Friday, September 30, 2005

Research for the undead

Why I read what I read during my rough draft writing process, part 2.

As promised in the previous blog (where I talked about my impressions of THE HISTORIAN and how the book inspired me during the writing of my first Vampire Underground manuscript), I’m going to tell you why I chose to read Drew Barrymore’s LITTLE GIRL LOST for research about a book with undead characters.

First, let me say that I’m utterly charmed by Drew every time I see her interviewed. She seems very sweet and business-driven. But, as most of you know, she had a messed-up younger life. Her autobiography/biography details the horror of a child actress who had such low self-esteem that she began drinking at the age of nine. Yeah—NINE. Sure, it started off with stolen sips of beer at parties, but this was a kid who was allowed to go to fashionable clubs with people like Jack Nicolson and Cher. Everyone knew her as “the cutie from E.T.” but at the age of twelve, she was somehow able to dress so maturely that she passed for a hipster who looked old enough to fit right in at New York velvet-rope hotspots. By the age of ten, she was smoking pot. After that, it was a quick trip to cocaine then rehab.

So why was I reading this book for a vampire story? For character research. See, my heroine, Dawn Madison, returns to L.A. because her wayward father has gone missing. Soon, she finds out that Dad has been working for a strange detective agency, and he was on the case of a child actor who’s kind of done the opposite of going missing—a boy who actually died twenty-three years ago but who has just shown up in the background of a recent movie. (You got it—it’s based on the THREE MEN AND A BABY urban legend of the “boy ghost” in the background of one scene.) As Dawn comes to find out, little Robby Pennybaker—the unmissing boy—was not exactly an apple-cheeked darling. He lived a Drew Barrymore kind of life…but in a much worse way. (And, no, I’m not going to tell you why, because you’ll find out during the course of the story!)

Thus, that is the connection because LITTLE GIRL LOST and my latest WIP (work in progress). Stay tuned for my next blog when I explain how the heck DUNE MESSIAH and CHILDREN OF DUNE helped me through my vampire rough draft….

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dracula revisited

In the past, I've talked about "research" or something better known as "the books I'm reading for inspiration during my rough draft process." During this last project of mine--the first book in my Vampire Underground series for Berkley --I read the usual eclectic bunch. So I figured that, for the next few blogs, I'm going to concentrate on each of the books and explain how it fit in to the scheme of my writing.

Today's book is an obvious choice: THE HISTORIAN. Why did I chose to read it? Vampires. Simple as that.

When I first heard the hype about this story, I was really excited. It was touted as a cross between DRACULA and THE DA VINCI CODE. Of course, I enjoyed the latter book--it was great fun. And you all know that I love Bram Stoker's work--no matter what kind of vampire fiction comes along, DRACULA will always be the granddaddy of them all, and rightly so. I read that book over ten years ago, thinking it was my English-major duty to do so. But you know what? I loved it. Not only was the premise brilliant, but there's a very compelling romantic "square" with Lucy and her suitors. The letter structure was perfect, adding to the pacing and the diverse points of view. Excellent storytelling.

THE HISTORIAN borrows Stoker's structure, using letters and documents to show the action. In fact, I would say that this entire book is one step past an homage to Stoker's work--almost a sequel, a "where is Dracula now" follow up. The idea of Vlad Tepes as Dracula has been around a while (It's well known that Stoker used him as a model for his vampire.), as has the premise that Dracula is still alive. So what has made this book a huge bestseller? For me, the research is noteworthy--it's absolutely amazing, as a matter of fact. But I did find the story's pacing to be a bit slower than I wanted it to be. I also couldn't easily buy into the conceit that someone sat down to write these very long, meticulously detailed letters in the amount of time they would have needed to accomplish the task. But the settings were lovely and vivid, and a lot of care went in to creating them; this gave THE HISTORIAN a great gothic-inspired tone.

Ultimately, this book got me into the "vampire groove." Again, that's a very simple reason for me to have chosen it. Besides, it's supposed to be the "hot read" of the summer and I wanted to be in on all the bookshelf talk. That's the curse of a media brat, I guess.

Next blog: Why I read LITTLE GIRL LOST by Drew Barrymore.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

More notes from a TV addict

I just want to tell you about yet another program that I adore. Have you seen FOOTBALLERS' WIVE$? It airs on BBC America, and over here in the States, we're about a season behind, as I understand it. At first, it was tough to understand some of the accents (Hello, Ian, I'm talking about *you.*) but that quickly ceased to become a problem. Some critics compare this series to DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, but I don't know about that. FW isn't as goofy and thank goodness it doesn't have that sleep-inducing voice over from the great beyond. Instead, FW has lots of soapy moments--affairs galore, decadent habits, overblown court cases and crimes, and games, of course. After all, we are talking about a show that explores the lives of bored rich women and their jock over-sexed husbands. Definitely more DALLAS than DESPERATE.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I'm LOST

I'm wondering if it's a good or bad thing that I'm terribly re-addicted to LOST. Did you guys see the second-season premiere? Wasn't that awesome??? First, the contents of the hatch bring on more questions than they answered. We found out that the hatch contains a 70s throwback dude who shoots up with *something* every morning (and who knows what it is--could be *anything* on this island....). His presence puts a real damper on my LOST theory. Bummer. See, I thought that maybe there was this whole "sliding doors" concept going on: that there were two parallel civilizations existing on either side of the island; I thought that, perhaps, on one side, there were different/same survivors who made one tiny decision that affected how their lives were turning out now while we, the viewers, were on the other side of the island with the "other" survivors from the same crash. I think what spurred this idea was the "monster"--there seems to be a mean entity and a nicer one (Locke's monster). I thought they represented some sort of duality.

Anyway. It looks like this underground dude might have computer control of something on the island (the monster?), so that makes my idea weirder and way more improbable than it ever was. And, I have to say, I hope this isn't some kind of "government sponsored" project on the island. Bleh.

The highlight of the episode was when Shannon saw young Walt. He was shivering, sopping wet, and speaking gibberish. Was he real? An astral projection? A ghost? Man, I can't WAIT to see what's happened to our rafting heroes next week.

Until then, I'm going to be obsessed with coming up with more theories. I hate when that happens.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Done!!!

Stand by for Happy Annoucement:

I have finished the basic draft for my Berkley vampire book! Wheeeeee! Not that this means I get to go out and party or anything. Now it's time to cut some pages (because I , of course, went over my page count--nothing new there) and polish this baby. I feel good about this story, but I'm nervous because I'm writing for a new publisher and I don't know what exactly to expect from this point forward. But you know what? There's not a darn thing I can do about that except to turn in the best story possible and to take one step at a time. Vamp by vamp.

In case you're curious, when I've turned in this book, I'll be working on my next Blaze. This one is an author-generated miniseries that will feature Nancy Warren, Alison Kent, and me. How did I end up working with these great authors? Well, it all started when Alison contacted me because she had read a portion of PLAYMATES and thought we had similar taste in Blazes. She's right. I love her work! And then she brought her buddy Nancy on board--how cool is that? I adore her funny, hot stories, too! (Yes, I'm floored to be working with these women, can you tell?) The concept that ties the three books together is this: in an office building, a group of female employees gathers every Monday to draw business cards that they've collected. This is how they arrange dates, by contacting these men who have been pre-screened by the other women in this group. My sister-in-law, Joan, used to do this in her freewheeling single days and I loved that story--so we used it, of course! (Thanks, Joan!) As I start writing the book, I'll get more into detail about it then, okay? Okay.

Now I'm going to chill out and forget any more work until tomorrow. Cheers. : )

Monday, September 19, 2005

Another new cover!

Yes, it's time for the cover of my other December release. As you know, I've got two books on shelves during this merry month: the reissue of THE HUNTRESS (TWICE BITTEN--see below in a previous blog for that truly gorgeous thang) and PAST IMPERFECT, which is the last book in the Most Likely To... series for Special Edition. Here 'tis:




I love the autumn colors and the collegiate background. This continuity takes place on a fictional college campus near Boston, and you can practically feel the red bricks and nippy chill in the air. The models look true to the characters, too, so I'm verra happy about that. The heroine, Rachel James, resembles Halle Berry (Yes, we should all be so lucky.) and I pictured the hero as a rugged "pugalistic" type of guy. Nice!

Tune in during coming months as I tell you more about the storyline.....

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Two more days!

Yes, two more days of writing until I finish my Berkley Vampire Underground book! Now, this doesn’t count the polishing and the revisions I know I’ll be doing. But I’m excited anyway!

I figured that now might be a good tiime to relay my favorite three things about this story.

  1. Vampires

It’s ironic that, when I was a little girl, I hated the sight of blood. Playground injuries would send me into a dither, and woe to the audience who was sitting with me in a movie that had even a pinprick of gore in it. I remember seeing ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, long, long ago. I’m not even sure my memory is correct, but I recall there being a teeny-eeny bit of blood. I squealed and my dad told me to chill out, more or less. That was a defining moment for me because I knew that I was making a big deal out of blood because I was being dramatic, not because I was really afraid of it. What’s interesting is that I went to the other extreme, watching slasher movies and never batting an eyelash while I read Stephen King’s short stories. In school, I wrote scary stories, myself, and it’s really strange that I started to create vampires as a published author only last year. It’s been in me all along—I wrote my requisite Jack the Ripper story in college and you should see some of my adolescent poetry. So what kept me? Who knows. I’m an eclectic reader and that’s reflected in my writing, but I always knew there was a darker kind of story in me. As for vampires themselves, I love their odd beauty, the old-world mystique, the edgy sexiness. So there you go.

  1. The Characters

My heroine is fairly Bombshell-ish, but the Vampire Underground definitely isn’t a one-woman show. It’s more of an ensemble piece that features a kick-ass ex-stuntwoman with huge issues. Dawn Madison is a tough nut to crack—someone who you’d want on your side during a bar room brawl. But along with her toughness comes discipline: she’s very proud of her stunt work, even though she’s had a falling out with the industry. However, she’s also what you might think of as a sex addict, filling the holes of her empty emotional life with physical encounters. She’s actually the most messed-up completely together person I’ve ever written about. And she’s just met some new people who might be able to “bring her into the light.” One is named Kiko Daniels. He’s a “little person” actor who also happens to be a psychic/empath. The other is named Breisi Montoya, and she’s a technological whiz and a maternal figure for Dawn, who lost her own mom at an incredibly young age. These three end up working together at a paranormal P.I. agency, and they’re employed by a reclusive cipher who refuses to come out in the open. It’s a fun bunch, frequently surprising me with who they are and where they want to go with the story.

  1. The Setting/Tone

Most of the trilogy takes place on the night streets of L.A. My Berkley editor, Ginjer Buchanan, has described the trilogy as “noir fantasy-mystery vampire.” I guess I knew I was doing noir when I started the project, but I never thought about it too much. Yet when she pointed it out, I got really pumped. When I think of noir, I think of wet midnight streets, seedy players and detectives who don’t necessarily have a moral compass. I’m also using a lot of horror/gothic elements—“haunted” houses and alleys that echo with screams in the dark. I also like this bar that’s pivotal to the action; it’s called Bava, named after the great Italian horror director Mario Bava, and the d├ęcor follows the black-and-white art direction of BLACK SUNDAY, one of his masterpieces. Inside, Goth patrons hang around with… Well, you’ll have to wait until the first book is released to find out. And, no, I’m not ashamed of being so coy. : ) There’s another setting, too—the Underground, and I’m not even going to begin to describe it because it’s part of the unraveling mystery….

Though I don’t know the title or release dates yet, I’ll be updating you as I go along, all right?

Two days left!!!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Curse of the WITCHBLADE

“I read and collect comic books.” When people hear this come out of my mouth, they inevitably do a double take, just to see where I’m hiding my pocket protector. Really, it’s there—but it’s mental. Consequently, today I’m going to geek out about one of my favorite comics, WITCHBLADE.

BTW, I’m attempting to catch up on my comic reading since I’m about a year behind. I’m not joking, either. But I’m moving along, slowly but surely….

Basically, the story is about a woman who inherits a cursed-to-save-the-world responsibility. But instead of being a teen vampire slayer or Joan of Arc, we have Sara Pezzini. A few years ago, she was just your average buxom (natch) New York detective, a real crusader, when, one day, she came upon a mob meeting. Unfortunately—or fortunately—the meeting concerned an auction of an ancient artifact—the Witchblade. This is a mysterious, mystical item, and only one woman per generation may wield it. Turns out that Sara is the lucky wielder, and she quickly begins to kick some mobster butt. However, the Witchblade—a visually cool tool that resembles a steel glove with piercing tentacles and many powers that develop over the comic’s reign—seems to be bloodthirsty, and Sara must try to control its dark urges while using it to fight crime.

When I first read the comic, I was enthralled with the storytelling. It was very BUFFY, and the artwork was beautiful (Michael Turner did the penciling.). Over the years, the art and the stories have suffered from time to time, but I’m at a point—right after a miniseries called “The Death Pool”—where the suspense and tension of the original vision have returned. Last night, I sat there and read six issues in a row before my eyes wouldn’t let me continue.

Oh, and did I mention that WITCHBLADE has a hottie antihero? Ian Nottingham is this assassin/ex-secret agent who wields his own version of the Witchblade. His is Excaliber, and he, too, is just learning to deal with his superpowers. However, Ian is very, very volatile—you never know when he’s a friend or enemy. Great love/hate story between Sara and him.

An extra note: yes, there was a failed series on TNT that you might have seen during its short run. I liked the actress who played Sara (Yancy Butler), but most of the rest of the casting was weird (What was up with Ian?) and the Witchblade itself was silly. They had it looking like a steel glove, all right, but all that thing could do was pop out a sword blade. I was not impressed.

But you might want to check out this series, especially if you like reading Bombshells—stories about strong women who kick ass and take names. Sara would be just your kind of girl.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Crystal Says...: NIP/TUCK Rocks It

After a day of writing--hard-core, Commando Robot Girl writing--I like to zombie-out in front of the TV. It doesn't demand too much of me, and it's highly entertaining. Besides all the new programs on cable, I also dig my Netflix. Since the new season of NIP/TUCK starts in a week, I felt that I needed to catch up on all the down-and-dirty details of last season because, for some weird reason, I'd missed the last few episodes of season 2. But thanks to Netflix, that ain't a problem. I rented season 2 on DVD, and I'm allllll caught up now.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, NIP/TUCK is a doozy. It really, REALLY pushes the envelope of not only what "can't be shown on TV" but also of what isn't normally talked about in polite society. NIP/TUCK makes no bones about what it is--a deviant soap opera that features graphic, tongue-in-cheek sexcapades, Twilight Zone character revelations, and too-much-information surgery details. The two main characters are male plastic surgeons in Miami; one is a sexual addict with an inferiority complex disguised as a superioty complex , and the other one is a repressed do-gooder with an emerging dark side. They're both in love with the same woman; she married the do-gooder but now they're separated because she discovered that one of their children is actually the son of the sexual addict. Most interestingly, the main relationship is between the two doctors/best friends. In their love triangle, I wouldn't be suprised to ultimately see the men end up with each other and leave the woman in the dust.

In spite of the strange dynamics, NIP/TUCK features some very sharp writing. Sure, the "beauty on the outside doesn't mean beauty on the inside" premise is occasionally ham-handed, but there are some really surprising moments, capped with clever dialogue and intriguing characterization. And it doesn't hurt that this third season will be featuring "The Carver," a serial rapist who tells his victims that "beauty is a curse." Of course, the madman (or madwoman?--we don't know who it is yet, but we're promised a revelation by the time this season ends) has pitted himself against the doctors--they've been "fixing" a lot of the victims pro bono. And "The Carver" is very eerie, wearing a pretty mask and watching his victims before attacking.

Ew.

Can't wait for the next episode.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Lowdown on Blossom

Hi, all!

I invited my friends from the Silhouette Romance Blossom County Fair miniseries to blog with me. Jill Limber, who writes for SR, Initimate Moments, and has penned historicals as well as contemporaries, is our first contributor. I hope you enjoy her first blog and THE SHERIFF TAKES A WIFE, book 3 in the series.
Crystal

This is my first time blogging, and I'm so glad to be here on Crystal's site! Thanks for the invitation, Chris!

I want to tell you all about our four book series that takes place in and around Blossom Texas. I'm very proud of our four books featuring the Blossom County Fair. My book in the series is just being released this month.

Let me start by giving you all a little background. Crystal, JudyDuarte, Teresa Carpenter and myself have been friends for years, sharing our love of writing romance. We met as members of the San Diego Chapter of Romance Writers of America as unpublished writers, and shared the joy as each of us sold our first book.

The original idea for this four book series was Teresa's. She shared her idea with us, and we decided it sounded like a good idea. We got together to come up with an overall story idea, and after a lot of discussion, not to mention chocolate , we hit on the idea of a county fair. All of us had wonderful memories of attending the fair and thought it would be a great backdrop for our stories.

The next step was to come up with a place to set the stories, and we decided on the mythical town of Blossom in Blossom County, Texas. Together we created characters who lived in the town, then each of us thought up characters who would star in our books. They all lived in the town or came to town with the carnival.

Crystal wrote book #4, HER GYPSY PRINCE. Her heroine is the daughter of a leading family in Blossom, and her hero is the man who runs the carnival that sets up at the fair. That book will be out in October. Judy Duarte wrote the first book in the series, A BRIDE FOR A BLUE RIBBON COWBOY, and it was released in July. Her book is about a hometown heroine and the rodeo cowboy she has had a crush on since she was a teenager. Teresa Carpenter, who wrote book #2, FLIRTING WITH FIREWORKS (released this August), wrote about the mayor of Blossom and the psychicwho travels with the carnival. My book, THE SHERIFF WINS A WIFE, has just been released. My hero is the Sheriff of Blossom. The heroine is his high school sweetheart who comes back to town after an absence of seven years.

I hope you all will visit with the heros and heroines of Blossom County, and have as much fun reading our books as we had writing them!Happy reading, and thanks for visiting with me here!

Jill Limber
You can visit Jill's Web site at http://www.jilllimber.com/. : )

Friday, September 09, 2005

New cover!!!


Here’s the cover for TWICE BITTEN, the December reissue of THE HUNTRESS! I want to emphasize that this is a reprint of my January Bombshell and not an original work, just to avoid confusion. I cannot wait to hold this in my hands.

Now, those of you who have read THE HUNTRESS might be thinking, “Hmm. This does not look like redheaded Camille Howard or big, burly Sarge. But perhaps that is Griff waiting to get his neck gnawed on …?” This is my theory: It’s been a long time since I’ve read the great book that is being packaged with THE HUNTRESS in this re-release, but I think the image has more to do with Erica Orloff’s URBAN LEGEND characters. The main character in her story is a female vampire who owns a nightclub and fights bad people as a second occupation. To me, it looks like the tattoo chick in this picture is the hungry one, and the guy is in for quite a time tonight. It works for me. Just as a review, Camille, the main character of THE HUNTRESS, is actually a vamp hunter, not a creature of the night. In fact, she travels to Transylvania to rescue her boyfriend, who was captured by a tribe of female vampires—big time predators. On her way, she clashes with a seasoned vampire hunter, a mercenary who wants to stamp out anything that has fangs or comes near them. I’m so excited that the story will be back in the stores soon, seeing as Bombshells are “series” books and have a one-month shelf life. I’ve been told that this is a trade edition, too.

Isn’t it just gorgeous? I’ll be putting it on the regular Web site later, but I thought you all would like a preview. : )

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Doing Time

Yes, the new TV season has officially begun! Now, I haven't been a big fan of the Fox network lately--they yanked a good program, THE INSIDE, just as it was getting really interesting. They did the same to FIREFLY. In short, I do not trust them and I'm loathe to watch any new program for fear that I'll forever be left in fan limbo, wondering what happened to the characters I was just getting to know. Imagine my dismay when I saw that Fox has about ten new shows that I really want to watch. I know--that's pretty awful; not just because the programs are on Fox, but because there are *about ten programs I'm interested in watching...ON ONE NETWORK.* But new TV programs are like a Vegas buffet for me: So much offered, so much opportunity for overindulging. So much resulting nausea, too.

The first program was definitely on my pouty I'm-totally-not-watching-Fox list because I knew that if this one got prematurely zipped into the ether, it would hurt. It's a suspense-thriller called PRISON BREAK, and it was being heralded as "the new 24." Well, you all know from Crystal Says... that I dig 24. So...very reluctantly, I was lured into watching BREAK. OMG. I'm so happy I did. If Fox messes with me on this one, I'm going into a dither. It doesn't have the "24-hour real time" conceit of 24 (and, actually 24 itself doesn't even keep to that premise all that brilliantly if you think of all the traveling they do from place to place; I mean, how can Jack Bauer get from one side of L.A. to another in, like,three minutes?). But BREAK has the intensity. Boy, buddy, DOES it. These people know how to pace a story by interweaving intrigue with emotion. And the cliffhangers...yow. Great stuff.

Basically, BREAK offers the unlikely scenario of a man committing a crime so that he can rescue his incarcerated brother by being assigned to the same prison. That brother, Linc, is scheduled to die soon because he killed the vice-president's brother. Thing is, Michael, the guy who wants to rescue his brother believes that Linc has been framed. (Note: From hereon out, I will be referring to Michael as "Hottie" because he is so steaming drool-worthy that I want to give him a love bite on the neck<---sorry still writing about vampires). Hottie whips up this amazing plan--not sure exactly what it is so far, but my burnin' hunk of tantric love has got my confidence--to break him and his brother out. Unfortunately, prison is full of liars and sociopaths, and Hottie's plan is constantly being put in jeopardy by them.

It's really good. You've got to watch for the excitement and the hottie-ness.

Next up: REUNION. Lord help me, because it's on (you guessed it) Fox.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Commando Robot Girl

So here I am, in the midst of writing the first book of my Vampire Underground trilogy for Berkley, when I totally lose steam. I see the light at the end of the tunnel--my deadline is October 15 and I only have a little over one hundred pages to go--but I'm like a runner whose eye is on the finish line in the near distance and...I trip and eat a mouthful of dirt.

Bam! Girl goes down. I can't move another muscle if it has to do with writing. In fact, I plan to watch TV for the next ten hours.

I know I'll get mentally better tomorrow, but I feel like I've played hookey today. But that's nuts. I wrote an entire chapter this morning, so why do I feel like it wasn't a full, 100% day? Crazy. Just, CRAZY.

Still, shouldn't I be editing right now?

I suppose I should tell you about my writing schedule. I go from totally goofing around while I'm in between projects (traveling, messing around with ideas, filling that creative well) to going ballistic. When I write a draft, I WRITE. I don't put that manuscript aside unless I have to. I go into what I call "Commando Robot Girl Mode." Ask my family, my friends. I'm pretty close to a disaster as a person when I'm in CRG Mode. I'm so one-track minded that you won't be surprised to hear this story:
The alarm goes off. I want to jump directly into my next chapter, so I turn on the "air conditioner" and get right to it. But...DANG, it's hot. Really, really hot. I'm sweating. Is it hotter than usual outside, and is the heat coming through my windows? Who cares. I'm in the middle of my chapter, and I'm *not* going to move from my spot on the bed. Nothing short of a fire creeping up my bedspread will get me out of laptop position, and I'm telling you--I'm pretty close to being on fire. Whoo-eee, it. Is. Hot. An hour later, after my shirt is literally soaked, I check the AC, and...oops. Yes, you guessed it. In my rush to get my pages started, I'd turned on the heater.
That's pathetic.

My writing schedule: Three days of chapter writing, one day off, three days on, etc. That's how it's supposed to go during CRG Mode, but that's not how it happens. On my "days off," I find myself editing, re-doing chapters, prepping material for my critique partners. And writing this first Vampire Underground book has been harder than most projects (except for my Bombshells) because the story is very complex, with rules within rules and mysteries within mysteries. Instead of the usual category page count of 280 - 350 pages (depending on which line I'm writing for: Special Editions, Blazes, or Bombshells), I'm shooting for 440 pages this time. Hey, no wonder I ate dirt today and totally lost it. I think my brain is telling me to take a break. Don't you?

Ah, blogs. Free therapy. I think this might be kinda fun.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

An Apology

Whoa. I just saw that my newsletter went out and I want to post an immediate apology. I had written the text before the full damage from Katrina was aired all over the news, and I'm so sorry that the beginning of the newsletter sounds callous with the reference to what's happening in "my corner of the world." The phrasing was purely that of your average update letter. Like the rest of you, I'm appalled by the awful events down south, and I'm hoping and praying those people will recover quickly. As you know, one of the best ways to help them through this is to visit the Red Cross site at www.redcross.org.

I can't get over the destruction. The families, the homes, the history.... From personal experience, I had just visited New Orleans a few months ago, and I can't believe that most of what I saw is wiped out. The mixture of the kind people, the character of the buildings (in and out of the tourist destinations), the colorful joie de vivre has been altered. Unbelievable. On the tours I took, every guide would mention that it would require just *one* big storm to devastate New Orleans, and then they would laugh, because the city seemed ageless, untouchable, having survived fires and chaos already. The optimist in me hopes that the city's indominatable spirit will overcome this tragedy, too. And it goes without saying that my heart is rooting for *all* the places that were hit by Katrina. The people on the west coast, east coast, and to the north of you are here in your time of need--we're pulling for you all.

Again, I'm so, so sorry.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Here we go!

Welcome to my blog. Yes, my first, my only w-e-b-l-o-g. I feel so technologically proficient now, and for a chick who can barely do an anti-virus search on her computer, that’s impressive. Writing Crystal Says… was always a lot of fun, but I decided to restructure it after chatting with other authors at July’s RWA National conference. This will allow me to get information to you all sooner and more frequently than just once a month. Also, I’m scheduled to join the OutOfTheBlogSphere tour in a couple of months, which will connect my work to that of many other writers. ( You can check it out at http://outoftheblogosphere.blogspot.com) Truthfully, I haven’t kept a diary since I was watching Beta VCRs, so this will be interesting. Quite the commitment.

I’ll start off the festivities with a few words about the latest movie I saw—THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN. There are some mild spoilers here, so if you want to go into this movie pure (no double entendre intended), don’t read on.
Okay, first, I already liked Steve Carell. He’s great in THE OFFICE and was hilarious in smaller parts like the one in ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY. After seeing this flick, I adore the guy—not only is he a deft comedian, but he has a way of really digging into you and twisting your heart around. In THE OFFICE, I feel sorry for his character, even if he is a delusional fool on a power trip that boasts him as the only passenger. If you compare his performance to that of Ricky Gervais’ (the BBC version of THE OFFICE), it’s night and day. Both actors are awesome, but they’re coming from two different places with the same character. With Gervais, I can’t help wanting to dislike him—his David Brent makes me cringe. Carell, with his wide eyes and dorky laugh, makes me want to pity him because you get the feeling that he knows just how inept he really is. You could say the same for Gervais, but Carell plays that tragedy much closer to the surface, as if his skin is just a little thinner. In VIRGIN, he has a very tricky part, too. Somehow he manages to make a “middle-age,” comic-book/action-figure-collecting “geek” into a very sympathetic guy. You want to root for his character, Andy, because with just one glance, you realize that he has made a conscious effort to mute his social skills. You also sort of don’t want him to lose his virginity. That sounds strange, but Andy’s got a real innocence about him: it’s created from years of missteps and hurt. Every action figure is a brick in the wall that he’s built against having to engage in a deep relationship. Because that’s what sex means to Andy—a deep relationship. He respects women and, quite touchingly, the movie has Andy, in turn, teach his new, you-gotta-have-sex-man! friends how to have more respect for women, too. This film has more emotional content than many dramas, IMHO, and I was so happy for Andy at the end that I walked out of the theater with a big, doofy smile on my face. It was great to see him come full-circle in so many ways, but it was even better to see that his philosophy ended up withstanding societal pressure—even if there were a few dark moments when Andy almost lost it (in more ways than one).
If you don’t like cussing and raunchiness, this isn’t the film for you. But if you can hang with that, go see this flick.