Tuesday, November 29, 2005

December contest prize preview

Check this out:

Isn't it beautiful? This is called the Wild Rose Necklace from Sunspot Designs, which is a Goth custom made jewelry boutique. This is going to be just one of the items in the prize package that Erica Orloff (www.ericaorloff.com) and I will be offering in just a couple of days when our web sites are refreshed. We thought that a gorgeous, blood-red necklace would be perfect when it came to promoting a book called TWICE BITTEN (which features rereleases of Erica's URBAN LEGEND and my THE HUNTRESS Bombshells).

So remember to come back to www.crystal-green.com to see what else we have in store!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A very BLACK CHRISTMAS

Did any of you guys watch that program Bravo had on last Halloween about the top 100 scariest movie moments? My Netflix list expanded because of it; THE TENANT was one of the films I thought seemed really cool. Another one was BLACK CHRISTMAS, which has a cult following. It was made in the early seventies and stars Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder as sorority sisters who have to deal with a killer who has set his sights on their campus house over the holidays. This movie came before HALLOWEEN or FRIDAY THE 13th and is said to be the “original slasher movie” (even though PSYCHO makes an argument for that, among other films).

I actually remember watching BLACK CHRISTMAS when I was younger, and Bravo’s special brought it all back to me. I know the film scared me, but not in a roller-coaster way. Basically, I didn’t remember a lot of the plot, but I recalled strong feelings of alienation and discombobulation, which is a far more effective horror than most movies provide.

So, here I was, really excited about watching it when it arrived in the mail. In the dark of night, I popped the disc into the player. “Hmm,” I thought to myself, perusing the menu. “It might be fun to see the trailer.” Don’t ask me why—I never look at those sorts of chaff extras on the DVDs. Boring. But I did this time.

And…five minutes later, I popped the movie right back out and decided to view it with my Thanksgiving company after the kids went to bed. Why? Because this killer in the movie makes really weird, freaky, hell-inspired phone calls and that got to me. You know when you experience something visceral and you can’t explain it? That’s what happened here. Seriously. When I finally watched the whole thing, it wasn’t so much the gory deaths or the oppressive atmosphere that made me anxious: It was those dang phone calls.

Thus, I’m recommending BLACK CHRISTMAS because it passed my own personal horror test. You might hate it. But if you’re anything like me—a person who got wiggy about the Blair Witch and was afraid that she was lurking just outside her window for three weeks after viewing the film—you’ll lock the doors extra tight and never answer the phone after twilight again.

Friday, November 25, 2005

ALIAS: officially unplugged

Yesterdays' news: ABC has officially pulled the plug on ALIAS, and this will be the last season.

Okay, I know I've been bitching about ALIAS lately, but that didn't mean that I truly wanted it cancelled! How are they going to tie up all the loose ends by May? There are still so many questions about what Jack is up to, if Sloan is truly good or evil, and what Irina Derevko is all about. And I'm not even going to start with the Rambaldi threads. Are we going to get answers?

I hear that some very cool things are in store for the rest of the season, and I'm hoping with every little fan girl beat of my heart that this is true. Vaughn just has to come back, right? And my favorite blond bad boy is going to be making an appearance very soon--hopefully it'll last for longer than one episode. Hear that writers? I WANT MY SARK BACK, LIKE, TWO SECONDS AGO!!!

Oh, ALIAS, I really will miss you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Recipe for a Happy Thanksgiving

In anticipation of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share one of my absolute favorite desserts. It’s called Pumpkin Pie Cake, and my mom has been making it since I was a tyke. It’s one of those goodies that I would always sneak little tastes from throughout the day until someone else came into the kitchen for a piece, and then they’d yell, “Why is there, like, one square inch of Pumpkin Pie Cake left?”

Enjoy, and have a wonderful day tomorrow (and all days).

Pumpkin Pie Cake

3 layers
Bake in 9 x 13 pan
350 degrees

1 box Yellow Cake Mix (set aside 1 cup of mix for later)
Add 1 stick melted butter
Add 1 egg
Mix together and press into bottom of pan

1 large can of pumpkin
3 eggs
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
2/3 cup milk
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Mix together well, pour and spread over bottom crust layer

1 cup cake mix (which was set aside earlier)
½ cup white sugar
½ cup walnuts, crushed
½ stick butter
Cut together to form crumbs, then sprinkle over top of pumpkin mixture

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes

Monday, November 21, 2005

Recovery

Pop quiz: what is a writer to do when she's got out of town company, a head cold that's splitting her skull apart, and three ending chapters to her WIP (work in progress) that are driving her crazy?
Work through them.
I've got my family here for Thanksgiving, and I'd planned to finish my Blaze rough draft in time to have some fun with them. Alas, that is not happening. This lovely cold that is dogging me right now is the bane of my present existence (but there's no way I'm going to rest until these chapters are cleaned up--catch 22), so I'm trying something new for a cure: natural stuff. First, I'm drinking this herbal tea and using Throat Rescue, which totally manhandled my sore throat by the end of the first five hours. Great stuff, and I think the tea is working. I also started a new vitamin regimen as well as a diet suppliment since I'm the Queen of Junk Food and I need to change this terrible habit (Yes, I'll stop eating Suzie Qs and Tostidos any time now. How does the beginning of next week sound?). At any rate, I'm wondering if this cold would've been a lot worse if I hadn't been taking this new stuff. Everyone in my family just got over THE FLU, so I'm hoping I've staved that off.
Here's to hoping everyone who's reading (and, natch, writing) this will be healthy enough to enjoy turkey in a couple of days!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Tough day

It figures. Here I was, writing away yesterday morning on the next to last chapter of my Blaze, when I realized that something wasn’t really working for me. As I sat there, I started to panic. I’d messed up.

You see, it came to my attention that I needed to add a confrontation between the hero and heroine before a couple of scenes I’d already written. This not only means that I’ll have to rewrite the scene that was taking its place (I’m pushing the page count as it is, so there’ll be no unnecessary pages here.), but I’ll have to rewrite the scenes I’ve already done. Not a happy day for me, but this is a hazard of the occupation. Sometimes you write something that doesn’t work in the big picture. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does…. It’s tough to think of all the time wasted.

At least I realized it before I turned the MS in, I suppose. But, really, that’s not making me any happier right now.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cool/Weird movie - THE TENANT

Just another recommendation for you all. If you like movies that play with your mind, you'll want to check out THE TENANT. It was directed by Roman Polanski, the guy who helmed a movie that scared me silly: ROSEMARY'S BABY. That film just reached into me and twisted my fears into tangles. Eeee. It really was effective in tapping into a primal fear and exploiting it.

THE TENANT does much of the same thing. I won't reveal plot points, but here are the basics: In Paris, a Polish man (a foreigner, keep in mind) moves into an apartment that has recently been vacated, not because the former tenant moved to a sunnier, more picturesque location than this barely-not-a-slum property, but because she jumped out of the window. As the movie unravels, we see this shy, unassuming man discovering things about the former tenant, and he starts wondering if he's being haunted, being ganged up on by the other tenants, or even if he's losing his mind.

This is a slower movie, but it creeps along on a layer of details and quirky characterization. And, wouldn't you know it, it also got to me because of a terrible fear I have of...(SEMI SPOILER: DON'T READ ON UNLESS YOU WANT SOME POSSIBLE TMI) well, let's just say the main character has something in common with Norman Bates and that doctor from a certain Brian DePalma movie with Michael Caine....

Eeeee!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

ROME: one away from the finale

Has anyone been watching ROME on HBO? In a previous blog (TV report card--I think I'll do another one by the end of sweeps, BTW), I mentioned that I had a ROME backlog on my DVR; I believe I had, like, five episodes to watch. Well, I had me a little marathon, and, oh man, do I love this series! It just keeps getting more complex and intense with every episode. I've come to really feel for a lot of the characters, too, especially Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus, two ex-soldiers who are trying to make their way in life after Caesar has gained power and the massive battlefields have turned into backstreet assassinations. Here are some of the things I've loved about this series:

*Titus and Lucius, the Dumb and Dumber of the centurian set: these are two guys who absolutely grow on you. They started out pretty much despising each other, but now they'd lay down their livesfor each other. I hear the finale is going to be very sad, and I'm so afraid something is going to happen to one of these guys. And here's the thing--ROME pulls no punches; I don't trust them to keep this pair safe (see the next point).
* the squick factor: okay, I don't actually "love" this but I'm kinda fascinated by it. ROME is bloody, brutal, and graphic (and I'm not just talking about in a violent way). One of the biggest OH NO THEY DIDN'T moments came during an incestuous seduction that was engineered by one of the show's great bad girls. A huge I-can't-look-away-from-this-car-accident moment. And that gladiator scene in the most recent episode? Ugh, bleh, blah, but I couldn't stop watching that one, either.
*the build up: not only have we seen the rise of Caesar, but we've also seen the methodical, venomous chess games that personally consume many characters, particularly Atia and Servilia. You wouldn't want to tick either of these women off. ROME has done a great job of creating characters you root for one second and hate the next. This is the case with these two women: they're highly amusing, but they're disgusting. Same with Roman politics.
*the anticipation leading up to Caesar's assassination: it's happening in the finale next week, and I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Not only is this a major moment in history, it's going to throw a lot of the show's characters into complete destruction.

I can't wait for season two and, daggonit, season one isn't even done. Boy, I'm in for a long haul.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Yay for Anne Rice

You can't escape the news. It's all over the papers and magazines and talk shows. War? Politics?

No--Anne Rice has switched gears in her career, and everyone is chatting about it.

Basically every single person who's in touch with books or media in general knows about Rice. Her Vampire Chronicles are huge bestsellers; they redefined the vamp genre and created an army of fans who paid respects to Rice's Garden District home, attended her Mardi Gras parties, and worshipped at the altar of Lestat. Personally, I loved the first few books, as well as the first couple of Mayfair Witches novels; the fictional worlds Rice created seem so real--built upon layers and layers of physical details and philosophical musings--that you can't hardly blame people for believing in their existence. (I refer to only one "existence" because the vamps and the witches came together in a fictional realm at one point.) Personally, I've seen Rice's house during walking tours, and a few years ago, I even visited the brick ex-orphanage that she bought to house her massive collection of dolls (I'm told that the building was sold and turned into condos. Figures.) . So I do count myself as an admirer of hers.

But, lately, there seems to be a huge disconnect between Rice and some of her fans. And you can guess why. She's decided to stop writing about "the dark side" and concentrate on a subject that's actually closer to her other writing than many of the unitiated would think: She's now writing about Jesus Christ, starting with a novel that takes place when he was a child.

I'm not that surprised. As Rice's career spun itself out over the years, her work became very self-exploratory and philosophical, weaving questions of faith and religion into the lives of her "monsters." It was obvious that the subjects were weighing heavily on her mind. Thus, the transition she's made into exploring the life of Jesus isn't a complete turnaround. It'll be interesting to see what she's come up with, I think; Rice is a stickler for research, so the book should have the same "lived in" feel of her others.

At any rate, I wish her luck and peace. I takes a lot of bravery to deviate from an ultra-successful career and to venture into such lightning-rod territory. All the best, Ms. Rice.

Friday, November 11, 2005

For inspiration

Yesterday, I watched a movie on DVD that I thought might help me stay in the groove for my Blaze novel. Using films is a quicker way of doing research than reading a book, of course, and the visuals often inspire me with their colors and/or vibe. That last part sounds weird, but it's true.

I told you in a previous post that the first movie I watched for Blaze inspiration (for PLAYMATES) was WILD ORCHID. This time, for this WIP (work in progress), it was DELTA OF VENUS, which was also directed by Zalman King. He was the driving force behind RED SHOE DIARIES, as well, so the man knows what he's doing.

The plot of DELTA concerns "Elena," an American writer who's come to live in pre-WWII Paris in order to be inspired (I can relate.). While there, she embarks upon a "journey to find her sexuality." While this movie had a good sense of the time period's eroticism, it wasn't as hot as I'd hoped. Don't know why. There was lots of action, but I just wasn't drawn in all the way. However, while I was daydreaming during part of the film (Yes, this does happen when I finally get too bored to care yet too unwilling to give up watching the story--see previous SAW II blog), I did think of a pretty good love scene that I used in today's writing.

So thank you, DELTA OF VENUS. You did your duty.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Great author recommendation...

A few blogs ago, I mentioned that I was reading a book of short stories by Poppy Z. Brite. As I understand it, she was one of the big authors of the "splatterpunk" horror fiction movement that was big in the early ninties. You can imagine what "splatterpunk" might consist of, so I leave the definition up to you. Still, I think to categorize this woman's writing with such a narrow term is a huge error. I'll put it simply: Poppy Z. Brite is amazing. In WORMWOOD, the collection I'm reading, the subjects range from greedy ghosts to death-fixated youths to mutant twins. If you don't like your horror to be a bit graphic, you might want to pass on this author. But I've read much worse than this--believe me. Yet if you did pass up Brite's work, you'd be missing a lot of other very wonderful things she brings to the table. First, her prose is so gorgeous and evocative that I mentally sink into it. Sounds weird, but...what I think I mean is that her words take me into her world; I sit there and marvel at how beautiful the phrases are, how original and true. Second, after every story, I've had to put the book down (even if I'm eager to keep reading) and just absorb what happened. Brite manages to bring dread and fear to the surface of her work, but at the same time, a lot is still left buried under a mire of subtext. After reading, I'm left with a hammered feeling of loss or heartbreak, if not complete pity for the characters (if they deserve it).

If you haven't picked anything up by Brite, I highly recommend you do so. But be warned, the stories aren't for everyone.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Love scene flambé

As I write this new Blaze, I realized that there’s a little subject I can address here: Love Scene Flambé or “how I got the guts to write my first saucy love scene.”

Now, before I give you my recipe for that, let me first distinguish something. There are many different types of love scenes. Specifically, the ones I write for Special Edition frequently do have a bit of spice to them, but the line doesn’t welcome graphic descriptions, so certain words and intense descriptions aren’t included. The books are very much based on the search for family and community, and the focus isn’t on carnality or the games hip, urbane, and at times cynical singles play with each other in the world of dating. Special Edition romances usually grow in more traditional steps, though I’ve read (and even wrote) variations on this theme. Then there are the Blaze books; their hallmark is the exploration of a more explicit relationship. Oftentimes, there’s sex in the first few chapters because, basically, Blazes start with a sexual connection and then grow into love (whereas, with Special Edition, it’s often the opposite: a strong emotional connection that usually develops sexually).

For me, Blaze love scenes can be a real challenge to write because they’re so intense. It’s tough to make the reader care about the hero and heroine having sex when they don’t hardly even relate to each other on a mental and heartfelt level…yet. Also, speaking in generalities, and I’ll be blunt about this, to write a love scene, you should be just as into it as you’d expect the reader to be. If you’re not feeling it as you create it, it’ll need some work. Stressful.

Based on all that, writing a tryst—especially a hot one—can be daunting. When I created my first Blaze, PLAYMATES (February, 2004), I’d, up until that point, only written the Special Edition version of sex—sweet and full of emotion. However, my PLAYMATES characters weren’t going to arrive there until further on in the story, way after they’d had some naughty/nice athletics in the bedroom (even though an actual bed wasn’t involved until way later). In fact, the characters were so experienced and wary of relationships that they were going to start out with the pyrotechnics and work their way up to a simple, life-changing kiss. (Come to think of it, that happened in my second Blaze, too [BORN TO BE BAD, April, 2005], but in the latter, it was really emphasized. One of the book’s themes actually concentrated on the power of a kiss; the subplot supported this.) Needless to say, when it came time for the first PLAYMATES love scene (in chapter three, whoo!), I was daunted indeed. I didn’t even know if I could type any “c words” (not the %*&t one—you can’t go there with Blaze, and I wouldn’t want to anyway) without freaking out about my family and friends reading the copy. I needed to get over this, and quick.

I did. And this was my recipe for doing it:

1/2 glass of Amaretto over ice

1 viewing of WILD ORCHID, the best bad movie ever made; separate into parts:

o a few minutes of the Lambada where almost everyone is wearing a mask

o a pinch of the scene where that American businessman propositions the heroine because he thinks she’s a prostitute and Mickey Rourke pretty much dares her to go for it AND SHE DOES!

o a dose of the ending with all that sweaty stuff

Mix together Amaretto and WILD ORCHID, stirring until you’re brave enough to hit the keyboard and you don’t care what the heck you’re typing as long as it’s working. (You can edit what's not working out later—it’s getting the scene down in the first place that’s the hardest.)

Serves all the readers who are kind enough to read your books

If WILD ORCHID isn’t appealing, try your own thing: 9 ½ WEEKS, RED SHOE DIARIES, THE BIG EASY, or maybe you can read your favorite love scene from a book (even though that’s tough because the prose might affect your own). And the Amaretto is optional, even though it’s really good.

Back to writing.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Filling in the details

Remember last month when I hinted about some new contracts for upcoming projects? Well, I've received those contracts, and I can now confirm my upcoming schedule....

Here's what I had written as little hints:

Noir vampire mystery...
Hot nights in San Francisco...
Playboy falls for good girl...
Back to those vampires...
And more vampires...
A surprise story full of steam...

And here's what I meant:

Noir vampire mystery...
Since I was finishing the first Vampire Underground book at the time, that's what I was referrring to.

Hot nights in San Francisco...
This is the Blaze that I'm working on now (see previous blog entry for story details). The working title is SKIN DEEP, but I'm predicting that'll be changed.

Playboy falls for good girl...
After SKIN DEEP, I'll be diving into my next Special Edition. The working title is THE PLAYBOY TAKES A WIFE, and it takes place in Mexico and New York. It's a marriage of convenience tale featuring a corporate shark who needs a wife for public relations reasons. Of course, that wife is going to change his life and teach him a thing or two about women and affection. I'm not positive about a release date, though I'm going to include Christmas in the story...possibly a December, 2006 release? Just speculation. I'll let you know for sure when I hear a firm date, but that could be a few months down the road.

Back to those vampires...
After that, I'll be working on my second Berkley Vampire Underground story. My deadline is April 15, 2006.

And more vampires...
At this point, my next official deadline will be October 15, 2006 (for the third Vampire Underground book). I'm giving myself extra time to write it because it'll be the trilogy finale and it's going to be quite complex--even moreso than the first two. That blows my mind, so I felt a six-month stretch between deadlines would be wise. Besides, I'll have the chance to work on any proposals that'll need to be completed.

A surprise story full of steam...
The "surprise" refers to a "blind book" for which Blaze has put me under contract. A "blind book" means that they've reserved my time (with a deadline of December 15, 2006) even though they don't know what my story will be about.

So that's my schedule for the next year +. Feels good to be busy!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

BITE and digest

I've always loved short horror stories: Stephen King's NIGHTSHIFT and the HOT BLOODED series are two of my favorite types of collections. Having just read a gathering of vampire stories called BITE, I'm intrigued by the difference between this collection and my traditional selections of more hardcore horror. BITE features work by Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, MaryJanice Davidson, Angela Knight, and Vickie Taylor. All of it, naturally, concentrates on vamps and "dark seduction." Where someone like Poppy Z. Brite (I'm reading WORMWOOD, a bunch of her horror stories, right now.) milks every drop of terror out of a situation, drenching the reader in imagery and stark fear, BITE focuses more on the complications of vampirism and romance and sometimes even the humorous side of being a vampire.

I like my vampires dark and intense, and BITE is interesting in that it showcases some very original premises that are well worth appreciating. Yet, ultimately, this book seems to be more about extending these authors' series work and not creating self-contained short stories. For instance, Hamtilton gives us a glimpse of her awesome Anita Blake character and her nemesis/lover Jean-Claude; and Harris continues her Sookie Stackhouse character. And I actually haven't read the other authors before, so I'm not sure if their stories were based on established characters or not.

At any rate, if you like to catch up with old favorites, you'll like this. If you enjoy vampire romance, you'll eat this up. If you want some clever twists on vampire life, this is your chance to grab some of it.

Happy reading....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

And...thar she goes again

Today I'm supposed to start a new project. Never mind that it's 1:00 PM and I haven't gotten anything done; as of now, I am officially in Blaze writing mode.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with "Blaze," I'm talking about a book line that publishes "hot" romances from Harlequin. The promise of these novels is that you'll get a steamy read, and most of the time the stories feature the sort of characters you might find in SEX AND THE CITY--hip, savvy, and experienced (though this doesn't apply to all of the stories--these are just the ones I gravitate toward). The tones range from sassy/fun to dark/erotic. As a reader, myself, I really enjoy Blaze books, so it makes sense that I also like to write them.

I've talked briefly to you about this current project before: it's the one that's centered in a San Francisco office building, where single female employees who're looking for a decent date meet in the lounge to draw business cards for the names and phone numbers of possible blind dates--like a LOVE CONNECTION lottery. The miniseries, which I'm writing with Nancy Warren and Alison Kent, is named For A Good Time Call.... In my story, the heroine, Tamara, draws the card of a guy named Kyle; his card is in the lottery because another member of the "Sisters of the Booty Call" (which is what this group of women calls themselves) met him at a bar, got his card, wrote her impressions of him on the back--including the reason she wasn't interested in him, even though she thinks he'd be a great date for a friend--and deposited it in the communal vase the Sisters use for the drawing. (So, basically, these women have thought up their own dating service with guys who come recommended.) BUT, when it comes time for Kyle to meet Tamara at their designated date spot, a series of circumstances allows Kyle's cousin, Murphy, to take his place--as Kyle. Sounds strange, I know--part of the challenge of this book is to oil the machinations of this "masquerade" plot so that they work. And so far so good. I think.

Anyhow, today, I'm supposed to be researching my San Francisco setting. I think it's an amazing city, but I'm sad because the location was changed from New Orleans to SF due to the devastation of Katrina. As I've mentioned before, New Orleans is not only one of my favorite places on Earth, it's an additional character to me when I write about it, and losing it is like having to leave a friend behind as I embark on a trip to someplace else.

At any rate, here I go on this new manuscript....