Friday, June 28, 2013

Another Billionaire in Fiction

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because ain't nobody got time to check their own grammar.*

*N.B. This sentence was not checked by Grammarly, but the rest of the post was.

But seriously. Billionaires.

Maybe I'm jealous. A billionaire has never tried to sweep me off my feet. I'd wager a guess it's never happened to you, either. One thing is almost universally true, though: when you fall in love with a billionaire (or if you are one) in a novel, by the end of the story, the person with all the money has to become humble and admit there's more to life than riches. You get the boy or girl, and there's your happy, satisfying ending.

Sometimes I have a hard time feeling sorry for someone with gobs of money. Yes, maybe it's a much harder life than I realize, but you know what? I don't know. I earn tens of dollars doing what I do ... I don't want to hear about your difficult decision to pick the black or red Manolo Blahniks.

Gah. Who can decide?
I enjoy the occasional fantastical escape from my everyday life, and read about a faraway land or a job I wish I had (or even living life without a job). But jeez, reading about someone who can't find a good enough tiara cleaner is frankly not something I'm going to finish. 

Maybe it has to do with me living in New York. I have worked at some pretty classy places and served some rich people. My favorite comment from a client was, "I don't know why people have such a problem buying tailored clothing. Once you do it, you'll never wear anything else." Me, being a good customer service person, didn't hold her head underwater and shout, "I make minimum wage! Who the hell is going to tailor make me anything?" Then, she told me about some exquisite $3000 bedsheets that she only paid $300 for. SUCH A BARGAIN! She made me and my colleague promise to go check it out. When she left earshot, he turned to me and whispered, "I don't even have a bed!"

I don't like to write a bad review, especially for one of my fellow indies. This novella -- Uptown Girl by Holly Kinsella -- got me going, though. Emma is rich. She's a fashion model. A gorgeous, rich guy has a crush on her. Everything is perfect, and she's also kind of a bitch.

The story is basically this: Emma's car breaks down, so she takes it to a mechanic her dad recommends. That SOB mechanic wouldn't do a rush job on her car because he'd given his word to fix other people's first. I mean, what an all-out selfish, oafish a*****e! Well, she told him off. After that, that f*****g mechanic shows up at a family party. Everyone else thinks he's charming and smart, not seeing what a villain he really is. Emma gave him a piece of her mind all night -- and then her dad called her out on it! Turns out, the mechanic had once saved her dad's life, so in an instant, Emma changes her whole outlook on life. Money isn't as important. Her shallow friends aren't interesting anymore. And (fanfare, please) she falls madly in love with the mechanic because of his sparkling personality!

The whole story was too transparent, too easy. I didn't feel sympathy for the main character and didn't trust her change. Also, this novella could have been a novel if the author had "shown" instead of "told" the whole thing. Sorry, Holly.

The richness theme also pervaded Kyra Davis' Just One Night trilogy. The sexy hero is filthy rich and has so much power; he can't help flaunting it around.

A novel dealing with riches that I did enjoy (Worth Lying For by Lisa Cheney and Lisa Craig) involves a middle-aged woman finding a bag of money and having fun with it. Sure, we get some of the same brand name oggling, but it also involves regular life.

Maybe every reader likes to stick with something relatable to them. After all, if I find a book set in Memphis, or about someone having trouble on the subway, I'm more likely to enjoy the story.

Now, if only I could find a romance book about two people who have jobs I understand (no more "finding solace in the rigidity of numbers" BS) and daily problems I might also have, then I'll be happy.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Christian Music

Please, nobody get me wrong by what I'm about to say. I'm a Christian, no question. Have been my whole life (including a few bouts of doubt and thinking, "What if all this is just a bunch of crap?").

When I was a teenager, all I listened to was Christian music. They've got pop and alternative and so many cool bands. Even now when I go back and listen to it, I enjoy it (although the "True Love Waits" type lyrics seem a little outdated for me, being a married woman. Singing, "I don't want sex" is a blatant lie.)

Recently, I listened to some new music by some CCM artists I used to enjoy. I thought maybe they'd kept up with the times and they might be even better than I remembered. NO! They in fact suck. Did you know that with three guitar chords and the following list of words, you can write a Christian "pop" song?

  • Lord
  • Savior
  • Generation
  • Majesty
  • King
  • Tremble
  • Reign
  • Kingdom
  • Love (as a proper noun)
  • Glory
  • Jesus
  • Power
  • Perfect
  • Praise
  • Magnify
  • Adore
  • Lift (as in "We lift our voices and praise Your perfect sacrifice")
  • Bow
  • God
  • Glorify
  • Faith
  • Prayer
  • Sacrifice
  • Save
  • High (as in "Lord, we magnify and adore You and lift Your holy name on high")
  • Name
  • Holy
  • You, Yours, Him, His, etc (capitalized pronoun, referring to God... always makes me think I have to read it in italic, with extra special emphasis.)
Seriously, don't get me wrong. I love a well-written Christian song with lyrics that make me think. But I hate songs that make me sigh in frustration at hearing the same words over and over -- they don't mean anything. Just a string of cliches (and my writer friends know you need to stay away from cliches!).

For an example of something good, I enjoy Keith Green. He would reach right down into something very personal and then write a song. This is my favorite:

"Lord, I remember that special way I vowed to serve you when it was brand new. But like Peter, I can't even watch and pray one hour with you. And I'll bet I could deny you, too."
Wow, that's a difficult thing to confess, but it's right there inside us all. That's the kind of thing that stays with you, that you think about all day. Interchanging words from the above list might be alright -- and if I'm in a worship service and the leader pulls out one of these bad boys, it's all well and good (though I do prefer the older hymns). We're singing to God, not to entertain ourselves ... but when I put on a CD (or dial it up on my iPod, rather), I am listening to it for me, and I'd like to get more out of it than 3 chords and half a dozen words (repeated for 7 minutes).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Very Posh

When the Spice Girls dolls came out, my sister and I were in our late teens: young enough that playing with dolls was still something we wanted to do, but old enough that it "wasn't cool." When you're a huge dork like me and my sister were (sorry, Sharon, but you are/were), we were somewhere in the "I hate the Spice Girls" crowd and "I think I need every one of those dolls". These were troubling times, to say the least. I think I had a New Kids on the Block doll, and a guy from NSync (he was a marionette!), and the lot of them just had so many sexy times together, it's just not worth mentioning. Turns out, my sister had a bunch more "celebrity dolls", and we'll get to them later.
That brings us to today. We're both in our 30's now (barely), and playing with dolls is just not the same, even when pretending we're too good for it. It's gone from "let's pose them like they're in concert/at a photoshoot" to "I'm gonna take her face off and see what happens". And after 15 years of being in my mom's attic, Posh Spice doesn't look as put together as she once did. Her stiff hair's all loose and stupid looking. She's got on some other Barbie's dress (I recognize it, but couldn't tell you where it came from), and all her jewelry has been carefully removed. I don't know. I think she's seen better days.
Step 1: use acetone to remove factory paint
I could already tell this was going to be good. Look at that sculpt! It's beautiful! What the hell were those factory painters thinking slapping on that garish color like she was just some $5 "Fashion Doll". This is supposed to represent a real human being. The sculptor understood that.

Step 2: start painting
This is where the fun is. I like to find a photo that best captures the person and base my repaint after it. I take general coloring, eyebrow placement, lip shape, etc from it, and go to town. People always told me oil painting was hard, but I don't see it at all. So easy to blend and dab on with my teeny tiny paintbrush... downright relaxing.

Step 3: build on what you painted the day before
The pesky thing with oil paint is that you have to let it sit SO LONG to dry. A person like me wants to take the next 14 hours and finish it all in one sitting (and then never touch it again because I've burned myself out). That's what's hard about oil painting. Waiting. 
Step 4: Cut and style the hair
 Okay. A g-bob on an 11.5" fashion doll. It's a hard cut to do on a human being. It's hard on a doll, too. But dammit, look at that thing. Sure, I've got it secured with a clear elastic band (letting the water/hairspray mixture dry), but that is cute as a button. She's also got a nice profile.

Still working on getting her 100% finished. Not sure what kind of dress I'll put her in, since the original is long gone.

Should I put her up for sale?

EDIT: YES! I should put her up for sale. If you'd like to own this piece of awesome, check out her store page on Etsy!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Giving it away!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Silent Treatment by Melanie Surani

The Silent Treatment

by Melanie Surani

Giveaway ends July 20, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Exchange in Eichstätt by Melanie Surani

Exchange in Eichstätt

by Melanie Surani

Giveaway ends July 20, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Study Abroad

Ten years ago (what??), I went to Germany for a month. At the time, it was the farthest I'd been from home. I guess it still is, since I haven't travelled any more to the east... 
I would have blogged about it back then, but all I had was Xanga (which, I used to death, and might have said something. I've long since lost my password, and haven't got the patience to guess words for the next hour). Heck, Facebook wasn't even around then (as far as I know), or I would have kept up with more of my classmates.

I was on the yearbook committee!

A sign we all liked for its specific request

Since digital cameras also weren't as common back then, I have physical photos. Here, you can see me taking a smartphone pic through the photo album plastic.

It made sense for me to want to write about a place that had such an impact on me, but it took a while to get the story just right. Not just anything could happen there -- had to be something interesting. Also, writing a thinly-veilled autobiographic "fiction" piece didn't interest me one bit. Myself as the main character is one of the more boring things I can think about.

Marienplatz, Munich

My stories start at a specific place: a scene I think about over and over. "Wow, that's interesting," I'll think to myself. But how did those characters get into such a predicament? I work backward and forward from there. I've tried writing about an experience I've been through, but it always turns into some melodramatic "woe is me" piece, and I threw them all away before anyone found them.

Where the epic fight (in the novel) starts and finishes

However, I love including places I've been as settings. The Silent Treatment is set in Memphis, where I grew up. I included street names and neighborhoods I'd been to for 20-something years. While some of my experiences will worm their way into the characters, it'll never be: Here's the story of my first day at work.

Do Not Spoil the Ending toyed with Toronto (though I'd like a do-over with the location -- I think I can place a more interesting story there). The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is set in New York City (where I live now). Since Kat Shergill's past put her in Philadelphia, I wouldn't mind exploring that a bit more too. And please rest assured something in the future will be set in Paris, because it's a beautiful, delicious city.

Last, but not least, Exchange in Eichstätt is officially available! Get your ebook now -- or if you prefer a paperback, I'll be releasing it very, very soon (formatting and cover design take a lot of tedious work).

Thanks to all my readers -- I hope you enjoy this latest installment.