Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Weird Beer Names and Marketing

Hubby and I were strolling through the grocery store today, and he spied a beer called "Arrogant Bastard Ale." You know when you find something with a name like that, you gotta take a closer look.

The label bears a smiling cartoon devil. The description on the back of the bottle is hysterical. Totally cheeky. It only got funnier as we read it. Someone in Marketing had a brilliant idea, because even at $4.50 a bottle, we bought one to try. (Seriously, if you have this beer where you live, go read it. *snort*)

We're living proof that humor is a great way to sell something. Work humor into your stories, and you're going to grab a reader. People like to laugh. Think about what your book has that will grab a reader emotionally--whether that's humor, or sadness, or anything in between, and really bring that out. Emotion sells romance.

By the way, Hubby disliked this beer (he being a staunch Guinness man), but he says he's keeping the bottle on principle. :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Warning: Spoiler Alert!

Now that we got the warning out of the way, on with the movie review. My first impression was that, while this was a good movie, it wasn't a great one. Granted, my expectations were insanely high, considering this is my favorite book of the Harry Potter series. But I couldn't help feeling that this was the Cliff Notes version of the book. It touched on all the high points of the book, bip-bip-bip, but never stopped long enough to examine and feel them as it went. I couldn't help sensing that it lacked the depth of emotion that could, and should, have been conveyed, given the material it had to draw from.

What I Liked:

Ron! Considering fans missed out on the "Weasley Is Our King" bit that would have come up in the last movie (no Quidditch, no WIOK - bummer!), we are given our due here in this film. We get to see Ron in his Quidditch-playing glory. Yay! The Quidditch game, by the way, is maybe my favorite of all the movies. Seeing Ron navigate the perils of romance was fun, too.

I also liked the interaction between Harry and Hermione. Very nicely done, very sweet. Perfect. In fact, all the interactions between Harry, Ron, and Hermione were well done.

They trimmed down the memory lessons with Dumbledore to the two most essential. These were the slowest parts of the book for me, so I was glad to see the director minimize them.

Harry hopped-up on Felix Felicis. Really. Flipping. Hilarious. The movie had to tread very delicately with its comedy, and where they placed it, they did so perfectly. Genius.

What I Disliked:

They changed several things that I thought should have been left as they were in the book.

One, they changed when, where, and how Ginny and Harry have their first kiss. I loved that part of the book, and I feel that, while what they did is nice, it's missing something compared to the book's portrayal.

Two, they changed where Harry is at the time of Dumbledore's death. Instead of being Petrified under his Invisible Cloak, Harry is underneath the platform where Dumbledore is standing, and able to move around and watch what's happening, though Dumbledore has made him promise not to interfere. I think it lacks the dramatic irony of Harry wanting to act, but not being able to.

Three, I was really hoping for the standoff between Harry and Snape at the end to be larger than it was. Harry accuses him twice of cowardice, and Snape doesn't react at all. I wanted this to be a much more hotheaded interchange.

Four, if I remember correctly, the children face off with the Death Eaters in the castle grounds at the end of this book. None of that happens here. A huge shame, and I imagine they must have cut it for time reasons - but it left me hanging.

Finally, there was no funeral for Dumbledore in the movie. That, I think, might have been the most grievous omission, because it's such an important part of the book. Dumbledore was the greatest wizard anyone ever knew, and we should have seen the funeral because of the impact of his death on the wizarding community.

Overall:

I will probably go see it again, but this movie is more of a play-by-play than an emotional journey through the events of the book. Viewers who have never read the series might feel like they're missing something ... and they are. (Read the book for the full impact - it's better!) "Order of the Phoenix" still stands as my favorite film. It'll be hard for them to knock that one out of the top spot. "Half-Blood Prince" sure didn't.

But still, go see it. Just to see Ron win at something besides chess ... and get the girl to boot. :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

FYI - I Am No Longer On Facebook

I have removed my Facebook account, as it's too time-consuming to maintain. From now on, the only place you will find me online is on my blog, or my website - so if you want to know all the news, this is the best place to do that. You're still free to contact me if you want to chat, and here is where I'll post any upcoming news on my current or future projects. Thanks, and have a good evening!

Skaneateles - A Perfect Summer Getaway

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I stayed recently at a B&B. That was the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles (pronounced "skinny-atlas," for you non-native folk). Talk about a summer getaway! Skaneateles is beautiful at any time of year, but the weekend I stayed there was simply amazing. Not too hot, no rain, and enough cloud cover to prevent me from burning to a crisp. How I love Skaneateles!

If you get the chance to come to upstate New York, you should check it out. It's a lovely historic town with some amazing food to be had, as well as boats galore for those of you who enjoy that. For the landlubbers, there are scads of quaint shops (including a chocolatier whose biscotti could make your eyes cross, they're so good).

I'll be living off this ultra-relaxing weekend for the rest of the summer. I'm already trying to work out the next time I'll be able to stay there. Siiiigh!

Changes to the RITA

Breaking News!

RWA has announced changes to the RITA that will allow E-published authors to submit their work. From the July 2009 RWA Hot Sheet:

"Beginning with the 2010 RITA Contest year, books published by any non-Vanity/non-Subsidy publisher may be entered in the RITA....Beginning with the 2010 RITA Contest, entries must have an original copyright date of the year preceding the contest year. However, during the 2010 transitional contest year only, those books with BOTH a 2008 original copyright date AND a 2009 North American printing date OR a 2009 first printing date may be entered so that members who had waited to enter in this contest year are not penalized by the change in policy."

This means that even if you don't get that $1000 advance, or advance-plus-royalties, you are eligible if you your book meets the word count. For further information and the full report, visit RWA's website.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Slippery Slope of A Foodie

The day job was slow last week, so I got to leave early. Yay! I spent a lovely hour at Panera Bread eating the best panini sandwich ever, and followed it up with a pecan braid that was so good it ought to be a crime. Mmm.

I've been paying a lot more attention to food lately, because the heroine in my next book, WATER, is a chef. A few weeks ago, I stayed at a B-&-B that served olive tapenade (a minced-olive spread) on artisan bread for an appetizer. I like savory dishes, so this salty little offering was right up my alley. I have successfully learned to reproduce the tapenade, and made it for a Fourth of July family gathering. It went like hotcakes. I think my mother was one step from fanning herself with relief that I can, in fact, prepare some sort of food dish. There's hope for me yet, Mom.

But I still can't replicate her meatballs, no matter how hard I try. :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Never Say Die

I've been slogging through a bout of the "my writing sucks" blues this week. Yesterday I held my little pity party, but today, guess what? I sent out four queries.

Even experienced writers have moments of doubt about their work. The important thing is to persevere through that until the words come again without effort. If you want it bad enough, it will happen. Wanting it bad enough may mean years of hard work at your craft, but if that's what it takes to see your books in print, it's worth it, right?

Don't give up. Send out queries. Write something. Write anything. Just keep doing it. :)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Objectivity in Art and Authorship

In my spare (Spare???) time, I like to draw. Portraits mostly. Sometimes wildlife too. I learned somewhere that after I think I'm done with a piece, I need to turn it 180 degrees and finish it upside-down.

What this does is fool your brain into re-looking at what you've drawn as the series of pencil lines it is, rather than a representation of something which your brain will "fix" into the intended image. The brain is an amazing thing. It will "fix" a thing, or fill in the blanks, without conscious effort so that you see what is meant to be, rather than what is. That's why a lot of us writers miss misspelled words without spellcheck. It's also why we have such a hard time editing our own work. Because we know what's meant to be there.

In the course of my work, I have found that it's much easier to critique others than to edit my own material. When you write a story, you're too close to see its flaws. Regaining objectivity is an important step in editing your own work. Sometimes you need to toss that manuscript in a drawer for a month. Sometimes you need to hand it over to your critique partners and let them have at it. Sometimes you just need to forget you're the one who wrote it.

Whatever method you use, if you do it right that "switch" goes back off in your brain and the work becomes what it is: a series of words on your computer screen or paper. And if you play it right, you pay attention to how the words flow. You notice how this work will affect your audience, and not what the words mean to you. And then you can edit with objectivity, sacrificing words or whole chapters for pacing if it's needed, or adding words to deepen or strengthen the story. Tough stuff. Never let it be said that writers aren't a brave lot.

I just wish I could turn a whole story 180 degrees and edit it upside-down.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Fourth Of July

Just taking a moment to wish all Americans a safe and happy Fourth of July. Here in NY, it's threatening rain, but my family is home and we all get to celebrate a nice day together. That's enough for me!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Who Loves Hulu? I Do! Do You?

Sorry, couldn't resist the Seuss-ism. :)

I have, over the past week, grown quite attached to Hulu, a website where you can watch selected TV shows and movies for free. Yes, free. There are periodic, short "commercial" interruptions, but the entire movie or show is intact (whole seasons of TV shows, in fact). Since I am too cheap/busy to pay for cable (not wanting to shell out $60.00/month for a hundred channels I won't watch anyway), Hulu is my new entertainment best friend.

I can now watch some of my favorite episodes of "Buffy" and "Angel" again (sold off my DVDs after not watching them for so long), and feed my new obsession, "Burn Notice." Not to mention catching up on "House." "NCIS," I can watch on CBS.com, if I miss it on TV. "NCIS," I would watch in a hole in the earth and fed on stale bread and muddy water. (Michael Weatherly ... Sorry, where was I?)

The drawback, of course, is having to use my computer for writing. Oh, technology, you slippery slope of entertainment goodness. Guess I better go. And write. Really, I swear.