Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Contest Winners!

Thank you to everyone who participated by tweeting, tumbling, and blogging. I think the first line of The Blood Keeper looks mighty fine plastered across the internet.

Alright. No more ado.

The winner of the ARC of The Blood Keeper and the paperback of Blood Magic is:
Katherine Leah

The winner of the finished copy of The Curiosities signed by all three Merry Fates is: 
Krystalyn Drown

And you were all so wonderful that I'm blowing the lid off the bundle prizes. If you want a small bundle of swag (including bookmarks and a signed bookplate), just email your mailing address by Friday the 20th to nataliecparker AT gmail (take note of the c in there!) and I'll happily oblige. 

Again, thank you all for participating! 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Contest: The Blood Keeper

The companion novel to Tessa Gratton's Blood Magic releases in just a few short weeks. August 28th, to be exact. That means it's high time I gave away this precious, precious advanced reader copy I've been coveting. Though totally connected to Blood MagicThe Blood Keeper is a stand-alone and I'm just going to post a snippet from the Kirkus review below because they do a better job than I would with the description.
Will Sanger, high school soccer star, only wanted to free himself from his recurrent nightmares. Mab Prowd, neophyte guardian of the blood magic, only wanted to understand the curse buried beneath her rose garden. But when their choices bind their fates together, an old love story and a long-concealed crime begin to creep into the present. (Full review here.)
But! I'm going to give away more than just an ARC.

One winner will receive an ARC of The Blood Keeper AND a paperback copy of Blood Magic which sports a new cover. Don't they look smashing together?

But wait, there's more! One winner will win a finished copy of The Curiosities which releases on August 1st. And if you are willing to be patient, then I will kindly ask all three of the Merry Fates to personalize it to you when they come to visit at the end of August.

Oh, but wait, there's even more to be had! I will give away up to 50 bundles of swag including signed bookplates from Tessa and bookmarks of The Curiosities and perhaps more if I decide to get creative.

I know you're wondering how you enter. Well! I'm trying something new. I'm going to use one of those fancy contesty gadgets which should do all the tedious work for me.

I'm going on the record as someone who doesn't like contests that force you to follow a person in order to enter. BUT I would love it if you stuck around for a while. At least long enough to decide if you like me. I think I'm pretty likable (and maybe even funny). I post about music and movies and sometimes I give away massive amounts of crit. In the future, I'll post about my debut novel. In general, you can trust me to be on the slightly ridiculous side of things, with the occasional dash of Something Meaningful. So that's my endorsement of myself.


There are two ways to enter:
  1.  - There are three tweets in the widget you may tweet once per day for multiple entries: two that are specific (do not change!) and one that gives you license to be creative (do change!). Do this, by selecting "Do it!" on the widget, then press the "Tweet" button. It will take you directly to twitter. Tweet and you're done!
  2.  - You can make a blog post about the contest and share the cover with your friends (found here).  

So please join me in making a little noise for an author I'm quite fond of.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you don't want to enter the contest, but would just like to share it with others, that's totally cool, too.  

Good luck!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A really true secret of character creation

I’ve discovered one of the secrets of creating an irresistible male character. It may be THE secret, but having only just discovered it, I can’t say for sure. However, it’s definitely A secret. If you do this one thing, you’re sure to have a complex, slightly dark, slightly troubled, brash but surprisingly sensitive, and quite probably beautiful character on your hands.

I know you’re dying to know what single act you can take that will lead to such a character. Well, I’m going to tell you. It’s quite simple actually. Easier than slogging through the Myers-Briggs personality type test, easier than painstakingly crafting a compelling backstory, easier, even, than stealing a character from real life.

All you have to do is name them Logan.

Yes, really. Watch as I prove my point.

Aside from having an emotional spectrum that ranges from cavalier to cocky and personalities with the intensity of the summerwe’re enjoying, these Logans all have three things in common: daddy issues, girl issues, and a casual disregard for their ownmortality. It’s a killer combo.

The case of Logan Echolls (of Veronica Mars) 
“And what is so great about living?"
  • Daddy issues? His dad killed his girlfriend.
  • Girl issues? He falls for his dead girlfriend’s best friend (who also used to be his best friend’s girlfriend).
  • Casual disregard for mortality? Between his home life and the PCH Biker gang, it’s a miracle he survives.
The case of Logan Huntzberger (of Gilmore Girls)
“People can live a hundred years without really living for a minute.”
  • Daddy issues? He’s destined to follow in his father’s overbearing footsteps.
  • Girl issues? His family dismissing his girlfriend as “not good enough for the family.”
  • Casual disregard for mortality? Um, Life & Death Brigade, anyone?
The case of Logan aka Wolverine (of X-Men)
“What I do best isn’t very nice.”
  • Daddy issues? Erm. Well, SOMEone’s responsible for his memory loss…
  • Girl issues? Ha! Haha! Does this require explanation? Because I don’t know that I have the time.
  • CasualExtreme disregard for mortality? Only on his best days…
Alright, there you have it. One ofthe essential truths of character creation gifted from me to you. If you’re struggling to create a cocky, enigmatic, and surprisingly deep character, go ahead and name him Logan. Once a character has thusly been named, everything else will naturally, effortlessly fall into place.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Musical me

Music has been a pretty significant part of my life. It was always in my house as a kid. My mother made sure to have all sorts of noise makers handy and started me off on the piano early. I cycled through a handful of instruments - including a brief and serious affair with the tambourine (yes, that's me) - before proclaiming my new life as a 3rd grade cellist.

Not only did my mother make sure I had access to the tools of musical creativity, but she inadvertently inspired my first forays into the world of rock. As a dedicated pre-teen rebel, I countered her love of Enya with Nirvana. I met Libana with musicals, Adiemus with Lorena McKennitt, Secret Garden with VAST (yes, my mother has very specific tastes). All the while, I was falling in love with Bach, Mozart, and Prokofiev. 

There's never been a time in my life when I didn't lean on music in some way or another. It's always been a crucial element of my writing, both creative and academic. I am of the camp of writers who creates playlists for novels and can't really get going until I have THE song that captures the tone, the emotion of the story I want to tell. 

In the past year, I've been on a ruthless hunt for new music. I don't know how many albums and tracks I've purchased, but my music library is looking rather flush at the moment. 

When a reader asked me for more music recommendations, well, I was only too happy to start thinking about my favorites from the past year. I'm avoiding the obvious ones like Fun. or Mumford and Sons (both favorites from the past 12 months), and going for a few I think are less well known. When possible, I'm linking to, which is a FABULOUS way to support artists.

First up, a group I found less than a week ago, Imagine Dragons, "It's Time". I love this track for their use of percussion, strings, and the unexpected in an otherwise fairly typical sound. This has been released as an EP and I enjoy all of the tracks. 

Next, another recent discovery, Zaki Ibrahim, "Something in the Water." There are SO MANY reasons to love this. The blending of African beats with dubsteb with that silky vocal....this one slayed me quite dead. 

Third, one my friend Maggie sent me, Lost Lander, "Through Your Bones." It was extremely difficult to pick one track from this album. They're sort of folk, sort of not. This is an album, called DRRT, I can put on repeat.

And finally, a new one from Santigold (used to be Santogold), "Go!" Full of energy and experimentation. Brash and unapologetic, I love this song. 

Hope you enjoy! And please feel free to drop a few recommendations of you own. I'm always on the prowl for new music - Music Predator, that's me. Send me prey! ;)   

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Girls with swords

I’m gonna be honest, if there’s a movie out that features a girl with a sword, I’m probably gonna go see it regardless of what it’s about. I grew up flat out addicted to movies like Legend and Labyrinth and Star Wars and The Princess Bride, none of which feature girls with swords. What they did have in spades were willful girls, girls with tenacity, girls who if given a sword, probably would have picked it up and taken things to a whole new level. I credit this cinematic upbringing with my immediate and unapologetic love for characters like Buffy and Starbuck – girls who fight, who charge into the fray with abandon. I’m such a sucker for the story of the warrior, especially when played by a girl.

So, when posters and previews appeared for BRAVE and SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, it was a done deal. I would see these movies. Possibly more than once.

I’ve heard a lot of lackluster reviews of both of these. And I’m honestly a little baffled by that. THERE WERE GIRLS WITH SWORDS. Not only that, but these were girls taking charge of their own lives and changing the world around them in the process. There's nothing lackluster about that.

These movies probably weren’t supposed to be in conversation with each other, but they totally were. I saw them back-to-back because whenever I do manage to make it to the theater I have to make that visit count (also it’s been two million degrees out and I like free AC). Though the differences between these films are probably pretty obvious, it was the similarities I found intriguing. Basically, both movies argue that girls (with swords) are fighting against three things: destiny/fate, queens/mothers, and creeptastic forests.

But there’s another similarity – and here is where I think these films get particularly awesome – in how the films treat the heroine’s relationship to the world around her.

Take Merida, who’s bound by tradition and heading in a direction she’s not particularly interested in. She doesn’t make arguments about wanting to fall in love. She doesn’t even really protest the character of the three sons she’s to pick from. What she does do is say explicitly, “I’m not ready” and leverage her mother’s help in order to make a change in her world. Her struggle literally changes the lives of everyone in the clans.

In this case, her sword is a part of her character and passion, and with it she saves her mother’s life. 

Now, take Snow White, who’s bound by jealousy and fights her way free with a nail (which, we can all agree, is a very tiny sword). While we could argue that her character is less nuanced than that of Merida, I don’t really mind that in a fairy tale. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a Snow White posses an ounce of power in her reality. This is an enigmatic Snow White. She leads with her heart and when she comes to understand this about herself, she does so with purpose and changes her world by leading the charge.

In her case, the sword is something she comes to posses. It’s less about who she is and more about the power she must step into in order to save herself and her people.

And if that wasn’t enough, this is a Snow White who changes the land itself. As Tessa pointed out, this isn’t done. Neither of us could remember another film where a woman was the one tied to the earth, bringing it back to life and happy times a la Persephone and Demeter. If you can think of other examples, please let me know. But this is another solid mark in favor of SW&tH being quite awesome.

Finally, there’s the thing about boys that makes me so happy I want to hug all the storytellers involved in bringing these two films to life. While there are questions of romance in both, neither forces the story to end in that annoyingly typical happily-ever-after fashion of coupledom. These stories weren’t about romance. They were about the heroine’s journey and HOORAY to them for allowing the girls to stand up on their own at the end.

That’s what I call brave storytelling.

So, if you haven't guessed, I whole-heartedly recommend both of these.