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Sunday, December 23, 2012

4th Sunday Surprise: Merry Christmas

Well, since only one person out of the 300+ people who visited my blog last week commented I didn't have to use random.org to choose a winner.

Kelly Grunter Atlas,  please email me at melania dot tolan at gmail dot com so I can get you the gift certificate. Congrats and you have great taste in movies *winks*.

Folks we survived the Mayan apocalypse and Christmas is a couple of days away. Where has the year gone? I ask this question every year as December draws to a close. 2012 rocked, but I'm really looking forward 2013. Some big things are coming down the pipeline. :)

This will be my last post for 2012. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year. Here's a fun video I found. Go ahead, get up and dance.  See you next year.

Cheers,
Melania




Monday, December 17, 2012

3rd Sunday Sweet: Love Actually

Movie Poster courtesy of Wikipedia

Normally I review books for 3rd Sunday Sweet, but today I'm going to talk about one of my favorite movies of all time. Movies are a huge source of inspiration and education in telling a great story. Love Actually is the perfect example, especially when it comes to romance and love.

For those who haven't seen it here is the blurb from IMDb:

Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely and interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.

 Most of the cast is British and which includes some of my favorites: Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, & Rowan Atkinson.

Basically the movie is about Love and how it manifests in different relationships. Each individual story is connected to the next one by one or two of the characters. Riddled with classic British humor, sweet to sizzling romance and sparkling dialogue, Love Actually delivers on many levels. It's a movie both guys and girls can enjoy. And it's definitely my favorite Christmas movie EVER. I watch it every year around this time. It leaves me feeling hopeful, happy, and in the holiday spirit.

So what is your favorite Christmas movie? Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win a $10 gift card to Amazon.com. I'll announce the winner next Sunday.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

2nd Sunday Savor: Getting back to writing

I found this fabulous little video on the Official The Host Facebook page. Stephenie Meyer's is one of my favorite authors and a huge inspiration for me. Take a look.



I like the part where she talks about how hard it is for her to get back to the world she's creating when she is pulled out and that it takes about two weeks before she can start writing again. This is something I battle with as a writer and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Loved hearing a successful published author like her struggles with this as well.

Speaking of writing, I've got a kissing and fight scene waiting for me. Catch you all next week. Until then here's another jewel of advice from Stephenie Meyer:





Sunday, December 2, 2012

1st Sunday Snippet: Lightening

Happy December! I'm trying to get lots of writing done this month so will be keeping my posts short & sweet. Today's snippet is from my YA WIP about a girl who discovers she can control the weather. In this scene she's interrupted three bullies from picking on a helpless girl.

***



My lips curled into a smile. I didn’t control the elements, but weird stuff tended to happen around me, especially when I got pissed. He didn’t need to know that though. Let him believe whatever would make him afraid. Only his eyes hardened and he didn’t even budge or look worried unlike his buddies who appeared they would wet themselves at any moment. 

“You’re a goddamn witch,” he smiled back, “I could use one of you on my team.” He stepped  forward with pure pleasure in his eyes.

Oh, crap. That wasn’t the reaction I was going for. If only I could make a bolt of lightning strike the ground between his feet. I hadn’t even completed my thought when a flash of light ignited the space between us. The sheer force of the energy pushed me back a couple of steps as the ground rattled under my boots.

When my eyes readjusted I saw a black crater about a foot diameter inches from his spanking brand new sneakers.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

4th Sunday Surprise: How NOT to tell a story

Hubby and I watched Prometheus this weekend. I grew up watching the Aliens movies and looked forward to seeing Ridley Scott's newest creation. Plus it's no secret I LOVE sci-fi. However this movie turned out to be a dud. We fast forwarded parts of the film because the scene either dragged or the main characters were about to do something so dumb and I didn't want to waste my time watching their stupidity. When the end credits finally began to roll we glanced at each other and sighed in unison. There went 2 hours of our life and a $1.50 we would never get back. Thank heavens I didn't see it in the theater, because then I'd be pissed.

So what was it about the film that lacked?

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!! (If you haven't seen the movie and plan on it, you might want to stop reading here.)

Empathy- The movie starts out with an alien humanoid creature drinking a black fluid which causes him to disintegrate and tumble into a water fall triggering some new genetic reaction. The next scene switches to an archeology site on the Isle of Sky, Scotland were a couple discover ancient cave paints that match other ancient civilizations depictions. The lady archeologist, Elizabeth Shaw, interprets this as an invitation to find these people she labels "The Engineers" (the race who created humans). And then we are on the Prometheus traveling through space. All the crew are in stasis as the android David takes care of them and ship. When the crew wakes up as they arrive at their destination, the viewer is introduced to various array of characters thrown together supposedly to make for interesting story. None of them had met before they woke up, something I found very odd.

I didn't understand any of them or could sympathize with why most of the main character were there in the first place. The majority of the secondary characters behaved erratically and made poor choices that eventually led to their death. Archeologists were there to make contact with "their maker," but Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the leader of the expedition, forbids them to make contact without her permission. Peter Weyland is a rich man who funds this expedition so he can discover a way to live forever and is on board the ship. Okay I get the whole "seeking the fountain of youth" perspective, but wouldn't you pick a more emotionally balanced group of people to manage your 3 trillion dollar investment?

I couldn't understand anyone's goal or why they made the choices they did therefore I couldn't empathize for them and when they all died, except for one crew member, I didn't mourn their loss or care.

Logic- Prometheus lands on this planet and part of the crew go to explore a cave as soon as they get there. One of the crew members is a geologist and has these handy-dandy orbs that scan the tunnels of said cave. However when they discover this chamber where one of the Engineer's body lies decapitated he freaks out and decides to go back to the ship. Another crew member joins him. When a huge storm approaches and ship captain orders them to return, everyone leaves and barely makes it back to the ship, but not before David gathers some specimens to take back.The two dudes who left earlier are lost in the tunnels and remain behind AFTER they left long before the rest group. They encounter a snakelike alien creature slithering through a pool of black fluid and eventually die because of their moronic actions.

Okay, so that was the beginning of the "too stupid to live" mistakes that this movie teems with. 1) you fly a ship to the farthest place humans have ever gone and you land it (your only way home) on an alien planet without scanning the planet first? Why not send a investigating probe filled with those handy-dandy scanner orbs? 2) Mr geologist dude can't figure out how to get out of the cave system after he boasts his little orbs will map out everything for them and he had contact with the ship where they could talk him and his partner their way out. Huh? 3) Oh yeah, we're on a foreign planet in a creepy tunnel let's split up because that's always a wisest decision.

David ends up tainting the drink of Shaw's archeologist boyfriend with alien black water. He becomes unknowingly infected and has sex with Shaw causing her to get pregnant with alien baby (most predictable plot point of the whole movie besides people dying). The crew returns to cave after storm to search for the two left behind. David wanders way from the rest of the crew and discovers this is a ship and there is one Engineer in stasis there. This is where I fast-forwarded the movie because the crew discovers one of the teammate's body and people start acting stupid and I got impatient.

Shaw's boyfriend dies and it is then she discovers she's pregnant. She runs off into Vicker's quarters where she uses the expensive self-surgery machine to extract the octopus-like alien out of her. Then she proceeds to run throughout the ship as if she hasn't had any major abdominal surgery. Right, really believable...

Character Development- this goes along with empathy. Developing the characters helps the viewer empathize with them. Yet the only character development I saw was people's IQ level seemed to disintegrate as the movie went on shown by their idiotic actions. Maybe that was the point of the movie? Being in stasis for several years and then landing on a foreign planet makes you act stupid.

Lack of Story Arc- Weyland awakens from stasis. David leads him and part of the crew including Shaw who is mere hours post surgery to the alien ship within the cave. At least she's sweating and looks like she's in pain. When David awakens the giant humanoid alien who in return decapitates the android and kills everyone but Shaw who runs away. She manages to warn the Prometheus as she's running for her life and tell them that the alien is going to kill earth by flying the ship invested with canisters of black alien water. The captain decided to fly Prometheus into the alien ship to stop it. Vickers jumps the ship through a escape pod only to be squashed by the alien ship falling from the sky. Shaw survives and David (because he is an android and can't be killed) makes contact with her. She takes his head and body. Together they find another alien ship and fly away seeking the Engineer's home planet. A new species emerges from the fallen humanoid alien. The End.

The whole movie is a collection of events that are disconnected. Why did David taint the water and infect Shaw's boyfriend? Why did the Engineer kill the people? What was the other species that lived on this planet in the black water? Did they kill the Engineers? How did Shaw interpret that he was going to fly the ship to earth? And after everything she'd been through, she still wanted to track these creatures? Why, why, why?

No questions were answered in the movie. A bunch of people flew to this planet and died expect for one girl and talking android head. Okay so what was the point? Who was the antagonist? The aliens, the stupid crew members, or the planet? I felt the people were thrown into situations to create conflict, but the only thing that these events revealed about the characters is that they are too stupid to live therefore why should I care about or what happens to them? I understand there will be a sequel. Will the questions be answered then? Do I even care enough to watch the sequel?

Prometheus might be two hours and $1.50 I will never get back, but on the positive side, what a cheap class on how NOT to tell a story.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

3rd Sunday Sweet: Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs.

Last summer at RWA, I had the privilege of meeting the fantastic Tera Lynn Childs as well as attend a YA workshop taught by her and Sophie Jordan. A while ago, Sweet Venom was free on Kindle and I downloaded it. The book sat in my archive for a couple of weeks before I started reading. Once I did I couldn't put it down.

It's written in intense first person kind of like Hunger Games and I was in the story from page one. The writing is fabulous. Sweet Venom is the tale of triple sisters, separated at birth, who happen to be descendants of Medusa, and their destiny is to keep the monsters popping up all over San Fransisco in check.

Grace, the eco-geeky sister, is my favorite. I love that she is sweet but tough when she needs to be. Gretchen is the badass sister that has been doing the fighting the longest and has known her destiny before the other two. Greer is the preppy snobby girl you want to hate, but at the same time can't help but love because underneath all the layers of the high class society she's grown up in she has a heart of gold. I loved how each sister's POV tells a new facet of the story. I felt the sadness, joy, and sacrifice these girls experienced as they embraced their destiny.

This fresh take on Greek mythology is full of adventure, excellent character development, and sprinkled with sweet little bits of romance. Reminded me alot of the Percy Jackson series but less middle grade. When I finished the book I bought the sequel Sweet Shadows. Didn't start it till last week and it's just as good as the first. I'm trying to pace myself because I HATE waiting for the next book... My strategy is not working very well...

You can get your own copy here. Totally worth it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

2nd Sunday Savor: Here we go again

First of all, how the heck does one return to normal blogging after the awesomeness of the last two weeks? I mean, really. Featuring a NY Times best-selling author's next novel cover reveal AND ARC giveaway AND two teasers pretty much tops everything. Except maybe if I announced that I've sold my book. Unfortunately, I haven't. Yet. But it will happen someday. :)

So maybe I'll give an update about what's happening in this author's life. Well, I'm back at it again. Those strigoi keep haunting my sanity, begging for more page time. The Vampire Novelist is being revised again. I worked on it last winter and set it aside so I could write my mermaid YA fantasy (which I did & finished it & submitted it & got rejected). Living in the ancient world of Atlantis fulfilled a childhood dream of mine. Even though the story got rejected, I got great feed back from those I submitted to, saying "loved the story and the writing, unfortunately it's not what we are looking for at this time." That is the best kind of rejection right there.

This fall I started a new YA about a girl discovering she's a witch that can control the weather & the angel sent to protect her while she gains control of her powers. It's slow going and the plot needs some *cough* a lot of work, but I'm really having fun with this story.

And through all of this Traian, Patrick, and Danika (the three main characters from TVN) decided they weren't done with me just yet.Vampires- they'll suck you right back in when you least expect it. So my goal is to give them another go. So far I'm loving the new revised plot. Then submit the story again when I'm finished and we'll see what happens.

So that's what's happening here, folks. I've returned to the dark side. Muahahahaha!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

1st Sunday Snippet: Life After Theft Teaser #2 + ARC winner

WOW!!!! You guys rock. Thank you everyone who entered the Life After Theft ARC giveaway. You all have made this such a fun contest. According to Random.org the winner is:

Emily Jane! Please check your email today. :)

Thanks again and a ginormous thank you to Aprilynne Pike and HaperCollins for making this possible. Okay and here is the next promised teaser:



“Stop! Stop!” Kimberlee melted through the wall with her hands over her eyes. “Put the razor down. Do you really shave?” she asked, peeking through her fingers.
I pointed to the razor with my best ‘duh’ look.
“No, I mean do you have to shave? You get stubble and everything?”
“Yeah.”
“Lemme see.” She leaned close and studied the fringe of hair on my chin and around my mouth. “That’s sexy, you can’t get rid of that.”
“But the dress code says no facial hair.”
“Oh, please. They won’t bust you for stubble.”
“Why would I want stubble?”
“Girls love stubble. If you can grow it, it shows you’re more virile.”
I rolled my eyes. “Do you even know what that word means?”
“Capable of performing sexually as a male,” she said proudly. “I looked it up.”
I looked at my chin in the mirror and my thoughts flashed to Serafina. That wrestler guy yesterday probably had a little stubble too. “Virile. You know, I’m feeling virile.”
“Whatever—do your hair.”
I took a comb and parted my hair then brushed it back with my fingers.
“You’re kidding me.”
“What? It’s the messy look.”
“I know the messy look, Jeff, and that is not it. Do you have any gel?”
Last straw. “Listen, I am not changing my hair. If you want me to help you, you take me the way I am or no deal.”
Kimberlee folded her arms across her chest. “Whatever,” she said. “But if no girl will touch you, don’t say I didn’t try.”
It took fifteen minutes of coaching before Kimberlee was satisfied. I wasn’t convinced. I had pokey spears on one side with a flattened patch on the other and bits of crunchy bangs were hanging down over one eye. “I look like an idiot.”
“No, you look hot!”
“I don’t know Kim, maybe—”
“Kimberlee.”
Kimberlee. Maybe this really isn’t the look for me.”
“Trust me. You’ve never looked better.”
Trust Kimberlee? Every instinct rebelled against that thought, but what choice did I really have? Kimberlee was born and raised in Santa Monica and based on what I’d skimmed from her Internet presence—yes, I did more Googling—she apparently was the queen of Whitestone for almost three years before the riptide cut her reign short. I had nothing.
Besides, I’d spent so long on my hair I only had ten minutes to get to school. No time to start over.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Life After Theft Cover Reveal

First I want to give Aprilynne a HUGE THANK YOU for giving fangs, felines, fins, & fun fiction this awesome opportunity. And here it is, folks. Let me give you a moment to savor the beauty of this fabulous cover... Click to image to enlarge.



Breathtaking...gorgeous...

Okay so as promised I'm hosting an ARC giveaway for Life After Theft. Here are the rules:
CONTEST CLOSED.
1. Post a comment below with an email address where I can get a hold of you should you win.

2. This giveaway is open everyone. (International Folks too) :)

3. Giveaway ends Midnight Nov 3 PST. I will randomly draw a winner then and will announce the name on Sunday Nov 4.

4. Check back on Nov 4 to see if you're the lucky winner and read another exclusive teaser from Life After Theft.

5. If you have won and I have not heard from you by Wednesday Nov 7 by 3pm, I will draw another winner.

6. Once I have you're mailing information, I will pass it to Aprilynne and she'll get you the ARC.

Best of luck to you! Thanks again Aprilynne.

Added: In the meantime be sure to check out the teaser posted on Sunday if you haven't already. :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

3rd Sunday Sweet: Well sort of...

Okay, somehow I managed to get my blog schedule ahead by a week. Everything is sort of cockeyed. Sadly, I didn't notice this until now and I apologize for the confusion. There is a perfectly good reason behind this, though, but one I can't share right now because I have something so much bigger to announce.

You all know how I adore Aprilynne Pike and her awesomeness. See here, here, here, & here. A few months ago when she announced Life After Theft, a book she started working on back in 2006, was going to be published next year, I got really excited. Here is an author who has already published a best-selling series, but is finally going to see her "baby" out there on the shelves. If that's not inspiration, I don't know what is. I remember reading about her writing LAT and thinking "Gosh, I really hope she publishes this because it sounds like a fun story." Well, folks the wait is almost over.

Though the book doesn't officially come out til April 2013, Aprilynne has graciously allowed me to share a teaser from Life After Theft with you all exclusively on fangs, felines, fins, & fun fiction. But wait, there is more....

She's also allowed me to do a cover reveal AND wait for it...


wait for it...


wait for it...


You ready for this?


An ARC giveaway. Yes, you read correctly. AN ARC GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!

Have I mentioned how awesome Aprilynne is??? The cover will be revealed Tuesday October 23 and the ARC giveaway contest rules. Check back in a couple of days and be sure to bring your friends too.

Okay enough blabbing. Here is what you've all been waiting for and without further ado, let me present a snippet from the long awaiting Life After Theft:



When we reached what looked like the face of a mini-cliff she took two running steps and jumped, and basically floated into the cave.
I was stuck ten feet below. “You suck,” I shouted.
“Wimp. There are handholds all the way up. That’s how I did it when I was alive.”
I found a ledge for my foot and stepped up to reach for one with my arms. In a few seconds I had four limbs on little ledges and was sure I looked like a bug clinging to the wall for dear life—all of three feet above a sandy beach. I looked up to Kimberlee for help. She was staring out at the sea. A gust of wind made her skirt flutter suddenly, giving me an eyeful. I froze, lost my balance, and slid down the rock. Or, more accurately, fell sprawling into the sand.
“Perv,” Kimberlee said with a sinister laugh that made me remember that wind couldn’t touch her clothes. Only Kimberlee had any effect on Kimberlee’s clothes.
“Don’t do that again,” I said darkly. At least not while I’m clinging to the side of a cliff. Without looking at Kimberlee I started to climb again, more carefully this time. It took me about three tries and at least ten minutes, but I made it. I peered back down at the beach. The climb looked a lot shorter from up top. “Okay,” I said as I scrambled to my feet. “Where’s the stuff?”
She tilted her head to the back of the cave. I turned and blinked, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness. When they finally did, my jaw dropped.
There must have been a hundred boxes stacked in the back of the cave, which was way deeper than I’d expected. “A few things? A few things! Are you insane?” My voice echoed through the cave, repeating my words back to me.
“Jeff . . .” Her voice was uncharacteristically quiet.
“This is ridiculous. You lied to me.”
“I did not.”
“No one in their right mind would ever classify this as ‘a few things.’ You lied to get me up here and hoped you could just flutter your eyes and it would be all better. Well, it’s not.” I backed away from the massive pile of boxes. “I’m not doing this.”
“Jeff . . .”
“I should call the cops,” I said as I backed away. No way could I return all this stuff on my own, not in any reasonable amount of time. “I’ll bet they could—”
“No!” Kimberlee shouted, running after me. “They’d just confiscate it all. Then I’d be stuck here forever! Jeff, please.”
“No. I’m leaving,” I said, as much to myself as to Kimberlee, “and I am not coming back.” I looked over the edge and tried to find the handholds I had used climbing up. It’s only ten feet. Just jump! I let myself down as far as I could while holding on to the ledge, then tried to fall slowly. My feet hit the sand a moment before my ass did. My tailbone stung, but at least I was out of the klepto cave. I looked over at my car and forced myself to walk calmly instead of running—which would probably make me fall and look like an idiot.
Again.
Kimberlee was right beside me. “They’re organized,” she pleaded. “It’ll be easy. A bag for each person. The boxes are sorted by category. A couple of trips and we’ll be done.”
By category? “A couple of trips? A couple of trips? Maybe if I had a semi. That,” I said pointing up at the cave, “is a lot of stuff, Kimberlee. You have a problem.”
“Had.”
“What?”
She shrugged. “Can’t do it anymore, can I?” She laughed shakily for a few seconds before falling silent.

 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

3rd Sunday Sweets: Innocent Darkness by Susan Lazear

I met the lovely Suzanne Lazear at RWA last summer and instantly preordered Innocent Darkness for my Kindle. When it arrived, I dove right in.

As the title implies, this YA is pretty dark. Since it's steampunk the story takes place during the Victorian era when many freaky things happened, most people don't talk about.

Noli, the heroine, is sent to a reform school in San Fransisco after being caught flying a car illegally (illegal because she's a girl and she doesn't have a license.) There's some pretty scary things that happen there, like water-boarding and other "treatments" that are considered barbaric this day and age.

However she escapes the hellish prison into the faerie world through a portal where she is trapped by Kevighn, the high faerie queen's huntsman. There's a little love triangle that's formed between Kevighn and Steven, her neighbor from back home in LA. Noli is thrown into all sorts of challenging situations and adventures.

So what did I think?

For being my first steampunk, it wasn't too bad. I think this book is a great intro to the genre for people who have never read before and would like to try it out. The faerie element is much stronger than the steampunk. The old lore is beautifully woven throughout. Reminded me a lot of the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, but with a steampunk spin. Yes, the story is dark, but there is a sweet innocent undertone which lightens the book a bit.

The romantic elements are very strong and though the book is PG, there is a scene that is a bit steamy and not the in punk kind of way.

Though I found some of the twists predictable, I enjoyed fun ride. The imagery was stunning and I felt like I took a trip through the Otherworld. Looking forward to reading book two. Hello, I need to know what happens to Noli, Steven, & Kevighn!!! 

You can purchase your own copy here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

2nd Sunday Savor: How my writing has changed.



Courtesy of IFC Portlandia Official Facebook Page


I began my writing adventures almost four years ago when my husband encouraged me to write the stories in my head instead of telling them to him. Poor guy, he just needed to get his crazy wife off his back.
 
At first, I wrote this crazy dream of a future Portland buried underground to protect the population from the radiation on the surface. (I swear I’m going to write a series about this someday, because it was pretty freaking cool.) Then I started a story about a girl who is given the gift of healing from an angel, but her super religious parents freak out because they think she’s a witch. 

Six months into this whole writing business, I decided I needed to write a vampire story based in my native Romania. Pretty much every story I started was an idea and then I would run off with it until I came to a wall because I’m not a plotter. The vampire story was the first one I actually finished. I had a beginning and ending with a bunch of stuff in the middle.

I never took classes or workshops until a couple of years ago when I attended my first conference put on by Willamette Writers. That’s where I learned stuff like “Inciting Incidence” and the “Black Moment.” 

But it wasn’t until I joined RWA when I realized, I needed help. So I went to workshops and took online classes. Did they help me? Absolutely. I learned about story structure and plotting (even though I’m a fervent panster regardless). Did these resources improve my writing? Yes. A lot.

But it wasn’t until July when I started reading Wired for Story, when my writing truly changed. Now when I go back and read what I’ve written recently I see that there’s a story there rather than a collection of exciting events with interesting characters.

What’s also changed is how I approach my writing. I’m not as hard on myself anymore and I’m not so focused on being published. Yes, getting published is my goal, but I’m learning to enjoy each step of the way. The first step is to make sure I have something I’m proud of. That isn’t to say I’m editing everything to the ninth degree. No, I’m just saying I want to put out quality.

It WILL happen. I’m sure of it as much as I'm sure I need to go to work tomorrow morning in order to keep my job. Today, however, I’m so much closer to realizing my dream than four years ago.