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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bond -vs- Holmes: The Ultimate SmackDown

So I’ve been brushing up on my mysteries as research for my WIP. Yeah, I know, tough work. I wanted to go with more of a “method” approach, but I thought committing a felony to determine how the cops would handle the case might be the long way to publishing a novel (though these days, who knows?). Instead, I’ve been reading James Bond and Sherlock Holmes.


It’s my first foray into these classics. I mean, I haven’t even watched an entire Bond movie (unless you count Austin Powers). And I had no idea that Sherlock Holmes was a collection of short stories and not a collection of novels (or that they were told from Watson’s point-of-view— curious). So I went into these books cold, and after about 15 minutes of careful deliberation, I’ve come away with who I think is truly the mystery-solving mastermind.

So here it is, my analysis of Casino Royale and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes:

Bond -vs- Holmes: Two Sleuths Enter, One Sleuth Leaves


1. Holmes is a coke head. No joke! Page two it says Holmes is “buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition…” Maybe Robert Downey Jr. was a good casting choice.

Bond likes his drink, though it’s not a classic martini. It’s an original concoction he created: three parts Gordon’s, one part vodka, a half part Kina Lillet (no idea what that is), shaken until ice cold and topped with a lemon twist.

Point: Bond. Crack is whack.

2. Bond can handle his torture. He gets tied to a chair and is beaten in a very graphic manner. Let’s just say, “yuck.” Though I was surprised this super spy had be rescued not once, but twice in this book.

Holmes isn’t just some wimpy brainiac. He threatens to whip one bad guy with a hunting crop (or cane) and actually does slug another criminal with it. He will mess you up with that walker.

Point: Holmes. Smart and sassy.

3. Holmes is a collection of short stories because it takes the character no more than one page to solve the mysteries. Man can put some pieces together.

Bond is a few steps behind. Yeah, he doesn’t get dead, but that’s mostly out of luck. He’s too busy drinking and wooing women to consider that the bad guys might try a counter attack.

Point: Holmes. I’d say his IQ score is a few points higher.


4. Bond is incredibly misogynistic. And I don’t mean because he’ll shag you, baby (though he never says that). I mean, he actually calls his female partner “a blithering woman who thought she could do a man’s work.” Sexism = not sexy.

So far, Holmes
hasn’t spent much time looking at the ladies. Now, I’m not going to say that he and Watson have a little something on the side, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you know what I mean.

Point: Holmes. At least he respects the brawds.


5. Bond has shades of inspiration that I could trace in modern day creations such as: Alias, Taken, 24, the great Austin Powers, and pretty much anything spy-related (he perfected the genre).

Holmes’
near psychic powers of intuition make Psych (on USA) and the Mentalist virtual rip offs. He also could be credited as being one of the first criminal profilers given his psychological analysis of perpetrators. So add Criminal Minds and The Profiler to the list.

Point: Tie. They both warrant every literary allusion they’ve generated.

So there you have it, my entirely scientific comparison of two classic mysteries. Holmes could officially whip Bond’s butt. Mostly because Bond isn’t quite smart enough to see it coming. Though if it ever came to blows, Holmes is dead man. You don’t bring a cane to a gun fight.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pixies and More with GCC Member Carrie Jones

Well, if you haven’t read Carrie Jones’ (http://www.carriejonesbooks.com)
NY Times best-seller, NEED, rush out and buy it right now so you’re all caught up and ready to read its sequel, CAPTIVATE. It just debuted this month through Bloomsbury USA and it had one of the prettiest covers ever! Check it out!

As always, here’s a little bit about her book to get you hooked:

In this NYT-Bestselling sequel to NEED, Zara and her friends knew they hadn't solved the pixie problem for good. Far from it. The king's needs grow deeper every day he's stuck in captivity, while his control over his people gets weaker. It's made him vulnerable. And now there's a new king in town.

A turf war is imminent, since the new pixie king, Astley, is moving in quickly. Nick nearly killed him in the woods on day one, but Zara came to his rescue. Astley swears that he and Zara are destined to be together, that he's one of the good guys. Nick isn't buying it, though Zara isn't as sure -- despite herself, she wants to trust the new king. But it's a lot more than her relationship with Nick that is at stake. It's her life -- and his.

Here’s what Carrie had to say:

Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper?

Carrie: I am. If I let out my family secret…well, let’s just say I’d be in the tabloids. Plus, it’s not really mine to tell, you know? That’s the problem with knowing secrets they start weighing you down.

Q: What is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?

Carrie: Oh man… I love to travel too, but I am so bad at picking favorites. I think Scotland is my favorite place and the coolest thing that happened there was I was staying in this castle. All night long I kept smelling this really strange perfume. I have a wicked nose and I’d literally follow the scent around the hotel room. Then the concierge person told me the next morning that the room was haunted. A kind of similar thing happened in Austin, Texas.

Although the coolest COOLEST thing was probably when I was swimming off the beach in Naples, Florida and all of a sudden a pod of dolphins were swimming all around me. That was beyond cool. I was the only one swimming because it was January and everyone else on the beach was 123 years old. It was probably THE most amazing thing that’s ever happened in my life.

Okay, I'm officially jealous of that dolphin story.

Q: I often tell the story of how a psychic once predicted that I would go on to write children’s books. Have you ever visited a psychic?

Carrie: When I was in high school my mom took me to a psychic fair in Salem, Mass and there were all these psychics sitting at tables. You had to sign up for a psychic. Most had long lines, but this one lady had no line at all. I felt so badly for her, so even though she was giving off this super evil vibe I went to her. She looked at me and said, “You will go crazy and be institutionalized before you’re 30.”

This was so not cool.

I basically just sat there for a minute, trying to be calm and then I left, but this really beautiful man with John Gorka brown eyes waved me over to his table and said, “Whatever she just told you is not true.”

And I was like, gulping back sobs and said, “It isn’t?”

“No,” he says. “She does that.”

And then he offered for me to come in his line for free. I liked his line a lot better. I got to be a reincarnated French noble woman who rode horses along the Seine, and all sorts of cool stuff. Sigh.

My infamous psychic was in Salem too. Oh, those wicked witches.

Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?

Carrie: I have. My family tree goes back forever, past Charlemagne and Viking kings. It’s kind of daunting because seriously? How do you live up to Charlemagne?

Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published?

Carrie: Here is the story of my first book, which was TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (ex) BOYFRIEND. It’s more interesting, I think. The story about CAPTIVATE is on my publishers’ website for me. They have an awesome win-a-computer contest there too. You should totally enter.

It begins as all good things do with an email announcing the creation of Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn. Flux was accepting YA novels. Hhm? I thought to myself. I just wrote a YA novel. Sure, I hadn’t shown it to my advisor at Vermont College’s MFA in Writing Program. Sure, I hadn’t let ANYONE read it. Sure, I only just wrote it in the last month and it was rough, rough, rough. But I sent it in. I chugged out a cover letter. I found some stamps. I mailed it.

Here is what followed, taken from my livejournal entries.

Sweet Editor Man called me within a week of me mailing the manuscript. Seriously. It was wild.

The 30th, 2006

Okay. Here’s the big question of the day: Why am I so stupid?

I will work on the self esteem exercises tomorrow… but today! Today! Today I am allowed to realize the full extent of my idiotness. Here’s why.

I sent out some manuscript queries on Thursday. I get a phone call this morning, from a real live editor who says, “Um, is this C.C. Jones?”

“Yes,” I say while pouring out cat food. He then proceeds to tell me he got my query, wants to see more of my manuscript, but his email requesting it bounced back.

“Really?” I say. “That’s weird.”

“Let me tell you the address,” he says. “cjonese at…”

“Oh,” I say. “Oh. Oh. Oh.”

“What?” he says.

“There’s no e on the end of Jones.”

“I didn’t think so,” he says. I then apologize and berate myself for not even being able to spell my own last name! What an idiot. He gives me an email address. I send him the rest of the manuscript.

Yeah, that baby’s going somewhere. Not.

Although, he was kind and he did say, “It’s the manuscript I care about, not your inability to spell your own name.”

Thank you, Carrie! Now, everyone go out and buy books, lots and lots of books!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stealing Your Ideas, and Other Things I Noticed in Avatar

Like most people with a pulse, I caught the hype and went out to see Avatar (in 3D Imax!) and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not a fantasy person. I only watched half of the first Lord of the Rings movie and hated it. I’ve never read a Harry Potter (and I write YA!). And I don’t even like superhero movies unless they’ve got Hugh Jackman shirtless. So for me to say Avatar was good means something. They converted me. But, it doesn’t mean I was oblivious to the dozen or so movies they ripped off in the process.



Let me explain. All writers steal stuff (subconsciously or consciously) from other works of art: books, movies, tv shows, songs. It’s true. As many an English professor will tell you: every story out there has already been written, you just have to find your own way to write it.

So Avatar ripping off other movies isn’t scandalous. It’s just curious and, at times, obvious. To prove this, my DH and I have compiled a list of all the movies we noticed (striking) similarities to. This is just our opinion, so don’t get in a tizzy if you bow down at the feet of the great James Cameron. This is purely for fun.


SPOILER ALERT!
(Read no further if you haven’t seen the movie. I will ruin it here.)




List of Movies Avatar Ripped Off


1. Return of the Jedi:
I’m not even a Star Wars junkie, and even I noticed that the fight scene at the end was straight-up Ewok. I was just waiting for one of the blue people from Pandora to jump into a robot machine like Chubaka and turn their weapons against them.

2. Braveheart:
There were a lot of similarities during the ground war where the underdog blue people (called Navi) try to outsmart the opponent who outnumbers them. And really, when Sully gave that inspirational speech, I know part of you was expecting to hear they’ll never take “THEIR FREEDOM!”

3. Apocalypse Now:
Come on, military guy gone rogue who’s lost all empathy for others? I was really hoping the crazy marine would just wink at the audience and say, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

4. Last of the Mohicans & Dances With Wolves:
White guy who fights alongside the natives— been done a lot. Actually, I think it would have been interesting if Sully wasn’t white. I mean he’s blue half the movie anyway, so why not mix is up, JC?

5. Independence Day: Michelle Rodriguez sacrificing herself by using her plane to try to blow up, for lack of a better term, the “mother ship.” And though Rodriguez was still typecast as a hard-nosed girl who can fight, it was refreshing to see her on the side of the good guys for once. All we needed to round out this movie homage was Bill Pullman declaring, “Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”

6. Thank You For Smoking:
When Sigourney Weaver demanded a cigarette after getting out of the Avatar chamber, my first thought was: how much did the smoking lobbyists have to pay to get that in there? Hey, the money for that big budget had to come from somewhere. And I think we all know Philip Morris chipped in a good chunk.


So there you have it. And please take into account that this list is based purely on the movies we’ve actually seen, so it’s incomplete. Feel free to add to it because, really, the possibilities are endless. I mean, blue people = Smurfs, there are a lot of ways to take it.


POP CULTURE RANT: E!’s Fashion Police
Watching Joan Rivers back on the fashion police was like watching Dick Clark on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve— just sad. Please, retire this woman. Again. She not only has no right to be criticizing anyone else’s appearance (her pot’s not only black, but it’s plastic), but she has one of the most painful voices put on this Earth. It’s like Rachel Ray mixed with squawking crow. Get me back Debbie Matenopoulos, at least she’s cute and age appropriate (by several decades).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Teaser: A Glimpse Inside “The Ex BFF”

So I’ve been beating my head against this book for so long, I’ve decided to break down and share a peek. It’s a blogging necessity really. When you spend so much time consumed by something, how can you not blog about it?



So below you’ll find two snippets from THE EX BFF (as the book is currently titled, it’s had many). For those who follow my blog, this is the novel I call my White Whale—mostly because it’s the first novel I ever wrote and it’s gone through so many revisions it’s barely recognizable to the first draft.

Now, some background. This is a “tween” novel, the girls are 13 and in the eighth grade. The book is told from four different girls points of view. Yup, count ‘em, FOUR. So below you’ll find a look inside Deirdre’s mind (who for all intents and purposes, is the “main” character). And you’ll find a look inside Allie’s mind (who’s one of Deirdre’s friends).

Both snippets are from the first 30 pages, and they are talking about the same “incident” though they have very different perspectives on it. I hope you like it. Enjoy!

THE EX BFF

DEIRDRE


You’d be surprised how much time a person can spend in bed. Deirdre was growing a newfound understanding for those enormously fat people who shut themselves into their homes, eating nonstop until they’re unable to move. If it weren’t for the constant visits from her father over the weekend, she could’ve easily boarded up the doors and windows. There were worst ways to go than eating oneself to death— think of all the cake she’d enjoy first.

Her bedroom door creaked open.

“Dad sent me to check on you,” her sister said, sounding bored. “You still crying?”

Deirdre wiped her eyes. “No,” she croaked.

Truthfully, she’d cried so much since that phone call on Friday that she was probably suffering from dehydration. The way Amber sounded, what she said, it twisted Deirdre’s heart in a way that kept the tears on a constant flow. It was as if her body ached from the rejection.

Nikki swished her glossy hair over her shoulder as she dropped onto the rickety desk chair. “Why are you fighting with Amber? I thought it was Becca who hated you.”

Deirdre ground her teeth. Everyone loved her sister— boys, girls, mailmen, dentists, stray dogs. Nikki had no idea what it was like to panic that any wrong step, any misspoken word, would give someone not just reason to hate you, but to make everyone else in the universe hate you too. That’s what that phone call really meant. They might as well have mailed a dead fish to her doorstep, because the call was a warning that the drama had just begun.



ALLIE

It wasn’t even eight a.m. and already Allie felt bored with the school’s latest gossip. Of course, given that the rumors had to do with Becca that was to be expected.

“Oh. My. God! I cannot believe Deirdre!” squealed Joanna Goldstein, spit misting from her lips onto the school’s bathroom mirror.

Allie cringed. She hated the sound of her friend’s voice— all lispy and high pitched, like a drunken French poodle.

“She tried to steal Lyle away from Becca! Can you believe it? Like, sheriously, that would ever happen,” Joanna continued, her speech impediment sputtering through. “Amber was so right for dropping her. I heard she wantsh nothing to do with her, and Becca’s obviously pished. What do you think we should do?”

Gee, here’s a thought, Joanna. Maybe you could think for yourself for once. Allie sighed. She had elevated Joanna from the slobbery kid classmates called “rain shower,” to one of the coolest girls in school. At first it was fun, making over the nerd like they do in the movies. And it was nice having someone hang on her every word for a change. But eventually, being expected to tell someone what to do every second of every day gets exhausting.


-------------------------------------------

There you go, the first look inside my latest WIP. I’ll keep you posted if anything interesting happens with it.


POP CULTURE RANT: General Hospital
I am now officially going to say that I think James Franco sort of sucked in this soap opera experiment of his. I don't know what he was hoping to get out of it. But he really over-acted his part. Every line he said came with a cheesy look. And wow, were some of his lines cheesy--to the point I think they may have been going for comedy at some points. "Assume the position, Jason." Really, GH. Really? They should have just had them make out--with "Mad World" playing in the background.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Curious Observations About Living in Suburbia

So in the 48 days I’ve been living with “Those Who Will House Me ‘Til Then,” I’ve noticed some odd things. Not about my hosts, who are lovely, but about the world of picket fences and snow shoveling. You know, I’m a city girl. At least I have been since I moved out of my parents’ house. So I thought I’d compile a list of how different it is to live in a community without police sirens and stores within walking distance.



So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you all to my:

List of Curious Observations About Living in Suburbia


1. The gym here doesn’t provide towels. Really? You can’t throw some cheap white hand towels in the wash each day?

2. People shop at Target. A lot.

3. When you’re at the grocery store only buying a can of pumpkin, corn bread, and heavy cream, at least three people will stop and ask you what you’re making. Many more cooks in this world.

4. You can’t walk anywhere. Even the end of the driveway seems far.

5. Starbucks not providing free Internet access is much more annoying here because your alternative options are very limited.

6. My cat thinks deer are awesome.

7. There are stores in the local mall (Bakers?) that I was certain went out of business in the late ‘80s.

8. There’s more snow to shovel. Though oddly, the streets seem to get plowed faster than they ever did in Philadelphia (I’m talking to you, Mayor Nutter).

9. It’s much harder to find yoga.

10. There is no need for an alarm clock because woodpeckers will wake you every day at 7 a.m. They are evil little birds.

11. Food prices seem insanely low. I don’t even want to tell you what I was paying for an apple in the city.

12. A girl who once hated to drive has now found herself blowing through town in an enormous flat-bed truck. People change, folks!

So there you have it. My current list of odd observations, which I’m sure will grow in the months ahead while I wait for that construction crew to hurry up and put my drywall in already. Though before I move, I will create a bucket list of “Things I Must Do Before Leaving the Suburbs.” Maybe you all can help me get started. Any suggestions? And before you ask, yes, “Eating at the Olive Garden” is already on it.

POP CULTURE RANT: Comcast & Verizon
This isn’t a rant so much as helpful hint since I’m on the topic of curious observations. Did you know that if you call Comcast to complain about your cable, they’ll give you free stuff? No joke. My DH just finagled 6 months of free HBO and Showtime. Let’s repeat: FREE. And then he called Verizon and got the phone bill of “Those Who Will House Me ‘Til Then” lowered by more than $20/month. Though I will admit my DH is very patient and lives by the Power of Nice, something I find hard to do when talking to customer service reps.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Get to Know a Mean Girl with GCC Member Eileen Cook

Oh, I love a good mean girl story. Forget making sequels to Karate Kid and Fame, Hollywood should do a remake of Heathers. You can’t go wrong with Christian Slater and Winona Ryder offing the popular girls. Well, unless you’re reading the new YA novel, GETTING REVENGE ON LAUREN WOOD, by GCC member Eileen Cook. The book’s got a Barbie on the cover! With a knife in her plastic back! How awesome is that? So check it out, it just debuted this week through Simon Pulse.

As always, here’s a little bit about her book to get you hooked:

Popularity is the best revenge.
In the final weeks of eighth grade, Lauren Wood made a choice. She betrayed her best friend, Helen, in a manner so publicly humiliating that Helen had to move to a new town just to save face. Ditching Helen was worth it, though, because Lauren started high school as one of the It Girls--and now, at the start of her senior year, she's the cheerleading captain, the quarterback's girlfriend, and the undisputed queen bee. Lauren has everything she's ever wanted, and she has forgotten all about her ex-best friend.

But Helen could never forget Lauren. After three years of obsessing, she's moving back to her old town. She has a new name and a new look, but she hasn't dropped her old grudges. She has a detailed plan to bring down her former BFF by taking away everything that's ever been important to Lauren—starting with her boyfriend.

Watch out, Lauren Wood. Things are about to get bitchy.

Here’s what Eileen had to say:

Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper?

Eileen: I want to be a good secret keeper- does that count? I am the world’s worst liar. I could never go into a life of crime. I could keep the secret unless someone started asking too many questions and then the gig would be up.

Q: What is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?

Eileen: I love to travel too! London is my favorite city to return to, but an all time favorite place to visit was Egypt. We did a ton of cool things including camel rides through the desert and going into the giant pyramid.

Q: I often tell the story of how a psychic once predicted that I would go on to write children’s books. Have you ever visited a psychic?

Eileen: My first book was called Unpredictable and it is about a woman who pretends to be a psychic in order to give a fake prediction to her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend. When I was researching the book I went to over a dozen psychics. There were a few things they predicted that came true- but I’m not sure if it was because they were good psychics or if they would have come true anyway. I think going to a psychic can be fun, but you have to find your own way in life.

Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?

Eileen: My parents are both interested in their family histories so I’ve lucked out in getting to see all this neat history without having to do any of the research work myself. I have some pictures of my grandfather in college (he went to Notre Dame in the late 1920’s) that I love. I’ve been to Ireland where my family is from, but the house my grandmother grew up in was torn down to make a gas station. Hard to feel too sentimental about a gas station.

Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published?

Eileen: When I heard my first book was going to be published I was at home waiting for the car repair place to call and give me the bad news on what my costs were going to be. I had been planning in my mind for so long what it would be like to get the call, down to what I would be wearing and how I would act, that when it finally happened it didn’t even seem real. I’m pretty sure my agent thought I was taking heavy medications. I was very calm, all “yes, I see. Mmm-hmm. That sounds good.” I hung up the phone and kept thinking. “this is it. this is it,” but it took forever to sink in.
Thank you, Eileen! Now, everyone go out and buy books, lots and lots of books!

Copyright © 2008 Diana Rodriguez Wallach, All Rights Reserved