Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Austin: Love letter to a town.

I moved to Austin in the summer of 1990.  I was 18 years old at the time.  I wanted freedom and independence; my mother was very worried for both my soul and my virtue, and to preserve both, she tried very hard to exert near-complete control over my life.  I couldn't take any more.  I had to leave.  I left San Antonio to try my hand at living my own life, and I've been in Austin ever since.

I'm not the same doe-eyed girl I was then.  I've grown up, learned a lot, and gotten married.  I developed an epic love-hate relationship with this town, and the story of it -- well, it would be pretty boring, to be honest.  However, I've found myself on the verge of moving away from the town in which I came of age, and I feel the need to commemorate what we've meant to each other.

So, in no uncertain terms, I'm leaving you with this pictoral essay of what it meant to me to be an Austinite.

YEAR: 1991
BILLBOARD SONG OF THE YEAR:  "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)" ~Bryan Adams
IN THE NEWS: The Yogurt Shop Murders
BOX OFFICE SMASH: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
ME: Working at the mall, hanging out at the Backroom, riding the bus, reading a lot of Anne Rice, lusting after long-haired glam metal guys.  Thought I could get serious about being a writer . . .eventually.

YEAR: 1996

BILLBOARD SONG OF THE YEAR: "Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)" ~Los del Rio
IN THE NEWS: Clinton elected; TWA flight 800 crash
BOX OFFICE SMASH: Independence Day
ME: Working as a travelling sales rep, living in my own apartment, driving my own car, social hermit.  Writing really awful pulp romance trash.

YEAR: 2001

BILLBOARD SONG OF THE YEAR: "Hanging by a Moment" ~Lifehouse
IN THE NEWS: The Terrorist attacks of 9/11
BOX OFFICE SMASH: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
ME: Just married, thinner, living in the country with a couple of dogs.  Writing the occasional short story; dabbling in horror.

YEAR: 2006
BILLBOARD SONG OF THE YEAR: "Bad Day" ~Daniel Powter
IN THE NEWS: Pluto ain't a planet, we're (still) at war in Iraq
BOX OFFICE SMASH: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
ME: Starting a new job, becoming a pain in the ass about wanting to move back into the city, starting to draft concepts for full novel-length stories, rediscovering my love affair with Stephen King.

YEAR: 2011
BILLBOARD SONG OF THE YEAR (2010): "Tik Tok" ~Ke$ha
IN THE NEWS: The recession drags on; record-breaking Texas drought
BOX OFFICE SMASH (2010):  Toy Story 3

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review!

The Queen of the Damned (The Vampire Chronicles, #3)The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If Ayn Rand had written her capitalist manifesto, "Atlas Shrugged," half this well, we'd have several second-world countries STILL trying to prove that she was a visionary, and that her system could work -- because never doubt that "The Queen of the Damned" is a philosophical screed, and the best of its kind.

For me, this is still the ultimate vampire novel. Anne Rice doesn't just have creepy-crawlies in her stories. She doesn't just animate corpses. She doesn't just give them heartbroken souls and immortal, wealthy flair. She doesn't just have a huge cast of characters, and flip between points of view with seeming ease and grace. No, Anne Rice has a MESSAGE, and she means to tell it here.

Through the prism of vampire magic, we're given a view of the vastness of time and the evolving role of Man in the world. We see through the veil all the way to ancient times, and we meet the representative of all ancient rulers in the person of Akasha, the so-called "Queen of the Damned." Akasha is cruel and self-serving; she strives always to find meaning in the world and despairs that there is none, so she takes it upon herself to become that meaning. She did it in old Egypt (called Kemet in this tale) by constantly rationalizing herself as blessed among mortals, all the while doubting that anything supernatural existed that could bestow such a blessing. When, through a misadventure in manipulation of Earth spirits, she becomes the world's first vampire (and subsequently makes her husband one as well), she spins the tale of Osiris and Iris to justify her existence as a goddess.

Fast forward to nearly-modern day, and the awakening of Akasha from her centuries-long slumber. After draining her ancient mate, she slays nearly all of the vampires on the planet, then abducts Lestat, the charming vampire rake who woke her, and unleashes her plan for vampires to rescue mankind by death to 90% of all males. After all, she blames the male sex for all the wars and rapes and subjugation in the world, and she takes it upon herself and her overwhelming strength to fix it. Lestat is employed as her death angel, but eventually she is forced to confront the vampires she spared from the fury that began the book. They try to reason with her, but as they observed, every vampire bears the mark of the time that produced them; she is ancient, and she is bound to ancient instincts and her ancient megalomania. She won't be turned. Fortunately, an old curse rises and she is killed, but the book left its mark.

Does mankind deserve a chance to get it all right on its own, or would it indeed be better if a supernatural force of some kind (any kind) intervened to show us the way? Would the world be a paradise if governed solely by women? Does violence justify the results?

It is for the sake of this book's ability to make me think, and to give me the room to decide for myself, that I love it so much. Yes, Rice offers her own opinion, sprinkled through the tale and especially weighty in the outcome, but that doesn't lessen the underlying message that in the end, we are ALL masters of our own fate and sovereigns over our own reality. Even if you decide to forfeit your right to decide for yourself, you're the one who turned over the control to another.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review!

The Vampire Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles, #2)The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, Lestat. You gorgeous fiend, you Brat Prince. You're the damnedest creature. Every time I think I'm over you, all I have to do is read this book and I'm proven wrong all over again.

Anne Rice was at her writing zenith when she wrote this book. She allows her competent and poetic prose free rein, and her tale spans centuries while sacrificing nothing of meticulous research and the resulting feel of authenticity and intimacy. Do you want a dreadfully generic teen idol for a vampire? Read another, more contemporary series. Do you want the perfect fiend, the immortal who has regrets but never tires of trying to make himself more real and relevant? Then Lestat is the one for you.

When it comes to guilty pleasures, I'm glad to share with you that this one is up there, and it represents all of the dark magic that I secretly wish was real.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review!

Grave Surprise (Harper Connelly, #2)Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Harper Connelly finds dead people, but she eschews the term "psychic." It doesn't matter how she refers to herself; people don't like her because they think she's a con artist, regardless of her nearly perfect record of results for her clients.

How do I know how she feels about this?

Because she whines about it so often.

Everything that is resilient and charming about Sookie Stackhouse seems to be lacking in Harper Connelly. I'm not saying that Harper doesn't deserve some measure of pathos. Her background as the child of a broken marriage between drug-addled partners, their fall from grace, and the lightning strike that formed the basis of her "powers" surely wouldn't sit well with most people. Even so, every chapter refers at least once to her bleak past and misfortune. It was more like reading something written by Lemony Snicket, but without the humor. And why? She's recovered better than most people, and she's even found a way to turn a profit from that lightning strike; it's given her an ability that earns her a living. It kept her from having to work in an office building under appalling fluorescent lighting, watching the clock and waiting -- ahem. Pardon me for slewing a bit off track.

I know it's exhausting to encounter jerk after jerk, every one of them impeaching her morals for daring to take money from people in exchange for a service. Even so, the sheer amount of her ennui got a bit tiring.

I'll finish out the series because of the


budding romance between her and Tolliver


but I'll continue to hope that Harper will somehow see the good in her life, and stop focusing so determinedly on the bad.

View all my reviews