Friday, September 30, 2011

Ryan and Emma

I haven't been a big fan of change lately. I am not a morning person and this whole still being dark when I wake up deal is just not working for me. What is working, however, and I'm sooooo glad to see it's not over is the romance (onscreen that is) between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. No change up necessary! LOVE them individually and even more so together.

I adored their chemistry, witty banter, vulnerability, and relatability in Crazy, Stupid, Love. They put a new spin on the whole opposites attract storyline because their characters weren't forced together and unbelievably forgiving of someone so different, as we often see. Instead they were growing and evolving and finding one another during their individual evolutions. They met when they were both finally morphing into the person the other needed.

Now they're rekindling their romance for the forthcoming period piece The Gangster Squad and I can't wait to see it!

What onscreen couples do you love?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall Must Read Giveaway

There are some books that I am just dying to get my hands on and yet another reason why I love fall so much. So I'm doing a giveaway of what I consider to be THE BOOKS to read in YA this fall. Winner of the giveaway will have his or her choice of one of the following reads.

1. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
The book is rocking nearly 4.5 out of 5 stars on goodreads, the majority of reviewers use the word "wow," in describing it, and talk about a hook here's what the jacket says: Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.

She's wrong.

2. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Lola and the Boy Next Door is brought to us from breakout contemporary YA author Perkins. (Her first novel which was wildly received was Anna and the French Kiss.)Every review of this book speaks to how well Perkins has developed her characters and that readers were actually "giddy" as they tore through the pages. Here's what the jacket says: Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door

3. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Dessen was just at the National Book Festival this past weekend rocking the YA tent so though this book came out in May, it's classic chick lit YA from the Godmother herself: Sarah Dessen. Here's what the jacket has to say: After a scandal involving her mother and a famous college basketball coach rocked her family and her old hometown, McClean decided to live with her dad. His job as a restaurant consultant requires they pick up often, and at each new place she carefully selects who she’ll be—Eliza, Beth, or someone else with a new name and different interests. It’s easier this way for McClean, who is reluctant to form any true attachments. Then at their latest stop, McClean does something she’s not done in a long while—reveal her real name. But who is this McClean and is she ready to forgive her mother, fall for the boy next door, and finally stick around?

1. You must be a follower (2 points if you've been a follower before this contest, 1 for newbies).

2. You must email me at to enter, subject line should read "fall book giveaway"

3. Extra entries if you follow me at Twitter (SCookRay) and also if you tweet, "Check out @SCookRay fall must-read #bookgiveaway #contest at"

4. Contest closes October 3 at 9 pm EST; winner will be announced on October 4.

Good luck!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

WTF Wednesday

I just couldn't ignore some of these WTF moments.

1) GLEE actor Mark Salling's comb-over mohawk. Now why would a handsome, edgy guy try to look so bad and seek out the lamest known middle age hairstyle?

2) Brad Pitt clarifies statement about Jennifer Aniston. No, this isn't an old article but somehow no one will turn that broken record off. Enough already!

3) I'm consistently stuck behind out of service DC buses with big ads about all the improvements they're making to the system. Ironic much?

4) Jessica Biel's pregnant belly for her role in New Year's Eve. Seriously, even her character should be able to afford a full size shirt. This is just plain wrong.

5) Albeit the word was only "canned" but my friend managed to hit every triple word score square there is and started our Words With Friends scrabble match with a 72-point play. Try coming back from that! 72 points; seriously?!

Have you had any WTF moments lately?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Light: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose!

I'm a late comer as far as the show Friday Night Lights go. My husband and I recently discovered it on the instant stream option on Netflix and have soured through Seasons 1 and 2 in record time and are now making our way through Season 3. Here's the little background: Friday Night Lights is an American sports drama television series adapted by Peter Berg, Brian Grazer and David Nevins from a book and film of the same name. The series details events surrounding a high school football team based in fictional Dillon, Texas, with particular focus given to team coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his family. The show uses this small town backdrop to address many issues facing contemporary American culture, including school funding, racism, drugs, abortion, and lack of economic opportunities.

I LOVE this show. It's always been critically acclaimed though never quite mainstream and sadly, and ironically, it was cancelled this past spring only to come home on Sunday with two Emmys. "Best Writing in a Drama" and "Best Actor in a Drama."

Here's Kyle Chandler (aka Coach Taylor) celebrating his win:

The writing and characters have everything I love about a great show and a great contemporary YA fiction novel for that matter. First and foremost there are believable characters. They're flawed and insecure in their own ways. Riggins because of his broken family life and because he self sabotages himself over and over again. Lyla because she has such a strong idea of who she should be instead of sometimes just being who she is. Matt has his abandonment issues. Tyra doesn't know a healthy relationship if it walked right past her, and so on.

Under the microcosm of a small football obsessed town and, of course, all attending high school together (even Eric Taylor the football coach and Tami Taylor as the guidance counselor) are all there, allowing ample opportunity for drama to brew.

Like many of the television shows of the 1990s, Friday Night Lights allows larger issues to bubble to the surface or play in the background, both as an examination of American culture and more issue oriented topics such as abortion, rape, cheating, and so on. Nothing feels preached even the very prominent scenes and discussions about God. I believe this is because no one side is amenable to all parties. If one person is religious then another hates God. If one person wants to keep the baby, the other is weighing the alternate options. In short, it feels like life with all the messiness that goes along with it but unfolding in such seamless and effortless acting and prose.

The believable characters isn't just the acting, it's how they interact with each other. This is critical and apparently something the writers allowed the actors to help dictate: If a scene or dialogue felt out of character, the actors were encouraged to speak up and offer alternatives. LOVE IT! There's nothing worse than developing a strong sense of character only to have that entire foundation jeopardized based on one "out of character" action.

There's rising action in the series, each episode ending right in the midst of it and leaving you wanting more. There's sexual tension and big macro level decisions our characters must make like where do I go to college and micro level decisions like do I want to keep dating this person.

It's refreshing to watch a drama that has such refined roles for the parents. Coach Taylor and his wife have ups and downs but, ultimately, are the healthiest family relationship on the show and still have chemistry. They're involvement in the kids' lives as coach and counselor unveils far more about the underbelly of Dillon, Texas than we would have known otherwise and is a fabulous vehicle to do so. Nothing feels forced. It also reminds me of how important adults are in teen lives even if teens seemingly want nothing to do with them.

The involvement and prominence of football allows the players in the show to enjoy a kind of otherworldly or royal status. So often we've only seen characters propel into high school gods because of financial status so this is an interesting twist, one I found strange at first given the entire town's obsession too but which helps to draw out characters from every neck of the woods in Dillon, Texas to one shared passion. There is no question where the town of Dillon's loyalty lies: with the Dillon Panthers.

There's something in here for everyone: romance, sports, drama, character development, examination of issues, and writing that is second to none.

If you haven't checked it out, I suggest you do. If you have, what do you love most about it?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Get excited y'all

The latest Breaking Dawn trailer just came out and I'm not going to lie, I'm EXCITED. Total guilty pleasure.

Here's it is:

What do you think? Does it look good? Will you see it?

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Inaction by definition is the absence of action, idleness. When it's in a book it's killer. I'm just over half-way through book 2 in a series and I've put it down. I'll pick it up again and eventually finish it because I hate to give up entirely on a novel but the chances I'll read book 3 in this trilogy has greatly diminished.

I'm surprised, shocked even, that after I've developed such strong emotions to the characters and their story in book 1 that I now feel such indifference. The culprit is inaction. I'm 160 pages in and generally not much has happened. Sure we've been introduced to a new character but overall it feels like the narrative is running in circles, buying time. And by inaction it's not limited to the lack of any fighting in book 2 but even true growth of the characters thus far from page 1 to 160. The character dynamic has shifted since book 1 and with it taken away a lot of tension; the writer needed to find better and more creative ways to add this back in. Right now, all I can assume (given the nature of the novel) is that everything will come unraveling or come together at the end--that we're in a waiting game for something big, though of what I can't be sure.

This is a classic writing mistake in my opinion. Detail and background is important but they can't weigh down the prose or be ALL of the prose. If detail and background are threads then writers are knitters, weaving these together with tension and action and character development to move us towards the final product.

Action has to be present in some manner throughout, moving the pacing along and getting us hungry for more. I was having a conversation about this with a friend and used Twilight as an example. Why? Because virtually every girl (and woman) I know has read it and in some cases guys too. Yes, the chase at the end and eventual show-down between Edward and James along with Bella's near death is the climax of the story.

There is, however, still strong tension and action throughout. Bella's uncertainty of who and what Edward is; Edward saving her from the gang of men in the alley; the fearfulness that is a constant undercurrent, present at all times, that he could kill her. These all play into action, character development, and tension.

As writers we need to try to strike that delicate balance between providing detail and setting up our story. I think of putting on a play. Don't devote all of your time as stage crew setting up the props; spend it engaging the characters in meaningful ways.

What books have you read where the action has sustained throughout the novel?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Swagger Song

I had a really relaxing weekend and now a nice deep sleep and while I love my day job I'm definitely going to need a big dose of caffeinated assistance to get me going, that and a nice upbeat swagger song to start the week.

I've fallen in love with O.A.R.'s "Heaven" and wanted to share it here. Hopefully it helps add an extra something in your step and makes this morning a little easier to get moving :-)

Have you heard any great swagger songs lately?

Thursday, September 8, 2011


In my day job as a professional writer, people hire me to write for them. Sometimes this is marketing copy and other times lengthy articles or reports. Regardless of what I'm writing, however, the objective is always to deliver what the client wants or what I perceive the marketplace to most readily react to.

That's where I failed in my first manuscript. I had a great story idea but my execution was all wrong. Business writing and fiction writing are not the same. In my first manuscript I wrote what I thought the marketplace wanted, what agents wanted and I wrote it in the way I thought the novel and characters should sound. I inserted overly poetic prose to demonstrate that I could write and I censored my characters to try to give them more mass appeal. I tried to write a marketable story instead of simply writing the story in my head.

In short, I wrote for other people instead of really writing my characters and I think this is where a lot of writers fall short. We try too hard to control the story; we over-think.

This time around I've sworn to let my characters go completely uncensored. I remind myself (since I'm writing YA) that I'm not an adult critiquing their behaviors but, rather, a conduit or observer to share what they're going through, saying, thinking. I don't try to change my friends; they come to me fully formed though also growing and adapting and that's how characters are too. Sure there's character development that writers have to do but I believe it should be more like a reality show: develop the premise and story arc along with the conflict and then throw your characters into situations and see what they'll do and what they'll say. See how they react off one another.

I've done this thus far in my current WIP and I believe the voice of my MC rings so much more true because of that.

What have you learned about writing along the way?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And the TBR List Grows

I'm sad that summer is over but like any nerd I've always loved the start of fall. Of course, I won't be starting off the school year but simply going back to the office like I have most days throughout the rest of the year, but still there's a little something different in the air as the humidity lessens and the jeans and sweaters start coming out. And though I'm not in school any more it doesn't mean my fall obsession to stock up on books has waned in the least. Sure there are other things I love about fall like the foliage, apple cider and apple picking, pumpkin carving, the new latte flavors at Starbucks, and everything else fall seems to bring. But let's be honest. It's books I love most!

For today's post I decided to highlight some of the hottest new books coming out right now and which will certainly be on my TBR list!

1. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.

She's wrong.

OMG. I've heard nothing but fabulous things about this book from those who have been lucky enough to get their hands on an early copy. It comes out September 27 so mark your calendars!

2. Light From a Distant Star by Mary McGarry Morris Light from a Distant Star is a gripping coming-of-age story with a brutal murder at its heart and a heroine as unforgettable as Harper Lee’s "Scout."

It is early summer and Nellie Peck is on the cusp of adolescence – gangly, awkward, full of questions, but keenly observant and wiser than many of the adults in her life. The person she most admires is her father, Benjamin, a man of great integrity. His family’s century old hardware store is failing and Nellie’s mother has had to go back to work. Nellie’s older half-sister has launched a disturbing search for her birth father. Often saddled through the long, hot days with her timid younger brother, Henry, Nellie is determined to toughen him up. And herself as well.

Three strangers enter Nellie’s protected life. Brooding Max Devaney is an ex-con who works in her surly grandfather’s junkyard. Reckless Bucky Saltonstall has just arrived from New York City to live with his elderly grandparents. And pretty Dolly Bedelia is a young stripper who rents the family’s small, rear apartment and becomes the titillating focus of Nellie’s eavesdropping.

When violence erupts in the lovely Peck house, the prime suspect seems obvious. Nellie knows who the real murderer is, but is soon silenced by fear and the threat of scandal. The truth, as she sees it, is shocking and unthinkable, and with everyone’s eyes riveted on her in the courtroom, Nellie finds herself seized with doubt.

No one will listen. No one believes her, and a man’s life hangs in the balance. A stunning evocation of innocence lost, Light from a Distant Star stands as an incredibly moving and powerful novel from one of America's finest writers.

When everyone is comparing a book to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, you better believe I'm going to pick it up! It releases on September 13.

3. Happy Accidents: My Gleeful Life by Jane Lynch In the summer of 1974, a fourteen-year-old girl in Dolton, Illinois, had a dream. A dream to become an actress, like her idols Ron Howard and Vicki Lawrence. But it was a long way from the South Side of Chicago to Hollywood, and it didn't help that she'd recently dropped out of the school play, The Ugly Duckling. Or that the Hollywood casting directors she wrote to replied that "professional training was a requirement."

But the funny thing is, it all came true. Through a series of Happy Accidents, Jane Lynch created an improbable and hilarious path to success.

You guys know how much I love Glee and actress Jane Lynch is a HUGE part of that show. She is hunch at the waist, cry your eyes out, slap your knee, choke for breath funny! I was reminded of this again this past weekend as I lounged around on Labor Day and caught up on Role Models playing on TBS. She's amazing and the snippets I've seen in this book thus far seem both funny and insightful, inspiring and real. This book also comes out on September 13.

But what about you; what books or activities are you looking forward to most for fall?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Social Media

I tend to think about social media in all the ways it helps connect people but then I tried to write a tweet yesterday that was FAR too long. do I say what I want to convey but in less words?

This got me thinking about all the other things that social media can help us do, namely become better writers. Though mediums like Twitter we're forced to use only those words that are absolutely necessary because space is limited. As many writers know, sometimes it's harder to write something in less words than it is to say it in many. But that's editing.

Editing requires that we choose only those words that are absolutely necessary to the message. I have to do this all the time at work when we're creating tag lines because by nature a tag line is one simple, short, to the point sentence or simply a phrase but which must convey an entire organization and what they do, what they stand for, in short, who they are. That's a lot to ask. But whether cognizant of it or not we are becoming, I believe, better editors because of the restrictions these (especially Twitter) mediums create.

When it comes to blogging, it's a fabulous exercise. For starters, since my blog often discusses writing/reading/bibliophile information it forces me to consider what is or isn't working about either my writing or someone else's. It also encourages me to become a more active reader and ask questions like, why am drawn to this kind of writing or I soared through that book, what mechanisms did they use to create that kind of fast pacing?

Writers are also told to write, that it's like any other exercise, you need to do it to be good at it and a blog creates an obligation to do that at least a few times a week when you might not otherwise. In this way, social media is making us better writers.

We also have to think and plan what we're going to post, perhaps it's strategic or even marketing a particular book that's coming out or maybe it's just figuring out how to synthesize an idea into words. Either way, social media is changing us and I believe in many ways it's for a more informed, collaborative, and writerly community.

What do you think? Is social media making us better and more informed? Do you feel more connected because of social media?