Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Awesome audio book (and narrator): Museum of Thieves


Several weeks ago, I listened to the most awesome audio book: Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner. Part of the credit for it being so awesome goes to the narrator, Claudia Black, who played the awesome Aeryn Sun on the awesome Farscape. (Hmm, I’m noticing a trend here.) 

The story is entertaining all by itself. It takes place in a dystopian-like land called Jewel, where meekly following the rules without question is exemplary behavior and the children are literally tethered to their parents because of an overblown fear for their safety. The main character, 12-year-old Goldie, doesn't fare too well with those kinds of restrictions. On the day she's supposed to be legally "separated" from her parents, meaning she no longer has to have a leash, Jewel is rocked by a bombing. Goldie takes the opportunity to run away and ends up at the Museum of Dunt. There, she discovers a museum that is actually alive and a group of quirky characters who want her to help them try to overthrow Jewel's tyrannical leader.

Claudia Black has an amazing ability to handle multiple voices, accents and tones. Her range is such that the voices of men sound like real men, rather than the typical girly-girl man voice that most female narrators have no choice but to use. And Tanner's writing is so filled with emotion and energy that you can tell Black is having a blast reading the story. 

I've bookmarked one of my favorite parts and listen to it when I'm frustrated or cranky, cuz it totally cheers me up. It involves an altercation between Goldie and the boy who's eventually her partner in crime. Toadspit (yep, that's his name) has an attitude, and he and Goldie do NOT get along at first. Toadspit is annoyed that he has to teach Goldie the ropes, and Goldie is annoyed that Toadspit is annoyed. Cuz, you know, that's how boys and girls are sometimes.

When one of the adults punishes Goldie and Toadspit by banning them from communicating by talking, they're forced to use "finger talk," or sign language. Thing is, they've learned different versions of finger talk, so what means "follow me" to Toadspit means "hit me" to Goldie. She's no dummy, but she very much enjoys misunderstanding his command. What ensues is a hilarious exchange that devolves into a mud fight and the two laughing hysterically. Black reads the exchange with such dead-on portrayals of two frustrated, stubborn (but oh so lovable) adolescents that I can't help but laugh every time I listen.

This is the first audio book that I restarted from the beginning the minute it ended. I wish Claudia Black would narrate more of these! Perhaps I'll have my people call her people. : ) If only!

What about you? Is there an audio book/print book you've listened to/read more than once because you enjoyed it so much?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What I'm listening to (audio books)

I've spent most of the past two months immersed in the last two audio books in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I loved the first book among the trio, which I wrote about here quite awhile ago. (I swear that there are no spoiler alerts coming on these books!)

The second of the trilogy, Catching Fire, was completely mesmerizing. I was tempted to drive around the block a few times just to keep listening. I even welcomed traffic jams. Traffic jams! It always seemed as though I was turning the book off right at a good part -- which just means the entire thing was one big good part. Amazing. 

I've talked back to audio books before, saying stuff like, "Well, duh." And "Ya think?" Cuz, you know, I'm kinda sarcastic, and stupid characters make me slightly crazy. OK, majorly crazy. But with Catching Fire, I literally shouted "Oh my God!" when the plot took a shocking turn. When the character said something to the effect of "I didn't see that coming," I responded, "Neither did I!" That twist made me tingle for days afterward. Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but this is the thing: Most writers see the plot twists coming even in the most cleverly written stories. When I saw The Sixth Sense (Sixth Sense spoiler alert!!), I knew immediately that Bruce Willis' character was dead. I could tell by the way he interacted (or didn't) with other characters. So it was an extra special treat every time that Catching Fire caught  me by surprise. 

I'm about halfway through the third in the trilogy, Mockingjay, and already I've been blindsided by an unexpected turn in the plot. I knew something was coming -- because the author trained me on the other two books -- but when it happened, I was still blown away. How does Suzanne Collins do that? As a reader, I'm thrilled. As an author, I'm examining her storytelling from all angles, trying to figure out how I can do it, too.

Well, one can dream, right?

What about you? Any books that have shocked you with a plot twist?

Monday, July 19, 2010

I kinda followed that ...

Some friends and I saw Inception this weekend, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a man who "extracts" information from people's dreams to use against them or implants info to manipulate them. That's a very tiny nutshell of a plot explanation. When I heard what the movie was about, I got that knot in my tummy that writers get when they hear someone has just published a book that has a plot similar to the one they just wrote. Not good. Cuz, you see, the third book in my Trueology, True Calling, involves spies who "mine" information from the memories of bad guys to help put them away. Sure, Inception centers around dreams, and True Calling focuses on memories, but still. I had a moment. Luckily, the stories are WAY different.

I liked Inception. Took awhile, though. The first 20 minutes or so were tough to follow, until I got oriented. The writer in me thinks the opening was too confusing and viewers would have been better served by a beginning that didn't start at the end of the story. But that's just me. Others in my group didn't have a problem with it.

Visually, the movie was amazing. Because much of it takes place in dream worlds, anything can happen. Landscapes reshape and fold in on each other. Staircases go on for infinity -- or end in mid-air. People can get fatally wounded but not die. A paranormal writer's dream.

One thing that bugged me, and this isn't about Inception but about the previews. We saw four or five previews, and each of them had one thing in common: They all starred well-known actors (Ben Affleck, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas, Shia LeBeouf, Zac Efron) but unknown actresses (with the possible exception of Carey Mulligan, who was nominated for an Oscar this year for An Education).

A couple of the movies didn't appear to have any women in them at all. Are all the actresses out there considered too old to land movie deals? Are they relegated to starring in "chick flicks" or the next cable channel series, like The Closer or Damages? (Not that I would complain about that: I love those shows.)

I get that the previews were aimed at the audience most likely to be drawn to Inception (men). But lots of women like Leo, too, not to mention the idea of a really cool movie. Inception, by the way, also stars Ellen Page, and thank God, her role wasn't to be eye candy. Can't say the same for the previews, though. Clearly, Hollywood still caters to the boys.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Who knew? I'm a Versatile Blogger ...

Thanks, Susan Vaughan (the fabulous author of the wonderful romantic suspense Primal Obsession), for awarding me the Versatile Blogger Award!

The rules: I'm supposed to list six things about myself that are true and one that's a lie (modified rules courtesy of Nina Pierce, awesome writer of the hot A Touch of Lilly.

I'm going to be a total lemming (Wait. What? There's a cliff?!? Damn.) and join Nina and Susan in their contests. I'll award one commenter a signed copy of my latest release, True Vision. Deadline to enter  is 5 p.m. Friday (July 16).

OK, here goes. Six truths and one lie. See if you can guess the lie!

1. I graduated from high school on a Friday and started college the following Monday.

2. I'm a master griller. Charcoal all the way, baby.

3. I'm addicted to gadgets. iPod, iPad, MiFi, GPS, oh my.

4. I get up early every morning and sit down to write as soon as I've had my coffee.

5.  I wear the same diamond earrings every day that I bought with part of the advance for my first book, Relative Strangers.

6.  I bought a leather jacket from Carmen in the Florence, Italy, street market.

7. A guy friend's grandma caught us skinny-dipping in her swimming pool.

I'm also supposed to point you to some blogs I really like:

Romance in the Backseat

RomCon

Socks and Barney

Pop Candy

My Book Addiction and More

ThePhotoGardenBee

Don't forget to try to spot my lie! : )

Friday, July 9, 2010

I totally planned it ...

Did you hear that Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird? Why is that significant to me? I'm so glad you asked!

Not only is Mockingbird one of my favorite novels of all time, but I make a couple of references to it in my latest release, True Vision.

Charlie Trudeau, my super-empathic heroine, has a cat named Atticus. Charlie named her furry friend after Mockingbird's hero, Atticus Finch, a man who reminded her of her father when she was a kid. At one point in True Vision, when she feels her dad has let her down, she thinks this:

Her throat thickened with the familiar yearning for him to be her hero again, her Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, the tall, handsome man who fought the good fight and protected his children from evil.

Charlie has some of the same qualities as Atticus Finch, too, in that she considers it her journalistic duty to help "the innocent, helpless and screwed" (that's how she puts it). When I read Mockingbird in high school for English class, it might have been the first time I enjoyed, and got into, my homework. I just fell in love with everything about that book: the writing, the characters, Atticus Finch.  

Just for gigs, I've included a picture of Charlie's cat Atticus. Doesn't he totally look like an Atticus? He should also look like a MacArthur, because that was his actual name. He was my bud for 15 catnip-y, purrfect years. He had the Eeyore slouch just like Charlie's Atticus. Not to mention the ability to look really, really smug, as you can tell from his mug here. :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hot guy in a cowboy hat

Have you seen Justified, starring Timothy Olyphant? Holy crap!!!!!

Olyphant played Ellen's boyfriend, Wes, in the second season of Damages. I thought he was a pretty hot guy then, but I wasn't hitting "pause" on the DVR. Then a friend recommended I give Justified a try -- and I always listen to my friends. :) So anyway, I tried it, and there was Timothy Olyphant in jeans and a cowboy hat ... my finger found "pause" darn quick. Never knew I had a thing for men in cowboy hats. Thought it was just tool belts. Go figure.

Turns out, Justified is a great show, too, starring intriguing characters with lots of flaws played by fabulous actors. Extremely well-written, it's a writer's dream. Bad guys have somewhat redeeming qualities, good guys have questionable hair-trigger fingers.

If you feel like checking it out, Hulu is showing a few episodes.

Other hot guys in cowboy hats: Tim McGraw. Yum. Who are your favorites?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Why I love Castle

Nathan Fillion pretty much ratchets up my pulse rate no matter what he's doing. But now he's playing a mystery writer! OMG! I'M a mystery writer, too! In case you hadn't noticed. That's my book cover right down there. : )

Fillion plays a fairly realistic mystery writer, in my opinion, other than the always-hanging-out-with-Beckett-instead-of-writing-novels thing. I mean, when does this guy have time to meet a book deadline? Other than that, though, he rambles on at crime scenes the same way I would if I were there, after I was done fainting and/or tossing my cookies, of course.    

My favorite funny moment on Castle so far: Fillion dons a space-cowboy costume for Halloween in a nod to his character, Mal, in Firefly. While the Firefly theme plays in the background, his daughter, Alexis, tells him: "Don't you think you should move on?" Sorry, Alexis, but there are lots of Firefly fans who still haven't moved on since its undeserved cancellation.

Sigh. At least we have Castle.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hot new book cover!

My publisher has made me very happy AGAIN. This time, with the cover of True Colors, which lands in January. Is it just me or does the heroine look like Heather Locklear?

True Colors is the second in my paranormal romantic suspense trilogy that started with True Vision this month. What's True Colors about? I'm so glad you asked!

Alex Trudeau has everything she ever wanted. She takes pictures for the local paper, she’s rescued an entire menagerie of mutts, and hot police detective John Logan has finally asked her out. And then a near-death experience unearths an intense psychic ability she never knew she had …

John Logan moved to Lake Avalon, Florida, to try to leave behind a lifetime of hardship and tragedy. But when his darkest secret comes to town with revenge in mind, Logan lands the woman of his dreams in a serial killer’s crosshairs …

With their lives on the line and Alex’s hallucinatory flashes dragging her deeper into the twisted mind of a maniac, Logan and Alex face the ultimate test. The tension is electric, but to survive they’ll have to look more than skin-deep—they just might not like everything they find.

There's an excerpt at my Web site, JoyceWrites.com.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hooked on ...

I've now listened to three Karen Marie Moning audio books in a row read by Phil Gigante. Let me just say, This man does a Scottish accent to die for! The first time I heard his voice on one of the Highlander books, I got chills. He even manages to do female voices without sounding, well, like an effeminate gay guy. (Hey, women doing male voices doesn't always work, either!)

On a recent 13-hour drive from the Midwest to the East Coast, I listened to the entire The Immortal Highlander audio book. Didn't get bored or antsy once, even when I needed a bathroom break. I did have to turn Phil off in Pennsylvania during a torrential downpour so I could fully concentrate on the turnpike. With Phil's amazing voice purring through my car speakers, that would have been tough.

Oh, and the story was good, too. Not that anyone should be surprised. It is KMM, after all. :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What I'm listening to


Two writer friends (hi, Joan and Maggie!) have raved about Patricia Briggs for a couple of years now. One of them lent me a copy of the urban fantasy Moon Called, which is still sitting on my bookshelf. I started to read it long ago, but something made me stop. It most definitely was not anything that's wrong with the book. I know this because I downloaded the audio version from Audible, and my ears have been glued to it every second I'm in the car.

For me, this audiobook is the perfect storm: good writing, gripping story AND an excellent narrator, Lorelei King. King has that hard-to-find ability to do male voices so that they don't sound like effeminate men. The women sound like women and the men sound like men! Her take on a teenager in the story is spot-on.

I wish I hadn't dallied so long in committing to this book. The good news, though, is that now I have a whole bunch of Patricia Briggs books to catch up on. Hooray!

To find out more about Patricia Briggs and Moon Called, click here.