Sunday, January 29, 2006

Oddly Enough

I recently finished reading Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas and Forever Odd. I read them pretty much back-to-back, as I got them both as a Christmas gift, and had a very different reaction to each.

Odd Thomas was a treat, a book I couldn’t wait to crack open when the Christmas-morning chaos was over. Sucked me right in, intrigued me, made me laugh and made me think. I spent a wonderful afternoon on the couch, fireplace burning, reading about Koontz’s beautifully drawn main character, Oddie, his friends (Elvis as a depressed spirit was a bit much, but Koontz made me believe it), his wonderful girlfriend, Stormy, and a storyline that seemed truly unique. I read far into the evening, dying to know what happened next, and finished it the next morning, sorry to see it end.

Forever Odd was a very different book, which is a shame, because Koontz had a good thing going. Same great character in Odd, but the world Koontz created for him had changed. Everything I loved about the first novel, Oddie’s friends, his relationships, his interactions with the spirits, were virtually gone. Small mentions here and there, quickly skipped in favor of looonnng expositions describing a huge underwater flood control system in the middle of the desert or the infrastructure of an abandoned casino. Oddie’s tale had morphed from the story of a small-town boy with the curious ability to see the dead to some sort of espionage-spy-thriller story gone bad. The female antagonist had potential, but an evil femme fatale who gets eaten by a cougar seemed more like an afterthought than a plot device.

Don’t get me wrong… I’ll read more Koontz in the future. He’s prolific and talented, and even though I haven’t liked all his books, I’m always willing to take a chance on his new ones. I couldn’t help but wonder, though, if he was dying to write an action novel but got locked into a two book contract. Forever Odd may have satisfied his artistic urge, but it left at least one reader unsatisfied.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Cover Me

A friend of mine sent me a link the other day to a site that allows you to make your own book covers. How could I resist? Since it looks like it's going to be well over a year before my first book, Dead Girls Are Easy, hits the shelves (and I've never been known for my patience), I jumped on it like white on rice! Here's my imaginary cover... does it make you want to buy the book?

Oh, and here's the link:

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Aliens Have Landed

When I started this blog, I swore I wasn't gonna make it all about me. You know, the 'I had cornflakes for breakfast and a bunion on my big toe' kind of blog. I wanted to talk about concepts and motivation (or lack of it) and 'big picture' kind of things. So here's where I break my own rules, because the kind of day I just had falls into the 'truth is stranger than fiction' category.

A little background: my sister lives in another state, but she's been in town for the last two months caring for her mother-in-law, who was recently diagnosed with liver and kidney cancer. I won't go into what a sweetheart she is or the sacrifices she's made (she gave up her job, her family and put her life on hold so someone else could go gently into that good night), but needless to say, she's special. Anyway, the inevitable happened and her MIL passed away with my sister by her side.

It was the next day the weirdness began. 9am found my sister and me at the mortuary, making funeral arrangements. That in itself might not seem strange, but I'm currently working on a series of books about a reluctant psychic who talks to the dead, and several scenes take place in funeral homes. Since I'd just written a particularly vivid scene in which my main character meets a rather vindictive spirit in the ladies room of a mortuary, I found myself crossing my legs and keeping them crossed rather than venture into the real ladies room by myself. When that sad business was finished, I took my sister to the beach.

Yes, the beach. The freezing, windy beach. She built sandcastles and joined the Polar Bear club while I supervised, bundled in warm clothes. I could see the stress of the last two months drain away, replaced by goosebumps and sand between her toes. On the way home we stopped by a bookstore so she could buy a gift for my husband, whose birthday she'd missed while being an angel.

It was a book on aliens, because, well... because my husband has a strange sense of humor, and so does my sister. But that wasn't all. We spent the rest of the afternoon making special birthday hats out of aluminum foil, pipe cleaners and duct tape. Ain't we pretty?

Let me recap: morning at the funeral home, afternoon at the beach, evening making hats for an impromptu alien birthday party. Out of tragedy came comedy, just like those famous drama masks.

Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hey Baby, What's Your Sign?

Welcome to my first blog entry! I finally caved. I'm told I'll grow to love keeping it, though right now it seems a bit intimidating to force myself to be clever on a regular basis. :-)
January 2006 seems like a good time to begin new things, but since I avoid the New Year's resolutions like the plague (why set myself up for failure? Those extra ten pounds come and go every year, just like out-of-state relatives), I do the obligatory annual soul-searching a little differently. I like to look back and see where I've been before I move forward. Since I spend a lot of time wondering how to explain the unexplainable, here's my first 'musing' of the new year:
Hey Baby, What’s Your Sign?

I’m not really sure how I feel about horoscopes. On one hand, they’re a guilty little pleasure I enjoy in the morning newspaper, and I’ve been known to surf the web for cool astrology sites. On the other hand, it seems a bit ridiculous to think that the alignment of planets at the moment of your birth could be so crucial to who you are.

But I’ll admit I like horoscopes. I’ll even admit I’m a bit of zodiac snob. We Scorpions are a proud group… passionate, intelligent, determined. Fiery-tempered but forgiving. Open-minded yet analytical.

See what I mean?

At any rate, I’m thinking about horoscopes because of one in particular. One that I saved from my birthday five years ago, and stuck in the back of my jewelry box. It reads:

‘If today is your birthday, you are dynamic, inquisitive and very serious where romance is concerned. You are a natural writer, psychologist. One day you could write a novel.’

On my birthday five years ago, I had about sixty pages of a very bad manuscript gathering dust under my bed. I had absolutely no desire to be a psychologist (though it’s surprising how often total strangers confide in me) - but I did want to be a writer. And there it was, in black and white. ‘One day you could write a novel.’

Were the ‘stars aligned’? Was my fate decided the day I was born?

I don’t think so, quite honestly. But five years ago my dream popped up in a very personal way, and beckoned me to pursue it. Two weeks shy of my last birthday, I signed a two-book deal with a major publisher. Would I have put all that effort and hard work into writing if I hadn’t read my horoscope that morning? Probably. But there’s something magical about being inspired, about taking a chance on yourself -about believing in yourself - whatever the reason.

I still don’t know if horoscopes are coincidence or just plain crap. Maybe one day scientists will discover some cosmic code that rules our DNA as much as genetics does. But I don’t really need to know to enjoy the possibilities of a good day’s horoscope. Planetary alignment aside, I’m pretty hopeful the universe is unfolding the way it should.