluria - This story is an excerpt from Roland the Gunslinger's life. It has the same feel as most stories involving Roland and I love how in all things associated with the Dark Tower series, you can see how fate sweeps Roland away so that he can continue his quest. This is one such story, where Roland is being chased by mutants and winds up in the care of a strange group of women called "The Little Sisters of Eluria." They're nursing him back to help--but there's something sinister about them. Roland soon finds himself in the unusual position of being their helpless "patient" and has to rely on the help of an unlikely source to escape.

Everything's Eventual - This story interested me because it's the same sort of concept of one of the books that I'm currently working on. The main character has a strange psychic ability. His ability involves using geometrical shapes to cause misfortune on an individual whose name he incorporates in his "art." A strange organization finds him and uses his abilities according to a secret agenda. He finds that the benefits of his job don't outweigh the means.

L. T.'s Theory of Pets - This is one of my favorite stories in the book because it is so very true. It's about how pets usually do the opposite of what you expect and how they sometimes take on the attributes of their owners. It's clear that Stephen King has pets (particularly cats) from his descriptions of them in the story. It's an odd tale about a married couple who's relationship is strangely mirrored in the reactions of their animals, but it has a horrific twist at the end that makes the story very sad. Still, overall, it's a very good story and fun to read.

The Road Virus Heads North - This is another of Stephen King's stories that is terrifying to read, but would be cheesy as a movie. The story is about a writer who purchases a possessed painting. The character in the painting is a man with filed teeth, a long knife, tattoos, and a hot car, and an expression says that he's clearly up to no good. As the main character is driving home, however, he realizes the painting is changing and the background shows that "The Road Virus" is following him home.

Lunch at the Gotham Cafe - This story is interesting because the married couple featured in the story seem just as crazy as the maitre d' who goes knife-wielding crazy while waiting their table. (It's the story the cover of the book is based on.) This story was scary to me because really anyone in any position could be the maitre d'. Even the main character can almost understand why he snapped and how he probably feels inside.

1408 - Again, even though I know the movie can't be as good as the short story, I have to see it now. 1408 was the scariest haunted hotel room story that I've probably ever read. The opening sets up a very eerie tone as the hotel manager explains that there were a dozen suicides in the room and thirty natural deaths associated with it. The main character is a writer who basically makes a living off of staying in haunted rooms and places, pretending to actually feel a presence, when in fact, nothing every really happened to him. That all changes very quickly as he almost faces what drove those people to suicide as the room around him begins to change...

Riding the Bullet - I really enjoyed this story and it's probably one of my favorites in this book as well. The characters in the story feel very believable. The story is a different take on the ghostly hitchhiker tales. In this case, the human hitchhiker is picked up by a strange sort of ghost. Still, this ghost seems more material than those in most stories, and the creature gives our hitchhiker a very terrible, terrible choice--his life, or the life of his mother.

Even though I love Stephen King, I've decided to switch to Ted Dekker's "The Books of History Chronicles" series. These are the only books I have left spinning off from "The Circle" series, except for the book "Green" which came out recently. I also recommend Ted Dekker as a writer, and I'll probably put a review up of his books at a later date. In the meantime, please pick up and enjoy "Everything's Eventual." You'll be glad that you did.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hooray Zombieland!

Sorry this review is a little late, but I've been very busy. Still, since I did review "Where the Wild Things Are," I felt "Zombieland" deserved the same treatment, if not better treatment since I felt it was a better movie.

Zombieland was everything I hoped it would be and a little bit more. When I went to see it, I was suffering from movie letdown from "Where the Wild Things Are" and wanted to see something funny, predictable, and, of course, the gratuitous violence of zombies killed in many amusing ways. I wasn't disappointed.

First of all, the main character of the movie was perfect for me and the audience I was seeing it with. He was a stereotypical geek, uptight, a virgin, etc. He only survived the zombie apocalypse because he could run fast and had devised a set of anal retentive rules that he followed everywhere he went. Most of them were common sense movie logic rules, such as: "Cardio (that's right, do lots of cardiovascular exercise so you can run faster than the zombies, in fact, that was rule number one), "Look in the backseat," "buckle your safety belt", etc. There were thirty two of these rules. Throughout the movie, whenever he would do one of these things, the law would appear written somewhere funny in the background. The introduction of the movie was examples of people forgetting to do these things and hilarity ensued. There was even a cameo with Bill Murray playing himself. (This was golden because they poke fun at the fact Bill Murray Can make people laugh just by being himself.)

Still, there was more to the movie than just comedy. There was a little bit of romance and a lot of character development. The characters actually changed throughout the movie and even the main character broke many of his rules by the end of the movie, creating some plot development. It made you get into the plot of the movie for it's artistic merit instead of just as a funny zombie flick. That was something extra that I didn't realize I was going to get. Also, even though Zombieland was predictable in the Hollywood sort of way, it wasn't predictable entirely. There were some very amusing and enjoyable plot twists that surprised me. (Since I don't like spoilers in reviews, I won't give anything away, but I will say that the first meeting between the main character and the two girls took a very unexpected twist.)

I definitely recommend this movie to anyone who likes zombie flicks and comedies. If you don't get to see it in the theaters, at least rent it when it comes out. Also, for those of you that avoid zombie movies because of gore, oddly, for a zombie movie it was relatively non-gory. The worst part about it was the introduction where most of the zombies were coughing up black ooze and a woman is thrown from a car windshield. (This scrapes her face across the pavement, and that part actually did make me feel a little ill.) Still, for a zombie movie, it was a surprise. Even "Shaun of the Dead" was gorier.

Anyway, it was a good movie and a good night. I hope you enjoy "Zombieland" when you see it for yourself.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Where the Wild Things Aren't

This will be the first of many movie reviews on the blog. After I saw "Where the Wild Things Are" I felt the need to say a little something about it. I'm also going to assume those that read this review have also read the book at some point or know what it's about enough that I don't have to worry about spoilers.

First of all, let me just say that I enjoyed the book. I remember the teacher of my kindergarten class reading this book to us and I really liked the wild things. They were monsters but they weren't scary monsters. The art was great and the story was fun. So, naturally when a movie came out for a book that I enjoyed from my childhood, I had an interest in seeing it. Still, it's a book that's only a few pages long, so I was also skeptical. Still, as I saw more and more previews for it, I decided that I really wanted to see it. It looked like it was going to be very good and I've always thought that real suits combined with digital effects are more convincing than just digital effects alone.

Even though this movie had good qualities, I feel that I wasted my money. The first half of the movie was good. The kid playing Max was perfect, the acting was good, and there was a darker tone to this movie that I really liked. Max is clearly depressed, feeling like his family is falling apart. His sister acts like she doesn't care about him, his Mother doesn't discipline him, and it's implied that she's divorced and dating. Still, the movie took a turn for the worse when, instead of going to bed without supper (like he does when his Mother punishes him in the book), Max decides to run away. He finds a boat and sails off, ending up on the island where the wild things are.

The wild things seem to represent the most dysfunctional family you could possibly have. Every one of them has a serious psychological disorder from anger management issues to schizophrenia. Naturally, their family was falling apart as well, so they make Max their king, hoping he'll bring the family back together again. (They actually take the crown and scepter from a pile of bones in their campsite, implying they've eaten their other kings, another dark twist that I enjoyed.)

Max makes things worse through his rule. He tries to bring them together, but it seems no matter what he does, the issues they have run too deeply to be brought together by something a child would do. So, one night, Carol, Max's best friend out of the wild things, decides he's going to eat Max and tear down everything they've been working on together. Max escapes by hiding (long story short) and the next day decides to sail away from the island. The wild things are sad to see him leave, but they wave goodbye on the shoreline. Still, what bothered me, was nothing was resolved. They were all just the same dysfunctional family but you didn't know if Carol and his girlfriend got back together or decided to split forever. There was such a bad fight the previous night that one of the wild things had lost an arm, and it was clear things were still worse than they were before.

In essence, Max learned nothing. He had problems at home and ran away, then had problems with the wild things and ran away from them as well. It isn't implied that he misses his mother like he does in the book, it's implied he's running for his life so he doesn't get eaten.

Still, the worst part was yet to come. You assume that the entire scenario of the wild things takes place in his mind. However, when he gets home, while he does seem happy to see his Mother he doesn't apologize, and he doesn't get punished. Not only is the soup still hot, but he gets a large slice of chocolate cake and a tall glass of milk. The point behind the original story was that the kid was punished, imagined himself in a different place, and then was grateful for what he had when he "got back." He didn't apologize, but he didn't need to apologize because he had already been punished. In this story, the moral seems to be "run away from your problems and everything will be okay." He didn't learn anything, the Mother didn't learn anything, and all of the conflicts shown in the movie were never confronted. The end.

I would recommend renting this movie from Netflix when it comes out, but don't waste your money, and definitely don't show it to your children. It's worth seeing because of the special effects and the dark atmosphere created by the movie. However, be prepared for a letdown in the end when nothing is resolved. It might just be my opinion, but I believe movies should have a conclusion. Just a thought.

I was so disappointed that I had to see a movie last weekend to make up for it. I saw Zombieland, which I'm pleased to say was everything I hoped it would be and a little bit more. I'll write a review on it in a few days.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halloween is Officially Over...

Well, Halloween is officially over for the year. I've put up the last of my Halloween decorations and all signs of it (except for the leftover candy and party food) are gone. I have to admit it kind of brings me down, but on the upside, at least my house is less cluttered now.

All three Halloween parties are also over. My friend Gini's party was very fun. I envy her for her dedication in transforming her house for her party. The decorations looked professional, the food was excellent, and the movies we watched were fun. As always, hanging out with friends is the main draw behind any party though, and that was very fun as well.

My party also went very well. There was no "drama" this year and some of my friends came by from out of town. It was very good seeing them again. I didn't get to play as much Rock Band as I wanted to, but duties as hostess of the party had to come first. The movies we finally chose were the original House on Haunted Hill, Freaks, then the remake of House on Haunted Hill, and the Crow. I think that everyone enjoyed them because people didn't even go into the back rooms until the second half of the party and even then several people were still watching the movies.

The last party we went to was actually on Halloween night at my friend Jared's house. After hosting a party it was kind of fun to kick back and relax again. I have to admit, I was getting kind of tired of my Alice in Wonderland costume by then though, mostly because it was skimpy and I was tired of being cold. Still, that party was fun for different reasons. I got to see most of the people who couldn't make it to my party and so, overall, I saw almost all of my friends in one weekend. It was very nice. (Incidentally, we also watched the Resident Evil movies at that party. I was surprised to find I actually enjoyed the first two, campy though they were...)

Well, that's a brief summary of Halloween weekend. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did. I guess the next big thing coming up is Christmas. I'll probably throw another party. Still, Christmas has a more somber tone because it is more important because of the meaning behind it. Sometimes it's fun to dress up and have a party just for a party's sake.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Stephen King's Night Shift

Well, I've finished reading yet another book and I've finally got my inspiration back (for now). I'm actually almost finished writing another novel to add to the Cimmerian City saga that I'm hoping will spark another trilogy. So, things have been going well lately.

The latest book that I finished was one a friend loaned to me a long time ago. I'm very glad he did. Stephen King's Night Shift is an excellent collection of stories that I would recommend to anyone that likes horror. I have to admit, I am a Stephen King fan girl at heart, but I'll try to make this a legitimate review instead of gushing all over every story in it.

My favorite stories in the collection were "Jerusalem's Lot," "the Mangler," "Battleground," and "I Know What you Need." I'll give a short review of each of these stories and then move on to the very few that I didn't like as much.

"Jerusalem's Lot" is the story that inspired Salem's Lot. I have to admit, the vampires in the story were much more terrifying than traditional vampires, mostly because King depicts them as twisted monstrosities that are mockeries of their former selves. Still, that wasn't what impressed me most about the story. What impressed me was that the story had the feeling of something written by H.P. Lovecraft. Stephen King once again shows himself to be a very versatile writer. Jerusalem's Lot is an abandoned town with a desecrated church, where something huge and horrible lurks underneath the city, ready to be awoken from its long slumber. The main character, Charles, inherits the home of his ancestors, and finds out that his family has a bad reputation for digging into things that the other townspeople fear. I couldn't put this one down, so be sure to read it when you have a bit of time on your hands. It's the first and longest story in the book.

"The Mangler" impressed me far more than I expected. I've seen previews for the movie "The Mangler" before. Let me just say that movies have a way of butchering very awesome stories if done incorrectly. The movie makes it look as though "The Mangler" became a possessed machine because of the meddling of evil people. What is so scary about this story (other than the fact large machines tend to be frightening anyway since they are so dangerous) is the Mangler becomes possessed from a series of unconnected unintentional events. The thought that something evil could enter the world, or create the circumstances to enter the world, without people with evil intent to guide it is a very scary concept indeed.

I don't want to spoil the story of "Battleground" but let me just say this, only Stephen King can make toy soldiers scary. I liked the fact that this story felt like it took place in a cyberpunk universe without even a large description of the setting, and that the corrupt man in the story gets exactly what he deserves.

"I Know What You Need" is probably my favorite story in this book because the characters in the story felt so believable that I could almost see them. I knew people like that in school, in fact, I still know several people that comprise the character, "Ed." The "villain" of this story is actually a sympathetic character for me. It was one of those tragic love stories that, at the same time, is kind of scary. It tells the story of the lengths that obsessed people will take to get what they want, and how people are willing to ignore danger signs in a relationship if they're happy enough in it. Very interesting, and very good.

There were really only three stories in this set that I had problems with, and even those stories were entertaining to read. I had a few complaints with "Sometimes They Come Back," "The Man Who Loved Flowers," and "The Woman in the Room."

First of all, I really like the story "Sometimes They Come Back." I know I said, I had complaints with it, but let me explain. I liked the concept very much. The story is about the literal ghosts of the main character's past coming back to haunt him and to kill him. (They killed his brother, and now they want to finish the job.) And, I actually liked the movie very much too. The complaint I had with the story is that I start to dislike the main character halfway through it. I feel like if he really wanted to keep his wife safe he would've tried just a little harder to communicate with her and to tell her exactly what was going on. It might just be my relationship with my husband, but we don't keep major secrets from each other, especially if those secrets could endanger the other partner. Also, I found the ending very far fetched. This is mostly because it's a classic blunder that anyone who ever played a table-top RPG would understand--"I'm going summon something bigger and scarier to take out the thing that's trying to kill me." I can almost see the person running the game "face palming" right now. Still, that's my only complaint. It was still a good story, but left just a bit to be desired.

"The Man Who Loved Flowers" was a good story because it shows how people in love give an intoxicating happiness to those around them, so intoxicating that they might not realize the person might not be what they seem. The problem I had with this story is that I predicted the ending the second I noticed the hint about the ending. It might just be me, I'd love to hear if you predicted the ending of this one or not. I didn't think the hint was subtle enough because the type of crime was so vulgar and strange that I knew it would come up again--and you can tell from the beginning there's something about this story that's a little too happy to be real. It was a good story, but predictable.

"The Woman in the Room" is an excellent story. My only complaint is that you don't want the ending to happen. This is one of those stories that makes you feel downright suicidal at the end, and it's the last story in the book. Maybe if this story was placed in a different area of the book I wouldn't have a problem with it, but it ends the entire set of stories on a very low note. That being said, read this story early on, and everything should be good.

Well, I hoped you enjoyed the review. I tried not to put too many spoilers in it. But seriously, even if I spoiled anything, read the book because it's the journey that matters. These short stories were all excellent, even the ones I didn't mention here and it's well worth the time of reading these short stories. They are great examples of the lost art of the short story and anyone, especially aspiring writer's would be enriched for reading them. Thank you, again, Stephen King, for the inspiration. You're books are, after all, part of what made me want to become a writer. (Okay, maybe a little bit of gushing fangirlism...I know that isn't a word, but it should be.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The First Real Disappointment

I've been looking for an agent for several months now without much luck. I don't get excited about hearing from any of them unless they show some interest first. But, lately there were two agencies that requested additional material based only on the query letter. Well, long story short, one of the agencies I was waiting to hear from finally got back to me, but rejected my work. This one was a disappointment because they were actually interested in the concept enough to ask for the first several chapters and a summary. I was really hoping they would ask for the full manuscript but they weren't enthusiastic enough about it to ask to read the rest. In other words, once again, it was a general rejection.

I'm hoping if I'm rejected by the next one they'll at least have some feedback for me, positive or negative. What I'm really hoping for though, is that the other agency will at least request for me to send the entire first book. The manuscript can speak for itself.

Anyway, I'm not giving up. I'm determined that this series will be published, but if I get another rejection from the next agency, I'll have to start going down the list again starting at the last place that I stopped. Keep me in your prayers and please wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Black Widow Scare

I had a little adventure this week. There was a spider trapped between the windowpane and the screen on our kitchen window a few days ago. Since it's close to Halloween, I decided it looked eerie and that I would spare it. After all, it wasn't able to get inside, and even though I don't like spiders, it was killing bugs that got trapped there with it.

It turned out, as I looked at it over the next few days, I noticed that it was a black spider with red spots on it's back. (Because of the light shining on it, the legs looked brown when I first noticed the spider.) I didn't think black widows typically had red spots on their backs, but I decided to look it up. The internet is a wonderful tool for knowledge. It turned out that spider was a black widow, and there are six species of black widow living in the South. As soon as I inspected it further, I saw it spin around on it's web and it had the hour glass shape on it's underbelly, a female, the dangerous kind.

That's right, it would be a black widow that I would decide to spare. Needless to say, the spider isn't with us anymore. Finding out that my friend in the windowpane could've killed (or at least really hurt) one of us in one bite meant the safety of my family had to come first. So, long story short we sprayed it with bug spray last night through the screen and it was dead this morning. It's odd, but I"m kind of sad about it. Still, it had to be done. I shouldn't feel too bad though, one black widow usually means there are five hundred somewhere else. Wish me luck that I don't run into one again.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Writer's Block and Some Thoughts

Well, I'm still fighting the writer's block. This has been the worst few months that I've had it in a long time. I'm glad to say I'm finally feeling the spark again. I just need for it to catch fire. I'm going to try to write today as best as I can. I've already missed the opportunity for several anthologies simply because I can't come up with an idea. ::sigh:: I guess I should turn back to my unfinished novels and try to see if I can brainstorm some ideas. Oddly enough, even when I don't feel up to writing, usually ideas come and I can at least jot them down for later. It occurs to me that I love Halloween but I've never written a story that takes place during that time. I think that maybe I'll start there.

I still haven't heard from the two agencies that seemed interested in the concept. Still, according to them I should hear something by the end of the month. I'm just hoping that at least one of them wants to read the entire manuscript. I think the fact I haven't heard anything is a good sign, but sometimes it's very hard to say. Still, I have to be confident that my book can speak for itself. After all the changes I've made, I think that it's finally more than ready. And, according to my harshest critic, it's now a very good book. Honestly, the waiting really is the hardest part. I just want to hear something soon.

Halloween is almost here. It's hard to believe how quickly the time has passed. I'm done with my decorating. Still, I need to think about pumpkin designs and start making a party supply list. I also need to narrow down my choices for the movies I'm going to show this year. I'm expecting a pretty good crowd this year, thankfully. I was very careful to not plan over someone else so everything should be good. I'll keep you posted about it.

Well, I'm off to try to add some kindling to the tiny glowing ember of creativity I'm starting to feel. Wish me luck.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Ruins by Scott Smith

A train wreck. I think that's the best way to describe this book. I only followed the lives of these characters out of a morbid curiosity. It makes me feel much more debase to admit that I actually wanted to see how bad this got rather than doing the smart thing... I should've put the book down when I could tell after the first two hundred pages exactly what the other three hundred would entail. Still, since this is a review rather than a ranting session, I guess I should start at the things I liked about this book and then work my way down to the reason why I believe reading it was a waste of my time.

The first thing I enjoyed about this book was the language in which it was written. I have to admit that the author has a "way with words." He paints elegant pictures with language and provides enough detail that you get a real feel for every scene. I could almost literally see everything in the novel with my mind's eye in excruciating detail, down to even sometimes feeling ill from the images he described. He really does have en elegant writing style that pulled me onward, making me want to see more if nothing more than the simple pleasure of how vivid the image was that he created, like watching a movie in my mind rather than reading a book.

I also admit, the characters were incredibly believable. There isn't much dialogue to see the thoughts and motives of the characters, but throughout the book there are glimpses into each of the main characters' subconscious thoughts and memories that make them more than simply three dimensional; they almost seem real. I went to school with these people. I guess my first problem was the fact these were the people I went to school with that I didn't like.

The characters had the sort of naivety that I would expect from teenagers rather than young adults. They made friends with two strangers on the beaches of Cancun in a few days, and trusted them wholeheartedly enough to follow them to a ruin in the middle of the jungle that someone already warned them not to enter. Not only that, but they practically didn't prepare for the hike, not even buying enough supplies to last them more than a day or bringing a knife and first aid kit with them. I've never been a girl scout, but even I know better than to go on a hike without carrying a knife, a first aid kit, and extra supplies if I don't know exactly how long my journey is going to take. Not to mention the most obvious setback, they had a cab drive them to the trail eleven miles into the jungle and then didn't arrange for anyone to pick them up, realizing at this time their supplies will be inadequate but pressing on anyway.

As they got closer, they also realized that the ruin is near a shanty town full of dangerous looking people (the descendants of Mayans) that seem intent on making them leave the area. The fact they continued onward after all of these setbacks made me lack sympathy for their plight. And, while they were fleshed out characters, they did still seem like stereotypical examples of the boyscout, the slut, the whiner, and the jock. They even made fun of this fact later in the book which made me chuckle at the irony of it all. This is probably why my favorite characters were the most mysterious ones out of the group, the German man they made friends with on the beach and the Greek man that couldn't speak any English.

Yes, that's right. I disliked all of the main characters and liked the two that you didn't get to know. This is probably because the others possessed obnoxious character flaws that made them unlikeable. Characters do need flaws, but when the flaws begin to take over halfway through the book, you stop caring about the characters simply becoming annoyed by them and unsympathetic when something bad happens to them. That's what happened to the main characters, they began to give themselves over to being petty and annoying to the point I just stopped caring about them.

Here is one of my biggest problems with the novel. I'm not giving much away by telling you that the supernatural antagonists in the book are a group of vines. That's right, man eating plants. The absurdity of it was too ridiculous to suspend disbelief. Yes, there are Lovecraftian monsters that are plants that can somehow seem terrifying, but these did not. All I could think of was "FEED ME, SEYMOUR," and expected the plants to start breaking into song and dance at any second, especially since the plants could also talk and think. You never determine if the plants have a hive mind or are the extensions of some larger scarier monster, but they can even set traps and have a malicious human-like intelligence. Plants don't scare me. Besides, the characters, as things turned out, were their own worst enemies. This book could've been written without the plants and the result probably would've been the same, only my opinion of it might've been better.

I should've stopped reading it, but I kept trying to say it was the journey that mattered. However, when I did reach the ending, I realized that in this case that wasn't true. It was the most cliche ending a horror novel can have. Well, the second most cliche ending. I'm not telling you what it is, but I think you can guess. I'll give it this though, at least it didn't turn out to be "and it was all just a dream," in the end, but it might as well have been for all I'm concerned. Five hundred pages, an entire week, and a letdown like that just made me want to strangle someone with vines myself. This ending was the type of thing I would expect from a short story, not a five hundred page novel.

The quote on the cover is from Stephen King, "The best horror novel of the new century." Maybe it was at the time he said that, but I certainly hope that isn't the case now. I'm sorry that this review is so scathing, but I have to be honest in my assessment. I will say that by the end of the book I did have some attachment to a few of the characters. The ending made me realize that, but not enough to justify standing on a hill for over four hundred pages and predicting just about everything that was going to happen.

Sadly, I knew the vines were the enemy the moment they stepped on the hill. Like I said, I wasn't giving anything away by telling you that, and I also knew they could mimic sound the moment they heard the "cellphone ring." I'm afraid I'm a bit too good at picking up on symbolism and things of that nature, but I think it wasn't just me this time. I think the book was predictable. I don't recommend it, and it doesn't surprise me it became a movie, but I'm not going to see it. Still, I did glean an appreciation for attention to detail that I don't get from most books from this one, and for that, I do commend the author. I'm afraid I won't be sampling any of his other work though.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Halloween Happiness...

Well, it's getting close to time for my yearly Halloween Party. I don't know why, but Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. (Christmas is more important because of what it represents, but Halloween is more my style, though I do have a Christmas party every year too.) It's just so much fun to dress up, carve pumpkins, bake sweets, and of course, have a party. Plus, I love the change in the weather. I've had more than my fill of summer already.

I'm glad to say that this year we should have a good selection of movies. With Netflix, we've downloaded several classics such as "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," the original "House on Haunted Hill," "Nosferatu," and "The Phantom of the Opera." Also we've recently acquired Stephen King's "IT" and the remake of "House on Haunted Hill." We're viewing them to decide which ones to show at the party, but the point is, this year we should have a wider selection. (Also, it's just nice to have an excuse to watch more horror movies. I actually had never seen "IT" until I decided to review it for the party and I'm glad to stay it stuck close enough to the book to earn my approval.)

Also, we almost have everything we need for our costumes. I've always wanted to dress as Alice in Wonderland with my escort as the Mad Hatter for Halloween, and it looks like this year it's going to happen. I have a pretty good Alice costume and I've already made a few minor adjustments to make it tasteful (if you buy any kind of woman's costume now-a-days, it seems that they design them to show as much skin as possible, something I'm not very comfortable with. I might have lost nearly eleven pounds now so I don't think I look bad, but I still have my modesty...). Still, the props are what make the outfit since I have a white rabbit stuffed animal and a grinning cat pillow that looks a lot like the Cheshire cat. I'll carry a basket with the props separately for the full effect. Now we just need to finish up Joel's costume. He has a nice dress shirt, vest, bow-tie, black shoes, and dress pants that will work, and even a pocket watch, but he still needs the most important parts of the costume--a old fashioned style coat and, of course, the HAT.

I'm thinking of carving Alice in Wonderland style pumpkins this year since I really can't top the Nintendo themed pumpkins at the first party, and that will at least fit the theme of our costumes. A creepy grinning cat face would be pretty cool, and I might be able to pull of some face silhouettes like the drawings from the book. We'll see. We're also throwing around the idea of a sweet tea styled alcoholic punch this time, since we almost always do a mixed fruit/cranberry juice punch. (We want to do a few different things this year.) I still don't know what refreshments we'll be providing, but I do know we'll have some sort of meat (usually meatballs or little smokies), lots of candy, popcorn, chips and dip, and probably some sort of Halloween cake or cookies.

As for activities there are movies on in the main room, a rock band room in the back for those that are into that sort of thing, and an extra room for board games, table top RPG's or possibly classic video games this year (Hopefully we can set that up since that was a request last time). And this year, no drunken mishaps...definitely no drunken mishaps. We'll be calling cabs if we have to. ;-)

Hopefully we'll see you there!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Shriek: An Afterword

Just a fair warning, there are spoilers later in this review. Trust me, I hate spoilers for books. I'll never forget when my friend Bob ruined the ending of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for my husband by describing a Saturday Night Live skit that did the same thing. I had kept it secret for so long, I think I took off Bob's own hat and smacked him with it...but I digress. The point is, I try not to put spoilers in most of my book or movie reviews, but since my one real complaint about this book is the ending, I feel I have to say something about it. Still, feel free to read up until I tell you to stop if you don't want the ending spoiled. (I'm not sure why I'm so worried about this. There isn't much of an ending to spoil, which is kind of the point of my complaint. Even if you read the "spoiler" more than likely there won't be much spoiled for you.)

Well, I just finished the novel Shriek: An Afterword by Jeff VanderMeer, and I must say I'm pleasantly impressed. When I first started the book it was a slow start. It's written from the perspective of a woman born into a family of historians (I knew what I was getting into), but, even knowing that, I thought it was too academic for my standards. Still, the pace really began to pick up after the first few chapters and by the time I reached the second half of the book I was totally hooked. I couldn't put it down for several days and reading it became the highlight of my week.

One of the best elements of this novel is the setting. I really should take lessons from this book on how to develop my own setting. The city of Ambergris is as much of a character as the people telling about it, dynamically changing throughout the book and going through stages as much as the characters themselves. The world was so well thought out that it felt like the journal was describing a real place, especially by the end of the book. And, I have to admit, the caverns underground with the "gray caps," a race of mushroom people, was incredibly well done.

I thought originally that the idea was kind of cliche (I know, I write vampire fiction, I have no room to talk), but it was downright impressive. The fungal weaponry and the vivid description of color as opposed to the drab real world actually painted an image with words. The gray caps became incredibly mysterious beings with a purpose and at the same time terrifying monsters as the book progressed.

Here's my one complaint (those who want to read the book without knowing the ending, turn back now.)

Sadly, the novel ends without telling us everything. The ending feels almost abrupt and forced. We never find out what the machine is that the gray caps are building beneath the city, or if they are ever going to conquer the city or simply leave to go back to their own world. We also don't know if there's going to be another "Silence" that will make the remaining inhabitants of the city disappear, or what "the Silence" actually was in the first place. There is mention of a "Shift," where the city is going to suffer much worse than it did during the "War of the Houses," something that was bad enough, but we never find out what "the Shift" is. You also don't find out what happens to the narrator of the novel at the end.

I'm one of those people who gets attached to the characters enough to want to know what happens to them. In the Dark Tower Series, I had to follow Roland into the Tower, not because I like seeing the destination rather than the journey, but because not reading any further felt like abandoning him. In this case, Janice Shriek abandoned me. You never find out if she put on the glasses to follow her brother Duncan underground. You don't know if she finds a way to cheat death once she gets there. You don't even know what was in Duncan's trunk that he left for her.

I like to think she did go, since she wanted to escape the world that she no longer belonged to, but there is also the possibility that she was simply pushed in front of a car at the end, which in my opinion is very anti-climactic. (After the story ends, one of her friends writes a short description of how he found the manuscript and why he decided to publish it. He also says that there was someone fitting Janice's description pushed in front of a car).

I enjoyed the book and I do recommend it. Still, hate the fact that it left me hanging and left so many unanswered questions. That was Duncan's style of writing in the novel, creating answers that only asked more questions, so maybe that was done purposefully as a commentary to that style. But, that doesn't mean I have to like it. Jeff VanderMeer might be working on a continuation, but I seriously doubt it, so sadly I'll never know the answers. Still, overall, a very good book.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Writing, and Writing, and Reading

Things are going pretty well on the writing front. I've submitted three short stories in the past two weeks, two of which are actually old stories. I submitted "Waterspouts" to a general horror anthology, and I'm about to submit "Soul Putrefaction" (a zombie story) to a zombie anthology as well. I hope they're accepted. I want to find homes for my old stories.

I'm still proofing the third book of my series. Still no word from the two agents that were interested, but I'll keep you informed. I'm going to work on a few more short stories and then switch back to writing novels. I'm glad to say that the writer's block is finally almost over. Sometimes working on short stories for anthologies kick starts my imagination. It's like taking home a writing assignment from school. You have a deadline, along with guidelines about what the person running the anthology wants, and then you're job is to write something fitting in the time you're given. Sometimes I work better under a deadline, which is why I always try to set one for myself.

Currently, I've also started reading another novel. I really need to read more often and expand my horizons in terms of books. If I want to be a writer, I need to be an avid reader. I'm reading Shriek: An Afterword by Jeff VanderMeer. So far, it isn't bad. The prose is a little academic for my taste in fiction, but the story is interesting. The underground caves beneath the city of Ambergris are inspiring, since there are a series of underground caverns in my own work underneath Cimmerian City. I might write a more thorough review of it when I'm finished.

Well, that's about it in terms of writing updates. Thanks for reading.

A Sad Experience

Well, as usual, ghost hunting was less than productive. We were a little last minute about deciding on a place to look, so we decided on three places that we've already visited before; Thomas Cooper Library, the Apartments at Olympia Mill, and Longstreet theater. We also decided to try to find Old State Road that is supposed to be close to our house.

For those who don't know, in Thomas Cooper Library, the bathroom stall doors are known to slam shut, along with plastic toilet paper containers suddenly banging open when no one else is in the restrooms. (This has happened to me along with two of my friends.) Olympia Mill is supposed to be haunted by the ghosts of children who used to work there. People in the new apartments hear the sound of footsteps running up and down the hallways and have seen the faces of children in their windows and heard them laughing or crying. And, Longstreet Theater is said to be the home of a Confederate ghost who doesn't like Yankess. The basement was made into a morgue during the Civil War. At the end of Old State Road, there is a set of old railroad tracks that are said to be haunted by children who were killed during an accident. According to the story if you put your car in neutral on the tracks, someone/something pushes the car off to safety. Hand prints have been seen on the bumpers.

Well, to make a long story short, we didn't find anything. (Truthfully, I didn't expect to find anything, but it was more disappointing than usual.) The high point of the night was looking for Old State Road, mostly because we got lost the first place we turned and were laughing because we fit every horror movie cliche in the book. (We were speculating as to which one of us would die first. Since I was the only girl we determined I would be first, so I put on my reading/driving glasses to add some to my survivability, becoming the "geeky girl".) Still, either way, we didn't find the road. Next time we'll know to take the GPS.

Looking in the city was a total bust. First of all, people who aren't students are no longer allowed in Thomas Cooper Library. They asked for our student IDs and we were left slack jawed and having to go back to the car. I find this hard to believe Thomas Cooper is only for students since it's listed among other libraries on all other library computers, and I know for a fact they didn't used to check for ID. Still, the point is we weren't allowed in.

Olympia Mill apartments are very secure with key locks on the doors and cameras. We debated about waiting until someone came out to sneak in, that would be creepy and stalker-like. Not to mention, Olympia Mill is a very bad area and we didn't want to hang around that long.

The only place where we had any success was Longstreet Theater. We walked right into the student lounge, but it was very anti-climactic. Even though it was creepy and oppressive feeling, as always, we didn't find anything and nothing came up on the few pictures we took.

The evening ended with everyone taking solace in fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I may be dieting, but I'm not proud. I splurged and had one just this once myself. Hopefully next time we'll have more luck. I really do plan to go somewhere new next time we do this, possibly even Charleston. Still, it'll probably be a few more months before I try it again.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Good News

I'm glad to say that last night I got a little more good news. A representative from Writers House Literary Agency liked my concept enough to ask for fifty pages and a brief synopsis. Since this makes two literary agents interested, I'm feeling much more confident that the idea is at least unique enough to get some attention. I just hope that one of them asks to read the whole manuscript.

Either way, I should have some constructive criticism one way or another, which is something I've been wanting for some time now. So far, all of my rejections have been general ones, or ones saying the agent "isn't enthusiastic enough about the concept." These sort of rejections simply mean the agent isn't interested in the genre or idea. Now, hopefully I'll have some feedback about the style of writing, etc. Please wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Update on Ghost Hunting

I almost forgot to mention that we're planning on going ghost hunting with a group of friends this weekend, Saturday night. I'm really excited about it since I haven't gone ghost hunting since my college days. I'm not sure where we're going yet, but I'll keep you posted. Our friend Chad has some good ideas about creepy places to go, so we'll probably leave it up to him. This blog is as much a reminder to me as an update for you. I need to charge up the digital camera, the video camera, and try to locate the tape recorder and compass. Wish us luck! I'll blog about it after the fact, though given our past history I'm pretty confident we won't find anything. Still, it's worth a shot, and going to creepy places and taking pictures is always fun and interesting.

Proofing, Thinking, and Rambling

Well, I couldn't think of anything for the new anthology. I tried, but I'm running out of time so I don't think I'll be able to come up with a good enough outline. I think it would be better to not write it than to write something pathetic just so I could turn something in. Still, that's okay. Like I said, lately I've had a bit of writer's block.

It's odd, but I've noticed I get into different things when I have writer's block. It's like my imagination needs to wander to prepare to write again. I get more into video games during that time, sometimes trying to look through the main character's perspective (in RPGs or adventure games).

For instance, since I've done just about every quest in Oblivion, I've picked of Morrowind and found myself immersed in the story. Also, during these times, I'm much better at planning out table top role-playing games. It's like a different side of my brain is working. I even get more into the symbolism of movies, novels, etc. I guess I kind of get a little OCD-like too, because the house stays immaculate most of the week. Even though it's kind of annoying because I feel like I'm not working, I won't complain. Thankfully my writer's block is usually about two weeks to a month, rather than for months on end.

I started proofing the third book, "DeKryptian" today. Hopefully Joel will enjoy "Blood Ties," the second book of the series. I'm kind of glad he hasn't started it yet, because it can be a little tedious to read the same book over and over again, proofing it several times in a row. This way, when he gets through reading "Blood Ties" I'll be tired of "DeKryptian" and welcome the break. Lol.

A few nights ago, I beheld the wonder of Netflix. That is awesome. We ordered "The Crow" since we've never seen it, and Joel is streaming tons of movies and TV shows through his X-box. We watched "Arachnophobia" the other night. That was fun. I had forgotten how much I like that movie. I first saw it in high school, and because I'm terrified of spiders something about that movie gave me enough courage to try to kill them. I'm not scared of all bugs, but roaches and spiders give me the creeps.

We're also watching Inspector Gadget at night before we go to sleep. Even though the cartoons are much worse than we remember them, it still gives me a warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia to see them again. Lots of cartoons are like that, though. I'm just glad to have the luxury of watching TV again occasionally. I don't like to do it often, but the main reason we gave it up entirely was because cable is way too expensive. We pick up our news via an antenna in the attic and the internet. That's the way I like it. But, having movies at our disposal is nice. When your focus is media arts in college, you tend to like movies.

Anyway, I'll keep you updated on the writing and the agent hunting. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Finally Getting it Together...

It's taken me a while, but I think I'm finally getting it together. I've lost about eight pounds over the last few weeks by exercising about forty minutes each day, eating healthier foods, and eating fewer portions (something I plan to keep up). I've also been getting better about finishing most of my house work early in the week so I have the rest of the week to write and relax. Now, I just have do defeat my arch nemesis, early morning laziness.

I hate mornings. I also hate waking up from a dream and getting no conclusion to it. It makes me feel unfulfilled somehow. So, I'm ashamed to admit, after Joel goes to work I usually go back to sleep. I try to make up for it with extra housework, and I don't think he minds, but it just doesn't feel fair for me to get more sleep than he does. The problem is, I can't drink caffeine in the mornings anymore because I have a slight heart condition, and caffeine used to be the only thing that worked. I think I'll start making decaf coffee to try to fool myself and then eat a small breakfast right away too for energy. Wish me luck, because I will overcome this vice, even though I know I'm not going to like it.

This week has been pretty good. I finished the Weird Western story, "Murder at Rattler's Way" and turned it in a few days ago. If the anthology doesn't accept it, I'll post an excerpt from it on this blog. If they do, since they'll have electronic as well as print rights for a while, I probably won't, but I will point you to the website to get a copy. ;-) Wish me luck.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bad Weekend but Good Writing News...

Sorry, but this time I have to rant just a little...

Joel and I had a very bad weekend this weekend. It starts with a small wreck at the Verizon store. We were involved in a fender bender in the parking lot. Even though we weren't at fault, the policeman blamed both parties simply because it was a situation where two people were backing out of a parking place. We have to pay the deductible to the insurance company until they're done with their own investigation. (I'm pretty sure they'll figure out the wreck wasn't our fault. The guy simply wasn't watching where he was going, but until then, we still are out about five hundred dollars.) That put us in a bad mood for the rest of Saturday.

Then, on Sunday, I got very sick either from food poisoning (curse you, O'Charlies!) or maybe from touching those cell phone models at the Verizon store. Either way I was sick all of yesterday, so it was for the best that none of our friends could come over this weekend, anyway. (But we were still kind of sad that we didn't get to see any of our friends.) And, today I'm not sure if I'm better or not. I still need to try to eat something to see if I'm going to be sick on it, especially since I skipped dinner last night. But, I really really don't want to.

I have to think of the positives, though. At least the wreck was a fender bender and nothing where either party got hurt. I got to watch a lot of cool television shows and relax this weekend. Church itself was fun, and going to O'Charlies after church was nice, and the food was good. I'm thinking honestly it might have been a virus, but we'll see. And, Joel was very attentive and took very good care of me.

There is also some very good news that happened at the end of last night. One of the agents decided they liked my concept enough to ask for the first fifty pages of the manuscript and a synopsis based only on the query letter. Even though they didn't ask for the whole manuscript, this tells me that the query letter is good enough to get some attention. It's enough to make me feel really good about the future. If the query letter is good, eventually someone will ask for the entire book, and the book can speak for itself. I don't know when I'll get published, but I'm confident that I will. Please be praying for me and wishing me luck.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Back to the Basics

It seems I didn't have writer's block so much as I just needed a change of pace. I've decided to go back to the basics, for now, and work on some new short stories for anthologies. The first anthology I'm trying to write for is called "Weird Westerns" and is due on August the fifteenth. While that doesn't give me much time, I think I can write a weird western quickly. I've actually had plans to write one for a long time but just never got around to it.

The next anthology I need to work on is "Amazing Alternity Stories." This one just sounds like a ton of fun because you take a historical figure and throw them into a strange alternate universe. For example, Albert Einstein could be a swashbuckler or George Washington could be a maritime adventurer. I don't have an idea yet, but it just sounded like too much fun to pass up. That one is due on August thirty first, though so I don't have much time. We'll see what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it.

Either way, I'm already twenty one hundred words into the Western story and I think it's going pretty well. Wish me luck on finishing it by the fifteenth. For some reason I usually work better with a deadline. I hope this is one of those times, and I hope they like it. Even if they don't, that will give me one more story to add to the homeless story collection and someone will eventually want it. Like I said, wish me luck. I'll be keeping you notified on how it goes and which ones I'll be working on next.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Writer's Block

Here we are in the second week of writer's block. Even though I said I was going to try to write something new last week, it never came to me. Every single time I sit down on the computer expecting to write something, nothing is what comes to me. Oh well. There isn't much I can do. For some reason, all of my other projects that don't involve writing a story come along nicely during this time, so I'll use this time as a break from writing and to work on my other projects.

I don't take enough breaks anyway. Since I work at home usually after my chores for the day I have some spare time, but I take things so seriously I won't sit down to take a break. Who knows without my writing and with more free time, maybe I'll even play some video games or pick up another book to read. Either way, the longest bit of writer's block I ever had lasted about two months. Usually when this happens, it's more like two weeks.

Wish me luck. I know I'll get through this, it's just very frustrating. It's usually not a good idea to try to force creativity, so I'll do what I can when I feel inspired again. In the meantime, I'll keep writing on my blog and I think for once I might actually visit some web forums. That's something I've never really gotten into on the internet, but I hear it's pretty fun. I'll let you know which ones I decide to join.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Weird Carolinas and Ghost Hunting

I love South Carolina. Still, to the rest of the world, I know this city looks like a population of hicks and rednecks. I blame the media for that. Whenever there's a hurricane or a natural disaster, it seems they always interview the people with the least amount of teeth, especially if those people happen to be illiterate. Not to mention the controversy over the "rebel flag." (Please, don't get me started...)

Still, my love for this state was rekindled as I picked up the book "Weird Carolinas." It reminded me of all the strange folktales and haunted places in this state. We have lizard-men, ghosts, eccentric artists, cryptozoological animals, and buildings dating back to the civil war, most of which are also haunted. Not to mention the tunnels under the main streets, occupied by "The Third Eye Man." (And people wonder why I'm a horror novelist...)

The flavor of this state is intriguing. All of the counties and cities are different and vary widely from one another. For example, the city of Columbia is slowly being assimilated by the University of South Carolina, and no matter how much of it I see, there's always something new. (Once I discovered an old fashioned pub located on the basement floor of one of the skyscrapers.)

Reading this book also reminded me that I have to go ghost hunting again soon. Granted, so far I haven't been able to find much evidence, but I know strange things are out there. After all, I lived in a haunted house for a short period of time. And, to all of you skeptics out there, you'll change your tune once you see, hear, or feel, something that isn't possible. I sincerely hope that you do, it broadens your perspective on life.

Ghost hunting, especially with friends is a lot of fun. Get some cameras, tape recorders, a compass, and go. Half of the fun is seeing everyone getting very freaked out over something that turns out to be nothing--remind me to tell you the story of the cemetery balloon.

I plan to get my friends together soon to visit the most haunted city in the state, as well as one of the most haunted cities in the world, Charleston, SC. If I find anything I'll post pictures, and either way, I'm sure I'll have some amusing stories to tell. Wish me luck on that. Sometimes it's difficult to get everyone together, especially since many of my friends work on the weekends, but I still want to try. And, if not Charleston, I do have friends that know of other good places in the state to look.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Time for a Change

Even though I love the cyberpunk genre, I'm thinking of taking a break from it and working on a new fantasy novel. Still, before I go into the "why," I'd like to tell you a little more about my completed trilogy of novels.

The trilogy of cyberpunk books I've written take place in "Cimmerian City," a futuristic city with the ruins of the original city buried beneath it in a series of underground caves. I'm content with how the books turned out, and I only have one more to proof read for content before they'll all be ready for some serious editing, and hopefully publishing. I've started on a fourth book in this universe as well, but I just don't want to burn myself out on the setting or the characters. They mean to much to me to do that.

This is the teaser I always send with my query letters for the first novel of the series, Eternity Game. Let me know what you think.

The main character, Rose, is rescued from a plane hijacking by a mysterious stranger named Julio and a romance begins to bloom. Rose and Julio are swept into a plot of corporate sabotage when androids are brutally destroyed in the building where Rose works. One of her friends even goes missing while trying to solve the mystery. Rose’s life is also repeatedly threatened when the conspirators believe she knows too much. When Rose and Julio finally bring those responsible to justice, Rose is confronted by Julio’s mysterious past and he is forced to reveal himself as a vampire. His offer to turn her into a vampire is the catalyst for her kidnapping and ultimately involvement in a dark underworld that she never knew existed.

All of the novels I'm writing in the cyberpunk universe take place in this city and are connected to each other by characters and the way the characters interact with the world. For instance, in one of the later books Julio is forced to resort to something horrific to survive, feeding on an infant. He manages to help the child survive. One day, that same child will be one of the main characters in a novel called "Extraordinary," a book about a group of teenagers with psychic abilities taking place in the same city. I'm about one hundred and fifty pages into that novel as well. Ironically, I came up with the idea for that novel before I started writing the trilogy. (Something else you should know about me, I'm a speed writer. I wrote the trilogy in a little less than a year, and I didn't rush through it.)

However, even though I love this series, I'm going to take a break from it and write something totally different. I haven't gotten far in the fantasy novel I'm planning, but I can tell you a little more about the setting. It takes place in a world where strong emotional settings give life to the creatures of chaos, the fey. The fey rely on the humans to feed on their memories, dreams, emotions, and sometimes even their souls, but as with most entities born from imagination, there are good fey and bad. For instance, if they're manifesting on an old battleground, they might become the likeness of ghosts or wraiths. If they're in a forest surrounded by superstition, they might become dragons, unicorns, or tree spirits. The plot of the book centers around a girl who finds out that she is in actuality a changeling. She's shunned from both worlds, but has to find her place in both of them.

Anyway, let me know what you think. The idea is still in it's early stages. Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 17, 2009


The title of this entry is referring to the Kafka novel. I've observed that writing is a dynamic process that changes as we improve our skills, and changes us in the journey. I'll explain.

When I first started writing, it was around my senior year of high school. I began writing a generic fantasy novel in an old notebook in my spare time. Eventually, with college approaching and other worries, I put the novel away and decided I would work on it again later. (I probably knew I didn't intend to, but I did anyway. At the time I didn't think I wanted to be a writer for a living. I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer...but we'll save my reasons for changing jobs for another entry.)

When I went to college, I became involved in gaming and wrote a very long character history, and added to that history chapter by chapter. I showed it to my friends who were very encouraging, telling me that they really enjoyed it and that they wanted to see more. So every time I wrote on the history I showed it to them in weekly installments. They told me that I should be a writer.

I also, during this time, took a creative writing class and wrote my first short horror story, "Jack and Jill." It was about a woman being haunted by the ghost of her suicidal boyfriend. My writing teacher told me that it was the best short horror story he had seen in his class in years and I should publish it. He pointed me in the direction for finding a magazine to submit it to.

Well, to make a long story short, I found both the notebook and the character history recently when I was going through some old papers. I read them and couldn't believe it. THEY WERE TERRIBLE! The grammar was like that of a third grader, and it was kind of me to think the plots were simply generic. Also, the characters were all two dimensional. I don't think one of them changed. I even found my old copy of "Jack and Jill" and, while it wasn't as bad as the fantasy novel or the character history, in comparison to the short stories I write now the style definitely needed improvement.

It was then that I realized in just a few years my writing had changed so much that looking back on it I could barely recognize my own work. It also made me realize that the more I write, the better I'll be. I'll probably be looking back on my first novels in ten years and thinking the same thing.

Still, I'm not trying to say that those people who liked my work had bad taste, or that they were lying to me to make me feel good. It just made me realize I could do so much better for my friends and for everyone that reads my work. It made me wish I could let them read what I've been working on right now. The work I started then is so sub par compared to the work I have now, it's amazing. While the realization was kind of sad, it also made me happy at the same time--it means I made it. When you can subjectively look at your work and see how dramatically your style has changed and improved, it means you're developing your own style and morphing into a real writer.

I've noticed that I feel at home cloistered in my writing room and staring at the computer for hours on end. How much writing I've done for the day greatly increases or decreases my mood, because writing is not only my job, but my pleasure. Ironically though, since I'm allowed to stay home and write, it means I'm also unemployed. Even when my novels get published on any official form, there's no place to circle the job "writer." So, in some ways, I'm like Gregor, cloistered inside of my room and unable to work. But, I like to think my metamorphosis is more like that of a butterfly, and less offensive to my family. I just need a chance to spread my wings.

This blog entry is for those of you who want to write. The moral is, don't give up when you get rejected, but also remember that the stories you write starting out, are the stories you'll probably hate later. Don't be discouraged by that, but think of it as a journey, your own personal metamorphosis that you'll get to watch as you improve.

In the future, I'll be adding more blog entries to help out beginning writers. Even though I still technically am one, I have enough experience to at least help. I remember that I had a very hard time getting started and needed as much guidance as possible. For those of you who are just starting to write, I recommend these books.

The Writer's Market - It's a yearly compilation of publishers, magazines, trade journals, literary agents, and also provides some advice for writing query letters and other important tips for beginners.

Stephen King A Memoir of the Craft On Writing - This is a very straightforward book that gives you interesting insight into the life of one of the greatest horror novelists (in my opinion), as well as everything from where he gets his inspiration from what to do to get your own career started.

William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White's The Elements of Style - This short book gives you not only good tips about common grammatical mistakes, but also tells you basic principles of composition and ways to start forming your own style.

I'm sure there are many more. And, anyone who reads this, feel free to add to the list. But, these three will at least get you started on the right path. I hope this list helps a little, and remember, READ! READ! READ! Reading will improve your writing.

Thanks for reading. I'll have more for you in the future, including samples of my work. (Maybe even samples of my early work, if I'm brave enough...)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Addict's Introduction

My pen name is Nancy Gray and I'm a writer. (My pen name used to be Angela Gray, so for those of you following the two anthologies I mentioned in my bio, that will be the name the stories are published under.) I write horror, science fiction, and fantasy, and sometimes a combination of genres also known as "speculative fiction." Still, don't let the idea of speculative fiction scare you away. I'm in it to entertain myself and others, not to make a point or "seem clever."

When I decided to start a writing blog, one of my friends reminded me of something important. He told me as a new writer to reflect on "why I write." I've put some thought into this question and now think that I have an answer for it.

I'm addicted, and I'm not ashamed. I'm addicted to writing because it frees the stories trapped in my mind. It puts form to my imagination and allows me to create my own world that can be enjoyed by others. It's a way to convey an image that can be enjoyed by everyone, like designing a roller coaster and watching others ride it.

I've always had an overactive imagination, and allowing it to take control is freeing, allowing me to escape with my readers for just a moment into a world that offers more than the mundane. That is why I write, and that is why I hope you'll read. Welcome to my blog.