Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Being Dead: A Review

I just finished reading the novel, Being Dead by Jim Crace, and if you haven't read it, you should. It's one of the best books I've read in a while. It's not up there with The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (if you love storytelling, this is a must buy), but it's awfully close. The story is about a seemingly odd, quirky, older couple who decide to revisit a place of their youth, a place where they consummated their feverish feelings and began the life they now have together. The wife is reluctant to go back to the place because of a tragedy that happened there, but the husband feels that going back will reignite part of the lust and fever they had at that time.

Tragically, the pair is killed at the place (and all I can say is though it's a bit graphic, the writing about this event is an extraordinarily beautiful pain), and this is where the story takes off. I'm not giving anything away to tell you they died. It happens so soon in the story, you'll flip back and ask yourself, "Wait, did someone just die?"

This story is about death, and it's about this couple's death, but it's about so much more. It's about the life the couple lived, the people who lived it with them, and the life that continues once the couple is gone.

I'm surprised more people haven't just raved about this book in a louder fervor because it is so touching. And just short of 200 pages, it is a quick read though I would guess that even longer, you'd rush to finish it because the writing is dead-on and visual, the structure is unique yet it works so well in the telling of this story, and the two main characters, though dead, are living, breathing beings because of Crace's craft as a writer.

Pick up a copy today @ and see for yourself.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Good night, Will & Grace

Eight years ago, I sat and laughed my ass off as Jack sang "Blame It on the Bossanova" in the first episode of Will and Grace, or when Jack and Karen belly-touched. Eight years later, W&G said goodbye to us, and it was a great series finale. I loved how they fast forward through the characters' lives and gave us a glimpse on how everyone turns out and more importantly, how everyone is still together. All week, I thought about not watching the show. I knew I would cried until I got sick. I'm the emotional kind and that's what emotional kinds do. But alas, I only cried once--the song between Karen and Jack and the belly-touch were priceless and touching and moving, and I could see how emotional they were to be ending the show.

Some might say it's funny to cry over the end of a show, but I would disagree. It's much like graduating from high school or college and knowing that you'll never see all your "friends" again because you'll move on and do your thing, and they will move on and do their things, and never the two shall meet again. Also, in our media-crazed, needing to know what everyone is doing world, is it any wonder that people might create emotional ties to characters that hold glimpses of themselves, characters whom people invited into their home once a week, for eight years? Hell, I don't see some of my good friends that often.

So, I will admit that I'm sad to see my friends go, just like I was when my six "Friends" left NBC. All my other favorite shows are action packed and many of them do not tap into character like W&G did, so I'll be lonely for awhile until television decides to veer away from reality and action, action, action, and give me a good show full of great characters to occupy a part of my life.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

SPOTLIGHT ON: "Monkey Love" Author, Brenda Scott Royce

Photography by Jamie Pham

Title of your new book: MONKEY LOVE

Pitch your book in 50 words or less: Holly Heckerling's already hectic life is complicated by the arrival of a mischievous monkey. At first the monkey makes a mess of everything, even prying Holly and her date apart during their first kiss. Eventually, the impish creature steals Holly's heart and helps her discover what's missing in her life.

What's the best thing about this book?

Reading it won't give you a brain aneurysm. My husband, a philosophy professor, reads uber-serious question-the-meaning-of-existence type books, which usually require deep thinking and a yellow highlighter. For every paragraph he reads, he has to spend several minutes in deep contemplation (after highlighting key passages). MONKEY LOVE is a screwball comedy that requires neither highlighting nor deep thinking. It's not going to change the world or shift any paradigms, but it will incite laughter (one reviewer called it "laugh-out-loud, wet-your-pants funny"), which I think is a good thing, too.

Tell us about your journey to publication.

It took me 2½ years to write the book, during which time I also finished my degree in primatology, worked both full-time and freelance jobs, got married, and had a baby. I brought my laptop everywhere and wrote whenever I had spare time between classes, homework, work assignments, and contractions.

My big plan was to finish before the baby was born and get a publishing deal while I was on maternity leave - with an advance big enough to let me stay home with my son! Things didn't happen as fast, or as lucratively, as I'd hoped. Of the first batch of 5 queries I sent, I got 3 rejections and 1 request for the full manuscript (I still haven't heard back from the last one!). The agent that made the request ultimately declined, and I put the book aside for a while to focus on caring for my newborn son and moving into a new house. Several months passed before I came up for air and decided to try again. I punched up my pitch letter, sent another 5 queries, and this time got two bites. One was Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, who called a few weeks after receiving the full manuscript to say it made her laugh out loud in the subway. It only took her about a month to sell the book to NAL.

How do you spend your time when you're not writing?

My son is now two, so what little spare time I have is usually spent watching "Sesame Street" (my preference) or "Barney" (his). Between having a toddler and working full-time (as Director of Publications for the Los Angeles Zoo), I have little time to write. I try to squeeze writing into lunch breaks, late evenings, and the occasional weekend getaway.

What are your three guilty pleasures?

1. Starbucks' Iced Grande Carmel Macchiator with extra caramel.

2. Soap operas.

3. Las Vegas (video poker, free watered-down drinks, and all-you-can-eat cocktail shrimp-wahoo!)

As a published author, what three pieces of advice would you offer to aspiring-to-be-published authors?

1. Get a rich spouse.

2. Hire a housekeeper.

3. Find a good coffee shop.

Okay, so I'm joking about #1 and only half-serious about #2, but #3 is crucial. A rich husband would have been nice, but true love is better than financial independence, right? And while I'd like to think I'd have more time to write if someone else was doing the laundry, I'd probably just spend more time pre-cleaning the house so the housekeeper wouldn't think we were slobs.

But finding a good coffeehouse (actually several) was vital to writing my novel. I didn't even like coffee when I started writing Monkey Love, but I needed a place to write away from the many distractions of home. Now I have a debilitating caffeine addiction and my yearly coffee expenditures could probably employ a full-time housekeeper. Or two.

What are you currently working on?

Potty-training my son. And writing a sequel to Monkey Love.

Dream-on: You've been greenlighted to do any creative project you want. What project would that be?

I'd love to create and executive produce a television series, a la Shonda Rhimes of Grey's Anatomy. It'd be an hour-long dramedy, the kind of show that makes you laugh and cry and snort and sob and tune in next week to see if the hunk and the heroine will finally get together or just keep exchanging flirty glances. And to combine all my interests, it should involve animals, too. Maybe a Grey's Anatomy­-type show set in a veterinary hospital. We'll call it Pets in the City...

Learn more about Brenda at her WEBSITE!