Thursday, April 30, 2009

Impromptu Movie Reviews

Sometimes I think the only consistent thing about this blog is that it veers sharply from depressing, introspective posts like the previous one to frivolous stuff like this. There are probably many conclusions that you could draw about my psyche and comfort level with Internet exposure, but let's not go there, shall we?
So! I've seen lots of movies lately, some good and some not-so-good.

Rachel Getting Married - Very good, very funny. Anne Hathaway totally deserved her Oscar nomination. Awesome dysfunctional family story.

The Day the World Stood Still - This was terrible. Keanu Reeves plays an alien who came to earth to destroy humans and save the earth from our terrible pollutin' ways. Of course, Jennifer Connelly and her cute stepson convince him that humans aren't all bad and that at the brink of extinction, we can change. No word on what that change would be, just that we could magically make it because we're scared shitless. Could have been WAY more interesting.

Seven Pounds - Really, really good. I'd say that Rock and I had the storyline pretty much figured out within the first 30 minutes, so don't worry about all that mystery in the previews. Turns out, you can't preview this movie at all without giving away major plot points. It's sad, but the story is so well developed. I wouldn't have missed it.

Tell No One - I rented this because it said on the cover, "Based on the bestselling novel by Harlan Coben". I haven't read Tell No One, but I have read two other books by Harlan Coben (The Woods and Hold Tight) and both of them were excellent. I wondered about this film, though, because the only actress I recognized in it was Kristen Scott Thomas. When I got up to the counter to check it out, the lady said, "It has an English language track - make sure you set that." And then it clicked: the film was French. Kristen Scott Thomas does a lot of French films, too. But the video store lady was right - there's an English language track and there are also English subtitles, which frankly I thought were more accurate. I think they were created from the script, whereas the track was the actors' interpretations of their lines. Anyway, the movie is really good. The main character is a guy whose wife was murdered 8 years earlier. Except now, he's received an email with a surveillance video with her on it.

The Wrestler - Sad. So so sad. You all know what it's about, I'm sure. A washed up wrestler, trying to finally connect with someone - his daughter and a stripper he's in love with. It's such a pathetic story, and so moving.

So what have you seen lately?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Perspective, Again

I've been thinking a lot lately about my miscarriage and trying again and where I am emotionally. And I've concluded that I'm not ready to try again anytime soon. The doctor advised me to wait three months, and I intend to wait at least that long. Maybe longer. Maybe the rest of this year. I don't want to try again right now. Partly because I'm scared. Partly because I'm just not ready. The part of my heart that wants more children is quiet right now. I feel like it's gone dormant to heal. It's not gone for good, I don't think. Although, sometimes I look at Wildman and think, "What if he's my last baby?" and it doesn't make me sad. I would be okay with him being the last child. But I don't think he will be. I feel like we will have more children, just not right now. I need some distance right now from pregnancy and babies. One of my closest friends is pregnant right now, and while I'm trying to be a good friend to her, I just don't want to hear much about it right now. I don't want to put myself out there again right now. I'm doing some things to prepare, like not getting back on prescriptions that are not approved for use during pregnancy, and I'm going to pick up some prenatal vitamins and folic acid and start taking them, but I'm also not going to chart anymore. Nothing against charting, it's very valuable and it works. I just don't want to get that close to this process anymore. I also want to take some time and do some things for me. I actually didn't want to get pregnant this year in the first place. I had just joined a gym and really wanted to lose some weight and get more healthy. When I found out I was pregnant, I was thrilled of course, and I put my goals on hold. And I know this is going to sound terrible, but I'm not mentioning this my husband right now. The topic of more children and when is very touchy in our household and I really don't want to argue about this. (His position is more children, as soon as possible. I'm the one with doubts, with hesitation.) I'm just going to mark down when my cycle starts and quietly avoid the 12th-16th days. I recently had my first period since the miscarriage and it really screwed with my head. I need to get back to the point where that is a normal function, not some kind of alarm bell in my head. Getting pregnant again is not the answer. Is this an extreme reaction to one miscarriage? Have I lived such a charmed life that one little setback derails me this much? I don't think so. In reading blogs this morning, I came across a sentiment that really resonated with me. Jess was writing about her crazy moving/ friend visiting/ super snowy weekend and she said, "I'm still not quite in the mood to look back and laugh about what a disaster it all was. I think I need a few more months before I have that type of perspective." I think that's exactly what I need, too. A few more months to get some perspective.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Author Interview: Marshall Karp

Okay, first of all, I owe a HUGE apology to Marshall, Shelly Overlook, and Amy. I was supposed to post my portion of this interview yesterday morning. However, when I got to work yesterday morning, our computer and phone networks were down. It took the entire morning for them to figure out that the problem was isolated to our building rather than our corporate network, and that it wouldn't be fixed any time soon. So I drove over an hour to another office so that I could process our payroll, a task that usually takes a full day. I got everything done, but I didn't have any extra time in which to post this interview. So guys, I'm so so sorry!

Without further ado since this is already a day late, here is what was supposed to be Part One of our interview with Marshall Karp, author extraordinaire:

What is it about your work that would make YOU one of those must-read authors for me? In other words, what will I find that differentiates your mysteries from the work of others? In even OTHER words, sell yourself to me as a potential reader
In a word, CHARACTERS. Read the first three chapters of The Rabbit Factory on my website. It’s free. Then decide, do I want to spend more time with these people? Plots don’t win hearts and minds, great characters do. I would say that ninety percent of the reader mail I get barely reference the plot of the book. Everyone writes to me about the characters. Terry Biggs is such a wiseass. Big Jim reminds me of my father (my mother, myself). I have a crush on Mike Lomax. The same lesson I learned working on series TV applies to the Lomax and Biggs series of books. People come back time after time because they look forward to the predictable emotional experience they know those characters will give them. Even if some of those characters really piss you off, you know you can count on them to deliver. That’s why people keep watching soap operas. And I’m pretty sure that’s why my wife has stayed with me all these years.

Do you have the story planned out completely or do you write it as you go?
I am the consummate index-cards-on-the-corkboard plotter. And I have the push pins scars to prove it. For me writing a book comes easy. It’s like painting a house (with a roller). Plotting it out is like designing one (with a crayon). I vaguely know what I want to build, and the only thing I’m sure of is that I have a deadline to get it done. If I start writing before I’ve blocked it out, I will most likely write myself into a corner. I need the structure of a tight outline first. But structure doesn’t mean I can’t let the characters bust out when they’re so moved (sometimes they know before I do). Once I have the blueprint, the real fun for me is in figuring out how to put my own personal spin on each chapter. At various points in the book Mike and Terry have to recap where they are in their investigation. They do it for each other, for me, and for you. It’s boring if they always do it in the car or the office. That why the card on the corkboard for the book I’m writing now simply says “Mike and Terry recap investigation,” and by the time you read it, it’s a very funny chapter that takes place in a Chinese restaurant.

Do you personally visit all the locales you write about? Will Lomax & Biggs be heading to Hawaii soon?
I wrote The Rabbit Factory on spec. No publisher. No thought that I’d ever get it published. But I had lived in LA during my TV years so I tried to do the best I could without going back. When I started Bloodthirsty I spent a week in LA, at the Hollywood station where Mike and Terry work, the LA County morgue, and cruising the streets looking for a place to dump bodies. But throughout the writing process I find myself needing to find new venues, and for that nothing is handier than Google maps. I’m working on the next book right now. Yesterday I needed to find a Laundromat in Mike and Terry’s jurisdiction. I went to Google and two minutes later I was looking at the perfect storefront and navigating my cursor around the surrounding neighborhood.
As for Hawaii, Lomax and Biggs have fans there and I really, really hope they have a reason to visit. Odds are if they go, they’ll take me along with them.

Have you ever had one of your characters "make" you write something you'd rather not have? Something that felt right for the character, but that you weren't too thrilled with personally?
My characters and I have consistently been on the same page, and while we’ve always been in agreement, sometimes they get way ahead of me. There were a number of times when they were much smarter than I was when it came to solving a case (I know you think I’m kidding here, but it’s true). However, I don’t want to spell out the details, because that might be a spoiler for those who haven’t read it.
I can give you one good example. In The Rabbit Factory, Mike is still a recent widower, but his father, Big Jim, sets him up with Diana, despite the fact that Mike has asked Jim to stop meddling. Mike’s first date with Diana goes well, but he’s not ready to pursue it. At least that’s what I thought. Five days later, she calls him, and he meets her at the hospital where she works, and does her a favor. They’re leaving the building when much to my surprise, this happened:

We took the elevator down to the lobby. “Are you hungry?” she said.
“What kind of food are you in the mood for,” she said.
Whatever you have in your refrigerator, I thought. But I knew better than to say it. My wife had passed away less than seven months ago. My brother was in deep shit, and my father needed my help digging him out of the quagmire. And my partner, my boss and the governor of California needed me to solve the crime of the century. The last thing I needed at this point in my life was a serious relationship with Diana Trantanella. Then she repeated the question.
“Earth to Mike, I asked what kind of food you’re in the mood for.”
“Whatever you have in your refrigerator,” I heard myself say out loud.
And then I felt her arms around my neck and her lips gently kissing mine. “Are you sure?” she said.
“No,” I said. “Maybe if you kissed me again.”
She did. It was long and deep and went directly to every pleasure center in my body.
“I’m sure,” I said.
Twenty minutes later we were in her bedroom furiously peeling one another’s clothes off. I’d have to call Big Jim in the morning and thank him for meddling in my life.

So, if the question is: was it something that felt right for the character, but that I wasn’t too thrilled with personally, the answer would have to be I was thrilled for Mike and Diana, and relieved that they had taken matters into their own hands, so to speak. There’s so much emotion riding on the first time you go to bed with someone that I was glad the three of us had gotten past it.

You can read the rest of the interview at Amy's and at Shelly Overlook's.
And to answer your burning question about my contest, yes, there is a winner! Fiona Picklebottom will be recieving an autographed copy of Flipping Out and a prize package from me. Fiona darlin', please send me your address (*ahem*and that bribe of devil chicks*ahem*).

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Fuck It List

I hope you all read Metalia, because she is hilarious. Last Monday, she wrote a song for Twilight: The Musical that is pricelessly funny. The comments are great, also. Lots of songs destined to be classics.

She also recently referenced Michael Ian Black's Anti-Bucket List, which he calls his Fuck It List. Hers is brilliant, so I'm following suit. Basically, here are the 10 things that I do not care about doing before I die.

Shelly's Fuck It List:

1. Appreciate opera - I tried, I really did. I believed that a truly cultured person, such as I aspired to be, would love classical music and opera. And come on, we've all seen Pretty Woman, where it's pretty much a test of her character whether or not she loves opera. So I tried. I attended several operas while I was in college. I even went to an opera that was IN ENGLISH. I STILL couldn't understand a damn thing. A couple years after college, I had a friend who sang opera and she invited me to a production of Manon that she was in. I deliberately didn't call her until after the last weekend of the opera and then played up how sorry I was to have missed it. Then she hit me with the fact that the opera wasn't over, there was one performance left, she had two free tickets and one of our mutual friends was going and I could sit with him. So I was screwed. We sat through that damn THREE HOUR opera (her friend was smart enough to bring a book with him, a fact that made me intensely jealous) and then went and found her afterwards. She was practically in tears and gushed to us, "Wasn't it beautiful? Didn't you cry when Manon died?" Her friend snorted and said, "Manon could have died a little faster for my tastes." And I said, "Yeah, she could have died two hours ago and we could all be home by now." Strangely, that was the last opera she invited me to attend.

2. Appreciate classical music - The predictable corollary to number one would be this. I tried it, too, although not as hard. I hate classical music and I always have. I've attended symphonies and string quartets and every other musical grouping involving a violin, and I'm sorry, this one's a cultural FAIL, too. I've decided to just embrace my inner redneck and give up on culture altogether. Fortunately, I am married to the perfect man for this. Rock's ex dragged him to a concert by a famous cellist (I think) and he fell asleep and snored throughout the performance.

3. Enjoy hiking - This could pretty much be expanded to most physical "pastimes". If it involves sweating, I probably do not enjoy it.

4. Care about sports - ANY sports, up to and including the Olympics. Yes, the NCAA national championship was just won by a team from my state. No, I didn't watch that game or any game leading up to it. This makes me stick out like a sore thumb at work. EVERY person I work with has a favorite team.

5. Acquire a taste for beer - Continuing the "Why I'm Considered Weird at Work" theme, I hate beer. I have tried many, many beers ranging from the cheap and nasty to the girly beers that are supposed to taste like fruit. Each one has that underlying beer taste that I find revolting. I once drank a concoction of lemon juice, sugar, vodka and WATER to avoid drinking beer (it was a combo of the only other drinks the frat guys had in their apartment).

6. Get a tan - I actually gave up on this one in college. I am pale, pale, pale and nothing will change that. I do not tan. I burn, then go directly back to pale white. I have learned, the hard way, that sunscreen is not just a pain in the ass. Again, I married well in that my hubby thinks that powder white, Victorian look is smokin' hot.

7. Take a high paying job that I would hate - Life's just too short. To go along with this, I have promised that I will never take a job if I get a bad vibe in the interview. I did that once, was completely miserable and quit the job after four months.

8. Acquire a taste for fish - I've tried this, too. Everything from flounder to catfish to salmon to sea bass. Every one of them has a horrible fish taste that I despise.

9. Go camping - Dude, I have tried this and unless you have a hotel hidden in your pocket, there is no way you will convince me to go camping. I am not an outdoors girl.

10. Own a sports/ fancy car - I'm not really a car person and I drive my Honda Civic fast enough, thank you. I've driven a Mustang before and it was cool, but I know myself well enough to know how much trouble I could get into with a fast sports car.

So, tell me. What is on your Fuck It List?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Flipping Out!

The book, not my state of mind. Here's the synopsis:
Nora Bannister is a bestselling mystery novelist who buys run-down houses in LA. While her business partners turn the house into a showpiece, Nora makes it the scene of a grisly murder in her House To Die For series. As soon as the new book goes on sale, so does the house — and the bidding frenzy begins. It seems a lot of people are willing to pay a lot of money to live in a real house where a fictional character has died a violent death.
Just before Nora’s latest book hits the market, one of her house-flipping partners is murdered. LAPD Detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs are assigned the case, but this one is a hot potato – the dead woman is also the wife of one of their fellow cops. As Mike and Terry dig into the victim’s private life, more bodies turn up . . .
Is someone stalking the house flippers or is the murderer after cops’ wives? Either way, Mike and Terry have to track down the killer before he murders his next logical target — Marilyn Biggs, Terry’s wife.
If you haven't read any of the Lomax and Biggs novels, please start with Rabbit Factory. (Really, how many times do I have to recommend this book?!) It's the beginning of the story and starts you off with the characters at good points in their lives. Flipping Out is the third Lomax and Biggs novel. And it is awesome! The mystery is very tightly written - it twists and turns in lots of unpredictable directions. And the characters are as lovable and witty as ever. Mike Lomax is the hero with the heart of gold, again the heart and soul of the book. And Terry Biggs is the sidekick, providing comedy relief in some much-needed places. They make a great team and make this book a treat to read. It concludes with a very satisfying, surprising ending. All around, a great read. I give it 5 stars.
Now, wouldn't you like a chance to win an autographed copy of that fine novel? Send a question for the author, Marshall Karp, to, and remember - the more questions you send, the more prizes you can win!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Books By Quarter

I am totally stealing this idea from Janssen and Elizabeth and partially from Fiona, whose Buncha Books posts are so awesome. I thought this would be WAY easier than waiting until the end of the year to type up my book list. Here are the books I've read this quarter, along with my (hopefully brief) thoughts.

1. 7th Heaven - James Patterson - Seventh book of the Women's Murder Club series. Good series, quick reads. I enjoyed it.

2. The Woods - Harlan Coben - Recommended by Fiona. Really good mystery with lots of unpredictable plot twists. Really liked it.

3. Slam - Nick Hornby - Hornby is the author of About a Boy, High Fidelity, and other British "lad lit" books. They're all very entertaining and quick reads. This one is no exception.

4. Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer - Twilight series. Awful. See previous thoughts here. Um, and here.

5. A Much Married Man - Nicholas Coleridge - For some reason, it took me a really long time to finish this book. It's not that thick, but the type must be really small or something. Anyway, it's not bad. Entertaining.

6. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - See, I read classics, too! Very good, very moving, but as is ALWAYS the case with Dickens, too many descriptions. Maybe I just bore easily.

7. Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer - THANK GOD there are only four books in this series. I finally finished the whole damn series. Breaking Dawn is far and away the best in the series, but that is Not. Saying. Much.

8. Rise and Shine - Anna Quindlen - This book is very good until she makes a choice to use one of the characters as a plot device to bring another character home. I hated that choice and it colored the way I feel about the book.

9. Mr. White's Confession - Robert Clark - A very weird mystery. The plot is good and the book is well-written. I can't remember why it leaves me cold. Oh wait, yes, I do. The unlikely couple who become the heart of the book don't end up together. But it's good, and very twisty, and the red herrings are REALLY believable.

10. Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates - No, I haven't seen the movie. The sad part about this book is that the characters are not very likable. With likable characters, I think it would have rocked. And their kids are basically set pieces. In fact, the whole novel reads like a novel about marriage and family written by an unmarried man with no children.

11. Mohawk - Richard Russo - This is Russo's first novel, and it kind of shows. It's got the Russo hallmarks - set in a small town, focuses on families and the challenges they face. It doesn't have a very strong conclusion, though. Some questions are left unanswered. But it's still very, very good, as I hope should go without saying when we're discussing Richard Russo.

12. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler - Has Anne Tyler ever written a bad book? Didn't think so. This one focuses on a mother and her three grown children - her personality, the sibling rivalry and the wounds the siblings inflict on each other.

13. Third Degree - Greg Iles - Another fine recommendation by Fiona. This is a serious thriller that I couldn't put down. I read it in one day and basically did not move from my recliner until I finished it. Gripping, exciting and suspenseful.

14. The Doctor's Wife - Elizabeth Brundage - Ugh. This book was populated by bad characters who did bad things. Nasty little piece of work.

15. A Disorder Peculiar to the Country - Ken Kaufus - A not-really-recommended by Fiona. But the premise sounded so good, I picked it up at a used book store and read it. And um, Fiona was right - it has a kickass premise on which it totally does not deliver. It's not bad, per se, it's just nowhere near as good as it could have been.

16. If Only It Were True - Marc Levy - Weird premise, weird delivery. A guy walks into his closet one day and finds a girl sitting there. She's the "spirit"? of the girl who owned the apartment before him. She's not dead, though, she's in a coma in a hospital across town, and they're getting ready to turn off her life support. Um, it's not that it's bad, it's just REALLY far-fetched.

17. The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck - Very good. Rags to riches to fall from riches story set in China.

18. Away - Amy Bloom - Amazing until the ending. Too much buildup that didn't get delivered on. The prose is stunning, though.

19. Blindness - Jose Saramago - Tiresome. Kind of a post-apocalyptic novel. People start going blind. It is somehow contagious, so the blind people and the people they've come in contact with are quarantined in a mental hospital. There is one woman who doesn't go blind. I don't know, it was grim and unpleasant, and at first very gripping, but as things got worse and worse, I cared less and less. Maybe I am heartless.

20. Change Me Into Zeus' Daughter - Barbara Robinette Moss - A tough childhood, drunk dad memoir. Very compelling. Very well-written.

21. The Full Cupboard of Life - Alexander McCall Smith - The 6th? 7th? book in the Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency series. This series is so sweet. I really did not expect to like this series as much as I do. They're like cotton candy - fluffy and sweet and insubstantial. But they're cute little books.

22. Flipping Out - Marshall Karp - I will be telling you all about this book in a week or so. For now, suffice it to say that it's a very sharp, very funny mystery. Oh! And don't forget the contest!

23. Loud and Clear - Anna Quindlen - Essays from Anna Quindlen's years as a NY Times columnist. Some are great, some are annoying, some are just so-so. Overall, the book is enjoyable, if a big dose of "what Anna thinks".