Let's Play Grinch ... You Know You Want To.

The holiday season is reaching its apex, and while there is plenty of joy and cheer to be had, sometimes it can all be a little taxing.  We've all seen (and I'm sure a few of us have had) holiday meltdowns.  You know what I'm talking about.  Like when the person in front of you at the grocery store completely destroys a teenage checker for not asking for their preferred bag-type.  (Paper?  Plastic?  Or holiday death-wish?)  Or when someone starts ramming cars in the Starbucks drive thru in some kind of caffeine depleted rage.

(True story alert!)  I was at the post office last week and saw a 75 year old man hurl his post office box keys at the clerk because they wouldn't open his box.  And to all a good frigging night!  This got me to thinking, a dangerous pastime I know.  We need a safe way for people to vent their holiday frustrations before someone goes to prison.  This is me paying it forward.  Here are the five things I hate the most about the holidays, feel free to create your own lists in the comments.  Consider it an open forum to rant about what really ticks you off.  And remember: If you don't share, I'll hunt you down and make you eat mistletoe (it's poisonous you know).

Be sure to stick around until the end to read about how you can win a Nook Color eReader simply by following a pretty awesome blog!

5. Traffic

While some of you may not live in large cities and not know the joys of a 45 minute car ride to go 1 mile, let me just tell you that even Santa would be ready to punch someone in the giblets if he had sat at the same stoplight for half-an-hour watching only three cars make it through each green light.

4. Work Parties

Is there anything more exquisitely painful than being forced to celebrate a job that is the source of all evil in your life?  How about celebrating that job with 50 people you don't know AND having to act like it's the best time of your life?  Thought so ...

3. People that Hate the Holidays

Yeah, we know your kids are a pain in the rump, that you don't believe in XYZ, and that you'll be drinking martinis and skiing on Christmas Eve.  Some of us spend the rest of the year thinking about THIS time of year.  Don't ruin it for us, and most of all don't destroy it for the kids that are probably listening to you make fun of their parents.  NOTE FROM THE BLOGGIST - I don't hate the holidays, just the game.

2. Long Lines

"I just need a gallon of milk."  Famous last words this time of year.  You expect to wait at the post office, you expect to wait at the airport, and you most definitely expect to wait at the shopping mall.  But a cue at the gas station?  A two hour line at the Red Box machine?  Ouch.

1. Crappy Music

Let me preface this by saying that I love holiday music.  I'm the guy that has it blasting in October.  However, there is just so much wonderful music out there that it befuddles me as to why malls can only play the same 3 awful songs over and over.  My most hated?  Watch the video and curse me for getting it stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Can someone explain to me how a Beatle churned out that crap?  Anywho, hope your holiday IS filled with cheer and awesomeness.  Remember to be polite, and always carry pepper spray.  


Trailer Talk - Book Trailer Reviews

Howdy all!  Tis the season for late blog entries, long lines, and overpriced shipping ... Hooray!  Seriously, I love just about everything about this time of year, but it can be a little taxing on the nerves.  So let me give you something to take your mind off of your burdens.  If only for a couple minutes--while you guzzle down your favorite hot (or cold) beverage and steady yourself for the 2nd to last weekend of shopping left before C-DAY--I welcome you to kick back and enjoy a couple of book trailers with me.

Together, we can play highbrow and scrutinize the work of others!  How could that not make you feel better about the day?  Leading us off this week is another referred trailer (You rock, Claire!), and it's one you can't miss.

TRAILER # 1:  The Absolute Value of - 1 by Steve Brezenoff

What's It About? (Via Booklist)  "Lily, Noah, and Simon survived middle school together, thanks mostly to times spent together smoking pot and ditching class. Now in high school, Noah has a crush on Lily that goes unnoticed because she only has eyes for Simon. Making matters even more complicated is that Simon’s father is dying of cancer, straining Simon’s unusual relationship with his sister Suzanne. Framed by the funeral of Simon’s dad, this novel gives readers firsthand perspectives of all three characters regarding a series of events leading up to the funeral. At times raw with emotion (“Why didn’t anyone say, ‘Your dad is going to die’?”), the story compellingly explores how teens connect with one another and how they view themselves. Many readers will relate to the feelings of isolation and lack of hope portrayed here. Edgy and gritty, Brezenoff’s YA debut reads like a cross between the screenplay for Cruel Intentions and some of Robert Cormier’s novels. Grades 9-12. --Melissa Moore"

Why It's Full of Win: Woo doggies!  This is a good one!  You know I'm a sucker for the crafty animated trailers, and the Sharpie-style and grainy camera treatment on this one is pitch perfect.  From the opening lines of, "I'm not as dark as I seem,"  you really get a feel for the tone of this book.  It's going to be snarky, insightful, and edgy.  I also loved the soundtrack.  It really gave a nice rhythm to the video.  There is also a powerful lesson to all trailer makers hidden in this gem: You don't have to lead off the trailer with the best hook line from your story.  By placing the "absolute value ..." (the hook) thing at the end, this trailer really finished me off.  Furthermore, it makes me think the author knows how to finish a story and make you think.

Why It's Not: Very few quibbles with this one, but I didn't think the review towards the middle of the trailer was necessary, and may have even detracted from its edge/vibe.  I loved the trailer so much that it kind of seemed like putting an advertisement on the Mona Lisa.  The trailer was probably a touch long, but would have been spot-on had they simply left out the review.

I've Seen the Trailer, Would I Read the Book?  Heck yes.  This one wins on every level.

TRAILER # 2: The Indigo King by James A. Owen

What's It About?  (Amazon book description) "John and Jack are mystified when they discover a cryptic warning on a medieval manuscript—a warning that is not only addressed to them, but seems to have been written by their friend, Hugo Dyson. But before they can discover the origins of the book, Hugo walks through a door in time—and vanishes into the past.

In that moment, the world begins to change. Now, the Archipelago of Dreams and our world both suffer under the reign of the cruel and terrible Winter King. Dark beasts roam the countryside, and terror rules the land.

John and Jack must travel back in time—from the Bronze Age to the library in ancient Alexandria to the founding of the Silver Throne—to find the only thing that can save their friend and restore both words. The solution lies in the answer to a 2,000-year-old mystery: Who is the Cartographer?"

What I Liked: I like the setup.  Someone disappearing into a door in time instantly gets the imagination going, and the music sets us up for what promises to be a frantic, action-packed journey.  Really liked how the art, etc. was juxtaposed onto the maps, which echos the 'journey' theme.  Plus, I thought the use of the old ink drawings gave everything the historical feel of reading a textbook, while the narrative promises to  give us much more than a lesson in the past.

What I Didn't: We learn a ton about the story premise, but very little about the characters.  If you're a fan of character driven fiction, this trailer might not give you much to look forward to.  I would have also liked to have seen some specific historical references--like, 'John must convince Genghis Kahn to love puppies!'--to give us a feel for the author's ability to weave fiction and reality.  It also could have been shortened by 20-30 seconds and not lost much in the translation.

I've Seen the Trailer, Would I Read the Book?  If you're a fan of Percy Jackson, and some of the other action-packed books for younger readers out there, I see no reason why this trailer wouldn't inspire you to give the book a shot.  In other words, I think it is well done, and does a solid job of pitching to its targeted readers.

So what say you, viewers great and small?  Do these trailers get the thumbs up or do we send them back the abyss?  :)

As always, have a great/safe weekend!


When is it time to put your story down?

It's hard to say goodbye to an old friend.  You've been through so much together, after all.

Remember that time when you were so tired you couldn't even think about eating, yet somehow your best friend, Story, kept you up half the night anyway?  Then there was the time you were so sad that somehow even the birds outside had gotten the message and gone silent.  There was Story, offering you an escape that would eventually bring a smile back to your face and a little confidence back to your step.

Things haven't always been great between the two of you.  Like all dynamic relationships, you've had rough patches too.  You've given each other the silent treatment over minor quibbles in plot and character development.  You haven't always had time for one another, going long stretches without any real progress.  Still, at the end of the day you've always had each other.

Sadly, for everything there is a season and it seems that Story is not doing so well.  She doesn't respond to your calls.  She refuses to change no matter how much time and effort you put into the relationship.  Worst of all, it seems that the energy that once ignited the spark between you has gone away leaving a canvas devoid of anything but a flashing cursor.   It's the writing equivalent of a flatline.

Maybe it's time to part ways with Story.  Set her free, and maybe she'll come back to you.  Right?

I've been slogging through my WIP edits for what seems like forever now.  Like most writers, I have good days and bad days.  There are times that I get very excited about the possibilities of my story, and other times that I just want to do bad things to it.  Very. Bad. Things.  In truth, most days I really hate that story.  It sucks my creative energy while I'd rather be working on other projects.  It's a dangling ball of FAIL in my everyday life.  Still, I feel like I've invested too much to let it go.

BTW, it has gone through umpteen critiques, etc. so it isn't for lack of outside perspective that I'm stymied.

I've been planning on doing a post on this for a few days, but hadn't really come up with any real answers.  Maybe there is a point you should give up on your story and move on?  Maybe you should NEVER GIVE UP!  (It is Pearl Harbor Day, after all.)  I've seen both types of advice from writers and agents of all kinds.

Well, sometimes when you ask you receive.  Super Lit Agent Rachelle Gardner had an awesome post on just this very topic today!  I read it.  It hit home to the point that I thought I had to share it with the rest of you.  The subject of her post is what to do when you hate your book, and her advice is simple:  It's normal, just keep going.  Here's the link.  I'm taping it to the wall above my writing desk.

So what say you, readers great and small?  Have you ever hated a story?  Have you ever given up on a story?  Good results?  Bad results?


Trailer Talk - Book Trailer Reviews

Good Friday All!  Has everyone got their holiday shopping wrapped up?  (See what I did there?)  Only a couple of more weekends left!  Just in case you're waiting until the last minute (like I am), let me give you something to help you procrastinate.

The first of this weeks trailer offerings comes via follower recommendation (thanks, Nomes!).  Yes, I do requests here on the OV, and no I don't take any kind of payment or offerings for doing the reviews.  Wether I like them or not is purely my own prerogative.

Now for the dirty!  

TRAILER # 1: The Rosie Black Chronicles by Lara Morgan

The Skinny: (From website)

"Five hundred years into the future, the world is a different place. The Melt has sunk most of the coastal cities and Newperth is divided into the haves, the “Centrals”; the have-nots, the “Bankers”; and the fringe dwellers, the “Ferals”.
Rosie Black is a Banker. When Rosie finds an unusual box, she has no idea of the grave consequences of her discovery. A mysterious organisation wants it – and will kill to get it.
Forced to rely on two strangers, Rosie is on the run. But who can she trust? Pip, the too attractive Feral, or the secretive man he calls boss?
From Earth to Mars, Rosie must learn the secrets of the box – before it’s too late."

What Worked: 
I was drawn in by the stark black & white imagery straight away.  This is clearly a dystopian, and the lack of color paints a bleak setting and tone that would support that style of book/reader.  I really, really loved how the city and girl are drawn in, and then slowly 'un-drawn' as the video progresses.  It creates a visual urgency that fits with the "Time is running out, etc." narrative.

What Didn't: 
Really wasn't feeling the music/soundtrack.  It was so wordy and over the top that I had to watch the video a second time on mute, focusing on the written narrative, to figure out what the story was about.  Also not a huge fan of rhetorical question openings (What would you do?, etc.) and this trailer lead off with no less than 3!  Which leads me to my final nitpick: it was a little long (1:18 ... granted the last 10 seconds are outro).  I'd have started with the "it's 500 years in the future..."

I've seen the trailer, would I read the book?
Maybe.  If I were a dystopian fan, it would be a definite yes.  However, as someone who neither hates nor loves the genre, I didn't see much to indicate what was going on in the story outside of conventions.  Although, the trailer is cool enough that a couple of friend endorsements would be all it would take to push me into the read category.

Trailer # 2: Clockwork Angel (Infernal Devices - book 1) by Cassandra Clare

The Skinny:  (Amazon Review)
"Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all."

What Worked:
This is clearly a big-time trailer from a mega-popular book that has been professionally done.  The effects are topnotch, the music is Hollywood intense, and there is enough story detail to let you know this is a steampunk/paranormal blending of the highest drama.  I particularly loved the opening vintage film reel vibe.  The trailer has the perfect blend of artistic relevance and commercial appeal.

What Didn't:  
Frankly, there just isn't much wrong with this one.  It's a little long, and the visual tone of the trailer might be a little steampunk heavy for non-fans of the genre.  That being said, if you hated steampunk, I'm not sure this would be a good read for you anyway.

I've seen the trailer, would I read the book?
Absolutely!  I'm not even a diehard fan of either genre (steampunk/paranormal), and this story still sounds amazing.  That's called great advertising.

That's it for this time, check back next week for some more TT, and let me know if there are any trailers you'd like to see reviewed.  Have a great weekend!