Sunday, October 31, 2010


funny dog pictures-Kut down in mid stride  by teh Sandman
see more dog and puppy pictures

Caught between yesterday's outing with friends, writing after, and today's errands and NaNo starting tomorrow, blog is taking a break for this weekend. Back to business in the coming week.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Dance Friday #25 - energize

With NaNoWriMo looming ever closer -as in Monday- we're getting down to the wire when it comes to getting pumped. Clear the floor, crank up the sound and dance like nobody's watching.

i like your stance on this issue, Sophie Ellis-Bextor:

Smash Mouth has words of wisdom and inspiration:

Back in my freshman year of college, a classmate and I were somewhat baffled by this new thing called "email" we were supposed to learn, and to keep things interesting, made all our posts to each other in regard to a new course we dubbed "Davy Dancing." In short, dancing in the style of Davy Jones (guy playing tambourine, for you younguns.) It involved painting one wall and section of floor in one's room in white and yellow stripes, and much silly flailing around. I will state for the record that the Monkees were already a nostalgia act by this time. They still rock.

Since I'm in the nostalgic-energy mood, here's something that had me wildly dancing about the living room as a tween. Still does today:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy Dance Friday #24 - Grumpy Dancing

Everybody has grumpy days, and since I've landed smack in the middle of one, that does affect the choices of clips. Thankfully, I have longtime friend and writer buddy E. Catherine Tobler (who writes wonderful and gorgeous fantasy stories) helping out as guest grumpy dancer. Join us as we stomp about and growl.

This video from Scissor Sisters sets the mood:

E suggested this tidbit from Sophie Ellis Bextor, and it makes me think of what my time travel's heroine, Summer, might do if she ever completely lost her marbles.

Also from E, a classic 80s dance ditty, with bonus Nathan Fillion. Dance isn't the main focus, but it sure is fun, so in it goes:

It's okay to have grumpy days, and a good friend will always help get through them. Grab a nearby bud and crank up the volume:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On Finding One's Voice, part the second and counting

Today's picture is a jumble of things. Artwork by my father, Rudy Carrasco, as a book cover for Party of Dreamers by Robert Lowry, turned into a poster for The Sims2 by me.
Said poster hung in a Sims2 house made by me, based on a floorplan for one of the original Levittown houses, for a Secret Santa gift on a Sims forum. Lots of things all mushed together to make the image for this entry. Which has nothing to do with any of the above.

Nor, strictly, does the new video song from Ben Folds and Nick Hornsby (with Pomplamoose) but I stumbled across it on my morning interwebs rounds. Then again, I adore Ben Folds' voice, both singing and artistic (plus his gorgeous piano work) and the way he has of encapsualting a whole life in a few minutes of music. Have him cowrite songs with Nick Hornsby, who wrote the book and script for About A Boy, one of my favorite movies ever, and it's an early birthday present. Stick an extra surprise song out there and I am already over the moon.

I was surprised to see one of the comments left after the video mentioning that while it was a good song, the viewer felt "like a lazy loser" because of the lyrics. :headscritch: I found it inspiring and encouraging, reminding me that I don't have to settle for the mundane. Your mileage, unless you are a clone of me, may and should be different. I love digging beneath the surface, down deep to where it may get a little uncomfortable (a college roommate dubbed my very first ms "how to completely mess with somebody's life in five hundred pages or more." She was right.) but when we find the root of the problem, that's where the healing can begin, and the climb up to the HEA.

Though I don't hold with the concept of a muse, if I had one, she'd be British. Trust me on this. Part of it comes from having Scottish neighbors from infancy through elementary school and my parents' rather international circle of friends. (Hello, Mrs Bloomer, wherever you are, and thanks for the UK influences.) The vast majority of my characters call the British Isles home (good for a historical author these days) and well, it feels like a natural fit. That sensibility that life can be hard at times, and if we're going through hell, well, we keep going; that resonates.

One song on the new Lonely Avenue album hit me right in the gut. "Picture Window" may be triggering for those who have had a seriously ill loved one, but what struck me was the "yes, that's exactly how it is" in certain moments, that struggle of anger and hope.

Very black moment, eh? Definitely something that speaks my language, and the combination of the New Year's fireworks seen from a hospital window has loads of perspective. Filing this one away for future inspiration.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sweet November

No, this is not a stray movie post, and I haven't seen that particular movie. The title reference comes from looking at my schedule for November and going "eep." Thankfully (heh) Thanksgiving plans are firm and at least one pre-Thanksgiving outing with other friends is set. The eep-inducing schedule items include:

  • moderating this awesome online workshop on Riding the Writing Life Rollercoaster with instructor Barbara Wallace
  • While simultaneously taking another online workshop on voice because that's my focus for the learning-to-be-a-better-writer part of life
  • also making all the mumblemumbles for Christmas presents because this is the first time I get to devote to that now that things have (hah) relatively settled down
  • I signed up for NaNoWriMo (I'm Unzadi on there; feel free to friend me) to pound out a draft of Nothing Short of Heaven
  • polishing two, count them, two projects that have editors or agents wanting a look at them
  • plotting out (pun unintended, but what the heck, it fits) my workload for the next year
  • including roughing out the level two of my From Fanfiction to Fantastic Fiction workshop
  • new art techniques and frequent practice (reference above mention of mumblemumbles)
  • read at least one book a week, as if I'm not reading, I'm not writing
Know what? I love it. The more I have to do in this regard, the better I do it. I work great under pressure, but if left to work free-range, as it were, I'll wander off and be found days later with naught but a vintage paperback and a Moleskine notebook filled with incomprehensible scribbles about Moonlight, Lapsang Souchong tea and the fashions of Georgian England. Or in a fetal position under my desk, clutching a half emptied bag of chocolate covered gummi bears.

I bemoaned my crammed schedule to a friend last night, who gave me a knowing look and said "you're going to do it all and it's all going to be great." Since this friend is the pragmatic, sensible sort, I'm betting she's going to be right. I'll still whinge at some points and I do still want the chocolate covered gummi bears, but I'm looking forward to a great November.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday at the Movies #22 - TV closeup: Psych

When I first saw the original promos for Psych, I didn't think I was going to like it, but it did follow Monk, and after the first glimpse of the chemistry between James Roday and Dule Hill as a comedic pair, they had me hooked. The premise is there in the tag line; fake psychic, real detectives. Shawn Spencer, raised by his police officer dad, Henry, to have all the skills of a trained detective, coupled with his natural intelligence and observation, has one thing standing in the way of following in his father's footsteps; a tarnished record from a teenage offense. James Roday's audition footage proves this is a perfect marriage of actor and character.

Pretending to be a psychic so the police department will hire him and let him work on cases, Shawn drags his ever loyal childhood best friend and straight man, Gus, played by Dule Hill, along for the ride, wherever it goes. Gus may fume and stomp and refuse to have anything to do with Shawn's latest schemes, but in the end, he'll be matter what Shawn calls him.

Shawn's over the top, audacious antics usually do seem to work, though he does encounter a few sceptics. Enter one Detective Carlton Lassiter, a.ka. "Lassie" to Shawn, the very model of a modern major-general, er, detective. This straighter than straight arrow proves an engaging foil, with his by the book procedures to work and life.

Since this is me, there is indeed a love interest, Detective Juliet O'Hara, Lassiter's partner. Juliet values honesty and directness, which clashes with the wool Shawn has pulled over everybody's eyes, though the attraction between the two is undeniable. Many close calls, dancing about the edges of each other's lives, with all the innocence and charm of a teenager with their first big crush, but no doubt that once these two are able to connect, it's the real, grownup thing. When it comes to Juliet, there's no kidding involved.

Fully on to Shawn's scheme, alternately supporting him and reining him in, is long suffering dad Henry, played to perfection by Corbin Bernson. Henry is as active and vital in his sixties as he was as a younger man, raising Shawn on his own. This is one father-son relationship with all the ups and downs one might expect from two equally brilliant men with two very different outlooks on life. Even having found his own path in life, Shawn has never stopped admiring his dad or needing his approval. This fan-made video captures some of the memorable moments.

All in all, pure silliness with a lot of heart. Sly references to other projects by cast members, pop culture references and inside jokes (including affectionate jabs at rival program, The Mentalist and a pineapple in every episode...somewhere) tied with a big floppy bow of "psych-outs" at the end of every episode make this Doctor Feelgood's go-to perscription.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Playing hooky again, this time with preview

Saturday at the movies deferring until Sunday again, as a friend is kidnapping me for lunch and whatnot. In the meantime, Psych's theme song is darned catchy in any language:




Holiday version:

'til tomorrow, all. Toodles!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Happy Dance Friday #23 - 80s party

Those of us of a certain age may have the urge to crank up the speakers and flail about the living room in a manner that may scare children, seniors and cats, but sometimes one must give in to the call of 80s music. If there's not enough dance content in the following clips to please everyone, everyone is kindly invited to get up and join me in aforementioned flailing. Neon fishnet tights optional.

I love how they go right back to the normal workday after this:

Some of the songs that stick out as most memorable to me employ lyrical dissonance, where the lyrics say one thing but the tune has a completely different mood. Like this one. Bouncy, dancey music, with a bleak undercurrent and a desperate grab for something better tying it all together. Story in there somewhere, and I would have loved to see more of the street corner dancing. I would totally have dropped some cash in the hat.

I defy anyone to go through this without at least a toe tap. Admit it, you want to be pulled into a comic book, too. I'll let you pick which one.

Since my DH would likely not allow me back in the house if I did not include the following, here it is:

Time to wind this party down and get back to work, so find your partners for a slow dance, acoustic style.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On finding one's voice, part the first

Screenshot here is from one of my Sims2 photoshoots. Sims are very compliant models (especially if I turn free will off) and spending a few hours setting up a shoot and taking pictures lets ideas mull about in the story part of my brain. Sometimes I'll have something in mind when I start a shoot, sometimes not.

This particular shoot starred Jacqueline, my favorite model and one of my own sculpts, and her husband, Matthew (not pictured, but he's somebody else's design, though I've customized him.) I stage the shoots to get images to use in my art, both digital and otherwise.

Current art crush is mixed media artist Michelle Ward. Her most recent blog entry on scented candles made me nearly weep with recognition. For me, this is a good thing; I'm a dramatic sort of wench. The photos included are gorgeous, and, like Michelle, I use scent association to keep my mind on task when I'm in the office. Since autumn is now in full swing, time for me to lay in some appropriate scents. Anything with cinnamon, pumpkin or cloves is automatically good, and if the candle is named anything like "fireside," I need it. Summertime is not my season, and with the changing of the leaves, I get my superpowers back.

I do my best work in the cooler months, pounding keys and scribbling my way through prettified legal pads (current one coordinates with these) with hands encased in hand-knit mitts and listening to equally ornate music; current choices can include Meat Loaf, James Blunt, Coldplay, etc. I do tend towards male singers when I choose favorite music, though Mary Chapin Carpenter has some wonderful stuff as well. With my office assistant, Miss Skye O'Malley, (who is a kitteh) positioning herself in exactly the right spot for my hand to dip down at random intervals and scritch behind her ear or under her chin, that's a perfect setup.

Over the past week, I've been digging deep into what comprises an author's voice, inspired by listening to a workshop CD by Barbara Samuels. Her worksheet for that is on her site, and can be found here. Lots of great questions on the worksheet, and I will be posting a few of my answers to those later on. The most important thing I've learned from this so far is that our voice is made up of everything we have been, seen, done, experienced, wanted, whatevered. Surrounding myself with what I am intrinsically drawn to isn't being self indulgent; it's a smart investment in honing my voice and since my voice is the only one I can write with, keeping it honed is essential.

Trends come, trends go. Nobody can please everybody, but apple trees can only grow apples and I believe there's a bumper crop coming in this year.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Saturday at the movies deferring until Sunday this week. Brain needs coaxing to join body today. Am tempting it with Tiffany Clare's The Surrender of a Lady and a trip to Michael's for art stuff.
Also possibly a nap, but let's stay realistic.

Saturday at the Movies #21 - Movie related meanderings

My brain refused to search for clips this weekend, as I'm focused on some voice (writing, not singing; my not singing is, I believe, covered in the Geneva Convention) exercises, but it did get me to thinking.

Icon above taken from a promotional shot from the dear departed New Amsterdam tv series. Definitely in need of a closeup of its own, and that will come in time. While it is good that I can watch all the episodes (all whopping eight of them, and I will throw extremely buttery popcorn at the screen -and then immediately wipe the butter off because smudges drive me crazy- at the end of the extremely disappointing cliffhanger last episode) I still want the DVD. The DVD that will never be, I'm quite sure.

This sort of thing vexes me, and I do get vexed a lot. As I've mentioned earlier, I live about a five minute walk from a multiplex. I have not been there since The Lovely Bones was near the end of its theatre run. Shocking? I do love movies, and I prefer to go alone, so I get absolute say over the snacks (type and amount) and beverage (what goes in must come out and movies do not have commercial breaks, so I like to go dry) and where to sit (as close to the screen as possible; I like my movies BIG.) So why don't I go?

I often say that I'm saving my movie money to pay to reanimate the corpse of Ismail Merchant. My favorite sort of movie is the period drama. Mega bonus points if it's an original story as opposed to a fictionalized biography. If the BBC could make theatrical movies for American cinema, I'd be over the moon. Since that isn't happening anytime soon, and I'm not one for horror, gross-out comedy, action or SF/F, that pretty much locks me out. Things go in cycles. In time, my sort of movies will come around again.

In the meantime, I am looking at the DVD section at Target. There's the first season of Law and Order UK that activates my drool reflex. Any seasons of Psych and Monk could be considered as equally for myself and DH. Even though I already have Moonlight, I have been known to pet any copies in stock. The first season of Highlander is on my office shelf, and the "movie" of the two part episode Counterfeit as well. Subsequent seasons need to come home, as do two through six of my all time favorite, Lost. I haven't yet tried Mad Men, though probably some day.

What I want out of a movie, no matter the format or genre, is very basic. I want to shut out the world, sit in the dark and have somebody tell me a story. The rest of the world can fend for itself for two hours at a time.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Happy Dance Friday #22 For the Lulz

Never underestimate the influence of a genuinely felt happy dance:

New Psych episodes in November are cause for celebration, as is any chance to see Dule Hill strut his stuff. Besides being a gifted comic actor, Dule is also a professionally trained tap dancer:

Baby penguin! Tap dancing! In the snow! I have to see this one:

Because a genuinely felt happy dance transcends language, we have this next entry. (dance portion starts at 1:47 for purists) It's brief but well worth it. :

I have no idea how they did this, but come on, monkeys + Riverdance = must see:

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

On My TBR shortlist and a question

It's no secret that my TBR pile has long since passed "pile" and is now "cases."

Fighting for top spot at the moment are:
The Surrender of a Lady by Tiffany Clare
-I've been slavering over this one since I first read a blog by the author discussing the premise. Heroine sold into a harem to cover her late husband's debts and having the experience make her stronger? :makes grabby hands:

Scoundrel by Zoe Archer
This is the second installment in her Blades of the Rose quartet, preceded by Warrior. While I am not normally interested in paranormal romances, these read more like adventures than paranormals, strictly, and the promise of an Indiana Jones style read and exotic settings caught my interest. Also will have to hunt down her entry in the anthology Half Past Dead.

A Season of Seduction by Jennifer Haymore
- I am a sucker for a Christmas set story where emotions run high. Since the prior two books in this expanded Regency era world had lots of angst and tangley hearts, I'm betting this will as well. Is early October too soon for a Christmas book, though?

Of course, any of these can get tossed by the wayside to wait their turn as soon as I get my mitts on The Border Vixen by Bertrice Small. Since my birthday is in October and there's always a new Small historical in October, that's my traditional gift to me (though if family members want to beat me to it, by all means, do. )

Since one of the exercises I have in my From Fanfiction to Fantastic Fiction class involves spotting common threads, the first thing that came to mind with the above is that all are linked to other books. Even the debut title. I've had several reader friends ask me if I know of any currently published historical romances that are not in series, and that's making me go "hmm."

So far, I have four titles in electronic release and none of them are linked in any way. All are in different times and locations. That reflects my reading preferences as well. If a book is all on its own, no spinoffs, sequels, prequels, companions, etc, that will catch my attention faster than a book that's linked to something else. This sort does seem to be in short supply these days, but with time crunchy for a lot of us, and the economy as it is, with book costs more than they used to be, there is also an appeal in being able to pick up a book and knowing one doesn't need a scorecard, family tree or a hunting expedition to pick up X, Y and Z' s "own book."

While much has been written on the appeal of connected books - being able to revisit what's already familiar is a biggie- I'm interested to see what readers like about trying something new. What makes a successful standalone to you?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Strange New Developments

Now that my September online workshop, From Fanfiction to Fantastic Fiction, has wrapped, I'm looking at developing a level two course, which is brand new territory for me. Students of this class and writing friends have all had good suggestions, which I'm considering and I have a file started on what the course should include.

Which brings more questions. If I'm going to discuss tools that I've used in my transition to original fiction, such as the enneagram system, character archetypes, birth order, etc, do I need permission from the sources of those tools? I do already have one character worksheet I intend to use, and have permission from the originators of that, so all set there.

Though I've moderated a two-month class before, I've never taught one. That alone will be a challenge, but the subject matter is dear to me. While writing fanfic, I met several friends who have stayed with me throughout the transition to original fiction (actually at a write-in with one of them now. :waves at MP Barker:) and it's a sure bet I will be picking their brains to get input and maybe even a few quotes for the new course.

So, dear readers, do you now, or have you ever commited fanfic? For those who have, and are now writing original fiction, what skills did you pick up there that are serving you well now? Any advice for fanficcers who aspire to boldly go into realms of their own?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Saturday at the Movies #20 - Closeup: Moonlight

First of all, I've come to the conclusion that I need to see more movies. I do keep a list of movies to blog about, and there are still many that I haven't mentioned yet, but at the moment, my viewing tastes are running toward the small screen. Even though I live on the same street as a multiplex, I can't remember the last time I was in a theater. Best guess is over a year.

The existence of DVD compliations of entire seasons of television programs can be a big boost to the cinematically deprived, so I'm going to count those as "movies" for the purpose of this blog. I'll likely be babbling more in depth as well. A lot of the shows I've loved the most are long off the air. Loving and losing both New Amsterdam (which will get a closeup of its own) and Moonlight in the same year, well, that does things to a gal. Especially when said gal is a romance writer and will jump on a good romantic pairing like the starving hyena she is in the tv department.

Moonlight - absolutely in my top five tv series ever. Yes, it's a vampire show, and no, I'm not into vampires. It isn't so much about vampires in specific as the idea of "otherness." Past mistakes, second chances, redemption, secrets, truth, acceptance and the knowledge that those who love, will love no matter what. Heady stuff.

I have seen Alex O'Loughlin in the new Hawaaii 5-0 pilot, and may tune in for future episodes, but he's always going to be Mick to me, and my brain may do this at least once per episode:
Mick's one chance at being a normal human, and besides stuffing himself with everything he's wanted to eat for the past sixty years, he takes advantage of his literal day in the sun by having a beachside picnic with his Beth...then gives up his newfound mortality when it's the only way to save her life.

Not only am I not into vampires, but reporter heroines are a pet peeve of mine. Sophia Myles as Beth managed to avert the stereotypes; she can be determined and strong-willed with enough softness that it strikes a perfect balance, and when she learns the truth about Mick, she's well able to handle it. Mick, I loved from the get-go. A decent guy at heart, betrayed and turned into a vampire by his evil (really) ex-wife, Coraline, Mick first saved Beth's life when Beth was four and Coraline had, umm, other plans for Beth.

All this time, Beth has considered that it was a gaurdian angel who kept her safe and rescued her from Coraline's clutches. When she meets Mick again, as an adult, the chemistry is undeniable...and complicated, because Beth is already involved with her gentleman friend, Josh. Torn between two good men, Beth tries to find the right path, until that decision is made for her. That episode is both one of my favorites and extremely hard to watch on many levels. Excruciatingly hard choices for both Mick and Beth in that moment of decision and it does have effects on their relationship afterwards. I actually would have preferred the Mick/Beth/Josh triangle to play out over a few seasons, but since we only had the one, this works. Very much fodder to mine in a novel someday.

A) I find it amusingly ironic that a vampire show is on the "living" channel, and B) please note that though both Mick and Beth's characters are LA natives, Alex O'Loughlin is Australian and Sophia Myles is British. No Americans in this pairing, guys; great work on the accents.

I'll leave this closeup with the end of the episode 12:04 AM.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Happy Dance Friday #21
- writing about dancing is tricky business

Seriously. I'm writing about a visual medium, but all I can use is words. Which is something I've come across a lot while writing my time travel ms, Endless Summer. Since Endless Summer is a time travel, I get to deal with not only two different forms of dance, but those forms are from two different centuries.

Here's what "dance" would mean to my 16th century hero, Angus:
Or something close to that, allowing for the lack of camcorders in the 16th century. With variatons according to region, ability, talent, and the like. (Summer and Angus made me add that disclaimer. They have rather strong opinions.)

Wheras Summer, a professional ballroom dancer in modern day NYC, "dance " means:

and this:

Comptetition is huge for Summer. Her original goal is to become a ten dance champion, though her first step is getting back into the business. Whether it's for fun or profit, dance isn't merely what Summer does, it's who she is. Which means lots of motion - she choreographs, rehearses, teaches and performs in the story as well as blowing off steam. Angus wouldn't normally find himself cutting a rug in the 21st century, but he's got a very good reason to join Summer.

All of which means lots of research for the writer. Watching lots of dance videos, television programs, dance-themed movies, reading books on dance, interviewing dancers both amateur and professional, and approaching friends and family members with my "don't bug me; I'm writing" look while simultaneously greeting them with the phrase "I need your body." Thankfully, I have understanding friends and family, who know that what I want is research-related. Only one so far has given me the flat out no, with a suggestion that next time, I use one of the oversized teddy bears. I seem to recall muttering something about oversized teddy bears having terrible frame before stomping back off to pound keys. Currently considering purchasing a jointed pair of Barbie and Ken dolls to spare my family such encounters in the future. Either that or dance lessons.