Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What if Beauty was the Beast?

Okay, I stole that title from one of the commenters, but it's sooo appropriate.

Jeffrey Thomas has created some wonderful drawings, based on the idea of "Twisted Princesses." He's taken the Disney princesses and, ahem, twisted them.

What if...

Alice drunk the wrong potion?

Mulan shed her disguise and her pet dragon really was a dragon?

Nala truly showed her claws?

Jane became a true jungle princess?

Pocahontas...warrior princess?

I think you get the picture. Or you will, if you go check out Jeffrey's site.

As a writer, I love images that spark my imagination. Jeffrey has started a bonfire in my head. Now I need to go see what I can do with it.

Argument for Global Warming

I'm the type of person who runs from trends. I've never read anything by Dan Brown, I have no desire to see Twilight or the movies that will come after, and have only seen one--yes, only one--episode of American Idol (I was out of town with friends, and in the hotel room that night they all wanted to watch, so I had no choice).

So when all the talking heads were running around headless saying the earth was going to heat up into a fireball due to global warming, I didn't immediately join them. Granted, I didn't immediately run in the other direction, I just didn't do anything. I wanted some time to gather facts and see the truth for myself before adding my voice.

Some evidence shows that the earth is warming at an alarming rate, others show it is cooling. Here in Winchester, VA, we've had one of the coolest, mildest summers I can recall in my 30 years living in the mid-Atlantic area. I read GOC's blog and he's a strong proponent for global cooling and when I read what he has to say (and do my own research!), I tend to agree with him. Here's a link to one of his most recent posts on the subject.

Where am I going with this? Let me shift gears for just a second.

One of my favorite web comics is Least I Could Do. This week, Ryan Somers and Lar DeSouza have their main character, Rayne Summers, giving an address at TED. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It's an annual conference held in Long Beach, CA and Oxford, England where people are invited to talk about ideas. Go over to their web site and check it out.

Anyway, in yesterday's comment section, many readers have asked "What is TED?" So today, Somers has given loyal LICD readers a homework assignment. We are to go to TED's web site, watch a video, and give an oral presentation to the class about what we learned--what, no oral presentation? Oh, okay, just a post on what we learned.

So here's the lecture I watched. Click here for James Balog's lecture on Time-lapse Proof of Extreme Ice Loss.

Check it out.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Review #4: The Unseen

Wait. #4? What happened to #3?

If you read the post titled "Book Review #2", you'll see it was actually review Number 3, therefore this is Number 4. You are Number 6.

Don't go there.

Okay, okay.

And you said you weren't going to turn this into a book review blog.

Hey, four reviews out of over 135 posts does not make this a review blog.

Fine, then, get on with it.

Thank you, I shall.

The Unseen by T.L. Hines

It's pretty rare that I'll read a book that grabs my attention on the first page and won't let go until I've finished it, and this book joins those ranks. Have you ever read a book where you could predict the outcome after reading the first fifty pages? This book does not fall into that category.

The Unseen is about a young man named Lucas who makes his living washing dishes and spends his free time being an Infiltrator. He finds his way into buildings (office buildings, primarily), finds their hidden spots, and watches people. He's essentially homeless, living in the boiler room at Howard University, but very content with his life. He is Unseen by those around him, until the night another Infiltrator finds his home base. This chance encounter will lead Lucas into meeting other Infiltrators, or "Creepers" as they're better known, and as he learns about their activities, he can't help but get involved.

Unlike Lucas, the Creepers sneak into homes--something Lucas considers off limits to himself--and they record the activities going on in the homes. But they're not interested in the mundane, everyday activities of the homeowners (like blogging), they're interested in the violence that goes on behind closed doors. Spousal abuse, murder plots, they record it all and play it back for the others in the group. When Lucas discovers that the Creepers are only interested in recording and not preventing the violence they witness, he decides to do something about it.

The events that follow take Lucas on a journey that will make him question who he is, where he came from and will bring him face to face...with himself.

I started reading this yesterday around 8:00 p.m. and finished it around 11:40 p.m. I tried several times to stop, but within a minute or two, I was right back into it. I just could not stop reading it. I guess it's a good thing I'm not working right now and staying up that late didn't bother me.

I initially picked up this book at the Green Valley Book Fair because the plot, as described on the flyleaf, was different. A lot of the writing advice I read tells me that to become a better writer, you need to read, read, read, and not just within your preferred genre. I've heard of urban explorers, or Infiltrators, before but never really read anything about them, so that peaked my interest. Another bit of advice is to come up with your own unique twist on things to make the story stand out from all the others. The writer definitely did that with The Unseen. Plus, another bit of writing advice is that you should constantly ramp up the tension as the story progresses, putting your protagonist into more and more peril, so that the reader keeps turning those pages so they can find out how the hero triumphs in the end. Oh, my goodness does that ever happen here!

I will admit I found the character of "Swarm" to be a bit...um...unusual, and a little sci-fi'ish, which doesn't really fit the atmosphere of the story. As a plot device, it works, but it kinda threw the story a little off kilter to me. And a few times, Lucas looks back on his childhood, but it's always to one specific memory from when he was 10 years old, and nothing else which, in retrospect, is odd, but I didn't think so as I was reading. It's only until "Swarm" reveals all that I realized this.

Another odd thing is that this book was published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publishing firm, but the story does not have an overall Christian theme. A salvation message? Eh, maybe. A moment of revelation? Yes, but Lucas did not turn his life over to Christ, as you might expect in a Christian story. So I find the choice in publisher odd, but that's really not something for me to judge.

I don't grade my reviews, but if I did, this one would get 7 stars out of 5. It truly is an awesome book, despite the one or two oddities. It's going on my Shelfari list (I read it so fast, I never had a chance to update it) with a great review and I hope to pick up some of T.L. Hines' other works very soon.

EDIT: In accordance with "new" FCC rules, I purchased this book.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Still here...I think

This post is going to ramble a bit, so in advance, please forgive me.

August was light on blogging because I lost my job on August 7 (four weeks ago today) and what energy I've been able to muster has been put toward finding a new job. I've been checking job boards almost daily and applying for positions that I think would be okay or that truly do interest me (there were two this week that I really liked the look of), so all I can do now is wait and see, and keep applying.

There's a part of me that would really like to tell off my old boss and give a loud, shrill voice to the feelings I have inside me, but I'm too aware of the inherent danger in that. Too many people are losing their jobs or their potential jobs because employers check their MySpace, FaceBook or Blog sites. Although this site should be anonymous, I'm well aware it can be traced back to me and so I will remain silent on the subject of my former employer.

You'd think with all this free time I'd get some great writing done, right? WRONG! Except for briefly laying out a new story idea and re-reading some of my old stuff, I haven't done anything. And that sucks big time, let me tell you. I should have gotten a lot done. For heaven's sake, I've successfully completed two NaNo's while working full time. I should have at least completed a first draft of something by now, you would think. But nope, nothing, nada.

I'm going to push myself to get more done this month, even if it is a crappy first draft of something I may never look at again. And I'm going to keep applying for jobs--won't stop that until I find one, of course.

However, there are always bright spots to be found, even amidst all the gloom. I've gotten a lot of work done in the back yard--I'm almost done with the clean-up phase and will be moving on to the landscaping/decorating phase soon. I've inventoried all my books--good grief, over 900 books in my personal library, and that doesn't count craft books and magazines. I'll be looking through the titles and selling as many as I can to Powell's and giving more to the library or to a local used book store. My goal in selling to Powell's is not to make money, but to clear out some clutter. I have plenty of it, and if I can pass some of my stuff on to others who can use it, I'll be happy. I'll inventory music next, though I won't be selling any of my CDs. I have some DVDs that I'll try to unload onto Second Spin and we'll see what else I can do in that arena.

Hmm...let's see...what else...Oh, I uploaded a few pictures onto my Deviant Art page and got some really nice comments on them. I'll have to add some more of my favorites. And I'll probably resume scrapbooking again. I have lots of pictures still to do, and I think once I'm done, if I have any Creative Memories albums left over, I'll get those sold on eBay and make a few dollars.

See? I'm still keeping busy, still keeping active, and I've found that I don't miss my job one little bit. I do miss not working and not getting a regular paycheck, and my mortgage and credit report may take some heavyweight blows (can you say "potential foreclosure"?) not to mention my psyche, but I know that I will be the better for it in the long run. One day I'll look back and...no, I don't think I'll laugh, but I think I'll be able to pick out those bright spots and I'll see the things that got me through the hard time and brought me back into the good times.

TIA for your prayers and good thoughts.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to the post office and get a box out to Powell's.