Archive for March, 2010

Let’s define, “DIVINE,” shall we?

1. of or pertaining to a god, esp. the Supreme Being.

DIVINE MISFORTUNE follows Teri and Phil a (not so) hapless couple trying to get by. Phil isn’t looking to win the lottery, he’d just like to score a lousy promotion. And Teri would like to catch a break for once.

But in a world where the pantheon of gods is not so mythological, it’s hard to get ahead without a blood sacrifice, an altar, and a little scratch to offer a working class deity.

2. addressed, appropriated, or devoted to God or a god; religious; sacred: divine worship.

So, despite Teri’s initial reluctance, they give the god game a whirl. They choose a deity from a web site and presto change-o, Luka the Raccoon God of Prosperity is ready to favor them.

Just call him “Lucky.” All he wants is to crash at their pad for a while.

And what’s a little immortal mayhem here and there, right?

3. proceeding from God or a god: divine laws.

While the new world order has put a stop to the random smiting of followers and the devouring of homesteads, Lucky and his fellow deities still have the power and muscle to make lives uncomfortable for those unfortunate mortals who fall out of favor.

Teri and Phil quickly figure out how tricky pleasing the gods can be. Soon, they’re hosting parties and taking in Lucky’s pal Quick (Quetzalcoatl), a down on his luck serpent god looking to move out from under his own personal PR nightmare–Conquistador massacre propaganda.

And that’s not the half of it. Lucky and Quick soon become the least of Teri’s and Phil’s worries. Before you can say Holy Valhalla, they’re in the middle of divine love triangle and grudge match.

4. godlike; characteristic of or befitting a deity: divine magnanimity.

In DIVINE MISFORTUNE, it’s hard to judge who’s more sympathetic. Both mortals and gods navigate the pitfalls of existence. Lucky’s just trying to get the girl, and Teri and Phil are just trying to pay the mortgage.

And everybody’s trying to dodge Gorgoz, the bloodthirsty god of chaos. Gorgoz has a score to settle with Lucky, and he doesn’t care who he has to crush to win.

And Gorgoz would really like a decent cable package, too.

Such are the dilemmas faced by gods and men.

5. heavenly; celestial: the divine kingdom. Extremely good; unusually lovely.

The author’s previous works deliver the goods, but DIVINE MISFORTUNE packs an extra special one-two punch of humor and gravitas. Sure, you’ll bust a gut laughing, but this book will pleasantly stimulate the ole cerebellum at the same time.

Like the Greek comic writer Aristophanes, Martinez spins stories which captures the heart and the imagination. With a wink and a smile, the reader is welcomed into worlds both familiar and strange, manifest and surreal.

DIVINE MISFORTUNE is no exception. Pitch perfect, it might well be Martinez’s best yet. At the very least, it is every bit as good as my own favorite of the author’s books, THE AUTOMATIC DETECTIVE.

7. being a god; being God: a divine person.

In short, DIVINE MISFORTUNE is marvelous–an ambrosial, entertaining novel.

8. of superhuman or surpassing excellence.

To paraphrase Aristophanes, “by words the mind is winged.”

So pick up a copy and take flight, already!

Hungry for more?

Try this recipe for Ambrosia Cake. With apples, cream and spices, it sings with flavor.

Binge!
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Disclaimer: Intentional Use of Bad Metaphor, Read at Your Own Risk.

Naturally, Scarlet Whisper has to crack a few safes/vaults/heads to get the jewels.

As her mild-mannered alter ego, I’m more into cerebral lock picking. Lately, I’ve been struggling to unlock the secrets of characterization and emotional tension.

See…I just finished my WIP, which has a face melting premise, lots of snarktastic twists, and plenty of fist flying action. (Did I mention the Evil Elvii? And the Volcanoes? There’s always those.)

But…

I have to deliver more than that. My characters can’t just move from one scene like CGI ninjas on a green screen. My tale needs depth and heart. The reader needs to get inside the mind of the protagonist.

Whoa…sometimes, I don’t feel up to the task of this whole writing gig.

It’s a good thing I have writing mentors. The League of Extraordinary Writers, the superfriends who meet every Wednesday for DFWWW and IHOP post mortem are my saving grace.

Their advice and critique is priceless. The tips and tricks are like a locksmith’s tools. I can use them to crack the writing code. I can  listen and learn and read examples of good stuff. Once the door is open, it’s like I’m rolling around in a pile of greenbacks and sparkly stones.

Success!

All week, I’ve been marking up passages of favorite books and posts. I’m analyzing good passages and taking notes.

I’m picking locks.

I’d love to know what writing obstacles you struggle with. What has helped YOU?

Hungry for More? Try my banana pudding, a dish modeled after one of Elvis Presley’s favorite desserts.

The Evil Elvii’s Favorite Banana Pudding

3 reg. sized boxes instant vanilla pudding mix

5 cups milk

8 ounces sour cream (yeah, you read that right)

12 ounces Cool Whip

2 boxes vanilla wafers

10 bananas

In a large bowl, blend pudding mix with milk (use a wire whisk). Add sour cream and half the cool whip. Mix well. Set aside. In a large bowl or dish, layer in the following order: cookies, bananas and pudding mixture. Top with remaining cool whip.

Binge!

Now, for today’s lesson:

di-dac-tic –adjective

1. intended for instruction; instructive: didactic poetry.

2. inclined to teach or lecture others too much: a boring, didactic speaker.

3. teaching or intending to teach a moral lesson.

4. didactics, (used with a singular verb) the art or science of teaching.

If you were to read Scarlet Whisper’s origin story (Action Comics #666), you’d learn that as a child, I attended Sunday School every week.

In these moral fiber knitting sessions, sweet little old ladies shared a lot of “application stories.” Some sort of flip chart, poster board, flannel graph, or book story was presented in order to “teach a lesson.”

These stories were didactic by design.

They were also usually boring.

Take a gander at some of the lovely illustrations from actual examples.

Look closely: Are they children or frolicking Stepford robots?

 
In these stories, the pictures and words are all about telegraphing an explicit message. Ala After School Special mode, the reader is told how to think about a given situation.

One of the more “edgy” stories…

  

 Maybe that’s why I always hated those stories. When a book does all the heavy lifting, by answering all the important questions, what is left for the reader to do?

The best stories allow the reader to grapple with questions and issues for themselves. The message is oblique and awaits discovery.

Maybe that’s why my favorite application story was never Grandma Takes Rainbow Kitty to the Dentist or Too Much Candy for Tommy Tuttle.

Instead, I always prayed the little old ladies would read The Giving Tree again. The spare illustrations and simple words leave a lot the imagination, but it’s Shel Silverstein’s message which stayed with me all these years.

Once there was a tree...

 I’d love to know what you think about the modes and messages of books.

 Hungry for more?

Check out this wonderful discussion on didactism in children’s literature. And you might enjoy my Seven Layer Bars. These gooey sweet treats are a lot to chew on.

Seven Layer Bars

Ingredients:

1/2 cup real butter

1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup milk choc. chips

1/2 cup semi-sweet choc. chips

1 cup coconut

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup Heath or Skor toffee bits

Melt the butter, pour into a 9 by 13 pan. Layer the rest of the ingredients in the order above. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Binge!

I’m honored to have author Scott Selby answer a few questions about his fabulous new book, FLAWLESS, which investigates one of the greatest jewel heist in history. For more on the book and its authors,  visit the book’s website

1. Your background as a scholar is impressive. (Scott is a graduate of UC Berkeley, Harvard Law School, and Sweden’s Land University, where he wrote his master’s thesis on diamonds.)  Can you elaborate on how your studies inspired and/or influenced FLAWLESS?

Thanks.  From law school, I learned about the importance of research. I worked as a research assistant in college as well as law school so that helped tremendously.  I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to go to such great schools.  My masters thesis in particular enabled me to study the diamond industry which was tremendously helpful in writing Flawless.

2. In tackling a book on the heist, what was your plan of action? In your investigation of the facts, which avenues did you pursue first?
The first thing was to write everyone who knew anything at all about the Antwerp Diamond Heist. Next, we tracked down each additional source of information that we could be it a document, court case, blue print, or person.

3. What aspect of the project do you find most irresistible or intriguing?
I loved the mysteries at the heart of the story. My co-author Greg Campbell and I had to work hard to dig up as much as we could to try to solve such mysteries and in the process we ended up finding out that things that originally looked straight forward were anything but.  For example, the more we found out about the combination dial on the vault door, the more of a mystery it became. The manufacturer and the locksmith who worked with it both explained in detail why it would be virtually impossible to film the combination being entered.  Before we did this research, we had believed like many others that it could have just been recorded surreptitiously.

4. The book does an excellent job of putting the reader in Leonardo Notarbartolo’s point of view. How were you able to grapple with such a difficult task, considering his reluctance to discuss the unadorned facts of the case?
My co-author Greg was able to meet with him face-to-face in a Belgian prison.  Unfortunately, Mr. Notarbartolo was not willing to discuss specifics without being paid, which we were not willing to do. He was however kind enough to permit one of his closest friends to accompany us during our research in Turin.

5. What tools for non-fiction writing do you find most helpful? Are there any resources you turn to again and again in your own writing?
I think the most important thing is to do your research and then once you have written something, continue to edit it over and over again. Greg and I, along with our editor at Sterling Iris Blasi, revised our book countless times.  The main resource I’d say are my friends who have been kind enough to read my work and give me much needed feedback. The track changes function on MS Word is a lifesaver.

6. Do you have any advice for writers (non-fiction or otherwise)interested in creating a flawless (or perhaps a less flawed) narrative?

Buy a few of the more popular books on how to write a proposal and how to write generally. Think about what you admire in others writing. And keep working on your own projects as long as it takes. If one book doesn’t work out, then start another one and try to learn from what you’ve done before. Good luck!