Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Hangover Part II


If it's not horror, action or both, I ignore it unless someone makes me watch it.. That's not to say I don't like other kinds of movie, I do,but I go for horror, fantasy and action. So, it took me awhile to see The Hangover but when I did, I loved it! I was surprised at how much I loved it. I watched it again and again. The Hangover Part II was just as good. Though they rehashed the same plot as the first, I was into it to the end. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis were hilarious. Throw in Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow and a smoking monkey in a cool vest and you get one great comedy. These people were insane it was wild!

I'm surprised by a lot of reviews. People hated this movie. One complaint was it's a retelling of the first movie just in a different location, which it is, but that's what I loved about it- the reminders. I knew how it was going to end but that didn't make the ride any less enjoyable. I also read reviews saying they sat in a theater and no one, including them, laughed. I don't know what theater they went to, but people in mine were cracking up. It was hilarious that Phil, Stu and Alan got in the same situation again because of the same person. I didn't feel anything was forced. The dialogue, the character, the plot was all believable. It even had more action- a great car chase.

It's just like the first one so I can't image why people hated it so much. I mean with a name like The Hangover there really is only one direction this movie can go. I saw it expecting a storyline like the first one. It's called Hangover Part II which, to me, implies same story. It's interesting the movie's called Part II and not The Hangover 2- good call whoever made that decision. It wasn't like the writers cut and pasted the plot from the first and expected no one to notice. It's clear they did it on purpose knowing people would notice. I did. I got excited because I knew what would happen next and knew it would be epic. It was like an inside joke. I'd have been disappointed if they changed too much. I doubt they'd be able to pull it off again though.

The nudity offended some people but I thought it added to the comedy. The Hangover had nudity as well. It's rated "R for pervasive language, strong sexual content including graphic nudity, drug use and brief violent images." If you saw the first you know these people hold nothing back. It's as raunchy if not raunchier. If you like The Hangover, go see The Hangover Part II and judge for yourself.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Adventures to be Had

I'm so behind. I intended to post this two days ago but life happens. Sorry for the delay- enjoy.


In 2007, while studying in England, a group of friends and I spent about 8 or 9 days backpacking across Italy. It was amazing. Even now, I can't believe the things I saw. Each step, even before we arrived in Italy, was an adventure. 

Backpacking means you have all your belongs in a backpack. My Victorinox bag is excellent. I was steamed about buying it at first because of the price but it's held up for three years and many travels. I knew how to pack when I was going to Italy but I still over packed. My friends had two jeans- the one they were wearing and one in their bag. Though I'd been out of high school awhile, I still held onto the mentality that you were dirty if you wore the same jeans two weeks in a row so, I had four- one I was wearing and three in my bag. My bag was stuffed which meant I couldn't buy as many souvenirs because airplanes have a size limit for carry-on and Ryanair only allowed you one-not a purse and a carry-on- one carry-on period. I got souvenirs but they had to be small and I layered clothes on the flight back.

We flew Ryanair out of Stansted which is this airport in the middle of nowhere. Our flight was early in the am and, unlike NY, the trains in England don't run all night. So, we decided to leave the night before and sleep at the airport. Sounds like a plan. Stansted doesn't have many seats, so we had to sit on the floor which still was fine with me. But, it was November so the floor was cold and we dressed for Italy which was much warmer. I really tried to sleep but the floor was far too cold. I eventually gave up and watched HP on my media player.

Ryanair is like the Greyhound of planes. If you purchase a ticket early enough, it'll only cost you about 20 pounds which, three years ago, was $40. Not bad. My friends got that deal, I didn't because I bought my ticket only a week in advance and by then, the price had gone up to about 75 pounds- $150 one way. But, I wanted to go to Italy so I shelled out the bucks. Ryanair doesn't have assigned seating so you sit anywhere. People with priority seating board first. Priority just means you bought your ticket well in advanced. The seats don't lean back which was unfortunate since it was 6am and I was working on no sleep.The cabin lights stayed on the entire ride. I've ridden planes a lot but you never know how bright those lights are until you're trying to sleep with them on. So, needless to say, I was beyond tired when we landed.

We visited:


Florence
Rome




 
Venice

Verona

 We stayed in hostels most of the time. Until I went abroad, I'd never stayed in a hostel and knew only what I'd seen on TV. For those that don't know, with hostels you pay per bed. It's like sleeping in a dorm. You don't usually book in advanced but you can for some places.

The only time we booked in advanced was for Rome. After Rome, we traveled to the other cities with places in mind not knowing if they had beds available. Fortunately, the hostels we tried first had beds for all 9 of us, usually in two different rooms. The only time we stayed in the same room was in Verona.

In Rome, we stayed in The Stargate Hotel. It had an old broken elevator so we had to walk to our floor.The steps were pretty but after the fourth flight you stopped caring. Everyone on the floor shared 4 bathrooms- one had a bathtub/shower but the tub was stained with something, so no one used it; another had a door that didn't lock; one had no hot water and one didn't have anything covering the window. But we were in Rome so, no one cried over it. Fortunately, the other places we stayed in were awesome. Especially Hostel Archi Rossi in Florence which had art painted on the walls and people could write messages on parts of the walls not occupied by artwork.

In Venice, we stayed at Jolly Camping Village and we slept in... I'd call them campers. They were nice with a kitchen, dinning area, and two bedrooms. It cost us either 20 or 25 pounds a night.


I don't remember the name of the place we stayed in Verona but it reminded me of a boarding school with several bunk-beds in one room and a large bathroom at the end of the hallway. The building was old but beautiful. Outside the windows were what looked like ruins.


To say these cities are beautiful is a gross understatement. People have asked me which ones my favorite and still I can't decide. They are all wonderful for their own reason. You can't compare them.
 
The history each city has was awesome. In Rome is a place called Cimitero dei Cappuccini where the bones of dead monks are used as decorations. Some areas had whole skeletons. It was creepy and I loved it. I was amazed at the detail up until the end. The last area had a sign reading "What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be." Standing in a passageway with bones on either side of us- the sign was the creepiest thing ever especially since it was in front of two small skeletons that looked like children. Don't worry we couldn't take pictures so you won't have to see it but at the end, they had postcards. I had to buy three. I bought postcards from every place we traveled not to send to people but as a keepsake. They've come in handy for this blog. So did my travel journal.

I never though I'd actually see some of the art and architecture I'd studied in my Art History classes. The Uffizi Gallery in Florance had the Birth of Venus and many Madonna and Child paintings I'd studied. I had the best lasagna ever in Florence. Bondi not only had excellent food but a hilarious paper place-mat which we took as a souvenir. Two kids are looking into their diapers. Under them reads "There is a difference." Three years later and I still love it.

Though I'm not a romantic, I did enjoy Verona even though it's ridiculous to charge people to see the tomb of a person who didn't exist. Verona's tourism is built around Romeo and Juliet. You can visit Juliet's balcony and her tomb. Verona is a peaceful place and it's gorgeous.

Italy is not English speaking, obviously. The language barrier was sometimes a problem. For touristy places, it was fairly easy to find someone who spoke English when we needed help but, we arrived in Florence at a small town and couldn't find anyone who spoke English but, with a lot of hand gestures and the little Italian they knew, they managed to communicate what they needed. A little over a week traveling Italy and you begin to recognize certain signs like uscita means exit. Tabacchi is a store selling, among other things, metro and local bus tickets. Public bathrooms are called WC.


Florence
Venice
Rome




 
Verona



















More Italy to come then Scotland, Pairs and England- not necessarily on that order.



Friday, May 20, 2011

More Resources for Writers

Here are some books that helped me when I was first learning to write. I'm not including novels because the list would be ridiculous. I prefer books focusing on a specific aspect of writing- plot, character, setting and so on. I don't use general how-to-write books. If you want to know how to writer a novel or short story, read then use what you've read to write a story; then, while editing, see what aspects you have problems with and buy a book on that. General how-to-books may provide good information but ones focusing on a certain part of a story are far more in depth. Write the story in your head and worry about logistics later.



Stephen King's On Writing has some great writing tips as well as a look into a writer's life. Even if you aren't into horror, read this book. It can be applied to any genre.


I looked into The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art by Joyce Carol Oates because I wanted to know more about how a writer's mind worked to see if I was the only one thinking this way. This book, like On Writing, gave me the peek and the reassurance I was looking for.


If you write horror, you need this book. Each genre has characteristics. On Writing Horror discusses all the traits of a horror story in detail. It also has a list of books all horror writers should read and information about subgenres and marketing. It is the most extensive book about writing horror.



I discovered no matter how many times I reread my story, I still missed some grammatical errors. The Artful Edit by Susan Bell taught me different editing techniques- different ways to gain distance from my writing. One advice given I use often. I change the font to something totally different. It helps me look at the work differently.


Writer's Guide to Character Traits is extensive and I highly recommend it. It gives you detailed description of personality types of adults, children and criminal types to name a few. This is not something that should be used by itself nor should you take each personality type and just apply it to one character. I already had a character's personality in mind so I used this book to see certain behaviors I may have missed. But this book can help you flesh out your villain.

Characters Emotion and Viewpoint helps you create a fully fleshed out and believable character. It discusses the trait of characters found in different genres, how to show emotion through dialogue and discusses the three points-of-views- First, Third and Omniscient.

I use Bibliophile's Dictionary so much.  It's a thesaurus arranged by subject and contains usual but useful words not found in other thesauri.

I use Dictionary.com a lot but sometimes it's easier to have a thesaurus on hand. I recommend The Synonym Finder.


 I wrote a character using a gun but I didn't portray it realistically. The gun became a character so I couldn't just write it out. If you have character who uses a gun and are unable to actually use one or talk to someone to uses one, like me, The Complete Gun Owner: Your guide to selection, use, safety and self-defense is a good starting point. It helped me focus my research.


Get Known before the Book Deal is about building a platform. It discusses, among other things, determining and connecting to your audience, developing your niche and finding your style.



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Love

 I've loved horror most of my life so why are most of my favorites on Goodreads fantasy? Don't worry, they're still dark. But why the change? I've sampled other genres but horror was always my favorite. Years ago I didn't even like fantasy.

When I was doing research on the characteristic of a horror novel, I'd get a bubbling in my stomach- an excitement- an anticipation to put these tips to work. I get that same feeling now for fantasy. The horror section is still the first place I visit in the bookstore and I'd still love to read more horror books by woman and minorities but maybe I've just become too desensitized. I want a book to scare me but the stories I've read were too strange and not at all scary or even creepy- just weird. 

Though horror is supposed to be all doom and gloom, I don't want to read a story that sinks so deep into despair you feel awful after. I don't want an ending like The Mist. Great movie gut-wrenching ending. Never watched it again. Maybe that's why I'm sticking pretty close to fantasy. Life's hard enough, stories are supposed to be an escape. I don't want an ending where they all live happily ever after either, nothing's wrong with them but, for me, they're just too clean, too perfect. I don't care if main characters die as long as I see a point to it. J.K. Rowling killed so many characters in HP7 but I still enjoy it. If you think about, all the characters died for a reason. She killed Dumbledore at the end of HPB but it's still my favorite book of the series. 

A writer can torture their protagonists, break them. I do it. I am a horror writer after all. I try to determine, besides death, what is the worst thing that could happen to my characters based how they live, their personality, what they care about, who they care about. I make it hard for them. Though the end may not be happy per se, the characters are at least better off than they were in the beginning. 

Though you can create creatures in horror, the setting has to be familiar. It's limiting. I've traveled a lot and like to use the places I've been to create my own. It does require a great deal more work but it also gives me the freedom to do as I please, mostly. I'm gravitating towards fantasy because of this freedom. I no longer say I'm a horror writer. I write dark fantasy which, to me, is a blending of horror and fantasy. I create my own world then apply to that world and the characters, those traits found in horror stories. 

I'm still trying horror. I want to find a story that scares me without completely tearing my heart out. But I am slowly migrating to fantasy. I'll see where this road will lead and how it'll affect my stories or even if it'll affect my stories because so far, it hasn't. My reading tastes seem to be catching up to my writing style.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Priest


Dark cities, vampires, vampire killers, epic fight scenes. How could I not treat myself to Priest? It sounds like something I'd write- minus vampire and add creature of my making. But like Resident Evil: Afterlife, I saw it seeking only to be entertained- my expectations weren't high.


So plot, the movie portrayed a world after man, supposedly, won the war against vampires. Priests are "special" people, recruited and trained by the church to kill said vampires. They're "specialness" is implied but the movie didn't show how they were chosen.  These chosen people were taken from everything they loved to fight but when the war was over, they were disband and forced to live, or try to live, ordinary lives. When I think of one aspect of Priest, I'm reminded of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Voldemort has returned but the powers that be are too afraid to believe so they stifle anyone who tries to destroy their perfect little world by telling the truth. 

The main character, played by Paul Bettany from Legion, Inkheart and The Da Vinci Code, didn't set out to disrupt people's comfortable world. He wanted to save the family member kidnapped by vampires. The plot is cliche, yes. But you writers know there's nothing new under the sun. There are no new plots just new ways of telling what's already been told. Priest is a remake of a graphic novel and though I love graphic novels, I haven't read this one so my review focuses on the movie and not whether or not they did the graphic novel justice which they probably didn't. The book is always better.

I was impressed though. Priest wasn't what I expected. It was far more character focused. The action, the dialogue, the visuals were great but the movie didn't rely on them. The beginning was ingenious. The way they told the back story pulled me in instantly. As a writer, I know how important beginnings are. This movie used it to move me from slightly interested viewer to really intrigued. 

Priest was... quiet. The writers relied on what the characters didn't say. The dialogue was purposeful. There weren't any long exposition or drawn out conversation. Each character, each scene got to the point. If you want Shakespeare look elsewhere. Priest is meant to entertain not boggle the mind. The writers used the bits of conversation to convey a lot. The romance was portrayed so someone like me, a person who dislikes romantic movies, could tolerate it. It was romance without the mush. Also, I don't remember the characters' names or even if they were given but it was a plot device and not a drawback.

The visuals were stunning without being too over-the-top. I read a review calling Priest simple. It's simple but not in a bad way. The vampires weren't the movie they were a tool. The priests were portrayed as superhuman but it wasn't constantly proven to us but when it was, it was amazing. Priest held a lot under the surface. It's a movie I'd see again. The world created was intriguing.

It's gotten a lot of negative reviews though, but as many reviewer who liked it said, one of its strengths is that the vampires don't sparkle. They're not the seductive creatures popular culture has been portraying them. They look and act like monsters. That's a big plus for me. I like a hot male vampire as much as the next women but after awhile, you get sick it. Just becasue they're vampires doesn't mean they need to be beautiful. 

Unfortunately, by calling the creatures vampires, Priest set itself up to be compared to other vampire movies. It wins against Twilight no contest but it cannot compete with Blade and Underworld. Priest did well for being so short but it would've been fantastic if it had been longer. It has a lot of potential. Each scene was just a taste. You wanted more but it didn't deliver. It gave me enough to want to see the sequel, if it gets released, but I won't see it in 3D again.

Ever since Avatar, if a movie is available in 3D, I see it in 3D. I haven't yet seen the point of it. Is 3D supposed to pull the viewer into the movie or is it simply another way to show the story? The idea of a 3D movie is intriguing but since Avatar, I haven't seen a movie use it in any spectacular way. Priest included. I recommend it for horror fans but unless you just want to see a movie in 3D like me, don't- save your money. Being in 3D did nothing for the story.

It's a great summer movie. I was entertained but honestly, I treated Priest as a stepping stone for Harry Potter 7 Part 2, just something to tie me over. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan and even if you aren't, you have to admit any movie opening this summer will be a drop in the bucket compared to HP7.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why I Write



I write because I have to. I feel I'm missing something important if I don't. Plots, dialogues, conflicts, resolutions, character personalities, endings overrun my mind and won't let me concentrate on anything else until expressed. I see a tree or a structure and think how perfect it would fit in my story. I read or hear a name I like and instantly think it would make a great name for a character.

I've never been into meditation- delving inside myself to find the deeper meaning of me. I know it's important but my mind can't concentrate like that so, I write. Through this blog, I've discovered so much about myself. I know more about what I like, what I don't, why and what I'm good at. I've gotten some insight into how my mind works which was something I'd never been able to do.

I write because emotions are complicated. You can see my heart through my stories. I'm not writing what's on my mind or even what's bothering me. I descend into my stories. Problems come with me but they're transformed. They become a source of power not pain. When I reluctantly climb out, the problems seem less important. While I'm writing about a character, pieces of me pour through my fingers and weaves itself into the page. Writing is a release of negative thoughts- doubts- fears and an expression of desires- dreams- wishes I'd never admit to or even knew I had.

I've heard said a story is not only a look into the lives of the character but also the mind of the author. I can attest to that.

Have you ever read a story and reached the end completely and utterly blown away by how spectacular it was, how beautiful it was even if it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns? Or read a character that embodies you so thoroughly you feel better because they exist, even though you know they aren't real? Or a story where a world so magnificently constructed sucks you in, grabs hold of whatever is bothering you and pulls it into itself so you feel lighter when you finish? I dream of evoking those types of emotions in my readers.

I write because words break through the shell and bring to the surface a person even I didn't know existed but would like to be.

Dark Rose by loonyface

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Enjoy- Deathless Flame


I wanted to fill the hole in my heart.  I wanted to know what a real smile felt like.  I couldn't feel the sun on my skin.  I grimaced.  How was that different from any other day?

"Sister what's that."

A little girl ran into the middle of the road.  A young woman raced after her.  The crowd gave no heed to either of them.  A pull, voice in the air, something I didn't understand stopped my mechanical walk.  I stood on top of the small stone wall outside a clothing shop. It put me high enough to watch the show and not be trampled. People were all the same. The wave of them, walking the same beat with the same impassive expression. They looked neither right or left but straight on to their destinations. They talked to no one. They were alone and didn't know another way of living existed but neither would I if it hadn't been for Micheal and his books- those cretinous sardonic journals.

"Don't touch that you don't know where it's been," the woman said.  She pulled the little girl's hand.  

The child wiggled from the woman's grasp and crouched over the object. 

"But what is it?"

I sensed the older woman's desperation but didn't understand why she felt it.  She hooked her hand into the girl's collar and dragged her away.  The girl released oaths no child should know and struggled like a trapped animal. The crowd was blind to her actions and deaf to the girl's screams.  I didn't care to help.  The woman picked up the red faced girl and ran down the street.

I moved to the object that infected the girl.  It was a  piece of paper. The miserable thing has had a hard life.  It looked so weary. I wanted to burn this pitiable paper and end its torment. If it could talk, it would tell of the time people didn't know existed. Did I want to hear its story and listen to the pain that weaved together each and every tale?

No one else seemed bothered by this forsaken paper but what kind of person would be? 

I pulled a napkin from my hand bag and with it, picked up the limp green piece of paper.  Numbers were in the four corners, a ten.  An imposing man was in the center.  "Hamilton" was printed under this bust.  Another picture of an impressive building called the "U.S. Treasury" was on the back.  The rest was too tattered to be legible.   It looked as if it had once been attractive.  Why would someone have thrown something this nice away? With another napkin, I folded the paper and put it in my purse.  I wanted to hear its story.  

Store owners, in complete succession, emerged from their shops to secure their doors and windows for closing.  The distinct sound of an electric fence being turned on caused the air to sizzle.  

I eyed the longest building in the city.  It occupied over eight blocks with too many floors underground to count.  It has been my second bedroom for as long as I could remember.  There was a room far enough underground that no life reached it.  I sat in that room every night and listened to unknown sounds in the gloom, noises so horrible they were heard and felt by people several floors above.  It was a sound that dug under people's skin and grabbed hold of thoughts, memories, flaws they wished dead and pulls them to the surface.

 Even after years of listening to that song, my ears hadn't grown accustomed to it; my heart hadn't learned to expect it.  I knew I was alone but a presence with unforgiving skin wrapped around my body like an iron clasp.  They treated me as if I kept something company. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Resource for Writers

Since writing my first (unpublished) novel, I've been fascinated by Carl Jung's Shadow. How could I not know about The C.G. Jung Center of New York located in midtown on 39th between Madison and Park. I wouldn't have found it if it hadn't been for an assignment for class. I was so excited simply by the idea of this place. Even before I visited, my imagination was working overtime.  Inside The C.G. Jung Center, on the fourth floor, is the Kristine Mann Library. A library dedicated to Jung- how fantastic!

 I've been to quite a few libraries, I'm getting my Masters in Information and Library Science after all, but this is the most comfortable place I've ever been in. The atmosphere of the entire building, not just the library, is pleasant. The staff of the library is friendly and welcoming. When I walked in, I was sure I held an expression of not knowing where to go from here and a staff member at the front desk explained where things were and basically told me to have at it. 

I visited the library intending to simply look around but I ended up staying for about 2 hours. I'm going back to delve deeper into their occult section. They have a book detailing a "supposedly" true ghost story that sounded really interesting. If only I had walked in prepared to sit for hours then I would've dived in. I seriously did not intend to stay as long as I did. I had to pull myself away because I had other work to do.  I was carrying my journal though, as I always do. As a writer, you need to always have something to write with and on. You never know when that muse will whisper in your ear. I took some great notes. 
In the cozy room in the back were shelves of books categorized by subject to make browsing easier. They have a couch! Not one of those uncomfortable things libraries usually have that are never available but a nice size black couch. The feel of the place had me at ease- had me feeling at home. And the books were too alluring not to explore. Even if you're not interested in Jung, they have something for you. There are books on religion, mythology, symbolism, fairy tales, the occult, and alchemy. I'd never seen a collection like it. I found the section on symbolism and camped there. As a writer of dark fantasy, I like to use symbols in my stories- usually as markings on my characters. The resources I'd been using to find my symbols were great but they weren't as in-depth as the books in this collection.  I found a perfect symbol to encompass the race of creatures I'm creating which then gave me inspiration for another part of my world building. They even have books on the significance of shapes, numbers and colors. 

Only members can check-out books but anyone can just sit for hours and read. There is so much valuable and unusual information. I talked with the librarian and found that there are also books on seances and voodoo. I'm not into those subjects but I'd still be interested in reading about them. It is a perfect resource for writers. If you're in the New York area, I encourage you to check it out.

Monday, May 2, 2011

America's Most Wanted



I was intending this post to be about FAFSA but I decided to talk about recent events. I know right- how many people today haven't blogged about bin Laden. I won't be focusing on bin Laden's death but President Obama.The hatred towards this man is unbelievable. People no longer respect the position he holds.  Obama could cure every deadly disease known to man and people would still say he hasn't done enough. After 8 years of Bush, people should be doing back flips everyday since we actually have an intelligent man in office.

Republicans constantly said Obama could not keep the country safe and yet he manged to find and kill bin Laden. I bet a week from now people will have forgotten all about this and go back to saying Obama is the worst President in history. This- I have been struggling with. Obama has held himself with far more class then some of his critics. The economy may not be what it was but at least it's not what it used to be. What, people expect him to just wave his hand and the whole country would be fixed. Do people believe Obama can just pull money out the air? No-they think he's some super hero who can be in several places at once or someone who can speak miracles into people's lives.  He is just a man people. Just because you haven't seen the results you'd like doesn't mean Obama's sitting on his hands.

I feel so bad for him. He has not made half the mistakes Bush made but is facing ten times the hatred. And even after all this time, he has not stooped to the level of his critics. Do you have any idea how much strength that takes. When someone starts cursing you out, your instinctive reaction is to, probably, curse them out or hit them, especially if they've been screaming at you 24/7. People have thoroughly disrespected this man but he keeps pushing on despite it.

Now, I like Ed Schultz on MSNBC. Love his show, The ED Show, and I follow him on Twitter but he really annoyed me awhile ago when he criticized Obama for not being in Wisconsin supporting those fighting for worker's rights. This has stuck with me for quite some time. I understand wholeheartedly how important unions are and how monstrous it is for someone to think it's okay to toy with worker's rights but Obama can't just stop working on set in problems because a new one has emerged and if he did, people would still criticize him. 

I'm not saying you should agree with everything Obama has done because I don't. Obama himself admitted to making mistakes. What I am really scared about is that despite all the work Obama is doing, history is going to write him off as incompetent and Bush will be the savior of our world. I feel bad for Obama because no matter what he does, it is never enough. I would really like to be proven wrong.