Category Archives: Reviews

Compelling Books I’ve Read

Vector Drawing (InkScape Review)


I got to my first break in scene in the new book, Steam! Yay!

Now what?

I entered in the typical *. And sat and stared at it, unable to write further. I love stars. Used Shift + 8 for RMOS and it worked. Really should work in Steam, given some settings and themes. But it doesn’t. Tried to keep moving. Will come back to it later.

But. I couldn’t.

I need something nautical/aeronautical. How about a compass? I googled, found some nice ones, but then that puts me into copyright infringement and thievery. I may have pirates in the new book, but I’m no pirate. I used InkScape to plot out RMOS’s cover. I can try to make one Steampunkish compass, right? It’ll be shrunken down small for a page decoration, so it doesn’t need to be astronomically great. No one will notice how seriously crappy it is.

I seriously doubted my skills. Some of those images were astronomically great. I did some research into compasses, and they are works of art and technology all by themselves. How can I contribute to something thousands of years old, on a free computer-based vector program?

Again, Inkscape is free. It had a learning curve for the simple things I needed from it. It did take time for me to get it, and I’m still learning as I use it for other things. It’s not professional grade, and I’m no graphic artist, so what I did on screen for RMOS  didn’t translate perfectly to what CreateSpace printed up for my cover. I’m pleased, but wish it matched.

I know nothing really about Steampunk design. It entails gears, and a romantic industrial look, which is why I’m drawn to it: the merging of something feminine and masculine;  of two separate concepts of thought and age; something historic and something advanced.  I had my brand new sketchbook and art pencils sitting behind me, yet I wanted to turn to the computer. Don’t misread that. I don’t classify myself as an artist, but I can convey what I see when I need to. (take a peek at some of my RMOS sketches hereSteam has become a visually endearing project as well, more so, and I bought the sketch book to start drawing again, and to help me organize Steam. But to sketch something up and insert it graphically into the book wasn’t going to work.

Steampunk gears just won’t work either. So I switched it up, using the concept but not the elements, and ended up with something Art Nouveau/Steampunk. Which is perfect! Fits my character wonderfully. I’m pretty amazed at myself! I designed a compass….on the computer! MC’s compass is complete! Now I feel like I’ve designed my own path for the book.

Can I do another?

And I did! For the secondary MC! LOVE HIS. Think he’s getting a tattoo now.

I’m still in the really early draft phase of Steam, which means I’m stingy and territorial and can’t bring myself to share those images. I can share the third compass design, though. It’s not a directional compass, but one with the 8 main names of the wind. This one is still a work in progress, as I want it to have a Middle Eastern flair. (I know less about that art than I do Steampunk and Art Nouveau.)

This one is not as stunning as the first two, but you can see some of the intricacies InkScape will do. First time I tried something geometrical with them, and I like it! If you’re a novice like me, and need something for simple images where Adobe is just not practical or financially feasible, try Inkscape.

Dracula (re)UnTold

There are not a whole lot of movies I repeat watch.

George of the Jungle was the first. My stepdaughter was six and brought it over, and I was just not in the mood. Then she went home, and I was bored, and it was there. I laughed so hard, I rewound it (before the days of DVD), and watched it again.

Transformers (the first one. All others are horrid). Super 8. House of Flying Daggers. And now Dracula Untold. Watched it yesterday without the monsters, and then brought them today (they have not realized that I saw it already, even with #2 proclaiming that he thought I had to pre-screen it for them first…..MmmHmm).

Even more surprising, it was better the second time around. There are so many things that get missed the first time. So many little things I didn’t know to notice before. Amazing. That’s when I love something more.

If anyone is looking, I found the poem they quote, which is by Rumi. Who, ironically, is Turkish.  Is there a secret point to that? Not sure.

The poem is spectacular, and while it’s not the first time I’ve heard his name, it is the first time I ever read something by him. Think I’m going to do some delving.

Ok. Did some light delving. Wanted to find an image of him to add here, and found lots of images with small Rumi sayings, that were trully beautiful. Amazingly. From being written in the 13th century. I’ve been looking for a poet to read. I feel left out. Everyone seems to be able to quote Frost or Keats or Yeats and I… one. Maybe that’s why I’ve been in a reading rut.

There is even Rumi tarot.

Dracula vs. X-Men (movie reviews)



Whoa. That’s an interesting concept. Dracula v., like, Wolverine. Though I’m already leery of the whole Superman vs. Batman thing. I get into debates about it with a guy at work. I’ve been given the cartoons to watch and I’m kinda stalling on my homework. And we have a bet. If I watch those, he’ll watch The Last Unicorn. At a bit of a vs. myself.

Today was a movie day! Snuck out and watched Dracula this morning (without the boys. Shh! Don’t tell them!). Frankly, I’ve been over the whole vampire thing. They are not my type of creature. I see nothing remotely attractive nor sexy nor romantic about a cold dead man with no heart who drinks blood and will go into a fiery rage and rip me to shreds at any inclination. There’s enough of that in reality.

I have no idea why this one interested me. I tried the Dracula tv show, which was not good. I kept forcing myself to keep watching, waiting for some big twist to happen and make me like it. Never happened. And it was cancelled, and I was not upset.

So, I saw this one with low expectations.

I’ll report that there was not one thing, one flaw, one complaint with the story. And that is what a movie is supposed to be: a visual story. And this legend was beautifully retold. It made him human, and likeable, and you understood everything about him. Even the whole ‘Impaler’ thing. Which was creepy. The cinematography was also pretty spectacular. I love perception! And they absolutely nailed it. The movie also made me cry. Several times. Yea, absolutely did not expect to get emotional during Dracula! And the ending…..(love it). Go see it. I might take the boogers tomorrow 🙂

Booger #2 had a spontaneous sleep-over last night, which destroyed my plans of bestowing X-Men: Days of Future Past upon them. Saw it for sale at the store a couple of days ago, and thought about buying it as a birthday gift for #2. Then laughed at myself, who am I kidding? They’ll all know it’s for me. Boogers bought me Wolverine on DVD for Christmas last year. And so ‘Santa’ had to return the deluxe extended edition Blu-ray (big sigh).

And, sadly, not the same outcome as Dracula. (Who really did succeed in being romantic and attractive and sexy and a good man while still being a demon.) So many holes in this X-Men story! Again. Think this is consistent through them all. Is this how the comics go? They keep changing their mind? Think up something different, forget that it was written out of possibility, but they do it anyway and expect it to go unnoticed? That validates my reasoning behind steering the Boogers towards books and not comics.

How can he be in bed with his boss’ daughter in 1973 when he’s supposed to be fighting in the Vietnam War with his sadistic psychopathic brother, who gets them court-martialed, and imprisoned, and eventually put into Stryker’s mercenary squad, which eventually leads to lots of other things that are integral to him???? That just bugged me too much throughout the movie. I am still upset about the whole romance with Mariko in The Wolverine. (Not so broken about Jean then, is he? Or Kayla for that matter.) And the Boogers kept questioning how he got the adamantium back when it was sucked out of him in Wolverine. Made it hard to fall into it. Sadly. I love Logan, too. He’s on my small list of fake-man crushes.

Dracula, though. Think I want to see it again. Finally! A movie that told a real story, and one that was well written, well-thought and planned. If I can’t think of how I’d have told it differently, or better, than it gets my ovation. Special effects are bonuses. If they are taken away, there should still be a free-standing story. This is something I’ve been trying to teach the Boogers, who of course love the explosions and the destruction and all that. Too many movies fly by on that alone.  Dig deeper, take it away: now, what was the point?

Ha! About to post this (before the little spy notices Dracula mentioned), and #2 comes to apologize for stealing the Logan I originally stole from them. (we have an ongoing war that spans a few years with toy-Logan. I sometimes find him riding Toothless’ back, or at a tea party with Wonder Woman in my fairy garden. Or fighting Batman. Or on my pillow. Or completely AWOL.)



Although, in light of this post, think I need a Dracula figure.

Words and Pictures (movie review)

I stumbled upon this movie: Words and Pictures, and liked the premise, so, I rented it from Redbox.

It was pretty cute. A literature teacher and an art teacher go to war over which is best: art in words, or art in pictures.

Is a picture worth a thousand words?

Is a word worth a thousand lies?

It was fascinating, and motivating in a way. Always awesome to hear someone so in love with language. Even if he is a character in a movie. There was even a character who used both art and words as weapons, which was a pretty brilliant subtle (not really) story tangent that was snuck in.

I wish, however, that the drama crap was not written into it. Left as is, art vs word, it would have been purer. It got a little stupid, and predicatable just past midway.

And, are all literary people alcoholics? Let me rephrase that: male, divorced, alcoholic, womanizing, egotistical, arrogant, and insecure? Overplayed. If they swapped, and made the literary professor a female? Even drunk? Slightly different. But still completely unnecessary.  Didn’t like that story route.

Even so, it’s a good watch for us artists. Their debates with each other and their attempts to rally their students captured my complete attention. Truly, where would we be without either art or words? And the third necessity they only briefly touch on, music?


Daughter of Smoke and Bone- Trilogy (a book review)



If you remember from last year, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and its second, Days of Blood and Starlight, made it to my absolute favorite 2013 book list.

I read it because I was researching an agent to query to who stated she wanted someone who wrote like that. Holy S- is what I said quite often while reading it. Along with a lot of pleading. Make it stop. Talk about brutal with the most purest little glimpse of beauty and hope. You know that it ends- that beauty. Author is clear: Once upon a time, an angel and a demon fell in love. It did not end well. But you are not prepared for how it ends, and what comes after is the miracle and the horror both.

This isn’t a romance, it isn’t a horror story, and it’s not a fairy tale. It is old style fantasy saga. Nothing’s neat and tidy. Bad things happen that don’t just go away. There’s a war going on and you feel what it must be like to be born into such a thing. There is depth that you sink straight into. I can’t remember the last time I got sucked into a novel as though I were inside it. I could envision every scene and other-world place. Writing was excellent. Characters were different and varied (HA!) and completely individual.

If they could have a theme song, this would be it. Minus the cheating aspect, because that’s not the type of betrayal that occurs:

This describes the tone.

Yea, I absolutely did not query that agent. Sure, I could find a lot of similarities, but there was no way I was going to diminish the author by declaring I’m just like her! It’s what helped pushed me towards self-publishing. I’m not playing that game, who do I write like, who’s fame do I want to ride on?

So I went straight into book two, Days of Blood and Starlight.

All things holy, I’m going to cry. War is real, and it’s brutal, and sometimes, its casualties live, and do things against their better selves. You read, praying for the hope you get glimpses of, because that is the most precious and frail thing possible: a tiny glimmer of hope when things are otherwise as wrong as they can be. You are not at all certain hope has any chance. The characters are no longer characters. They’re at their low points, and you love them even more. There’s strength and beauty in desolation, and I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen or how or when. Completely on edge.

Book three came out in April, and I was not ready to dive back in.  Last week, I started re-reading the series from the beginning, and the re-reading makes it even better, even more tragic and brutal and beautiful. I LOVE the main characters. Love them love them love them. And I think this series has just usurped Les Mis as my favorite book of all time. The intricacies of the story, the layers upon layers, the detail, and the imagination. There was maybe divine- or demon led- musing here.  I bet it was The Shadows That Live.

It’s a combination of LOTR, Romeo and Juilet, and How to Torture Your Readers and Make Them Love You For It.

I want to stare at her author page and repeat More. More. More. More.

Again, this isn’t a romance. Saying there’s a love story is somewhat laughable as well as true. It’s not just a series for women. I think male readers will be swept up in it as well. I got into a debate last week about wizards and what they wear to battle. Know what, wizards are now obsolete. Armor won’t save them. Fear the angel. Love the demon.

That’s one of the things I loved about this story: she twists your perceptions of good and bad, beautiful and ugly. The second I can’t say or I’ll spoil the book, but it’s an absolute favorite belief. Third, she made it real. Every single choice has consequences, even love. And last, I had no idea where the story would go. Surprises and twists and turns all along the way.  It could not have been written any better.


Holy. Freaking. Crap. was my parting thought.