Archive for May, 2012

Well, the three-day weekend is over.  I didn’t do any action hero workouts like I should have. Didn’t get a lot of reading in.  No writing done.  And I spent money like a drunken sailor.

On the upside, I feel relaxed and ready to get back to work.

On the downside, I’m seeing women in the streets, women on the bus, and women in coffee shops everywhere reading Shades of Grey, and just about every internet magazine and newspaper book section is talking about the damn thing.

As you can guess, part of me wishes I’d been the one to write an S&M soft porn book that becomes a massive bestseller.  I really could use the money, especially after this weekend.  Another part of me realizes that I’d never get over the embarrassment.  I mean, I get self-conscious so easily as it is.

I’m also old enough to remember other massive bestsellers that have come and gone.  Some of them still have readers and deserve to stay in print, and for all I know Shades of Grey is in that category – don’t know since I haven’t read a word of it.  Besides, the erotic Tropic of Cancer is considered a Twentieth Century classic.  And let’s not forget that very often classic novels like To Kill a Mockingbird or The Confessions of Nat Turner were and still are bestsellers.

But I’m not talking about great literature.  I mean the kind of commercial hits that suck like a Hoover.  Or a Dyson.

Any of you guys remember Love Story?

I think that book came out when I was in grade school or high school, and during my freshman year in college the movie was on TV one night so a bunch of us coeds gathered around to watch it (no guys bothered).  At the end of the flick I shrugged, but a bunch of my fellow females were happily sobbing away.  You know that godawful line “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”?  Well, Love Story is the stinkeroo novel it came from.

For me, however, the worst bestseller ever was Celestine Prophecy.  Talk about a stinkeroo of staggering proportion.  I mean, a confusing plot, one-dimensional characters who can only be distinguished from each other by hair color, wooden prose, zilch fact checking, pages of New Age sermons cloaked in laughable “secrecy,” and preposterous situations.  For me the lowest point came when the narrator meets a peasant somewhere in the Peruvian mountains, and at first said peasant speaks haltingly and apologizes for being uneducated and knowing only a few words of English.  A couple paragraphs later he’s speaking English like a professor of literature.

Celestine Prophecy sold about twenty million copies.

So what about you? What novels (especially bestsellers) have you read that in the end you wanted to throw against a wall, stomp on, rip apart with your bare teeth, or otherwise dispose of?

And on the positive side, what recent bestsellers do you think deserve to become classics?  (Besides the Harry Potter books, that is.)


Drum roll please…

Today I have the pleasure of telling y’all that Ciara Knight, paranormal romance writer extraordinaire, has a new book out.   It’s  called Weighted, and here’s the gorgeous cover.

The blurb is just as captivating:

The Great War of 2185 is over, but my nightmare has just begun. I am being held captive in the Queen’s ship awaiting interrogation. My only possible ally is the princess, but I’m unsure if she is really my friend or a trap set by the Queen to fool me into sharing the secret of my gift. A gift I keep hidden even from myself. It swirls inside my body begging for release, but it is the one thing the Queen can never discover. Will I have the strength to keep the secret? I’ll know the answer soon. If the stories are true about the interrogators, I’ll either be dead or a traitor to my people by morning.

Now how can you possibly resist a story like this?  I certainly can’t.  Congratulations on yet another fab book, Ciara!  And for all of you readers, here’s a link to her website:


So who knew Modesty Blaise was one of the first fictional women action heroes? I mean the kind that’s human and doesn’t have superpowers but can still kick ass while looking sexy. A kind of earlier, earthier, criminal version of Nikita or Sydney in Alias, except that she’s her own boss and no one owns her.

When I was growing up I was vaguely aware of the name Modesty Blaise but never seemed to see her anywhere.  I knew that a bad movie about her had been made, and luckily I never saw it.

It turns out that Modesty first appeared in 1962 in what would be a long-running comic strip that ran mostly in Europe.  Maybe because it was just a strip and James Bond had already been around for a decade, she didn’t get as much attention as she probably deserved.  She was invented by the London-based writer Peter O’Donnell, a man who wrote macho action guy newspaper comic strips on the one hand and on the other romantic serials for women’s magazines.  As he later said, “I had been intrigued by the idea of bringing these two genres together by creating a woman who, though fully feminine, would be as good in combat and action as any male, if not better.”

This may not sound original today, but back then this combo was a real breakthrough for women action figures.

What I really like is the back story O’Donnell gives his character.  He considered but abandoned the idea that as a sophisticated teen Modesty was subjected to intense training in all the usual action skills.  Instead he based her on someone he had seen in Persia (now called Iran) where he was stationed as a soldier in WWII.

The year was 1942 and he and his fellow Brits sometimes saw refugees from the Balkans and Caucuses who were escaping the oncoming Germans.  One day a lone little girl appeared.  “On her head she carried a small bundle wrapped in a piece of blanket” and around her neck hung a hand-made weapon.  The soldiers tried to approach her to help, but she was as skittish as a feral cat.  The best they could do was keep their distance and leave some food for her, and a while later tinned food that she could take with her.  As O’Donnell writes, “To this day I can see… that upright little figure walking like a princess as she moved away from us on those brave skinny legs.”

Flash forward to the 60’s, and O’Donnell imagines this little girl reaching a refugee camp where she became the fierce protector of an old man, a professor who would teach her languages and literature and other things.  When she’s seventeen he dies in the desert, she buries him, and goes to Tangiers where she gives herself the name of Modesty Blaise and eventually a leader in the criminal underground.  As the strip opens, she has retired at the age of twenty-seven but is bored and now agrees to work for British intelligence.

Personally, I think this one hell of an action-hero back story.

I got these details and quotes from “Modesty Blaise: The Gabriel Set-Up.” It’s a graphic novel with an introduction by O’Donnell and the first three stories in the strip.  Reading it was kinda weird because “graphic novel” really means just a fat comic book, and I haven’t read a comic book since I was a kid (okay, there was that one time in college when my roomie Ann and I bought a few comics on a lark. But definitely not since then). I also got the Modesty novel, The Xanadau Talisman, which looks like it’ll be fun.

So how about you? Are there any intriguing fictional characters or action heroes from the misty past that you’ve discovered?

So this is what life is like when I sit down (always late at night) to write this blog.

I’m just getting started when my cat climbs up on my desk and gets in my face. Then she settles down on my lap and proceeds to fart a couple times.  I can’t hear her farts but I can sure as hell smell them, and much as I want to throw her out of the room I don’t because she’s purring and old and only has five teeth.  So I go easy on her.

Second, I try to follow up on one of my recent posts. Like last week when I talked about trying to figure out how to pick open a combination lock.  Trouble is I didn’t work at it as much as I should have, so all I can tell you is that Ace Hardware makes really good combination locks that are tough to pick.  You know how I mentioned the YouTube video of the kid who showed how to open one with a paper clip?  Turns out he had cheaper lock with a latch that fits into a somewhat loose hole on the body.  Master and Ace locks have way too tight a fit for any easy pickings.  So I’ll move on to alternative approaches.

Third, when I sit down to write I’ve already messed up my desk with notes and articles about subjects I want to write about. Tonight I was going to write about an eleven-year-old girl who’s freakishly good at bouldering and climbing. Then I read over the article again and felt like such a loser—at least as far as action heroes go—that I figured I’ll just summarize the facts.

As you know I’ve tried bouldering on climbing walls, but I haven’t really done it outside ’cause I’m just not that into kissing rocks.  Well, Ashima Shiraishi is such a phenom that at the age of 10 “she stunned the bouldering world by climbing… an exceedingly difficult route that requires climbers to contort their bodies and hang practically upside down by their fingers while navigating a rock…”

You’ve really got to see the article’s video to understand how unreal this little girl is.  I truly am in awe of her.  I mean, how much strength can a little kid have in her fingers?  Because that’s all she’s hanging by as she swings from one foothold to the next.   Here’s the link.

Anyway, while I was writing this my cat left the room.  But now she’s back and before she farts again I’m going to end this and go to bed.  I swear my cat holds it in all day and just waits till I’m sitting down to my computer.

First off, my apologies.  I am writing this blog so friggin’ late on a Sunday night that I’m falling asleep at the keyboard.  WHERE DID MY WEEKEND GO?  So I’m just gonna write a short piece and finish the topic in a couple days.

What I was going to do this weekend was buy a combination lock and figure out how to pick it.  Didn’t happen.  At least I watched some videos on youtube about how to open combination locks.  What I learned was that 1) young teenage boys have way too much time on their hands and they love to tackle any security challenge; and 2) in theory, you can open a combination lock with everything from a mathematical formula to a paper clip to a piece of a soda can.

We’ll see about that.

Anyway, I realized that I was remiss in my Layla lock picking knowledge when a combination lock appeared on one of the four lockers in the ladies room in my work building’s basement.  (The lockers are for TEMPORARY use by any lady using the gym down the hall.)  Remember how way back when I told you someone had (against the building management’s policies) laid claim to one of the lockers by having a lock clamped on it at all times?  So I picked the thing open, left a “Layla Was Here” calling card, and locked the thing up again.

Soon after my invasion, the lock and the locker’s contents disappeared.  Obviously the miscreant had learned her lesson.

Well, now a combination lock has appeared on another of the four lockers.  Hence I’ve got myself a new challenge.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Until then, I hope your weekend was less busy and more relaxing than mine.