Movie review: Divergent is delicious

I didn’t read Victoria Roth’s Divergent trilogy. I have this thing about reading popular books. I don’t like to read them until the hype dies down. Also, my time is so limited these days that any spare time I have I try to work on my own writing. It’s unfortunate because reading is my guilty pleasure. There’s nothing more I love than curling up with a good book. But when I read, I feel guilty because that time is time I could be using to finish my own work. I’ve made a deal with myself: in between writing I take a few months to read everything I stacked up on my nightstand (see what I did there?) – decompress from my own mind if you will, and then start on my work after I’ve had a chance to truly step away from the world I’ve created and been working in and start fresh again.

So… in a few months I will get to it, in addition to about twenty other books I am foaming at the mouth to read. However, like Hunger Games (I know, I heard your audible gasp, didn’t get to read that either) I will read after seeing the films and while part of me worries the film will influence the images and characters of the book, I know my mind and know that I am pretty good at letting it make up its own mind and not be driven by whatever images the film drove.

I saw Divergent last night and liked it. I thought it was a pretty high quality film, like Hunger Games, and not at all like Summit’s Twilight films. (Those vampire weaves, come on!) Also, I really love Shailene Woodley — I think she’s a pretty talented young actress — and I like Theo James. He’s different from some of those actors out there right now. Of course he was also in Underworld Awakening, one of my favorite movie franchises ever, so well, I am a little biased. Kate Winslet’s performance was a bit underwhelming. She is capable of so much more, so part of me wonders if she was in the film because  her daughter asked her to be, like Glenn Close did when she took the role of Cruella Deville for Disney’s 101 Dalmatians? Is her daughter that old? I don’t know. It’s a theory so don’t hold me to it and frankly, I don’t have the time to look up whether or not she has a daughter (can’t remember at the moment) and if so, her age.  It was nice to see Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn. AND…a strange twist (or maybe purposeful), Shailene’s co-star from The Spectacular Now (which was underwhelming, I will admit) Miles Teller, as well as her co-star from The Fault in our Stars, Ansel Elgort. Is it really just a small world, or does Shailene have incredible pull with her film’s casting directors in getting her friends jobs?

I thought the movie also did a great job bringing to life Roth’s dystopian Chicago. Dystopian novels bother me a bit because of their settings, but I like to see how director’s bring them to life on the screen and make them a bit raw and sexy (is it ok to say that?) and not creepy and morose. And well yeah, I will admit, love Tris and Four. I am a sucker for YA/fan fiction couples. But doesn’t everyone? Isn’t that why these books are so popular?

Perhaps my favorite part of the film was 1) the painless tattoo Shailene’s character Tris gets. No wonder everyone in Dauntless is tatted up. If it was a sticker like approach now, I’d be in that chair, stat! And 2) the presence of more than one Ellie Goulding song in the film. Two of my favorite Ellie songs are featured in Divergent: one, “My Blood”, featured in the film, and two, “Beating Heart,” which is featured on the credits. I am obsessed with the latter, but don’t be fooled. Was totally obsessed by the former when it first came out, too. I love Ellie’s music. Totally, and completely. Nothing she does bothers me. I could listen to her all day. Which is why it was a pleasant surprise to also hear her cover of Active Child’s “Hanging On.” Including all three below because her voice is stunning.

“Beating Heart”

“My Blood”

“Hanging On”

 

Divergent was delicious and I am anxious to see the second film. Who knows, maybe I will read the trilogy before the second film comes out. I should be finished with my second novel by that time (shit, I hope so!) and have some trips planned in the coming months. Maybe my mind could use a nice deep dive into Roth’s dystopian’s world.

Old love for Foster the People’s new song “Coming of Age”

I’m a writer, but I’m often without words. There are some moments in time, feelings, and memories that are just too hard to describe. Moments that have left me breathless. Speechless. Utterly unable to put a string of words together. And as a lover of words, that’s hard to admit.

But music…music has that potential, and for me, has always been that one thing that has helped me to say what it is I am trying to remember, what I am trying to feel, what it is I am trying to describe. And in Foster the Peoples new video “Coming of Age,” they have managed to capture a moment in time that has always been hard for me to describe as one of my favorites: the 80s.

I loved the 80s. The music. The movies. The excess. The way the world worked and my perception of that big world while looking up at it from my childhood.  It wasn’t just a time of neon, hair bands and New Wave. It was the time of my youth. Of recording “Friday Night Videos” so I could watch the next morning. Of dreaming Jake Ryan was my boyfriend. Of friendship bracelets and parachute pants. Of The Go Go’s and Valley Girl. Of mixed tapes and Michael Jackson. Of everything about growing up I think back to fondly because it was the most simple and fun time I’ve had. The most fun that we’ve all probably had, only mine was in the 80s, while yours could have been in the the 90s or 70s, maybe even 60s. It was my childhood and I was just lucky enough to experience it through the Aqua net haze of the 80s. And this video so effortlessly summed that up by putting to music the excitement, fun, and energy of my youth.

Well done Foster the People, well done.

The power of relationships in supernatural reads

People ask me why I am such a fan of supernatural genre stories, YA specifically. There’s lot of reasons but at the core, it’s because they’re not just about monsters and demons, but so much more. They’re about the power of our relationships, familial and first loves. About coming of age and the journey one goes through as they evolve from teen to adult. They’re of love and loss, of hope and despair – of all the incredibly confusing, incredible, breath taking emotions we are given the opportunity to experience, no matter whether we are mortal or immortal.

Take The Vampire Diaries for example. I’ll admit I like the show better than the series for a few reasons (read main reason: Ian Somerhalder), but the part of the books that’s always stuck with me is the bond between the Salvatore brothers. The show has nailed to perfection. There has been many times Damon and Stefan have been there to save the other, and while the love triangle is usually what gets hearts aflutter, it’s the strength of their brotherhood bond, of family, of willing to do anything to protect the other, no matter the status of their relationship at the time, which is the excellence for me.

When my novel Aberration was reviewed by a book blogger a few months back she called it “an emotional book that deals with past and family and the way our perceptions of events change over time, as they become memories and how our friendships shape us but can also hold us back.”  For me, this was the ultimate compliment because I’d successfully done for one reader, what so many YA writers have done for me: taken a simple element of young adulthood and connected it to a much larger point of exploration.

When beginning a story in addition to starting with the ending, which I’ve written about before, I also pick an emotion and use it as the fuel for my character. In my next book (Bound, out this summer) the emotion I chose was anger. Some may think its confining to choose one emotion, as it may limit the character’s range in what they will think or feel. But it doesn’t. In fact, it’s the opposite. It gives them a place in which to start from and evolve. It can lead to the discovery of such incredible new emotions – the character’s journey a rich and exciting experience to create.

Writing is so many things for me, creating new people and places a complete and total joy. But it’s also about evolving me a little bit through my characters. Learning from their experiences and growing as they grow. Its a journey of self discovery of myself that I don’t realize I’ve been on until the last sentence is written.

I can’t wait for everyone to read my next book. I’ve grown, my characters have grown, the themes I am exploring have grown. It’s exciting and exhausting and…well, you’ll just have to see.   Until then, keep reading and don’t be afraid to feel. After all, it is what makes us human.

Endings & beginnings

I have a love/hate relationship with endings. I love them because often, they arrive with such a rush of emotion, its a fitting conclusion to whatever journey we have been. And I hate them because well, while to writers the words THE END are a sign of achievement, to the reader (or viewer in the case of movies) it’s a sign that we must let go.

When I begin writing a new story, I always begin with the end – one moment from which an entire story will be born. Why? Because as Semisonic sang in 1998 “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” I have always believed this. I have always believed that whatever happens to a character or in a story, can very well mean the beginning to something else, someone else, or even the introduction to somewhere else. A new character we will fall in love with, a new journey that will carry us on a ride of highs and lows, or even a new town whose people and places we will come to know as well as we know our own. I spend days, sometimes weeks perfecting the end and then once it’s done, start from the beginning at chapter one.

There are too many book endings I have loved over the years to even pick a few. I know it seems like a cop out, me being an aspiring writer and all. But picking one is just too hard.But I am always amazed at how other writers have come to write their endings. Do they do it as I do – start with it first? Or do they take time with it and relish in the moment? The ritual alongside the fact that its the anchor to a piece of work makes the ending of a novel a special moment.

But movie endings, now there is something to look at .

There are a few that are poetic and perfect in my eyes. Movies have visuals and music to underscore their endings, whereas in books we have imagination. Some would argue that perhaps the later is better. I don’t know, the combination of music with poignant acting gets me every time.  Take for example the end of Joy Luck Club or the epic conclusion to Star Wars Episode 3 where we learn the entire reason Darth Vadar turned to the dark side was because of love.

I also love movie endings because I learn from them. I think about everything from the dialogue to the music – I think about if I were to write such an ending, what would I do differently?

Perhaps one of my favorite movie endings is Field of Dreams. This movie makes me cry every time. It has always held a special place in my heart for reasons that are mine and mine alone. But the ending, when Ray plays catch with his father – his deceased father who passed much earlier in his life – is a moment I can never shake. It’s not just incredible that Ray is having a once in a lifetime moment to spend with someone he lost, a moment every one of us has wished for at least once in our life, but a simple display of hope’s incredible healing power, and how the simple act of playing catch can reconnect us to all we thought we lost.

Another ending I was just introduced to was the series finale of Lost. I was never a fan of the series. I didn’t watch it because there was just too much hype and I didn’t want to be caught up in it all. But with the arrival of the second year anniversary of the series’ finale, I found myself curious about the program and after reading a few articles, I  went out on a limb and even though it had been two yeas, watched the ending. I have to say, those four and a half minutes were more powerful than any TV series finale I have seen, and perhaps even movie ending. And while I never watched the show, wasn’t connected to the characters in any way, I was touched so profoundly  that it was a beautiful example of what I think an ending should be – closure, with hope.

With my first novel Aberration  now available I am nervous readers will have a love/hate relationship with its ending. But I also hope this is the case. I hope I can connect with even just one reader on such an emotional level.  If I have done this, then I know I am doing something right and perhaps focusing on the end is a great way to create new beginnings.

My adventure in self publishing begins

I am way behind on my reading because funny enough, I’ve been writing….a lot. In fact, next week I will begin the journey of self-publishing my first book Aberration, and God willing, by the end of the year finish my second (name to be revealed shortly).

I am incredibly proud of my growth from book 1 to book 2, not just in genre, but style, and I am looking forward to where that growth takes me in book 3. For me, writing is telling a story – a story that slams into me in the middle of the day or while driving my car. A story that despite shaking it off, is persistent, waking me in the middle of the night, begging its characters to have a name and a face.

I’m nervous, and excited, and a bit scared truthfully. I’ve loved these characters from the moment they were born and found it hard to let them go when the bittersweet words “The End” came. But I had to let them go in hopes others would get to know them and love them too.

I shared initially with family and friends, and that feedback was mixed: some loved it, some hated it. And after reworking a bit, I began submitting to lit agents, that feedback also mixed: some liked, some passed, and a few requested manuscripts for review that are still in queue waiting to be read (per my last check). Some might say that was success in itself, getting a query letter read by an agent after hearing some of the query letter horror stories that are out there. But being a PR person by day, what good would I be if I couldn’t write a strong pitch letter selling my own product after having done it for others for over 15 years?

Perhaps the most important learning from that process was the overall feedback. Could I write, yes. Did the story work, sure. But were those readers my target audience, was their feedback helpful, or could they share with others in my target audience? Hmmm…that I did not know.

It took a huge leap of faith on my part to decide to self publish my first book. But after following Book Baby the past few months, a digital distributor of eBooks from independent authors, poets, memoirists, and publishers, I’ve decided it’s a great avenue for me – its inspiring interview with lit agent Michael Larsen last week on the Book Baby blog, sealing my decision.

In the interview BookBaby President Brian Felsen discusses the value of self publishing with the Larsen-Pomada agent who highlights the value it can offer to writers, not just as a way to reach an audience but find your audience. In today’s world where anyone can write, the various forms of publishing – from blogs to yes, even Twitter – have changed the game in how work is distributed. Where before it was write, get published and have your marketing team market your work towards a specific audience, writers today must almost work backwards in finding, providing relevance and securing popularity among an specific audience, before an agent might think about representing your work.  To some that may sound exhausting.  But to me, it sounds pretty smart. Actually, I think it’s brilliant.

How many bloggers out there have found incredible success reaching thousands of readers a day with their voice? And how many of those bloggers have also found themselves go on and become celebrated writers after successfully speaking to and sharing their voice with readers – their readers. Well, I don’t know the exact number, but it’s a lot.

And that’s my dream, to share my voice with others.

But while I still dream my words will reach millions, the way in which I think it may has shifted and I’m ok with that. Instead of lining the shelves of my local bookstore (actually, a now non-existent bookstore) my stories might be read by someone on their tablet, e-reader, or even smartphone. And instead of it being a reader in one city, it could be readers around the world which is in one, hyphenated word, mind-blowing

I can’t wait to begin this next journey and will be sure to share with all of you where it takes me.  If an agent discovers me then who knows, maybe one day my books will line a bookstore. And if they do, grab a copy and let me know you read this blog post and remembered me way back when. 😉

Video: Book Baby Interview with Literary Agent Michael Larsen