Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's a Par-tay. I'll bring the Mullet, You Bring the DVD Player

It's Friday(almost), and I'm feeling torn. Shall I tell you about how one man successfully united a leopard bikini, a mullet and a gold timepiece? Or shall I gush over perhaps the best time travel movie that no one has ever heard of and you must see, like yesterday?

Maybe I'll do both and call it a party.

Okay, successfully is a bit of a stretch. But in his prime this guy knew how to impress the ladies. Not only is he cognizant of time, but the vapor effect in front of the electrical plug reminds us of his ability to disappear into a fog-laden temporal shift to an era where his mother told him how rad he looked.

Now, on to the movie. Yesterday was too recent. You should have seen Timecrimes two years ago. First let me say how giddy I am that has foretold of this movie's future remake for 2011 from its present foreign film status. That means Hollywood has gotten wind of its wicked loveliness and it's in development as we speak. It's the perfect suspense/thriller, sprinkled with horror on the plot skeleton of time travel. Though it is in Spanish, the producers have dubbed English voices over the dialogue and it only becomes like one of those Godzilla-OMG-their-lips-don't-match-what-they're-saying on the extreme close ups.

In the movie, a man accidentally travels to the past and meets himself, triggering a series of mysterious events that lead to a shocking crime. Oscar-nominated short-film director Nacho Vigalondo brilliantly weaves the mundane of an ordinary man's day with a gripping and intricate cautionary message: do not diddle with time travel. Watch this when you're in a quasi-intellectual mind warp mood, ala Memento. If I told you any more, leopard-bikini man would be mad.

Seriously, what was he thinking?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Temporal Massage Oil

So it's not Jake Gyllenhaal at the beach, but it is my kind of eye candy. Behold the new crop of time travel posters created by Amy Martin to raise money for 826LA, a non-profit writing and tutoring center with locations in Venice and Echo Park, CA, which you'll recall if you're a frequent Vortex guest is the home to the Time Travel Mart. Each poster is $19.99 or the lot of them will set you back $69.99.

In other random thoughts, ABC has given the green light to begin production on a television series adapted from The Time Traveler's Wife, the bestselling novel by Audrey Niffenegger and recent New Line Cinema release. Excuse me? ABC=Already Been Cancelled? This the same network that axed Life on Mars after 17 episodes fresh on the heels of NBC's impatient cancellation of Journeyman after half that? I am soured on promises of time travel from these studios when all viewers ask for is a little faith and nurturing. Even M*A*S*H should have taught them that lesson. But I digress...

Nicole Eastman, screen writer of Ugly Truth, is adapting Allison Winn Scotch's 2008 novel Time of My Life for the big screen. The story centers around a woman who is unexpectedly thrown seven years into the past, giving her a second chance to reassess her life choices. The inciting incident that hurtles her back in time is a deep tissue massage. No, I'm not kidding. To be fair, I haven't read it. Yet. Or ever. Not sure.

If a deep tissue massage sent you back seven years, tell us where you'd be...

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Golden Girls in the Basement

I have a shocker for you.

A Wrinkle in Time was one of my favorite children's books.

Staggering, isn't it? Yesterday, I came across a quote from its author, Madeline L'Engel, that made me instantly wish I'd known her in real life. When asked if she'd seen the Disney movie version of her classic tale, she replied, "I've glimpsed it." When pressed with the question, "Did it meet expectations?" she said, "Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is."

The quote comes from a 2004 Newsweek article in which she discusses faith and the themes certain religious groups deemed offensive in A Wrinkle in Time. She was a plucky woman with controversial ideas and the age and courage to speak her mind. Her take on both Harry Potter and The DaVinci Code is worth the click alone.

I used to imagine Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Which were the Golden Girls of the Tesseract and how great it would be to score passage through the fifth dimension and a plate of warm cookies all at once. Now, I have my own version of these ladies:

Mrs. Who, who finds original expression difficult and often spouted foreign languages and Shakespeare, is the bespectacled portion of my fractured muse who is captivated by the blinking cursor. From her, I also hear my grandmother's voice in my head saying, "Das ist scheisse!"

Not only is Mrs. Which a nebulous entity during most of the novel, but she trips over herself in double letters. Ffamiliar? Mmost ddefinately, Mrs. Auto-Correct-Dependent-Muse.

Mrs. Whatsit is the most relatable of the three. She wraps herself in many layers, sacrifices a portion of herself to defeat The Black Thing, and transforms into a winged, centurion-type figure. Aside from the two billion year old thing-and the wings-she's the greatest portion of my muse trinity.

Madeline L'Engle was on a cross-country trek at the time she conceived A Wrinkle in Time. Not surprisingly, she was also reading a book on quantum physics. The manuscript was rejected twenty-six times because, in her words, "it was different."

The Golden Girls and I couldn't have asked for better inspiration.

What were your favorite childhood novels?

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Rock Stars Are Not Your Rock Stars

Have you seen in the Intel commercial where Ajay Bhatt, co-inventor of the USB port, is given the rock star treatment? I love it, and it made me think how my rock stars would be perceived by others. Aside from the fangirl in me who thinks Geoff Tate's operatic voice is, and always has been, inspired and basically any non-Extreme band on Hair Nation could make me choke on a pastry in their vicinity (like the guy in the Intel commercial), my rock stars are probably not your rock stars:

Michio Kaku is an American theoretical physicist and bestselling author who specializes in string theory. He is the son of Japanese immigrants who rose to recognition after his entry at a national science fair in the 1960s gained the attention of leading physicists at the time. While his professional theories remain inaccessible to the majority of us, his rock star comes from being able to translate physics and the intricacies of our world into language we can all understand. Last week when he appeared on Fox News to discuss how NASA cut funding to track asteroids that could potentially be on a collision course with Earth, one might have thought Keith Urban had appeared in my living room and called me "doll" for all the excitement I displayed. Or maybe Kaku channels my long-ago infatuation with my high school physics teacher, who single-handedly plummeted my geek-perfect GPA. How could I transfer out of his class when he looked like this? I wasn't stupid, you know. At any rate, Michio Kaku is a rock star in my book.

Texas Ranger's Second Baseman Ian Kinsler is a rock star, not only for his prowess on the field, but for ignoring throngs of single women hitting on him at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo to sit with a young fan for a full hour discussing the game. For helping to restore baseball's heart, he's a favorite in my book.

Lastly, every person on the Reader's Digest heroes archive and those who never reach the limelight. When I can't clear my pallet of that sour taste that so often accompanies negative news media, I read through a story here and get my Pollyanna-groove back on.

Who are your rock stars?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First Love Therapy

I've gone back to my first love browser. Yes, we were apart for many months, but he still held on to the memories of all the places we'd explored together. Those were the days of heavy Stumble Upon dependency and reckless bookmarking. In an effort to purge a few of those memories, I offer you a linktastic foray into our broken relationship. Sometimes you may ask, "Why? Why?" To that I can only answer, "Why not?"

Kuku Klock is an online alarm clock that functions even when the internet connection has severed. Aside from the ever-impressive notion of time, for me, it was all about waking up to the Slayer guitar riff.

This link's bookmark: The Death Clock - When Am I Going to Die? peers out at me between Holiday and Seasonal Wallpapers and Charles Williams's Coffin Telephone as research for my last novel. I avoided the death clock, but knew it was ever-present in our relationship. Much like a beloved's offensive foot odor, but well, worse.

My first love browser accepted my love for cats unconditionally, linking me far beyond the i can has cheezburgers he'd shown others. He taught me the true nature of a feline.

He knew two of my passions: time travel novels and left-brained, near-OCD organization and he surprised me one day with the most treasured of gifts: a romance-genre-friendly list of recent time travels broken into subgenres of the subgenre. I can still remember the palpitations of that day.

Some of the links are broken now. The memory labeled "Arborville Station, Colorado" is dead, but we'll always have Celebrity Time Travel to remember the good times.

Revive a link from your favorites list and tell us about it here. It's like internet group therapy, with the added risk of getting RickRolled.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rubies, Swinging Hips and Labor Day

How cruel of me to wait this long, eh? My apologies for the delayed post. Excuses: yesterday's all-day Elvis marathon (I kid you not, watching every Elvis movie ever made is on my life list); coming up with yet another alter-blog identity.

This time the 2009 Golden Heart finalists are starting a group blog based on the collective Ruby Slippers we identified ourselves with in D.C. Basically, it's a Wizard-of-Oz, There's-No-Place-Like-The-Bestseller-List theme and we each need a Ruby/Red-based nickname. Since my Vortex peeps-mainly the walkingman-came up with InkyLuv for my Bond girl alter-ego, I thought I'd toss this one out for fun, too. Should it have something to do with time travel? Shame on you for even asking. Of course it should.

Now on to today's topic: Elvis' 1960 movie G.I. Blues

Okay, just kidding. But may I just indulge one bit-o-fantasy moment about that sleek, black lock of hair that screams to be touched when he moves just so? Ahem. I swear I was born in the wrong generation sometimes.

A Novel's Migration

Joyce Maynard has captured the beautiful angst and raw honesty of an adolescent protagonist in her latest release, Labor Day. It's the story of a thirteen year old boy named Henry, trying to fill a void for his emotionally-isolated single mother while coming to terms with his own awkwardness and curiosities. On a steamy Labor Day weekend in 1987, while on a rare outing to a discount store, Henry encounters a mysterious man named Frank who is injured and asks for assistance. They welcome the stranger, a prison escapee, into their remote, isolated world. The next five days shape Henry's coming-of-age perceptions on life and death, love and betrayal, desire and jealousy and forever alter the lives of everyone involved.

This was my first Joyce Maynard novel, but it won't be my last. Drawn with a beautiful poignancy and evocative, unforgettable characters, she explores the human condition in a masterful way. It's the perfect book to end the summer, and I'm so excited to send it out into the world and share it.

Vortex reader Todd will be the next stop on this novel's migration. I hope he'll add a note beneath my own and send it back out into the world to share. Todd, email me at with an address where I can send it.

For those who didn't get the novel this time, head over to Todd's blog. Beg him to be next. Reserve your library's copy. Do what you can to find this novel (esp. you, walkingman, who reminded me of Frank at every page turn). Be sure to come back here and share what you thought. I'll have a special place set up just for that.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Novel's Migration

I was prepared to post today about The Time Traveler's Wife-the brilliant interview I found with its screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (despite the horrific editing) or the yummy review, not from a media fat cat or random blogger but from a quantum physicist's perspective-but I had to stop myself. I've gagged Vortex readers with enough time travel this week to make even H.G. Wells mount a caustic protest from his elsewhere dimension.

Two completely ordinary events shaped today's idea, one being that I acquired a dollar bill from the return desk at a discount mega-store and two being that I stayed up until 2 am to finish reading a novel. The dollar bill was one of the chosen Where's George? variety. Surely you've heard of this-a website that tracks George Washington's serial numbers and offers those who acquire said bill to see the route by which it has traveled through our economic byways. The book was quite simply the most fabulous I've read all year and the perfect match to the end-of-summer heat and craziness we are all feeling. Am I right?

So what would happen if we married these two completely ordinary events into one ultra-extraordinary literary experiment? Probably been done before, but I've never heard of it.

What if I sent the book out into the world the Where's George? way with merely a handwritten line on its inner hard-backed shell. A comment of adoration, perhaps, or a part that resonated so deeply I will be eternally grateful for the lessons its author taught me. Or maybe, merely a mention of where it had landed to remind readers who turn the pages after me of our connection to each other and the universality of our human experience no matter where we live. And what if I passed it along to the next reader and he wrote something, and the person he passed it to, something as well, until there was a chronicle of readers who'd all shared the same story. Books aren't meant to languish on some IKEA shelf. They are meant to be shared. So share we will.

Here's how it will work: Leave a comment, or many, in this post from now until midnight Sunday. At that time, I will select someone to pass along the novel to. Before it leaves my hands, I will mark the date, my location and something about the book. The recipient will read it and do the same. Select from your blog readers. Pass along to a relative. Leave it in a doctor's office with a note that it's free-take it and join in the story's migration. Always, readers will be able to return here and let us know where it has been. It may journey far; it may be handed over a backyard fence. The important thing is to keep it moving.

It's not a genre book. It's not non-fiction. And no time travel anywhere. I know, right? It's merely a great work of fiction that has something for everyone. Monday, I'll reveal the book and send it on its way. I hope Vortex followers are as excited about the possibilities as I am.

So comment away. Let us know what you're reading this weekend, how you'll spend these last, endless days of summer or the best book you've read all year. Share with us whatever you wish and we'll all meet back here on Monday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Duct Tape, Severed Heads and Covered Bridges

So the rumpus has started without me, which is ten paces beyond awesome, but first a few squee-worthy things before I space out and forget to pass them along:

How MacGyver-licious is it that someone emailed me with a link for my blog readers to an article about using duct tape for, well, everything? And it wasn't spam! Yes, Amber, I will gladly link to your 100 Awesome Ways to Use Duct Tape in Your Dorm Room. What a win to craft a duct tape body to scare off intruders. Nothing screams "back off" more than a body with a severed head. And nothing says "I love you" more than a vinyl, fabric-re enforced pressure-sensitive rose. Even Mac could have scored on the ladies with that one. Da da da.

Speaking of MacGyver, someone else sent me a link to a retro shirt. Not content to merely show the t-shirt on a sour-faced model, an anatomically-correct cartoon lets the discerning buyer know exactly how their 36-C will reshape our hero.

I, apparently, am a Monday person with a sunnier disposition than a Friday person. What day are you? It all depends on your perception of time, according to the British Psychological Society, and could explain why time travelers seem so moody. At least the ones I know.

It's half-past-rumpus time. On to the topic at hand:

Do the best movies come from original screenplays or adapted movies?

I can think of only one example where the movie was infinitely better than the novel: The Bridges of Madison County. This is without a doubt, the exception. Yes, we could blame it on the pure testosterone Clint Eastwood brings to the gypsy-photography character or the sheer brilliance that is always Meryl Streep, but I think it's more a case of directors and actors filling in where simplicity left off. Reading Robert James Waller, I wasn't sitting in that beat-up old truck in a frog-strangling rainstorm, the turn indicator of Robert Kincaids's GMC barely visible through the glass. During the film, I could practically smell the groceries Francesca had just placed on the seat beside her. Maybe the music and the production set and the director's cut to Clint Eastwood's eyes as they stared in the rear view mirror conveyed what Waller failed to. Maybe it was just me, but even as a twenty-something I got all up into a romance only those who've lived life a bit should have identified with.

If you haven't weighed in, or even if you have, what are your favorite movies-from-books? Least favorite? And if we were to re-populate them with moody time travelers, would they be my favorites, too?

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Vortex Rumpus

"and he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year..."

-Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are

There you have it. Time travel in one of the most beloved classics in children's literature. Maybe not exactly as the author intended, but in the span of one evening, between the moment Max is sent to his room without supper and the moment he returns to find warm soup waiting for him, he has imagined the fullness of a year's time.

Time plays a crucial role in the story, then. Had time progressed in the ordinary, expected way, Max would have never had the opportunity to learn the fearsome-looking monsters' ways, conquer them, and throw the mother-of-all-rumpuses as king. Most importantly, however, is how crucial the passage of time is to the book's theme. Loneliness can only be fully realized in the absence of true companionship and love. It takes time for life's violent emotions and noise and diversions to quiet long enough for us to listen to the heartbeat of our souls.

And so Max returns as all good time travelers do, having spent a lifetime in mere moments, wise to the lessons of his journey. We should all be so lucky.

Which leads me to a sneak-peek at Wednesday's post:
Do the best movies come from original screenplays or from adapted novels? Bring your favorites and we'll have a discussion rumpus.

How can Hollywood turn a ten sentence classic into a full-length feature film?

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Tale of Two Openings

It isn't often I turn outside my comfort zone for help, but we are all readers here and Vortex followers are notoriously brilliant.

I'm flirting with different openings. I've never had as much difficulty with any first page as I've had with this novel, The Night Caller. Not sure what it is, but my objectivity has shriveled into one quaking core of hardened story-opening doubt. I thought it might be fun to have everyone's opinion.

Try these on. Flirt with them. Chew them up a bit. Disregard genre. Pretend you picked it up off the bookstore shelf and opened to the first page. Which would compel you to read further? Plunk down cash? Dance with glee? Okay, just kidding about the last one.

Opening 1:

The call came before dawn. Had Evan Roth not filled his solitude with crafting creamer patterns in his Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee or watching his neighbor pluck dandelions from her sidewalk crack at four am—antiseptic details to his quiet, hemorrhaging reality—he might have missed the ring completely.

The Victorian’s stark interior magnified the impatient, double bursts.

Opening 2:

Even the whacks have to step out sometime.

The peephole’s glass bubbled the front lawn. Maple leaves spiraled like glass flecks in a pre-dawn kaleidoscope. Past the barrier—law enforcement’s kill zone—a neon sign lauding Michelin Tires blazed and faded in the shop window across the road.

An optical illusion of chaos.

Evan Roth’s only certainty the world existed beyond this zone, The Silver Creek Gazette, lay bundled on itself, too far away. Naked. Exposed.

Weigh in. I have my big girl panties on. I can take it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

So THAT's What's Missing (or Not Missing) in My Time Travel Sequences

"We had a time traveling expert on the set who said that for a fact if [Henry] were to time travel he would be naked. We just had to take his word for it."

~Eric Bana, who plays Henry in "The Time Traveler's Wife"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Today's Mission: Do Not Speak of Time Travel or MacGyver

I'm a Bond girl today. We're discussing serialized fiction over at Nobody Writes it Better, and I'm giving away the awesomeness that is a serial novel to one lucky commenter. See you there.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Novel's Migration - The Official Thread

As promised, this is the space devoted to Joyce Maynard 's book Labor Day; and more specifically, the novel's migration from its humble beginning in my possession. I hope you'll stay to read the comments of those who had the novel before you and add your location and thoughts on the book. It's an experiment that can only happen with your help. Be sure to return often to see what happened to the book after it left you.
Thanks for visiting.