Thursday, February 14, 2013

Room 219

On BookRix, there are frequently contests.  I've participated in nearly each one since joining the community.  Before Christmas, the Vigilant One Champion contest was announced.  Anyone can enter, the story must be complete and no less than 5000 words, and each member can only have one entry.  The title of champion comes with a $500 cash prize!  Enticing!

Since December, I've struggled to get inspired for this contest.  The only judge is BookRix member vigilantone and he's funding the winnings personally.  He's the only person I have to impress and something about that made me excited.  The more I think about it, though, it's not really a good thing.

The point of me sharing this with you is because of the story I finally entered into the contest and posted to my profile on BookRix.  The story is called Room 219 and I consider it a controversial book.

More explanation is needed.  I started writing this story in October of last year, but had to step away from the idea after the Aurora Colorado movie theater shooting.  Can you see where this is going?  I had developed an idea while sitting in my biology class about a week into the semester.  I had been hearing a distant noise in the hallway as my professor was lecturing.  It appeared to me that I was the only student in the class bothered by the sound, one I was having trouble identifying.  The storyteller in me ran with this.  I started imagining all the possible sources of the noise until I landed on one and thus, the foundation of my story was born.

It wasn't two days later I was doing research for the short.  I was watching YouTube documentaries, interviews, and archived news broadcasts, and consulted wikipedia/google to find out the kinds of details I didn't find in the videos.  After I heard out about the Aurora shooting, I found it to be a freaky coincidence and felt it would be 'too soon' to publish Room 219 so I stopped my research and the writing process.

Then Sandy Hook happened.

*inhale deeply*

The events at Columbine and Virginia Tech were tragic and senseless.  I struggled, through my research, to comprehend the state of mind of those shooters, the turmoil and hardship they had to've lived through to push them that far.  It's something I will never understand, no matter how many facts I see.  It's a place mentally I can never take myself.  That much I've accepted.  What happened at Sandy Hook...I can't even being to wrap my mind around it.

My hands are shaking as I type.

I have never before been so emotionally disturbed by an event.  You can say the fact that I'm a mother now has affected my reaction to the shooting.  Whatever the case, I was deeply moved the day of the shooting and I still am.

There was a point in the day, a few short hours after I'd learned of the shooting, when I was flipping through photos on CNN.  I saw a photo I will never forget.  A woman, standing next to her car in a grassy ditch.  She was on her cell phone and had just heard word that her someone she loved had died in the shooting.  The look on her face was indescribable and haunting.  So much despair; like the last tiny thread of hope she was dangling onto was severed.

That was it for me.

I close the internet, I stayed away from the news, I kept my eyes off the papers.  I still find it hard today to see the faces of the victims.  I've read books on serial killers and mass murders.  I've written about rape and torture.  I love horror and gore movies.  I can stomach that kind of stuff.  I'm that kind of person.  Sandy Hook is on a different level and I just can't stomach it and I refuse to try.

So since Sandy Hook, the idea for Room 219 no longer seemed in the least bit appealing to me, yet, the Vigilant Contest still taunted me.  When I exhausted a number of different story ideas, I revisited what I'd initially written for Room 219 and I finished the story.  What drove me to write it, I'm not exactly sure.

After reading over what I had written, and I think I've read it five or six times since completing it two days ago, I fought with myself, whether or not I could use it; bring myself to publish it on BookRix.  There had to be people out there just like me who couldn't stand the thought of another shooting, especially since there have two in my recollection since Sandy Hook. 

The only explanation I have for the creation and completion of the story is this: Room 219 is a story of redemption.  There's a hero.  The shooters (there are 3 in my story) are all stopped by one of the students who retaliates against them, and they're all stopped without deadly force.  Columbine, the shooters commit suicide.  Virginia Tech, the shooter commits suicide.  Sandy Hook, the shooter commits suicide.  Room 219, the shooters meet the long arm of the law before they meet a self-induced bullet.

Though the story I've written is completely fiction, I still feel the slightest bit of closure knowing that the made-up shooters in my story are getting what they deserve and couldn't take the coward's way out.  Though there was still death, there was closure.

For those of you who can muster it, above is the link to Room 219.  This story is not meant to offend or make a mockery.  It's started out as a playful idea and grew into a sort of healing device.

Until next time,
- Jess

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Blah Blah Blog

My book blog tour is kicking off in a few short weeks and I've already got over a dozen 'stops' scheduled.  I went through and checked out the blogs and bloggers who'd be reviewing Evol and posting interviews or guest blogs (written by yours truly) and it made me question a few things.

Am I blogging the right way?  Is there a rule book with proper blogging etiquette somewhere that you'd recommend I flip through?  I feel like the blog I've started here is more of a diary, while the blogs Evol will be making an appearance on are specific; they have a structure and it's almost like they have their own set of rules.  Do I need to tighten the reins on my I need rules of my own?

The next thing I realized is my book, my baby is going to be read by so many people and not everyone is going to like it.  My friends and family have been giving me great praise for the book and in some ways, I feel like they have to say that.  It's kind of like when my mom says I'm so pretty.  I feel like she has to say it; if anything, she's from friends and family can be unreliable.  I don't know if I'm ready for a bad review...

I was just reading a blog post about accepting bad reviews in a positive way.  I think I will eventually come around to the criticisms of a bad review, if I get one, but it's that initial sting, the one that will knock me down a couple of notches, that's what I'm afraid of.  Evol isn't for everyone.  I always warn people it's not meant for anyone under 16 years of age and for good reason.  I touch on hot-button topics like rape, abortion, and religion.  When I say 'touch' on those topics, I mean lightly graze the surface; there's barely any contact.  The book isn't centered around those topics, but it's enough that it could offend someone or leave a bad taste in someone else's mouth.

So for the next couple of weeks, I'll be preparing myself for the worst.  If you'd like to follow my blog tour, you can find the dates and links at this page:

And through this page, you'll find links to Evol on Amazon and Kobo.  Hopefully the book will be available on Barnes and Noble and the iTunes bookstore next week.

Parting is such sweet sorrow,

- Jess

Monday, February 4, 2013

Movies and Me

One of the most important things to know about me is I LOVE MOVIES!  Obsessed is an understatement.  We all have a loop of websites and applications we check weekly or daily.  Mine includes and YouTube, where I subscribe to 'MovieclipsTRAILERS', who upload trailers both domestic and international as soon as they're released so I'm normally in-the-know when it comes to movies.  I don't know what it is about movies that get me so hyped and I have to give them credit because I know they play a part in my love of writing and the child-like imagination I've carried with me into adulthood.

When I was younger, movies were a 'thing' at my house.  It was a very cheap way to keep the whole family occupied.  I remember many a Saturday, piling into the family Windstar and making the trip to Mr. Movies where old movies were only a buck each and I'm talking VHS movies.  We'd get half a dozen movies and spend the whole weekend vegging on the couch.  Paradise!

And don't even get me started on the theater-going experience, my favorite pastime.  I live in a small town, but we do have a movie theater as well as a movie store.  The Palace Theater has the cheapest movie tickets ANYWHERE! Regular 2D movies are only $3 and the newly upgraded 3D system only boasts a $4 ticket!  $4 3D movie?  Dare you to beat that.  The only downfall of the Palace Theater is they only show one movie a week which plays once a day and that means that not every movie comes through our little town (but the owner makes a point to have all of the Best Picture nominations shown at the theater before the Oscars, thankfully).  Aside from that, their box office opens an hour before the movie starts and you can buy 'seat savers' for $.50 each and save your seat in the theater before movie time!  Ridiculous!  The popcorn, best in the state, hands down.  They use, wait for it, REAL butter (imagine Homer Simpson drooling and mumbling 'mmmmmm buuutttterrr', that's me right now)!  Their concession prices are so affordable and they have a great selection.  And I almost forgot to mention the brand new $35,000 seating that was recently installed in the theater.  The theater doubles as a performing arts theater for locals.  It's heaven for me.  Absolute heaven.

Don't ask me what it is about actually going to the movies that gets me as excited as a four-year-old at Disneyland because I can't put my finger on it.  I normally don't even care what movie I'm going to (my husband and I don't often agree on movies...they say opposites attract) as long as I'm going.  I give everything a chance, include Adam Sandler's bomb, Zohan, which I fell asleep to and will never watch again.  I gave it a chance.

Now, the reason for my post.  My husband was such a doll and took me out for a movie date (thanks to the in-laws for watching little man for us).  Jack Reacher was playing at the Palace and I've been itching to see it since I saw the first trailer.  I've read a Jack Reacher book from Lee Childs' series.  It was not the one they made the movie out of (Last Shot), and I can't remember which one I read because it was back in high school.  There's something about reading a book that becomes a movie that's even more attractive to me.  I have to see it, period.  Yes, I read all the Harry Potter books when I was younger as well as the Twilight saga and saw all 13 of those movies in the theater.  I've never read Hunger Games, but I did see the first movie (I've gotten mixed reviews on the second and third books in the series so I think I'll just see the movies).

Reading a book creates a relationship between me and the characters, mentally.  I can see them in my mind.  I can see the places depicted and the scenes played out in my head.  When those fictional, made-up scenes in my mind become 'real' on the silver screen, I crave that affirmation of my own mental creations.  I've never been disappointed in a book-to-movie transformation.  I've been annoyed when certain parts of the book haven't been included in the movie, but that's about it.

Jack Reacher is not an exception.  It doesn't matter how long it's been since I've read a book.  I can remember the character I've created in my mind for any book I've read, like revisiting an old friend.  I had an idea of who Jack Reacher was in my mind.  Lee Childs writes him as a 6'5 military man and then the movie releases Tom Cruise as Reacher.  *sigh* This is what I have a problem with.  Kristen Stewart, as much as I dislike her acting, she was as close to perfect for Bella as you can get.  Tom Cruise is not the Jack Reacher I imagined in my mind.  Not a lot of people like Tom Cruise as an actor, but I have a soft spot for him.  He's a maniac.  He likes to do his own stunts and does those kinds of freakish adrenaline-packed activities (bungee jumping, snow boarding, and base jumping to name a few) in his free time and I think that reflects in the character when he's in an action film like Jack Reacher and the Mission Impossible franchise.  He's type-cast as an action hero because he's good at that, and pretty much only that.  He is a true badass, on and off screen, but he is nowhere near 6'5.  That's a fail in my eyes.

Aside from that sad note, the best part of the movie is one of my Hollywood crushes was cast as the diabolical villain, orchestrating the trail of frames for Jack and the man he's trying to prove innocent.  Jai Courtney played Charlie in the movie.  You may be asking yourself, 'who the hell is Jai Courtney?' and I would have said the same thing if it hadn't been for Spartacus: Blood and Sand.  Jai played Varro, Spartacus' bestie in the first (and best) season of the Starz show.  Jai is also set to play Jack McClane along side veteran Bruce Willis in the latest installment to the Die Hard series, A Good Day to Die Hard.  Other than that, Jai isn't well known, but I know who he is and I'm a fan.

But, I haven't been on YouTube all weekend so I need to get my fill of trailers yet this morning.  Until next time,

- Jess

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Mad Beauty of Danielewski

I used to work with a fella by the name of Jeff Burns.  Jeff and I had a lot in common.  We both had an affinity for cinematic adventures, had the same taste in music, and we both liked to read and write in our free time.  He introduced me to Mark Z. Danielewski while he was reading House of Leaves.  If you've never read House of Leaves, I highly recommend it.  I was intrigued by the Inception style of story line in the sense that it's kind of a story within a story with some extras at the end.  Jeff was also telling me that there are supposedly codes embedded in the writing that people 'go crazy' trying to crack.

He had me sold and I went and picked up a copy of House of Leaves at Barnes and Noble shortly after.  It really is a trippy psychological thriller.  There were parts that gave me goosebumps and some that scared me, truly scared me, which has probably only happened to me twice in my life, getting frightened by a book (RL Stine did it to me once when I was a kid.  Damn Goosebumps books!).

House of Leaves isn't for everyone though.  I fell in love with it after reading it the first time (I've read it twice since) and passed it on to my dad, the authority on good books in my eyes.  He just couldn't get into it, even though he and I share and enjoy the same books all the time.

So this year, hoping to get back into another juicy book during the holiday break, I invested in The Fifty Year Sword by Danielewski.  If you've ever read a Danielewski book, you'd know he likes to use the page to add another dimension of madness to the book.  Some pages may only have a few words on them, some have words backward, but only in a small insert in the middle of the page, on other pages, the words get smaller and smaller and smaller.  Here is a look into House of Leaves:

The Fifty Year Sword does the same thing.  Danielewski only used the left page to tell this cryptic tale of a young, recently divorced woman who attends the 50th birthday of her ex's new lover, but rather than endure the birthday girl's torturous company, she sweeps away with the children and becomes audience to a haunting tale told by a hired storyteller to keep the children occupied during the party.  The storyteller, with a mysterious black box at his side, weaves a tale, that seems meant for an older audience, of a dark time in his life when he lusted to kill and searched the world for the perfect weapon to do so.  After tirelessly searching, he came across another man who made swords and each sword rained destruction differently.  This is where the fifty year sword comes into play.  The mysterious weapon-maker is vague with his description of that particular sword, but the storyteller knew it was the sword for him.

The rest, well I'm going to leave that for you to find out.  Danielewski is brilliant with imagery and a poetic way of painting a picture.  With The Fifty Year Sword, he has some help from the stitched pictures sewn into the book (not literally), some elegant, others crude and dark, all fitting.  The book isn't the easiest of reads as, in Mr. Danielewski's usual form, the story line itself if 'cryptic' and can be difficult to decipher at times, at least for me it was, warranting an second read through, sometimes a third.  But with all that set aside, it's a fast read, given the fact the the story is only told on the left page of the book and the pages aren't filled with words due to the spacing and indentations.  It only took me about a day to read, thanks to the interruptions of motherhood.  If I had been uninterrupted, I bet I could have pounded it out in about three hours.

Also, not that I've checked to see if it's available (some authors are worthy of space on my actual, real life bookshelf), I do not recommend reading anything by Danielewski in eBook form.  I don't know if they're offered on Kindle or Nook, but even if they are, you need to get the actual book to sink yourself into the story completely!

Here is a look at the book.  The orange is the book sleeve that, as you can see, has raised bumps on it, Braille-esque, but there is no rhyme or reason to the scatter of dots.  When you peel back the sleeve, the hard binding is covered in a tangled mess of red string blossoms, which complements the stitched illustrations in the pages of the book.

Happy reading,

- Jess