Friday, July 29, 2011

Freaky Friday: Three...Extremes

*NOTE: I am away on vacation. This post has been scheduled for your enjoyment. So...Enjoy!*

Warning: This review - or movie - is not for the faint of heart!

All credit - and curses - go to Sara for hounding me to see this compilation of three talented stories by Asia's top directors. The film is comprised of Dumplings, directed by Fruit Chan (Hong Kong), Cut, directed by Park Chan-wook (South Korea) and Box, directed by Takashi Miike (Japan). On their own, each piece stands as a brilliant example of horror mastery, but together they are totally disturbing.
Dumplings involves a woman's downward spiral into depravity for the promise of youth and beauty. Her marriage is failing, her looks are fading, and all she can focus on is recapturing what was lost. I won't give away the ending, but let's just say ambrosia comes in dumpling form, though you may never eat again.
Cut blew by me in a whirlwind of thriller style story telling - fast paced, action driven, etc. I love the final scene and will say only enough to entice you to watch...Piano keys, super glue, heavy wires, and psycho maniac.
Box, by far my favorite of the three, kept my eyes glued to the screen the entire time. The scenery was visually stunning. The music - or lack of music - seeped into my soul and stayed there. I got wrapped up in the artistry but never to the point that I forgot the compelling story. This one goes well beyond "horror" movies.
Three...Extremes is 3 out of 3 on horror, story, setting, pace, plot, characters, and so on and so on. It sticks with you and churns around your psyche long after its ended. If you haven't seen this one, hunt it down and watch. You won't be disappointed.

Grade: A+

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Breaking Down Writing - The How and Why?

*NOTE: I am away on vacation. This post has been scheduled for your enjoyment. So...Enjoy!*

As you can see from the note above, I'm out and about for the next two weeks on vacation. I'm recharging my batteries and - hopefully - getting some writing done on the down time (planes, trains, and buses, oh my). Which made me wonder...how do you write? And why do you do it?

I write with every conceivable tool imaginable. In black and white marble books, in tiny spiral notebooks, on random pieces of paper, on napkins, and of course, on the computer. I've even recorded notes to myself using my phone. I used to always write with paper and pen, but I find my brain works too fast for my writing to keep up OR I write so fast that I can't read my handwriting afterward. The keyboard is definitely the superior method - 100 wpm minimum. No speed limit here.
Many writers use music as background noise or to get them to feel a particular emotion. I can't write with music at all. I've tried; I've failed. I need the bustling city background noise or the TV set on low. I can also write in relative silence, but music throws me off. I end up typing the lyrics or concentrating too much on the song. *Criss cross will make you, jump, jump! (Dedicated to Soul)*
Methods for writing come almost as varied as books. But, if you want my suggestions (and your reading this blog post, so I assume you do, *batting eyes at you*), I've added them to this handy list:
  1. Write whenever the muse calls, no matter where you are or what you're doing, stop and write! (But, don't only write when she calls. See #2)
  2. Write every day. Even if you're in a bad mood or feel sick or can only sneak in fifteen minutes, write.
  3. Set a word count each day or each week. Goals will help you keep on track and the overall picture in mind. (My word count goal is 1k per day)
  4. Use what works for you. If you like music, use it. Prefer silence? Find a quiet space. Know yourself.
  5. If you tell friends and families that you're a writer, then you have to act like one. This means saying NO to some of their requests. Your writing time is your writing time.
  6. Get involved with writing communities (like Absolute Write, Savvy Authors, or Pitch University) and professional organizations (like RWA or SCBWI).
  7. Pick your critique partners and beta readers wisely. They can make or break your work with their feedback. You want them to be solid. (#6 can help you find good ones)
  8. And most importantly, remember WHY you write. For me, I write because I can't imagine not. 
How and why do you write?

Friday, July 22, 2011

What's It About Horror Movies?

*NOTE: I am away on vacation. This post has been scheduled for your enjoyment. So...Enjoy!*

I recently had a conversation with a friend that went as follows...

Friend: "Tina, you write romance novels and urban fantasy. Your books are all about love and adventure. So..." Awkward pause. "What's with your freaky obsession with horror movies?"

Tina: Stunned into stuttering. "Ah. Um..." Raises eyebrows at friend's question. "Well, how can you NOT like them?"

Friend: "They're gross. And they freak me out. I can't even watch the old black and white films without putting a hand over my eyes?"

Tina: Flies off into a side tangent. "Well, the 1920s Dracula is scarier than most horror movies today. Nosferatu with the long fingers." Eeeks. "So creepy."

Friend: "You see. That's just weird. How do you like that kind of stuff?"

I didn't have a real answer for my friend. Recalling that first moment I watched Max Schreck appear on the screen as Count Orlok in Nosferatu, still gives me chills. Screaming at the TV when the killer is right behind the victim, covering my best friend's eyes at the "really scary parts", cringing inwardly when the director shows us the tormented mind of the killer, the music that matches the rhythm of my heartbeat, all of it ignites my senses.
Perhaps its the physical and emotional experience that keeps me coming back again and again. I jump. I scream (in fright and frustration). I cower. I shake my fist. I laugh. And sometimes when the characters are especially annoying, I cheer when the killer wins. It takes me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, and provides the ultimate thrill ride, safely from the comfort of my living room or movie theater. No matter how gruesome or frightening, the bad guy is not getting me.
Isn't that the real fun of a horror film? The experience. Good fights the most sinister evil and no matter how many lives are lost, no matter how many people die, the main character often wins. When evil wins, it's usually because the characters were so ridiculously dumb (like running up those damn steps. Why don't they run out the front door?), that we secretly want the killer to whack them.
It's a rush. It's a thrill. And heck, it's just plain fun. What's your take on horror films? Love 'em or hate 'em?

Oh, and seriously, how creepy is Count Orlok?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tribute to J. K. Rowling and the World of Harry Potter

The internet is buzzing with excitement over the latest and last installment of the Harry Potter films. From reviews to personal stories to fandemonium, we're getting Hogwarts from every angle. Yet, one important person seems to be a bit absent from the festivities, the author. For this Writer Wednesday, I'd like to dedicate the blog to J. K. Rowling. The woman behind the phenomena that is Harry Potter.
If you haven't been hiding under a rock for the past decade, then you know Rowling's rags to riches story. The loss of her mother, her struggles with depression, her divorce, and her life as a single mom all took a heavy toll on the would be author. Yet, through all her trials, she continued to write the tale of an orphan wizard boy overcoming all odds. For many writers, the character's journey mirrors our own and acts as a catharsis for our pain. I imagine Rowling felt very much the same about Harry and his friends.
My adventure with Harry started in high school when I was still too cool and too jaded to embark upon a "kiddie" story. It took the constant badgering of a friend to get me to read the first book, but when I finally did, I never looked back. I shared the book with my brother, nine years my junior, and it became a bond between us. Two books later my husband (then boyfriend) joined in the fun as well, and the bonds between the three of us grew. For years, we waited as book after book in the series came out. For the last book, we could only get one copy the day of its release, and I had to read the book in twenty-four hours so that the two of them could get their hands on it sooner.
Now, as the series has come to its final conclusion with the last film, I can't help but feel sad, but also thankful for everything these stories have given me. Shaking off my snide attitude toward "kid literature", I went on to study it in college and write my Master's thesis on this wonderful field. I've discovered so many new and exciting children and YA authors, and I began my writing journey as a picture book writer. None of these things - not my bonds over books with my brother and husband nor my unwavering respect for children's literature - would have come to pass without J. K. Rowling and the World of Harry Potter. So with profound gratitude, I can only say, thank you for everything. It's been an incredible journey.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Freaky Friday: Super 8

Oh, the 1980s, how I miss them. Technically, this film is set in 1979, but it has enough 80s appeal to remind me of the decade. From cassette tapes to 8mm film to the birth of the Walkman, I felt rooted in childhood.
Now, onto the movie...I can't help but wonder if this is the combination of J. J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg's childhood dreams and nightmares. The stereotypical "pudgy" kid goes about making a horror film with a bunch of his friends. They convince the cute girl - blonde haired, blue-eyed Elle Fanning whose every bit the actress as big sister - to star in their movie. For me, the kids steal the show.
Early on in the film, they sneak out to a train station late at night. The tracks are all but empty and the child director glories in the "atmosphere" of the place. When a train starts barreling down the tracks, he screams for action, noting the "production value". But, when a truck stumbles upon the tracks, all Hell breaks loose!
The movie gets weirder from there with an Air Force conspiracy, scientific experiments, an evacuation of the town, and an abduction of the local sheriff. The ending didn't satisfy me one bit, and the plot felt like a cross between ET and ALIENS. Not exactly the greatest mix. But, the kids won me over, the special effects were pretty awesome, and the overall story kept me mildly entertained.

Not the best. Not the worst. Frankly, with a J. J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg combo, I expected much more, but for a dismal Thursday evening, it wasn't half bad. Just don't expect a Saturday night extravaganza.

Rating: Solid B

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writer Wednesday: Featuring Tracey Martin

The name of the game with all of our writers featured on "Writer Wednesday" is persistence! Tracey - affectionately known as the good Dr. - is no exception. Having worked on the craft since high school, she's switched genres, gained and lost an agent, and penned thirteen novels! She's a tremendous writer, extremely generous, and an all around good person. Very recently, she's taken another leap forward in the journey toward publication by landing an agent! Please give her your support and offer a...
Now to get the scoop straight from the writer herself. Here's Tracey...

"Tracey Martin wrote her first story back in high school for a class assignment. She probably wouldn't have written another one except that her English teacher told her she was good at it. Shocked that she might not suck at something, she tucked that information away for several years.

She wrote her first novel after finishing grad school. Turned out writing novels was a lot more fun than writing short stories, so she wrote another. And another. By her 4th, she thought she wrote something worth seeking an agent for, but alas, agents didn't agree. So she wrote a few more, switching genres to adult UF and YA. She finally did get an agent for her 8th novel (YA UF), which didn't sell, and she lost her agent. By that time she'd written yet a few more novels, queried a couple of them (#s 9 and 13), and is now very happily represented by the lovely Michelle Humphrey at ICM. Her novel-on-sub is a YA rock-n-roll retelling of Persuasion, and she hopes it will be lucky #13"

Fingers crossed for Tracey! And since she so graciously allowed me to bump her from the blog last week to report news, she gets an extra... SQUEE!!! Seriously, excited for you and can't wait to hear more good news!

For more on Tracey visit her website at...
http://tracey-martin.com/ 

You can also find her tweeting at...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Facing Fears for Freaky Friday...Mirrors!

I can hear the jokes already. Why are you afraid of mirrors? Scared you'll crack the surface with that mug? Yup. I've heard them before. But, seriously, mirrors...are....CREEPY! I'm not worried about a hair out of place, or lipstick on my teeth, or any of that silliness. Nope. I'm nervous about seeing...something that doesn't belong, and I'm not talking about gray hairs.
Picture this for a moment...You wake up in the middle of the night. The clock glares back at you, a glowing digital red 3:00am. The room is pitch black. A nasty storm slams branches against your window. You crawl out of your bed swearing you heard a strange noise in the next room.You tiptoe across your bedroom floor careful not to make a sound. As you place your hand on the doorknob, a shadow slinks across your peripheral vision. You turn and catch your reflection in the mirror. And just beyond your reflection lies something else, something you can't name. Eeek! Freaky!
Even your reflection in the mirror is weird. I mean, think about it, you're staring at the inverse of yourself. Everything you see in the mirror is the exact opposite of you. It's like a pseudo you or an evil clone. Wahaahaa. Some of the most chilling horror stories utilize mirrors. Creatures coming out of mirrors, killers (whether human, ghost, demon or other) appearing in mirrors, possessed dead children seeking vengeance from mirrors, and my personal favorite - mirrors as doorways to an alternate universe. Apparently, there's even a 2008 horror movie with my favorite 24 hour hero, Keifer called, you guessed it, MIRRORS. *Note to self, rent movie.*
So, hey, go easy on me. I know it's a totally irrational fear. And I have gotten better. I use mirrors after all, just never in the dark while saying "Bloody Mary" or "Candyman" three times. Now it's your turn to spill. What's your fears? And have YOU faced them?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Squeee! Central Florida RWA's Touch of Magic Contest Results...

Yesterday started with a mountain of work after returning from the Fourth of July weekend. I spent the day trying desperately to catch up while troubleshooting for sixteen people. To say I was tired when I got home is a HUGE understatement but...
I diligently engaged in a round of #1k1hr on Twitter and broke the 30k barrier in my WIP (work-in-progress). I felt good. Then...
Around 11pm, I get an email announcing the winners of the Central Florida's RWA Touch of Magic  contest. I knew Yelena and  I placed in the top three for BLOOD BOND in the paranormal romance division, but I had no idea of the order. Well...
WE PLACED FIRST!!!!! SQUEEEE!!!! After much dancing, screaming and scaring the heck out of my dog, I called Yelena. I hadn't even finished reading the email, I was so excited. I scrolled to the end and read it to her over the phone. It said...

The final round judge, Meredith Giordan, an amazing editor at Berkley (you know that AWESOME imprint from Penguin that publishes authors like Tom Clancy, Laurell K. Hamilton and Christine Feehan, EEP!) thought our main characters were very likable, that the hook grabbed her attention, and would love to read the full MS (manuscript). She used the word love, L-O-V-E!!!!

Now onward to fret about our submission, pace the room non-stop, and... continue writing, of course!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Freaky Friday: Drag Me to Hell

I went to the movie theater to see this one when it first came out. Yeah, I know, let the stoning begin. I bought into the trailer and the hype and Sam Raimi. Seeing this one replay on late night TV a few weeks ago made me realize...It should have gone straight to DVD.

Let’s pause for a moment because I’m sure you all know my love for the cheesy, D-class horror flick. However...this wasn’t a horror movie. Not even close. The plot was weak. The acting was overdone. The graphics were meh. Nada, nothing, zilch for horror movie buffs. But, all is not lost...
Drag Me to Hell Movie Poster
If you’re a Sam Raimi fan, you’ll appreciate the tongue-in-cheek humor. But, don’t walk into this expecting a new EVIL DEAD or you’ll be disappointed. Take this for a horror-spoof, comedy flick and you may find the $8.09 you spent on the DVD ($4.14 used) worth it.
Drag Me to Hell Authorized Screen Shot
So, what’s it about? It’s a gypsy’s revenge plot against a pretty blond banker who denies said gypsy a loan. Um...yeah. That about covers it, but for more details...Gypsy curses main actress, really bad stuff happens, girl’s boyfriend doesn’t believe in the curse, and girl seeks creepy characters to help her get rid of curse before she’s...ahem...dragged into Hell.

The critics raved about this movie, but the audience critiques show a mixed bag. I could see the split because it depends if you’re looking at it from a horror or comedy perspective. In fairness, I’ll give this two ratings.

Horror Rating: D+ (not failing because...well...it IS Sam Raimi)

Comedy Rating: B- (not as funny or memorable as EVIL DEAD, but entertaining)