Monday, April 28, 2008

Quest for Balance . . .

I'm rambling about how to balance writing with your personal life over at the Writer's Retreat Blog today.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Poetry: Take Three

The City in the Sea
by Edgar Allan Poe

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters he.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently-
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free-
Up domes- up spires- up kingly halls-
Up fanes- up Babylon-like walls-
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers-
Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathed friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.

There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol's diamond eye-
Not the gaily-jewelled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass-
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea-
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave- there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide-
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow-
The hours are breathing faint and low-
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down that town shall settle hence,
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.

Poe is pretty much my favorite early American writer. I love his stories, and I love his poems. Part of it is the dark, gothic style. Part of it is something I can't explain. But I chose this poem, mostly because of all of them, it paints such a vivid picture. The imagery amazes me. And with something this long, the meanings/interpretations are many. Every time I read it, I feel like I'm peeling back a new layer, revealing a way to look at it that I never knew before. Hope you enjoyed it too!

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Despite my best efforts to fly under the radar, I've been tagged again, though I'm blaming Fey for this one.

Here we go, quick and dirty. And by dirty, I don't mean in the good way, so get your mind out of the gutter! Srsly. *sigh*

You're feeling: Like I need a Red Bull in the worst possible way, but I'm not going to give in that easy. I still have to get through tomorrow.

To your left: My living room, complete with two lounging cats and one lounging humanoid of the weekend male variety.

On your mind: Red Bull. I'm rather single-minded by the time I reach this point. That, and the list of other things I must do when I finish this post.

Last meal included: Mom's chinese pepper steak, with a lemon fruit bar for desert. MMmm.

You sometimes find it hard to: Get up on time in the morning. If my body had it's own way with me, I'd sleep 10 hours a night instead of 5.

The weather: A nondescript grey. Could be rainy, could be sunny. I'll wait five minutes. *waits* Hm. Still grey.

Something you have a collection of: Post cards! I love them! Everywhere I go, I buy one and write to myself. I love receiving them too. I also have about 5000 basketball cards that I plan to go through, value, and sell on eBay. Someday. *snort*

A smell that cheers you up: Fresh mint. It's invigorating.

A smell that can ruin your mood: Alcohol on someone's breath. *shudders*

How long since you last shaved: Uh...

Current state of your hair: *snort* It's a custom style. I call it 'Saturday'.

Largest thing on your desk/workspace (not computer): TBR pile.

Your skill with chopsticks: I manage not to look like a fool, but I walk away hungry.

Which section do you head for first in a bookstore: Nowadays, usually the new releases, then the romance section, then the sci-fi/fantasy, then the general fiction. I can't wait until urban fantasy/paranormal has its own section someday, so I won't have to make such a big loop. *lol*

Something you are craving: Red Bull, dammit. Keep rubbing it in, will ya? Okay, and a pedicure.

Your general thoughts on the presidential race: Fey said it best: Is it over yet? When the hell is Bush getting kicked out? is it over yet?

How many times have you been hospitalized this year: Last time I was 'hospitalized', I was 12.

Favourite place to go for a quiet moment: Park up the street from my work. It lets me get worlds away from the workday.

You've always secretly thought you'd be a good: Make-up artist. I thought about it for a while. Still love it. But there are too many other things I want to do.

Something that freaks you out a little: Flying on an airplane. A lot.

Something you have eaten a little too much of lately: Lemon fruit bars from Dreyers. In fact, I think it's time for another one!

You have never: Scuba-dived, bungee-jumped, or sky-dived. And I never will.

You never want to: Ha. Two for one! biggrin

The three people I'm tagging: Most of my fellow mischief makers have answered these already, and I will spare the rest of you.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

13 of Gwen's April Reads

I'm betting that more than a few people I know will relate to this. I actually have four 'book lists': to research, to be bought, to be read (the list), to be read (the pile).

Here's a glimpse at April's pile for me.

Gwen's April/May TBR Pile

1. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova - recommended and loaned by my father in law.

2. Fiction Writing Workshop, Josip Novakovich - for my workshop with Cat on the WR Board.

3. An anthology of thriller short stories, to get my feet wet in that genre.

4. The Fiery Cross, Diana Gabaldon - this is the fifth book in the Outlander series, which I absolutely love. Looking forward to snuggling up with this one over my coming business trip.

5. Moon's Fury, CT Adams and Cathy Clamp - I try to spread my paranormal/urban fantasy genre reading around various publishers. This is Tor/Forge.

6. Kushiel's Scion, Jacqueline Carey - This is the fourth book in a series. I loved the original trilogy and the friends I've recommended it to have gone on to read the later books and recommended them to me, so I'm looking forward to this one too.

7. Dime Store Magic, Kelley Armstrong - A new name in paranormal for me, recommended by a friend who doesn't normally read paranormals. This Canadian author is published in the US through Bantam Books.


8. Industrial Magic, Kelley Armstrong - I was instructed to read both books. =)

9. Demon Night, Meljean Brook - I went on to the girls a while back how Meljean was my new hero. I hadn't read anything of hers yet, now I have, and I re-certify: she's my hero. Obvioulsy, I cheated and read this one already. Review will be coming.

10. Dream Chaser, Sherrilyn Kenyon - I have been meaning to read something of hers forever. I'm looking forward to checking out this very successful author, published through St. Martin's.

11. Dark of the Moon, Susan Krinard - I am hitting Harlequin titles hard over the next couple of months, this was my first toe in the pond. I read this one too. Review to come.

12. I picked up a pocket version of the Oxford Essential Guide to Writing. I do actually plan to read it. Bits and pieces at a time.

13. Swimming Without a Net, MaryJanice Davidson - I read a story of hers in a recent anthology, and really liked it, so when I spotted this on a fellow bookworm's shelf, I snatched it up. Now, don't go thinking I'm just a clepto who takes books out of people's houses. I traded it for some lasagna.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Springtime Musing

I didn't post up my poem for last Sunday, so I'm doing it today. (Yes, that's really how far behind I am.)

Anyway, this is one of my old-time favorite poems. I really love Robert Frost. I think it's because he doesn't try to do anything complicated. He was one of the first poets I read, and even at nine/ten years old, I could understand.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
By Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

The classical interpretation of this poem is that it is an eloquent metaphor for the rise and fall of mankind. I think it could be seen that way, but mean so many other things too.

It always comes to mind the first time I feel my surrounding emerging from the winter - the first time it 'feels' like spring. It captures that first zing of excitement that races through your blood when you realize the season has changed.

To me, it's also a metaphor for life. Natures first green equates to youth. Youth is golden, new, shining with possibilities. And of course, the inevitable disillusionment that accompanies age and experience, sometimes even giving way to a pessimistic, or 'grieving' attitude towards life. And the poem almost laments how sad it is that we cannot hold on to that 'golden' outlook.

Frost also has a wonderful grasp and conveyance of the 'circle of life' in this poem. He paints a picture of one revolution of the cycle - the first green, then the leafing, then flowering; the dawn giving way to day.

What other meanings do you take away from it?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday Thirteen Play Resumed. (Sorta)

So, this week, I had planned to do a boring 'to-be-read' pile overview. But instead, you get semi-rant list of excuses. Ten of them are completely true. Three of them are not. You make up your mind which is which. I solemnly swear I won't do this to you again.

Thirteen Reasons Gwen's Been a Lazy Blogger Lately

1. I've gone 11 days straight without caffeine.

2. Last Saturday the weather in Seattle was gorgeous and nothing could keep me inside at the computer.

3. I've put 672 miles on my car in the last 10 days.

4. Every night I must first engage in a barter with my husband for internet minutes, as we only have one connection, and he has to play Xbox Live.

5. If I do not make said husband food, he will not eat.

6. I'm in charge of an annual trade show at my day job and have 16 more working days until I get on a plane for Ohio. I am already nervous about this. Did I mention I hate flying?

7. Due to the lack of caffeine, I had to take up smoking. Now my two daily ten minute breaks, which I would spend blogging, have been overtaken by the need for nicotine.


8. I blame sexyjack!

9. We just started a series of writing workshops at the Writer's Retreat forum, and getting everyone settled took some special admin attention.

10. My cat has been on a four-day puke-a-thon, leaving me to barely sleep at night, because in addition to flying, I hate the sound of retching, human, animal or otherwise. Srsly.

11. I mean it - I really did give up Red Bull. I hate to admit it, but I'm just lazier without it. *sigh*

12. My husband has taken to traipsing around the house scantily clad. Nothing is more distracting than live eye candy.

13. The processes that control cellular mitotic division, up to and including the protein phosphorilation cascades are complicated.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Shifter Anthology Review

I try to vary my genre reading, picking up as many different authors from as many different publishers as I can. Anthologies are a great, inexpensive way to get a good sampling of the writing that helps me decide if I want to read more of a particular author's work. And the stories in them are usually just the right length for a bus ride or a lunch break.

I recently finished the anthology from Berkley Sensation - Shifter. These were all new authors and I'll review and rate each story in it.

Mad Dog Love, by Angela Knight

Princess Zerifa Lorezo has escaped a plotting chancelor, hi-jacked a private security system, bought herself a ship and taken off to meet up with her brother and his rebel alliance in secret. Along the way, she purchases werewolf Rance (Mad Dog) Conlan as an extra security measure. But the Mad Dog has his own designs, both for himself, and for Zerifa.

This story was not at all what I expected. It takes place in a futuristic/space environment where the Werewolf, Mad Dog is a member of an alien race. It's not my usual thing, but the way Ms. Knight set it up had me entranced. Her world building blew my mind. It was seamless and totally engrossing. The characters, as well, were refreshingly new and I loved the back-story that she tied in for them. The romance development and the sexual tension did feel a little under-done, more like they were a given, and didn't need to be developed. And the final climax/battle was a tad cliché. Still, the unique world that had been created held things together for me, and I breezed through it. I give it three and a half bleeding hearts.

A Jaguar's Kiss, by Lora Leigh

Natalie Richie is a normal human woman, just wrapping up a divorce and moving to teach Breed children in a high-security environment. Saban Broussard has been assigned to retrieve and protect her. But the first time he sees Natalie, he knows that she is his mate, and with his pheromone-spiked kiss, he sparks a mutual desire between them that doesn't care about their own will.

I was excited to read something by Lora Leigh. Her books have been on my radar for some time, but I've never had the time to start the Breed series. I found that her writing is very good, and her build up of sexual tension, and execution of it are highly skilled. I wasn't too fond of the mechanisms she uses to accomplish this - a kiss that sets off a chemical reaction that can't be denied, an instinct that tells the male he's found his mate. They seem like a shortcut to me, like you don't have to do any work in validating feelings. To make up for this, Ms. Leigh includes the heroine's struggle to come to terms - mostly with the loss of her independence. Still, the main antagonist was the heroine's jealous/crazy ex-husband and her own reservations. And Saban, to me, was your canned tall-dark-handsome-protector hero. The writing was good, but the story came in at a solid three bleeding hearts.

Shifter's Lady, by Allysa Day

Marie is a temple priestess in Atlanta, visiting her brother and his chosen lover on land, in Florida. Ethan is the leader of the local pride of Florida Panthers (Cougars/Pumas). But when an emergency pulls her brother away, and then blocks her portal, Marie is stuck with Ethan as he faces off with an invading pride.

Again, this story takes place in a universe that is already encompassed by several novels. It did stand alone, but I felt at times that certain things were assumed to be known that weren't. I have to say, this was the weakest story in this anthology. I'm sorry, but there has to be one, and this one was it for me. The characters seemed very two dimensional, and the tension between them was well . . . non-existent. Ethan showed promise early on, being one of those charmingly obnoxious and full of himself alpha-males, but he later shifts to the stoic leader and it just didn't work for me. Marie is supposedly a many-centuries old Atlantean, and yet she seemed like a neophite at every turn, even when using her own convenient magical abilities. The main antagonist was a pissed off leader of an invading pride, and the final battle was really just a brawl surrounded by onlookers. This story rated two bleeding hearts, simply for inventiveness, clean writing, and because I enjoyed the shifter element and how it was used.

Sea Crossing, by Virginia Kantra

Emma March has been ruined by the master of the school she used to teach in. It has left her heart-broken and penniless, so she sells herself into indenture to earn passage to America. On the way, her ship sinks. Her life is saved by a seal, and she wakes to find herself on a strange island. Griffin is an ancient being, charged by his king to retrieve a teacher for the pups(children) of his Selkie island home, but he didn't expect to fall in love with her.

My summary does not do this story justice. After the steady degrading of the ones before it, I was pleasantly surprised to find the pearl of this anthology at the end. Ms. Kantra is a beautiful, vivid writer, with a commanding voice. Her characters were richly painted and sympathetic, and their struggles were well-executed and believable. Out of the four stories, this one was the only one to truly jerk on my heartstrings. Also, I found the addition of a Selkie story to take this anthology out of the 'usual' and straight into the interesting. It definitely left me wanting more, and I will be checking out Ms. Kantra's other works. A solid four bleeding hearts.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday Thirteen Play Suspended

I didn't have enough time/energy to get organized this week. It was the second week of school and a cellular genomics class is kicking my ass already.

The good news - I'm doing really good on the sweat challenge, and am in the final stretch of Cloak. I hit the 71K word marker this morning!!

I'm hoping to wrap up the draft this weekend and shelf that project to tackle my next one.

So, anyway, if you came here in search of a Thursday Thirteen, I give you instead . . .
eye candy.

Keep scrolling . . .
This is Mathais. I'm sure he's glad to meet you.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bell, Book, and Candle

I decided to give myself a break and try something different for the month of April. Every Sunday this month I will post a snip of verse for you here, in honor of National Poetry Month.

These are technically lyrics*, but you say tomato, I say tomatoe. It's a lovely piece, and I urge you to listen to the song, by Eddie Reader:

Photo by KevLewis
Bell, Book, and Candle
The blue around the morning moon,
The colour of your eyes.
I remember holding you,
Fall through summer skies.
You're everything that I've become, every word I say.
I need a bell, book and candle to keep your ghost away.

White horses on a troubled sea,
Your smile will flash through time.
Up ahead a blackbird's wing,
Your hair will come to mind.
Every night I see your face when I have to pray.
I need a bell, book and candle to keep your ghost away.

Just before the thunder roars,
I sense you next to me.
And as I move through nature,
I know where you will be.
So I must keep myself apart, here is where I'll stay.
With a bell, book and candle to keep your ghost away.

*Chorus removed, verses run together here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Flash Friday the Third

It's that time again, and I'm late. I don't know if I'll be able to do this *every* week, but I shall try. Here was our very first picture prompt:

And here is my contribution . . .


“To your left you will see what is called a painting – an ancient form of art, utilized by humans from pre-history through the late 23rd Earth century. The artist is unknown, but it clearly depicts the first hail of the Alcorian Empire in 2384. The messenger stands with his arms held high, welcoming his kin to their new home. Many believe that this event marked the end of humanity, while Alcorian historians deem it the most important event in our people’s history . . .”

Tasha stared at the vivid swirl of colors before her as the robotic guide’s voice continued down the hallway. “Daddy, how did they do that?” she asked, pulling on her father’s arm and planting her feet.

His whiskers stirred at the question, and he looked down at his inquisitive daughter’s wide black eyes. “They made the colors soft, and then they transferred them onto something hard,” he answered, wrapping a tentacle around her wrist and yanking her forward.

“I’ve never seen those colors,” she said, tilting her head to one side as one of her own tentacles whipped out and coiled about the railing. “Why?”

“Those are colors from above the surface,” he answered gruffly. “Come on.”

“Above the surface?” Tasha wondered aloud, dragged behind her father reluctantly.

“When our people first settled here, the humans lived above, on the ground.”

“What happened to the humans that lived on the ground?” she pursued.

“The ones that did not move underwater with the Alcorians died,” he answered, quickening his stride to catch up with the tour.

“Will I ever see those colors?” Tasha asked, looking back over her shoulder at the painting, now burned into her memory, pasted to the back of her double-eyelids.

Her father stopped and knelt down in front of her. “No, sweetheart, you won’t. Those colors don’t exist anymore. The planet has changed.” He clicked his tongue and lifted her chin when she looked down at the floor between them. “But it’s better this way, don’t you think? We have an endless supply of water. Our people will go on forever, and even the humans have a place to live, here with us.”

Tasha looked down again, and nodded. She remained silent for the rest of the tour. Even though she was very young, she knew that there was more her father wasn’t telling her. She would solve the mystery on her own, she decided. Because she didn’t think it was better at all.

The colors were too beautiful not to be missed.

--422 words

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wheels of Glory, or . . . not.

I don't know what got me on this track in the first place, but let me take you for a little ride down memory lane.



The first car I remember growing up is a '71 Beetle. His name was Herby. Though ours was a yucky metallic brown, and chipped. I remember I filled in some of the chips with bright red nail polish. *innocent*


My dad has a thing for buying old rusty pick-up trucks dirt cheap and then getting them into a semi-running state. For a while. The first one I remember was ol' Trusty Rusty. Dad had to start him with a screwdriver. But for some reason, even without seatbelts, I always feel safe and warm in one of my Dad's clunky trucks. And in every one of my novel length stories, there is one, at some point.


'65 Sprite - Austen Healey. It was three different shades of cherry red. This picture doesn't really show how small it is. You can lift the rear end off the ground. Though my dad once drove it with a St. Bernard and 3 kids in it. The St. Bernard rode shotgun. We kids crammed into the back.


Ah... the '78 Buick Regal. The first car I ever drove. I learned in that boat, and because of it, I can parallel park anything. It got around my last two years of high school, and was affectionately dubbed the 'pimp-mobile'.


This was the first car I ever bought - a '92 Buick Le Sabre. Mine was the same gold color, minus the ugly wood paneling. I have to say, it was a nice ride. Bucket. Leather. Seats. Her name was Dyna, after her special 'Dynaride' package. But the tranny was smoking when we drove it to the lot to trade in.


When I met him, hubby drove an '88 Jeep Cherokee Loredo. We never did drive it through three feet of mud. But we did flip a bitch over a median once. It looked like this, but it was technically a Je p.



I ... totaled this one. Nothing to see here - move along, move along.
Not. My. Fault.


So, after I totaled the Corolla, my plan to win the lottery didn't pan out. I dove this POS Jetta. It had a mold issue. Oh, and you had to put it in neutral at every stoplight and rev the engine, or it would die. Fun times.


This is my baby now. Yes, I have the trim package - which seems like a good idea until you realize how many damn curbs there are all over the place. And yes, it's periwinkle blue. I like it that way, and hubby is man enough to handle the remarks about his masculinity.


Oh yeah, for about three weeks, I was the proud owner of a '99 Acura 3.2 TL V6. But we needed cash, so we rolled it over. *sigh* I wish I could have kept that car . . .


Okay, fine. So I didn't really *own* the '07 Mustang. But for a week in San Francisco, it was mine. And that was enough to fuel my fantasy life for another couple years.


Currently drooling over this one. The '08 Highlander Hybrid. It gets the same gas mileage as my Matrix, but it's sooooooo much cooler. I got to drive one of these on a business trip, and when I sell my first novel, I'm gettin' me one!

So... tell me: What's your favorite car you've ever owned?

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!