Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kaya's Korner: "Beastly" Review

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“Beastly” by Alex Flinn
I was curious about this movie and book because the only “Beauty and the Beast” anything I’d ever read or watched was the Disney version.  And I admit, I sort of wanted to see this movie because Alex Pettyfer is in it and if you read my previous post yall know I’m crushing a little bit.  I saw the movie before I started reading the novel, but I’ll do the book review first:
Kyle is the equivalent of modern day royalty.  He’s rich, good looking, and gets anything he wants.  He knows it and acts like he’s the most important thing in the world and he usually shows his power by putting others down.  Unfortunately for him one day he goes too far and insults a classmate, who unbeknown to him is a witch.  This witch turns Kyle into his true self - a beast.  The only way for Kyle to reverse the spell is to honestly love someone and have the person love him back and break the spell with a kiss.  The question is, can someone who is beastly, not just physically, but mentally change his ways?
I enjoyed this book, much to my surprise.  I thought the way the emotions were described were vivid and there were times I really felt for Kyle.  I was sad for him when he realized that he had no friends and I appreciated him when he understands that his lies are lies and not the truth.  It was hard for me to read when Kyle truly sees himself - realizes that he’s a bad and mean person.  But it was uplifting when he realizes that he’s a better person as the beast than his former human self.  I thought he was changing in such a wonderful way and felt he was capable of love.  There were even a couple of times when I was close to crying because the emotions were so strong.  Reading about Kyle’s transformation from a mean spirited person to a sweet and genuine person who thinks of others was nice.  Of course, we know they get together in the end and I was happy to read this happenend.  Really, the only bad thing I have to say about the book is it ended so abruptly and I wanted to read more about them after they broke the spell and there was no more story to read.  
Grade: I probably would have finished this book sooner had my social life not interferred, but I have read books that made me skip my social life, so I’m giving this book a Paperback. 

Click to visit movie site
Now on to the movie “Beastly.”  I will say three things: 1) the book was sadder than the movie, 2) Vanessa Hudgens doesn’t look anything like Lindy was described in the book, and 3) I would liked to have seen Kyle read more in the movie since he read so much in the book (but I suppose reading as a scene in a movie for teenagers doesn’t make the cut.)  
There were two things I was glad to see and one was particularly endearing.  The first is when Kyle (as Adrian) and Lindy read “Having a Coke with You.”  I haven’t really figured out what the poem is about or its meaning, but I think it’s great that in the movie they introduced something to teenagers which most don’t think about - poems.  In the book it was Shakespeare and I love Shakespeare, but we’re all introduced to him at some point in our school careers.  Frank O’ Hara is someone we’re not introduced to (unless they changed the curriculum) and I think it’s great that something new can be introduced no matter what the venue is.  Second, I absolutely loved the part in the movie when Kyle gives Lindy the white rose at the dance and they take a picture together.  The way he looks at her when they’re posing for the picture - you can tell right there that he has more to him than meets the eye; that he’s not the typical mean guy without feelings - even if he doesn’t know it himself yet at this point in the movie.  (I tried to find this scene online as a movie still to post but couldn’t find it.  I looked for hours and could find the scenes before and after, but not the one I actually wanted.  Haha!)     
In general, I’d say the movie was a good version of the book without messing with plot or characters too much and portrayed the tale “Beauty and the Beast” in a slightly new way.  It came across a little flat at times, but it was sweet and the ending was as happy as good be.  What are your thoughts on the book, movie, or both?  

Friday, April 8, 2011

Kaya's Korner: "I Am Number Four" Review

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“I Am Number Four” by Pittacus Lore

I had no interest to read this book or watch this movie.  But I changed my mind and did both.  First, the book review:
John is not your average boy.  He looks like one and lives in your average American town in Ohio, but he most definitely is not average.  John is an alien from another planet who is developing magical powers.  These powers are coming just in time to save him from another race threatening to kill him and destroy Earth.  While John is learning about his “legacies,” he is also learning what it is to trust and love and these things make his life on Earth that much more precious and important to him. 
I thought the book was written well and didn’t have those forced cliffhangers which make you turn the page.  It was nice reading about John and how he was coming into his own and learning about himself.  I also thought high school life was portrayed pretty acurately. 
Random note: I do think that the seriousness of Pittacus Lore is fun, like he’s acutally real. (Example: his forward in the book)
Grade:  I enjoyed the book, but I didn’t race through it either like I thought I would.  That being said, I’m giving it an E-Reader.
Now on to “I Am Number Four” the movie… I hate to say it, but I liked the movie so much more; I’m actually sort of mad I saw it on the last night it was in theatres and now I can’t see it again until it’s out on DVD.  It was full of action and the feelings that John felt were showed beautifully and realistically; I wouldn’t use beautifully for all his emotions, just those pertaining to love.  I didn’t mind that the movie was rewritten in a way which skewed the actual events of the book, but I did mind that a major legacy of John’s was changed.  I hate that – don’t change the character.  The book was more tragic than the movie; the movie ended with a heroic feel at the end, whereas the book did not.  In general though, I did think the movie was a good condensed version of the book, I just wish they hadn’t made John look so stupid at the beginning of the fight regarding his legacies.   
Click to visit movie site
I will more than likely buy this movie and I’m dying for them to release the soundtrack and am a little frustrated that they haven’t yet.  WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?!  I would rather not have to buy each individual song but will if I have too.  I will leave yall with this: I thought Dianna Agron was a good cast, I was suprised that Timothy Olyphant was in it in a good way, and hello Alex Pettyfer - I think I have a new crush - that is one seriously good looking boy!

What did yall think about the book, movie, or both?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ramblings of Research

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “research” as: 1) a careful study that is done to find and report new knowledge about something, or 2) the activity of getting information about a subject.  What a vague explanation for such a complex act.  With writing, research is huge.  Even if you are writing about a person, place, or thing that doesn’t exist, you still must research. 

This is how I researched my first book, “Flight”. I started in 2007.  I see you doing the math: Wait, you finished this book in 2010. That’s a lot of research.  Well, let me interrupt that thought.  I was working full-time with a toddler running around and a husband in grad school, and towards the end I was pregnant and then tending to a newborn.  This gave me very little time to do my research and write—that is, until I fully committed. 

I just started last week the research for my WIP, which is a companion book to my first book.  My first book is about two sisters who deal with a family secret (I know this really tells you nothing of what the book is about; that is the point).  This latest book, my WIP, focuses on a teenage boy dealing with high school, dating, and parents who like to flaunt their wealth and socially drink too much. There is a love interest (the main character from my first book) and, oh, of course he is told he must embrace, let’s just say, “the family business”. Needless to say, he is torn.  Have I told too much, or too little? I am not sure.  So how did I come up with this idea? From researching my last book. See, research is key.  I write fantasy and I researched mythical creatures (among many things, places and people). I found many that fascinated me, especially since I couldn’t picture them as everyone else did.  I had my own vision, my own story to tell of these beings.  While I wrote “Flight”, I started to think of another character who would have to deal with his own family secret—a secret that would bring these two characters closer together, but could also be the thing that tears them apart.  You might ask why I didn’t focus on that in the first book.  Well, it’s 55,000 words long, and this story deserved its own telling.  That is when I decided that one day I would write about this other character.  You also may ask why I am not starting on book two in my series.  Well, I have outlines for the other two books, and boy are the stories good (if I do say so myself).  But from doing agent research, I have read many articles saying that I should hold off on book two, in case book one doesn’t get picked up (which will not happen).  I wasn’t ready to put these characters on a shelf, so focusing on this book will allow me to still be very close to “Flight”. 

I went to the library and searched every word in the card catalog that had something to do with my WIP.  Then I got to explore the library.  How much fun— thumbing through books, skimming indexes and soaking in the amazing literature that surrounded me.  I absolutely love the library and am always inspired while I am there.  I get every single book that interests me and lay them out on the table. I skim through them all, taking notes if the book has little info or can’t be checked out.  Anything worth really reading, I take home. I walked out with one book to read with my 7-year-old (The Grimm Sisters), nine books to research and one VHS (yes, VHS) tape. (Talk of how my local library needs help is another post entirely.)

When I’m researching, I come home and write the title and author of each book in my notebook and take as many notes as possible.  I then do more research online.  I try to do so much research that I eat, sleep and breathe my WIP.  I can close my eyes and picture my characters, their house, school, friends, roads, mannerisms, etc.  I make a rough outline of the story, which by the time I am done gets expanded tremendously.  I would love if my research included visiting locations that I have researched or that inspired me, but financially this is not possible--not unless I wanted to set my WIP in Disney World or on the beach, since these are the locations of our family vacations.  People will know when you’re not doing enough research, because the description of your setting will not be authentic.  You must be able to put yourself in each place and situation your character is in for your readers to be able to picture it themselves.

The bulk of my research is done before I start writing, but I continue as I go, making sure I am consistent with what I am writing.  I also try to include actual events in my stories, and those details must be spot-on.  I do not change history; I simply add some things to it, leaving readers with the thought that this could have happened.

Even after the WIP is over, research continues with agents, articles, conferences, books in the same genre, etc.  It is true that to be a good writer, you must be a good reader!
I have lots of research to do, and I can’t wait! Oh, and I am still actively sending out queries; I am very, very, very busy.  I will keep everyone posted on my progress in my research, WIP and the agent search.

Check out my friend Anita's post, which will help myself (and all writers) hook agents, editors and readers with just three sentences. I will definitely be incorporating this into my WIP.  Reading blogs is part of the research process. Read, read and read—I can’t say it enough!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Parenting to Publishing

Greetings from waaaayyy down in the Deep Southern-Fried State of Louisiana! Louisiana is the home of spicy good food, jazz music, Hurricanes, Mardi Gras, mudbugs and a sweet, smiling, single mom with a Southern drawl: Charlynn “Char” Hardin. She loves her family and friends and has a hankering to write good ol’ southern-fried suspense stories! She runs her family’s used bookstore, Hickory Cottage Book Exchange, in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. She writes short stories in her off time and reviews films and novels online at Horrorphilia.com and Killingboxx.com. As you can tell from the names of the sites, she specializes in horror and the musings of the macabre.
Let’s see how she’s doing it:

Charlynn, my blog is titled “Closet Writer”. I only recently “came out” about my writing.  When did you come out of the closet?
Since the very first moment I learned to write my name, a long time ago back in Kindergarten. My teacher said I was a “natural born storyteller”. I have always written stories and have legions of notebooks filled with them.

What genre do you write? My favorite genre is Horror. I love a good killin!  I have always been drawn to the darker side of fiction. And living in the South, I am surrounded with history and mystery, so predominately what I write is southern drama always with a twist of something wicked.

What is your book about? I am currently writing about a female serial killer, who just happens to live in my home town of Ponchatoula, Louisiana. She has a unique way of entertaining guests at her weekend getaway home, that will raise goose bumps and shock the dead right out of their coffins. The main character’s name is Darci and she is just your average girl next door, with a few skeletons in her closet or I should say her resume.

Are you actively seeking an agent? No, at this time, I am not. I am finishing up an in-home course; I started with Long Ridge Writers Group out of Connecticut and I am working on Darci’s story and my reviews. When I get Darci’s story finished, and critiqued, then I will start the query process for an agent.

What is the most memorable feedback (good or bad) you have received about your writing? Good those are so very few, ha-ha, but I did receive one from Reader’s Digest. One of my stories was mailed there by mistake, it was fiction and non-fiction. I receive a sweet message with water stains where her tears had fallen. She said, “I cannot imagine what went on in the skies that day, but I am thankful that my child was not aboard one of those planes. Your story was beautiful and will haunt me. Thank you for sharing your story with me.”
Bad response: From Rue Morgue Horror Magazine. I had entered an article and the response was, “Don’t quit your day job, honey, you are in over your head.” Well, I if I let one man’s opinion keep from writing, then I am not much of a writer. Never take a “NO” to mean no in writing, it just means “not right now” or the person reading your work is not in agreement, but don’t let that stop you because the next person you query may totally love your idea.
Have any websites or articles helped with the query/synopsis process? The best book I found for queries and what editors want is Jeff Harman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents. He covers it all. The book is huge and so worth the price. Writers Digest is another publication worthy of looking into for information.
How do you feel about conferences? Have you been to any? I have only ever been to one writer’s conference and it was a great learning experience. I would like to go to more as I think they offer tons of information and inspiration for every aspiring author.
Do you have any suggestions of which conferences are good? The one I attended was put on by a local writers’ group, Creative Minds Writer's Group. RWA is a big one and not to be missed. It covers all forms of romance, romance suspense, paranormal, etc. I would love to be able to go to one of them and recommend them to all writers. The Romantic Times Magazine puts on an annual convention that is to die for. I have never gone, but if it gets close to Louisiana…I want to go! YES!! If a convention or conference is near…GO! CHECK IT OUT!
Can you describe your writing routine? The best time for me to write is between 10pm-2am and I try to do that on at least 3 nights during the week and Saturday nights I can stay up longer. When I write, I have a bowl of red grapes on my desk for noshing, I put the kettle on and keep a pot of tea (I love English Teas!) warm. Music…I must have music. I love Yanni, Loreena McKennit, Enya and vintage Duran Duran they are my favorites. Once my tea is ready, music is playing; I put on my headset and write. I do not stop until my allotted time is up (oh I set a timer for allotted time!) and then I go back and edit.
Does any certain music, food, smell or atmosphere get you in the mood to write? Driving in my car listening to my radio or people watching usually sets me off and when it happens I can’t wait to get home and write.
What are you reading now? What is your favorite book? What is your favorite movie?  I am reading Under the Dome by Stephen King right now. My favorite horror book is City Infernal by Edward Lee and my absolutely all-time favorite book and movie is GONE WITH THE WIND!!
What is your favorite writer’s resource? Internet, Jeff Herman, Writer’s Digest and other authors
Tell us about your blog. Any blog advice you can give? My blog is on hiatus. I just do not have time to fit it all in.
What blog do you keep up with the most? Why? Of late, I am on facebook most of the time and I keep up with horror blogs to know what is happening in the world of horror films and novels. I do follow YOUR blog the Closet Writer. With your site, I like to know what you are up to and the challenges you are facing while managing to hold it all together. You are an INSPIRATION to all of us working moms trying to do as you are and BREAK OUT into the world of publishing!
Tell me a little about your family and home life. If you have heard “It takes a Village to Raise a Child”, then you get a sense of what it’s like with my family. We are a close-knit family and my parents and daughter are very supportive of my writing and encourage me to write more for myself than for others.
What kind of support do you have from friends and family when it comes to writing? My apartment is joined by a laundry room to my parent’s house. And my mother and dad are very supportive of my writing and will take my daughter out of the house when I need to write or take her on vacation or mini-trips and I plan my writing around her absence. My friends are all encouraging of my writing. They tell me time and time again, “Char, your stories could be movies! You have a gift for gab, but you have a true gift at storytelling!”
How do you balance running the book exchange, being a good mother and pursuing your writing dream? Day planner calendar get one! I set up a schedule and try to stick to it, in regards to work, writing for myself and my reviews and having time with my daughter. It can overlap and fall apart, that is part of in the moment and life that messes with a well thought out plan.  Most important is to schedule some “Me time”. Turn off the computer, cell phones and television and just relax.
What has been your biggest challenge in writing so far? Any solutions? Writer’s Block. I can be going right along at a nice pace and scenes are unfolding in my mind and the words are flowing from my fingertips and then BAM! I hit a brick wall and cannot get past it. That is the perfect time, to step away from the writing. Take a break and clear your mind. IF you try to rush back to writing and you hit that wall, then leave it for a day or so. Sometimes your mind just needs to take a break.
Any advice you can give to writers? NEVER give up! When life puts up road blocks, write around them. IF you focus on what Life and the World are doing and not on what YOU want to do in YOUR Life and What YOU want to accomplish in this World, YOU might just miss a wonderful opportunity. Keep your Head down with your eyes on the screen and write the story of a lifetime. When you are finished, start the process of Reaching for the Stars. When you attain that success and can hold a copy of your published story, LIFE as you knew it, will mean a whole WORLD of a difference to you and the readers your story finds.

For honest no hype reviews from Char ask for the REEL deal on Horrorphilia and Killingboxx.
Follow her on twitter: CHAR_HARDIN