Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bookshelf: MEN, WOMEN AND CHAINSAWS


What a title, eh? This is a book that's been used in college film studies courses, but the title and the subject matter made me pick it up. Basically, besides being a rumination on how gender is used and twisted in horror movies, it's also a collection of thoughts that dwell on the reason a main audience of younger males is attracted to a genre in which the "winning" protagonist in the end turns out to be a woman.

The author, Carol J. Clover, isn't a true horror fan--she admits that, and tells us that she watched a certain amount of movies as a base for her studies. Also, this book is pretty dated, and it doesn't include the more recent influx of "scary" movies from the past couple of decades, from more cerebral thrillers that filled the vacuum of slasher movies after the genre petered out in the late 80s to the wave of PG-13 wastes of time that are being released now. There's no Cronenberg DEAD RINGERS, for instance (a movie which I find to be deeply disturbing and horrific) and no post-SCREAM meta-scary movie references. But what's here is very interesting, because Clover essentially takes a genre that has garnered very little intellectual credit and gives it a lot of power. She even compares the structure of slasher movies to that of fairy tales, which ends up making perfect sense.

In one section, she even dissects a cult movie that many critics take great happiness in hating: I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. Clover's thoughts are fascinating. I saw that movie long ago--and, yes, it was very unsettling--but I never even suspected that deeper psychological and sociological workings were afoot. I never realized there was even an entire subgenre of "country versus city" horror movies being released at the time and that, in Clover's point of view, they are a throwback to earlier "cowboy versus Indian" movies.

I guess this book is more intriguing if you've watched hundreds of horror movies, but what she has to say about actions defining gender in these films rather than *gender* defining gender is worth exploring....

Thursday, September 27, 2007

MIDNIGHT REIGN: In Three Paragraphs or Less


It's a little scary to get your newest cover, but the back cover copy always makes me pay much more attention--especially if the book in question is a mystery. You always want to make sure that the intended audience is teased, not spoiled. With the Vampire Babylon books in particular, this is a huge concern for me, so when I got the back cover copy for MIDNIGHT REIGN, I went over every line, every detail.

Thanks goodness it still gave me goosebumps by the time I got to the last line!

So kudos to the person at Ace who wrote it, and here it is for you to preview....

IN L.A., WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN—THE DEAD COME OUT…

Stuntwoman Dawn Madison reluctantly returned to Hollywood to find her missing father, Frank. Instead, she found something else beneath the streets of Los Angeles—a thriving society of the undead, one she could never have imagined existed. It’s an erotic and bloody night world that Dawn came to believe cost both her father and her long-dead mother—the glamorous movie star, Eva Claremont—their lives. Still, she and Frank’s friends risked everything, pressing on with the investigation.

Now a new slaying, bearing all the marks of a vampire attack, is luring Dawn farther into the underground and deeper into the twisted lives of those who inhabit it, just as her tenuous alliances in the sunlit world begin shifting ominously. It seems she has only herself to trust and her newfound skills as a hunter to rely on.

But Dawn will find that she is not alone—although some who stand with her, stand only in the shadows…

Praise for Night Rising

“A book to die for.”—Gena Showalter, author of The Nymph King

“If you like your fantasy with an edge, then you’ve struck gold.”—The Eternal Night

“A killer mystery.”—Kelley Armstrong

BTW, in October, I'll be posting the first chapter on my Web sites and continuing to add to that excerpt until MIDNIGHT REIGN is released in February!

Monday, September 24, 2007

HEROES, 9/24

So what did you all think of the premiere? Aside from David Anders (and, rest assured, we will get to him), I was mildly pleased. After the “explosive” events from the finale, I did expect there to be more of a fallout, but with the four-months-later cushion, it felt as if we missed some resulting drama. I even wondered for a time why it seemed as if these characters, most of who felt a sense of isolation because of their emerging powers, hadn’t stayed together to try to figure them out. Later in the show, we saw that some of them do stay in contact, though I’m not sure where Niki is in all this. Looks like we’ll find out next week.

As always, here’re my stream-of-consciousness babblings:

- One of the first scenes we’re treated to is Maya and Alejandro (wha? who?) booking it down some dusty street in L.A….er…Honduras. I immediately think, “Whoa—new characters right now? Before we jump into more storylines, I would like to know if Peter and Nathan really exploded, please.”

- Awwwww for HRG and Claire. They became my faves last year (again, they’re the heart of this series, IMHO). Do you all think Claire’s going to have a story similar to Clark Kent’s in the first seasons of SMALLVILLE? (Jeph Loeb works on that series, too.) Looks like she’s going to have to deal with hiding her powers in the hell of high school as well as put up with at least one freak of the week (and…we’ll get to him later, as well).

- Matt Parkman! Has he truly gone from most annoying character to badass Psycop and cool pseudo-daddy?

- I catch my first glimpse of The Beard and I shudder. I cannot help but think there’s a colony of raging superinsects in there.

- Now…THE MOMENT ARRIVES. I can tell by the way the masked man moves—sleek, bad-boy, spy-like—it’s our Sarkie. And when he removes that mask…
EEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! Mask-whipping-offage has never ever caused such a nationwide hot flash, I’ll bet. Hiro puts his glasses on in a double take and I must laugh. Comedy gold—can you guys see it in the future for these two? The only drawback so far is having to read the subtitles while Kensei/Sark/Anders is on screen. I do not appreciate being deprived of even a moment of basking in a visage I have missed so much.

- Oh, my heart… To see HRG reduced to this job. Ouch.

- And, yes, we have the British accent from Anders! HOT! (Trivia for non-ALIAS fans: David Anders is from, like, Oregon or something, but he used the Brit accent in ALIAS. The return of it is a gift, my friends. A gift. )

- Quote of the night? Gramma Petrelli to Hiro’s daddy, her voice hinting at a dominatrix-like subtext: “Let me see it.”
I know, I know. But didn’t anyone else go, “Heh,” and then get all embarrassed at themselves because they realized they’d never gotten out of the sixth grade?

- Also, when the uppity “peasant” girl (sure, like she’s not Princess Leia) slapped Kensei, did anyone think, “He’s Captain Jack Sparrow! Savvy?”? And when Hiro was trying to talk Kensei into helping, surely someone else was flashing back to Luke Skywalker bargaining with Han Solo after they broke into the guard station at the Death Star and they found out the princess was being held prisoner on the base. Having said all that, even if I didn’t have a girl woody for David Anders, I’d still be digging this character. He’s a breath of fresh air in an episode that was mostly business.

- What a taut Bennett family dinner until Mom embarked upon her faintly disturbing Mr. Muggles commentary.

- Yikes for the weird obsessed voyeur kid who seemed like a possible boyfriend for Claire. Please tell me they aren’t going to have a relationship after that.

- Do you all think the murderer is someone we know or another new character? Looked like a guy, didn’t it?

So it ends up that the previews they showed us during the HEROES panel at Comic-Con weren’t a fake out in any way. From David Anders taking off his mask (I’m dyin’ here) to Peter shading his eyes from the light entering his cell (AKA Karm’s love dungeon) they gave us the real deal.

Looking forward to next week to see how Peter’s identity is in that box….

HEROES Tonight, Baby

I'll be blogging after HEROES tonight, but I just wanted to throw this little spoiler at you in the meantime. If you don't want to know anything about David Anders' character (hubba hubba), then come back later....

From Entertainment Weekly by way of aintitcoolnews.com:

David Anders (“Alias”) plays Hiro’s ancient Japanese idol, Takezo Kensei, who turns out to be a blonde, blue-eyed assassin with a British accent and a drinking problem. His real name may or may not be Kane. His superpower is revealed in 2.2; is he immortal?

British accent?!? YESSSSSSSSSSS! My dreams have been answered.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

More new TV

I forgot to tell you guys that I saw an early screener of CHUCK (You might be able to, also, if you have certain On Demand offerings. This was under FreeZone for Cox Communications.).

In short, I kinda loved it.

See, Chuck is a member of the Nerd Herd, which means he's one of those guys in white shirts and ties who fixes computers for a living. But through a strange series of events, he "downloads" a bunch of images into his head, and those images turn out to be super secret spy stuff. Then these secret organizations bear down on him because Chuck is pretty much their secret keeper now. I thought the characters were really fun, and there's a real sense of intrigue mixed with a pleasant amount of goofiness. I'll be watching this one.

I also saw KITCHEN NIGHTMARES, which I mentioned in my blog the other day. (Premise? Hellfire Man Gordon Ramsay tries to save a restaurant that's going under. Simple yet effective.) I've been a big fan of the original from the BBC because it showed that Chef Ramsay can be really decent, and it was heartwarming to see how much the people he interacted with cared about their restaurants and the food they wanted to serve.

As you can imagine, the American version has been given every bell and whistle imaginable, from the idiotic background music that makes sure the audience knows just how dorky the "characters" are to the clownish "villains" in each restaurant that give us someone to guffaw at. I hate those parts of this program, but what still remains are a few people who are still deeply invested in their restaurant and Gordon Ramsay, who is waaaaaaaaay cooler in this program than on HELL'S KITCHEN. I'm hoping they tone down that circus music and rely on the premise itself, because I think the producers would be surprised at how even us animals in America can respond positively to a less insulting version.
Still, I like seeing how each restaurant improves, and I'll be there for that.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The TV Season Starteth

Was any one else caught off guard the other night when PRISON BREAK premiered? I mean, it's probably not like your life is centered around TV programming (eh-um), but this one managed to sneak up on me, at least.

In fact, this week sort of snuck up. But I'll certainly be prepared for next week, which offers a slew of returning shows (HEROES!) as well as ones I've been really waiting for.

Back to PRISON BREAK. Last year wasn't so great; it just lost a little momentum for me, even though I loved the addition of that whacky Agent Mahone. I'm kind of stoked that the prison scenario is back. Yes, it's hugely contrived, but how fun is it for Michael to be stuck unprepared in a looking-glass horror show like this? He's now in a prison where the inmates are literally running things: the place is so bad that the guards deserted it last year, and it is a dog-eat-dog world in there. It's satisfying to see the eeeeeevil Bellick (the guard who terrorized the inmates the first year) dragging along in his undies and slinking through the shadows to eek out a survival.
Oh, and newsflash? Michael is still a hottie.

Last night I caught two new shows. KID NATION, which has been surrounded by controversy, was a nice little surprise. Although some of the kids are obviously playing to the camera, I think it's interesting to see how they're reacting to being put into "classes" (upper class, merchants, cooks, laborers) and how they'll react to this social structure while running a ghost town more or less by themselves. I don't know how scripted this is, but there are already a few kids who've proved themselves to be pretty awesome, and that's always cool to see.

Then there was GOSSIP GIRL, and I think the best part about this show is Kristen Bell's teasing voiceover (She provides the frame as an anonymous Internet gossip hound who seems to know the scoop about the most elite students at an upper crust New York private school). Otherwise, I'm not sure there'll be enough to interest me, as the love shenanigans have a been-there-done-that feel.

Taped last night?
* AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL, which is such fun that I wring my hands and laugh wickedly whenever I think about it
* KITCHEN NIGHTMARES, which is probably going to tick me off because I love the BBC version and its Gordon-Ramsay-ain't-such-a-bad-guy-after-all vibe. This version looks like it exploits his temper a lot more.
* TOP CHEF, which is a summer program but I'm mentioning it because I'm a food slut.
* REAL WORLD, SYDNEY, which makes me be so very happy to have my life.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Done! Kinda.

I finished my rough draft for the Special Edition firefighter story! Whoo! However, there's a lot of revision to be done on those last three chapters.

So after this baby goes out the door, I need to do a slight revision for my next Blaze, ONE FOR THE ROAD (thankfully light) and then it's all about vampires, baby! I'll be starting with BOUND AND BITTEN, the sequel to THE ULTIMATE BITE, then diving into research for the fourth Vampire Babylon book.

Then, of course, the new TV season starts hardcore, and you know this is a priority, too. :)

(Pssst--if you feel like doing your daily vote for the Night Owl Romance contest, click here!)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Coolness!

This is cool....

Tammie King of the http://www.nightowlromance.com/ Web site informed me that NIGHT RISING was nomiated in the yearly contest. I was surprised to hear that it's in the "Best Print Vampire Romance" category since the story has romantic elements but really isn't a romance. Still--how cool that someone saw fit to nomiate it?!? I'm really grateful.

If anyone would like to vote (There are several other fun categories and you can vote once a day), click here!

Hope your weekend was a great one. See you this week, as I finish up this firefighter project!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Contest Link

Just a reminder that my monthly Fresh Fiction contest page has a second contest for you to enter.* This is in addition to my regular monthly contest on the main http://www.crystal-green.com/ site.

Good luck! I'll be finishing up SECOND CHANCE GROOM (the firefighter story) this week. At least, that's what my schedule says....

* Presently, the site is being updated, but please check back soon!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Two Links for You

Two places for you all to visit today—

First, an interview with Rachelle over at her blog. I’m giving away backlist Blazes there….

Second, an entry I wrote about this new fangled thing called book teasers over at Dionne Galace’s blog. I’ve giving away my backlist Bombshells at this one….

Happy reading!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Weekend Warrior

This was one of those weekends where nothing seemed like work, but I got a lot done. The most noteworthy thing to blog about was the workshop I put on for the Orange County RWA chapter. They had invited me to speak, and I pulled out my favorite presentation, "Pied Piping the Muse."

Basically, it's a workshop that uses music to get writers into a deep zone for brainstorming. I used the process with my students when I was an eighth grade teacher, and every time I give the presenation now, it feels pretty effective for the audience. They walk out of the meeting with workable story ideas, and I've had people approach me months afterward to share that they've written or started a book based on what we did.

Those are feel-good moments, and they eclipses all my stagefright and the whole pre-presentation what-the-heck-am-I-putting-myself-through mood. Even though I stood in front of a classroom for a few years, that doesn't mean I ever got over being nervous!

Now it's back to my work in progress, SECOND CHANCE GROOM, with the firefighter hero. I've got five chapters to go....

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bookshelf: WORKING FIRE


Remember back when I was writing the proposal for this second Suds Club Special Edition book that I’m in the middle of writing now? It’s the story about the fireman, and I had the terrible job of going to a local firehouse to do research. I know—it was just awful following my guide (yes, he was hot) around and asking questions. I even brought my little nephew, and he enjoyed climbing in the engine to mess around while I asked more questions.

To bolster my research, I also read WORKING FIRE by Zac Unger, and it was another one of those research “chores.”

This was actually a really fast-paced book full of funny anecdotes, poetic descriptions, and touching emotion. At the time, Unger was a new firefighter in Oakland (and what do you know? My fictional setting, Placid Valley, is located near the bay area.), and he details what it was like to train at “the tower” (what we know as the fire academy) and to be a “probie” (a “new guy” who has to suffer the slings and arrows of the veterans as he or she learns the ropes).

This was a helpful read, not only because of the location, but because my hero has just left his probie days behind. Not that Unger resembles my hero that much—Travis Webb is more your picture of a firefighter who makes your jaw hit the ground when he walks by while Zac Unger proclaims proudly in the book that he has no butt to keep his pants up—but this glimpse into why he loves his job and how he improved at it was enlightening.

Next up for this story’s research? A Chinese tea ceremony. You heard me. My heroine came to America from Hong Kong when she was thirteen, and I have a good friend to thank for that information. Mei Chang Webb is inspired by this friend, and the book will be dedicated to her as well as the firefighters who keep us safe every day.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Diatribe: Why I Haven't Gone To the Movies for Months, Part 1007

Okay, the title is facetious. I have bitched and moaned about the state of movie-going before, but I've basically concentrated on how sick I am of the cell phones and chatters, etc., and I'll spare you that now. But while Erica Orloff and I were trading comments on my last blog (about THE DARK KNIGHT), I came to a realization.

Maybe I'm just not that interested in movies these days.

But that's not entirely true. I'm a DVD hound, and this summer, after finishing my work for the day, I've been on a movie binge. I've seen some that I've greatly enjoyed, too: recent ones such as THE DEPARTED and NOTES ON A SCANDAL, and older ones like A PLACE IN THE SUN. Also, as you read, I am totally geeked for my next cinematic Batman fix.

However, by accessing hindsight and judging my panel-viewing habits at Comic-Con, I'm obviously way more into what's on TV now than what's on the big screen. Snobs will contradict me, and that's their perogative, but we're going through a downright amazing time on the tube, with pay cable competing with basic cable and the bigger network stations. This summer alone has brought us another smart season of THE CLOSER, and also the mysterious, sleek-yet-disturbing series MAD MEN. This fall, I'm excited to get in to PUSHING DAISIES and REAPER, not to mention returning favorites like HEROES and, eventually, LOST (which I'm dying to see again).

And, really, when was the last time you saw female roles like the ones TV is bringing us? Again, THE CLOSER, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (with Mary McDonnell's brilliant President Roslin), DAMAGES (with Glenn Close walking a fine line between unnervingly psycho/clever and vulnerable), plus a whole slew of new power chicks like BIONIC WOMAN and THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES.

Where are these roles on the silver screen except for a few fleeting glimpses every once in a while? Even in last year's Oscar winner THE DEPARTED, which I really liked, don't get me wrong, the "female role" came in the form of a lame-ass police psychiatrist who didn't do much but irritate me and sleep with the male leads. Please.

A few days ago, I was browsing the aintitcoolnews.com site, and there was a ruckus about the Rob Zombie HALLOWEEN remake (which I touched on in my Comic-Con reports). The regular reviewers--except a lone holdout, I believe--tore it apart. In the process, one of them wrote something that really got to me, and I'm posting it because it'll probably strike a chord with anyone here who genuinely loves movies.

(The emphasis on certain phrases is mine, and I've avoided some of the more colorful words because even though I'm thinking them, too, you'll get the drift without them.)

"Frankly, I’m depressed by the entire thing. I’m depressed by the months of coverage. I’m depressed by watching Rob Zombie spin his wheels at a time when he should have been working on something original. I’m depressed that this is the sort of fare that gets greenlit in favor of taking a chance on something new. And I have to ask... because it’s killing me now... but at what point do executives in this industry regrow their [er...juevos? -CG] and actually start doing their[...]jobs again? If you are a development executive, your job is not just to regurgitate the easiest answer over and over and over, pilfering the shelves of whatever studio you’ve got a deal with and remaking everything while you mark time until you go do what you “really” want to do. Your job is to develop material, to develop voices, to find stories worth telling and people who can do them justice. The only reason you [...] monkeys have films to remake is because someone before you... people who actually had the stones to make original material... did their jobs right and allowed these original stories to get made. We are in danger of creating an entire generation of movies that are simply retellings of someone else’s work. Is that really what we want to leave behind as the sum total of this decade of film?"
-Moriarty

And this, folks, seems to be yet another reason I visited the LOST and HEROES and BIONIC WOMAN panels at Comic-Con instead of the movie stuff in Hall H. LOST is its own beautiful, complex beast, and it's influenced and challenged television for the better, IMHO. And even though the writers of HEROES have definitely read WATCHMEN and X-MEN, at least they're spinning the material in an interesting new direction. Same with the darker, more message-driven BIONIC WOMAN--there's a purpose in remaking these things. The creators have a certain vision that the old premise has encouraged, and I actually find that exciting. I also don't mind when we English-speakers "translate" foreign movies for our market, if it's done well. What I don't find so exciting, though, is when someone thinks it's okay to remake a movie almost shot-for-shot while changing it just enough to justify bringing it back (BAD NEWS BEAR anyone? PSYCHO?).

Listen, even A BUG'S LIFE paid "homage" to THE SEVEN SAMURAI, but it was done so deftly that most people never even realized it. Musicians take a tune and riff on it and, in the process, they create something fabulous.

But, really, can we back away from the uninspired movies sequels and remakes? Maybe that would help in getting my butt back in a theater seat....

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Geeking About THE DARK KNIGHT

Nicole sent me a link to this teaser trailer for THE DARK KNIGHT, which, as you know, is the next Christopher Nolan Batman movie. There are other presentations that you can find on YouTube, etc., and some of them are actually *trailers,* rather than *teasers.* And a lot of them are grainy and hard to see, because I suspect most were filmed by someone in the audience of a Con (like the one in Chicago or maybe even Dragon Con) from a big screen.

But I actually like this teaser the best, mainly because it *is* a true teaser. It has only one image--symbolic and even a little bit unsettling because it tells us what's going to happen to Batman's psyche during this film. Most interesting of all, it features dialogue from Alfred, who acts as Bruce Wayne's stabilizing influence, and the balancing of his voice with the crumbling symbol hits home for me. Then it has the voice we've all been waiting for and, I'll tell you--he sounds a bit like Jack Nicholson in the same role, but there's an edge there that really works. I said this a long time ago when news of the Joker being in this movie came out and I'll say it again: I think Nolan is going to give us the guy who haunted Alan Moore's THE KILLING JOKE and not the clown from Tim Burton's BATMAN. (Not that Nicholson's Joker was bad, it was just...jokey. But to read THE KILLING JOKE--and I highly suggest it, even though it's upsetting and gritty--is to actually feel sympathy for a murderous sociopath who pulls no punches. You see exactly why he's a true nemesis for BATMAN and not just a jester who runs around slinging puns.)

So here's that teaser....



Most of you know there are images of the Joker out there, too, and he's ultra creepy. I'm curious to see how he settles into this "face job"--how he got this way, how he adapts to it, how he uses it. Nolan and his team showed us in the first movie that they're not afraid to use freaky visuals. Remember the shiver-inducing Scarecrow? And how about that druggy vision of Batman himself, looking literally like a bat-creature out of hell? Here's a pic of the Joker if you haven't seen it yet, and it runs along the same lines....


Just...brrrrrrr.