Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Meaning Behind the Hunger Games Names is even in on the Hunger Games, having published a list of what the main characters' names mean. Check it out below:

Katniss: related to the Latin word sagittate, meaning shaped like an arrowhead.

Primrose: a type of flower named after the Latin number one.

Gale: a very strong wind.

Madge: a female given name, from a Greek word meaning pearl.

Cinna: an advisor to Caesar who conspired to kill him in Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar.

Seneca: Roman philosopher and writer of tragedies who advised Emperor Nero and was forced to commit suicide.

Plutarch: Greek biographer, who valued morality and character in leaders.

Flavius: a Roman male name, probably originally meaning "yellow-haired."

Coriolanus: legendary Roman military hero and tragic Shakespearean general who defected from the army.

Claudius: former Roman emperor; also Hamlet's deceitful uncle.

Rue: a strong-scented perennial herb with grey-green bitter-tasting leaves; an irritant similar to poison ivy.

What are your favorite book character names?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Friday

I'm not sure if you guys watch Cougar Town but I do. It's one of those shows I love to have in my Tivo line-up because there's just so much witty banter and I'm a sucker for sarcasm. I mean, how can this (the Tom Cruise run) not make you smile:

What books or shows always cheer you up?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We Have Winners!

Thank you so much for all of the entries! You guys seemed to really love this one, so I'm happy to share the book love!

-First place: Kristen (wins any soft cover book of your choosing!)

-Second place: Eve (wins a pick of any book ever featured on this blog!)

Congrats ladies! Please be sure to send me your mailing address and book choices to As for everyone else, don't worry, this isn't the last contest I'll be holding. In the interim, if there are blog topics or books you want to be sure I review, leave some notes in the comment post. I always love hearing from you.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Recently Released Book: Sister Queens

Have you guys heard of Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot? I haven't until just now and Oh.My.God. it sounds good!

Here's what it's about: Like most sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor were rivals. They were also queens.

Raised at the court of their father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, Marguerite and Eleanor are separated by royal marriages--but never truly parted.

Patient, perfect, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. But Louis IX is a religious zealot who denies himself the love and companionship his wife craves. Can she borrow enough of her sister's boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in a forbidden love?

Passionate, strong-willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Henry III is a good man, but not a good king. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?

The Sister Queens is historical fiction at its most compelling, and is an unforgettable first novel.

What exciting new books have you stumbled across lately?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

WTF Wednesday

Okay, it's been WAY too long since I did a WTF Wednesday post. Here's what we have on the line-up.

1. Lipstick on children
Alright, enough is enough. There's Toddler with Tiaras and now even Angelina Jolie's little one is donning lipstick. Yes, lipstick! Jolie admitted to Vivienne putting it on to go out to a show. Is it just me or are little girls growing up way too fast, and parents are helping push this evolution?

2. Pole dancing at the Olympics?

I'm not going to lie, this looks really difficult:

Still, the fact that there's a push to get pole dancing to be considered an Olympic sport is simply too far. There are activities where people sweat, train, maybe even making a living (no pun--alright, maybe a pun--intended) but I have to disagree that pole dancing is a competitive endeavor that requires athleticism and physical prowess, because that's the definition of a sport. And, even if it is a "sport," I can't help but wonder what sort of messaging we're sending to the world if this is the sport we're pushing to be added. Can you honestly say that nothing would make you a prouder American than our having a top notch pole dancing team? Seriously...

3. Zac Efron at the Dr. Seuss Lorax movie premiere.

Did you guys all hear about how Zac dropped a condom out of his pocket in front of all of the paparazzi at the Lorax premiere? I get he's a Hollywood star and, thankfully, being safe in the dating department but SERIOUSLY? It's a kids movie opening and, really, who is he expecting to see at this thing? Maybe it's just me but I miss the old, innocent, Vanessa Hudgen's dating, High School Musical star...well, that is until I see this

and he's sort of forgiven.

4. Email spam.

Have you ever wondered how you end up getting certain email spam? I routinely check my spam folder just to be safe and then purge whatever is legitimately crap email. What I can't figure out, however, is what it is about me that says I'm a good candidate to send away to Canada for drugs? Seriously, that's 90% of the stuff that ends up in my spam box. Does my Internet traffic scream something like, "must buy medications from across the border"? Mind you, I used to live right by the Canadian border but it seems, only now, having moved South am I good candidate for these services. Maybe it's because now the possibility of running to the border isn't feasible. Who knows? Whatever the reason, they've found me and my spam folder day after day after day.

5. Sick puppies.

There are certain things that just aren't supposed to happen. If they do they alter the balance of the universe or something, like ugly babies and sick puppies. Because stuff like this, just shouldn't be so:

So what WTF moments have you had lately?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Like Crazy

My husband and I watched Like Crazy last night. It won best picture at the Sundance Film Festival but, like most indy films, was quietly released. I remember seeing one trailer of it and then heard nothing more. That is, until, it appeared as on option in my "On Demand" queue. Always suckers for a good romance, we settled in to watch.

If you haven't heard of Like Crazy, here's the trailer:

I judge a good story--whether a film, novel, short story, or other--by how hard and long it clings to me. With that as a measurement, I can safely say that this is one of the best told and acted films I've seen in a very, very long time. The chemistry between the characters was so palpable and so beautifully and believably portrayed.

The storyline follows Anna, a British exchange student, and Jacob, an American while the two meet in Los Angeles in college. We're given a front row seat at their courtship. They're young, but also introspective and hungry to see the world, so brutally open and honest to experience "this" whatever "this thing" was or could be between them. They were playful and childlike with one another, sexual and flirtatious, and their love had a certain wanting quality that I think is so difficulty to portray because this wanting is equal for the two of them. This is a story of a great love. Yes, it seems it's their first love but it's also a love like no other.

Indy films are often more reflective of real life and Like Crazy is no exception. Ana choses to stay the summer with Jacob rather than go back to London because her student visa is about to expire. She simply can't stand the thought of being without him and so the two of them spend one blissful summer together. At its end, Anna must return to London for a wedding but when she tries to return into the U.S., she's banned until further notice due to overstaying her initial visa. This creates a domino effect as both Jacob and Ana try to navigate now grown-up, post-college life with the added strain of a long distance relationship.

The movie examines the two as they create their own respective lives without one another and during visits, try to reintroduce their love life with their real life (or every day life). There's a scene where Jacob is at a bar and Anna calls him urgently needing to talk. When he escapes out into the back alley to take the call she says to him quite bravely and poignantly, "It just doesn't feel like this thing is gonna go away. It's always there. I can't get on with my life. The thing we have with each other, I don't have that with any other person, not with any other human being apart from you."

The two ebb and flow. They evolve individually, together, and separately. They go away and come back together. It's beautiful and it's messy. It's life. You can't watch this movie and not cheer for them, because you feel it too. The storytelling is so on point that when Anna says this to Jacob, you just believe. If you've never felt like that before then you dream of it and if you have, you remember or you turn to the person watching the movie next to you and you remind them how you feel, because sometimes in life we find not only love but great love, big love, all consuming love that we're just crazy with it. It might change. We might change. But somewhere, in our heart, it never leaves.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

As Promised...

Pablo Neruda--never one to follow trends!

I was so interested to check out Neruda's home during my time in Santiago. Winding my way through streets filled with youth and energy and locals, restaurants and bars and dance clubs, and at the foot of the mountain upon which the Virgin Mary statue presides, is a quiet little road tucked away. Tourists have probably passed this road without notice on their way to the mountaintop. But down this street is where Neruda lived. It's covered in windows and full of natural light. It's embedded into the land (You have to take stairs to get inside) much ilke the buildings of quaint beach town Vina del Mar.

And so, I suppose, it seems fitting that Neruda's house would look like nothing else I've ever seen. That he wold have separate buildings all together for the separate lives he lived: a personal living quarter, a professional area to write, and that he would have this mix of nature and oneness with the land but just a corner's turn from the electricity that ripples through Santiago and, most especially, these neighboring streets at night.

I've tried my best to represent the "compound" and its three buildings which, in full, represent Neruda's home. It's said that he built this home at least, in part, for his lover. I'm not sure what it says about their love broken into three buildings but considered under one address--or what it says of Neruda's life. The public one, the personal one, the hidden romance as well. But that's Neruda. A compilation of so many things that somehow, together, seem whole.

This is Neruda's house in Santiago.

This is a mural that was developed across the way from his home some time after he died. The likeness of his profile in his later years is incredibly uncanny.

On the whole, Santiago was cosmopolitan and energizing, rich and poor, colorful with Latin flares and flavors, and more empanadas than you could eat in a lifetime. It was wonderful!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Giveaway!!!

I thought about doing a book giveaway for the New Year and, when that didn't happen, I considered it for Valentine's Day. Somewhere in the crazy mix that is my life and editing my WIP, however, I've failed to do either. To be honest, the last couple months have been a bit of a blur. Seriously, how is it March already?!?!

I'm making amends, however, and to prove it, I'll be giving away not one but two books!

I'm knee deep editing my WIP based on some very helpful comments. This process has forced me to look back at what's worked and also all the text that has been cut and edited and morphed until it's barely, if at all, recognizable. Yesterday was also March 4th (or as my husband likes to say, "the day that encourages us to march forth").

So my contest will be an ode to both looking back at the past, and to looking forward. For that reason, one lucky winner will have their pick of ANY book I've ever featured on the blog. That could be a book review, a cover love or title love post, from the list of my favorite books of the year, or a book I recommended for a Christmas present, or one featured on a book trailer, etc. The only requirement is that it was featured.

The other winner will have their choice of any soft cover book they want. And because I'm feeling particularly giving, this contest is international too.

The rule?

1. You must be a follower on the blog.

2. You must email me an entry. Email should be sent to Subject line, "Book Giveaway."

3. Extra entries if you Facebook post, blog, add a comment to my blog, or tweet about the contest. (Note, tweets should include my @SCookRay address so I can find them and also mention and link to the contest.)

4. Contest ends midnight EST on March 20. Winner will be announced on the blog on March 21.

Good luck!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Body Language

As you know I recently returned from my travels in South America. We went all over Santiago including the neighborhoods, the Virgin Mary on the hilltop, the capital building, museums, Pablo Neruda's house (which is completely eccentric and three separate buildings all in one compound), and lastly to the beaches of Vina del Mar.

I was surprised how much of my Spanish from high school and my early college years came back to me. Sure, I didn't remember everything but in a lot of cases I could make due with what I did have in my arsenal. The most difficult part of the translation process was when I'd ask something in Spanish, it was understood by the recipient, and then was answered in what sounded like unbreakable code. "Como?"

Only no amount of repeats could make me know the words I may not have ever learned, or certainly didn't remember....and that's where body language came in. I was amazed at how much I could extract simply by observing the person I was talking to. There were multiple incidents where my father asked, "You understood them?" No, but I understood their body language.

I think this is an area given woefully too little attention by aspiring writers (at least from the WIPS and samples I've seen) and sometimes by published ones too. Yes, dialogue, and believable dialogue at that, is incredibly important. Too often, however, the actions of the characters between those bits of dialogue are riddled with activities that don't SHOW us anything about the character. Maybe they're grabbing a cookie or combing a hand through their hair. None of that TELLS the reader about what else is going on, about what else is being said.

So I want to encourage you to be cognizant of how you use body language in your piece and how you could do it better. As with most writing, it's always helpful to examine how some of our favorite authors tackle this. So tell me, who do you think is great at writing about body language and why?