Saturday, December 31, 2005

More books

My reading has slowed to a crawl lately, mostly because I tend to go all narcoleptic instead of reading whenever a free moment presents itself, thanks to the newborn who likes to party at midnight, and 1 am, and 3 am, and 3:30 am....

But I have managed to read a little bit. I was so impressed with Karen Rose's HAVE YOU SEEN HER? that I picked up another one--her Rita-winning I'M WATCHING YOU. I am over the moon about this book--loved the characters, and I especially loved the villain, a vigilante killer who targets remorseless rapists and child moleste rs who somehow beat the justice system. You couldn't help but feel some sympathy for what he was doing, even if it was illegal and intrinsically wrong. This book was an original, first-rate thriller that I highly recommend to anyone.

I still haven't started Diana Gabaldon's A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, because I'm gravitating toward lightweight paperbacks I can read with one hand while feeding the baby. You know, I would really love it if someone would give me a book stand with a robotic page-turning arm so I can multitask without aggravating my carpal tunnel. Why don't they sell these in stores?

So given my regrettable lack of a bookstand with a robotic page-turning arm, the latest lightweight paperback I've started Meg Cabot's SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT, a chick lit mystery centering on a has-been 80s rock star who works in a college dorm and apparently tries to solve the murder of one of her students. I say apparently because I haven't gotten very far. I love Cabot's sense of humor and her writing, but I think I prefer her straight chick lit or young adult books. Probably because I have no sense of humor when it comes to mysteries/thrillers and not through any fault of Meg Cabot's.

I've also started Joan Didion's A YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. I tend to get quite morbid after having a baby and can worry myself into a complete frenzy considering my own mortality, my husband's, and the precious little lives of my daughters. So why not read a memoir about a woman trying to cope with the sudden death of her husband and her daughter's long-term hospitalization to cheer myself up? Sometimes, even I don't understand myself. Maybe I'm indulging in my own kind of magical thinking, and figuring that if I read Didion's painful journey through what to me is unimaginable grief, it will somehow grant me immunity from going through anything like that in my own life. Or maybe I'm just weird. But difficult as the subject matter is, Didion's writing and her observations of what we go through when coping with the unimaginable are amazing, beautiful, and very, very sad....

Abruptly shifting gears, because I'm too tired to think of a proper segue, I also still have Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's book on deck (it being a large hardcover that can't be read with one hand), as well as a chick lit/women's fiction paperback featuring Indian characters by Anjali Banerjee called IMAGINARY MEN. I met Anjali a few years ago--she's incredibly nice, so it's great to see her succeed. Her book was in Target's "handpicked recommendation" section as of yesterday. And, because I have a book-buying disease that causes me to purchase books to read at at least four times the rate at which I can read them, I also have Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES, which is reputed to be amazing. The reviews pretty much say that it blows other suspense novels out of the water with its original premise and beautiful prose, so I'm looking forward to getting to it in the next decade.

At the speed I'm going, this will probably be the last books blog for awhile. Which is probably fine, given my nearly legendary inability to write a decent book blurb, even if someone were dangling millions of dollars in front of me, or a box of really high-quality chocolate, for that matter....

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I am Jean Grey.

You scored as Jean Grey. Jean Grey is likely the most powerful X-Man. She loves Cyclops very much but she has a soft spot for Wolverine. She's psychic so she can sense how others are feeling and tries to help them. She also has to control her amazing powers or the malevolent Phoenix entity could take control of her and wreak havok. Powers: Telekinetic, Telepathic
Most Comprehensive X-Men Personality Quiz 2.0
created with

Friday, December 23, 2005

Things I'd Like to Forget from 2005

Ariana Huffington just did a list of things she'd like to forget from 2005 on her blog, , and I thought it was such a spiffy idea, I thought I'd do my own version (though with less political content, out of respect for the fact that I have no clue what the political bents are of the three or four people out there who actually read this blog).

  • This whole "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" thing. (Can't we all just get along?)
  • "You're glib, Matt. You're glib."
  • My husband going to Baghdad for six months. And VOLUNTEERING to go on convoys. Freaking men....
  • Harajuku girls, as interpreted by Gwen Stefani. (Any harajuku girls who are just out doing their thing and NOT posing or dancing around Gwen Stefani and allowing her to "dress them wicked and give them names," I salute you.)
  • Gwen Stefani. (Except for the "Hollaback Girl" video, which my daughter Maggie loves and has created an intricate and exceptionally rhythmic dance to, thereby showing the world once again how dizzyingly gifted she is. )
  • Gas prices.
  • The lack of urgency in the US about reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
  • Britney and Kevin: Chaotic. (And thanks once again for making me watch the sleazy, drunken train wreck that was the premiere, Troy.)
  • Jean Schmidt calling Jack Murtha a coward. I don't care where you fall on the political spectrum--that was just creepy and out of line.
  • The state lab losing or jacking up my daughter Marin's newborn screening test samples twice, thereby delaying these critical tests that need to be done immediately by six weeks. As Napoleon Dynamite would say, "Idiots!"
  • My going postal on the very nice nurse who called to tell me I'd have to bring Marin in a third time to get her heel gouged for said newborn screening tests. It really wasn't her fault.
  • My first post-pregnancy attempt to get into my old jeans.
  • That whole mess surrounding Jack Abramoff, The Lobbyist Without a Soul.
  • That my one-year-old iPod is now considered "bulky" and "obsolete."
  • Denise Austin. Girl, you are way too perky. Especially while exercising.
  • Brilliant actor and ubercad Russell Crowe throwing a phone at a hotel employee and then JOKING about it a few months later. Note to Russell: Assault and battery is never funny.
  • That Ron Howard's lovely (if a little schmaltzy) film Cinderella Man suffered at the box office because its star was unable to contain himself.
  • Taradise. How can one little girl be so drunk and gross? Who is paying her for this? Where are her parents? (Oh, God, did I really just type that? I'm SO turning into my mother.)
  • Michael "Brownie" Brown and his figurative fiddling while New Orleans burned. (OK, drowned, but that didn't go with the metaphor.) CBS News Brown: 'Can I Go Home?' November 3, 2005 21:30:06
  • Dancing with the Stars, the Rematch. John O'Hurley, you are a sore loser.
  • The preview for Saw II. Who is the twisted wingnut who dreams UP these things? BLEH!
  • The ending to Million Dollar Baby. I was expecting a triumph of the human spirit, people.
  • People who question the patriotism of those who dare to ask questions.
  • The interview I read in Entertainment Weekly where George Lucas admitted that he has outlines for Star Wars episodes VII, VIII, and IX locked away somewhere and is Never. Going. To Release. Them. George, you are a creepy little man.
  • Mariah Carey telling People magazine that Glitter was "ahead of it's time."
  • My sad addiction to People magazine.
  • That the "right" to torture our POWs was ever the subject of a debate.
  • That there was no new Lord of the Rings movie this year. (I'm also still working on forgetting that from last year.)
  • Keira Knightley, especially her snotty dismissal in an interview of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the five-hour BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries. The five-hour BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries rocks the free world; Colin Firth seems like a nice guy who certainly never blasted Keira Knightley in public; and no whinyass, snaggletoothed stick insect who talks out of her nose is ever going to be a respectable Elizabeth Bennett.
    (I think I need to go lie down now....)
  • Angelina Jolie. You're a black widow, Jolie....
  • That little girl I read about who told a newspaper that Angelina Jolie is her hero. ARGH! Where is her mother!? (Oh, God, I did it again....)
  • The fact that thousands of soldiers who've done their tour of duty in Iraq have had their assignments there involuntarily extended. Again, I don't care where you fall on the political spectrum--I can't help but feel frustrated and sad for them and their families.
  • That excerpt the media released from Scooter Libby's novel. :::shudder:::
  • The Pussycat Dolls. It's 14:59, girlfriends. Get over yourselves.
  • The Runaway Bride. Those eyes! They're watching me!
  • The phrase "bodice-ripper." Or anything that puts down an entire genre of fiction created primarily by women. Intelligent women write romance, and--judging by the friends I have and the letters I get--intelligent women read it. (And certain Hollywood scriptwriters should take notice of how its done, because the romantic comedies I've seen on film this year have been appalling. Do it for Kate Hudson, people!)
  • And finally, the thing I'd most like to forget at the moment was that horrible, melodramatic "Nooooooooo!" in what SHOULD have been a powerful, moving scene at the end of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. That's no way to end the greatest film series ever, George, you wanker.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I'm Giving a Class!

Just FYI, I'll be giving an online class on "Plotting the Romantic Suspense" this January for the Romance Writers of America's Kiss of Death Chapter's College of Felony and Intrigue. If you're interested in signing up, you can do so at

The course description is as follows:

You've got talent when it comes to writing, but you can't seem to make your story impossible for an editor to put down. How do you turn your story from an enjoyable tale to a truly edge-of-your-seat suspenseful read?

You'll find out in this course, which is designed to help you pick up the pace of your novel and craft a compelling plot with gripping suspense and emotional romance. We'll cover: 1) Creating a winning beginning that will keep an editor turning pages. 2) Striking the right balance between suspense and romance. 3) Why defining your characters' goals and motivations will help you flesh out your characters and solidify your story line. 4) How to spice up your conflict. 5) And more!

Bring your work-in-progress, because you'll need it in this hands-on course with plenty of instructor and class feedback. The cost is $15 for Kiss of Death chapter members, $30 for non-members. And they do take PayPal.

And, just for fun, here's the bio that comes with it:

Tracy Montoya writes for Harlequin Intrigue and is also Editor of a nonprofit magazine on environmental and social justice issues. Her 2004 debut release from Harlequin Intrigue, MAXIMUM SECURITY, won the Daphne du Maurier award for Best Category Romantic Suspense, as well as the Beacon Award and the Golden Quill award for Best Romantic Suspense. This winter saw the release of her three-book "Mission: Family" miniseries from Intrigue: HOUSE OF SECRETS (Oct. 2005), NEXT OF KIN (Nov. 2005), and SHADOW GUARDIAN (Dec. 2005).

Tracy holds a Master’s degree in English literature from Boston College and a B.A. in the same from St. Mary’s University. When she’s not writing, she likes to scuba dive, forget to go to kickboxing class, wallow in bed with a good book, or get out her guitar with a group of friends and pretend she’s Suzanne Vega. Visit her online at

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What Cracked Me Up Today

Just had to share what has to be the best Christmas decoration ever. This year, Urban Outfitters came out with the "Charlie Brown Pathetic Tree," a plastic and wire replica of the infamous tree from "A Charlie Brown Christmas," complete with splintered wooden cross base and the one ornament that Charlie Brown put on it (after which he declares, "I've killed it."). I nearly died laughing when I first saw it online. Here's a photo:

Although Urban Outfitters is no longer selling it on its Web site, you can still find them in UO stores across the US. Also, some usurious Christmas jerks on eBay are selling them for double or triple the price....

The box (also shown above) is also a trip. Underneath the declaration that "THIS TREE NEEDS YOU," it says "One tree for you to love." Ingenious! I wonder why no one ever thought of this before?

Anyway, my brother Tom (yesterday's guest blogger) found several Pathetic Trees at a local UO store in Minneapolis and is sending me one as a Christmas present. I, in turn, bought one for my brother Troy, whom our mother often refers to as "my little Charlie Brown." Long story (or series of stories) as to why (most having to do with bouts of chronic bad luck, horrifying clumsiness, or his ability to look more pathetic than a baby seal), but suffice to say, this tree was made for him.

As you're busy buying gifts for families in need and planning your year-end charitable giving, you might want to give a Pathetic Tree a home while you're at it. Because we all need somebody (or something) to love....

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My brother, the guest blogger....

My brother Tom will be guest blogging today, filling in the gaps of my best Christmas carol list, and quoting random movies and celebrity sound bites while he's at it. Take it away, Tom!

TOM SAYS: Hanukkah, O Hanukkah - Barenaked Ladies - They put a Holiday album out last year. It is awesome! I highly recommend buying it. It is so choice.

Silver and Gold - U2 - This song was written in a hotel room in New York city 'round about the time a friend or ours, Little Steven, was putting together a record of Artists against Apartheid! This is a song written about a man, in a shanty town outside of Johannesburg. A man who's sick of looking down the barrel of white South Africa. A man who is at the point where he is ready to take up arms against his oppressor. A man who has lost faith in the peacemakers of the West while they argue. And while they fail to support a man like Bishop Tutu and his request for economic sanctions against South Africa.
Am I buggin' you? I don't mean to bug ya...

Okay Edge, play the blues...

Baby It's Cold Outside - Dean Martin - Fun with the banter between a semi-conscious Dean and his female partner. Almost creepy if you listen to the words carefully. Ol' Deano could be toying with a kidnapping/false imprisonment charge.

Linus and Lucy - Vince Guaraldi Trio - Technically, not a Christmas one, but try not to picture all of the cool dance moves from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" while it is being played.

What about Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo from South Park? "He is sometimes nutty, sometimes corny...." [Tracy: We interrupt this guest blog to inject a bit of maturity and decorum back into it. Yuck. That's it, Tom. You're fired.]

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Christmastime is Here!

Christmas is coming, and due to a combination of sleep-deprivation, lack of snow, and the Florida holiday spiders, it just doesn't feel like the holiday season yet. So I'm loading a bunch of my favorite Christmas music onto my laptop and iPod and trying to saturate myself into the spirit of things.

Here's a list of my favorite Christmas carols, just for kicks:

* "Coventry Carol," Loreena McKennitt--McKennitt's style is a blend of traditional Celtic music, modern "New Age" instrumentation, and bits of world musical styles from Russian to Arabic. This carol, off her too-short holiday album, A Winter Garden, is just lovely.

* "O, Holy Night," Cartman and friends--Just to avoid being too stuffy, this rendition has South Park's Cartman singing the popular carol to his classmates, and being electrocuted by his cattle-prod-wielding teacher whenever he forgets the words. OK, it's juvenile, but it always cracks me up.

* "Riu Chiu," The Monkees--What's a Christmas carol list without the Monkees? I've always loved their version of this 16th century Spanish carol.

* "Christmastime is Here," Vince Guaraldi Trio--From the geniuses who brought you the Linus & Lucy theme, this classic is still as fun today as it was when I first heard it on "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

* "Welcome Christmas (Fahoo Foraze)," The MGM Studio Orchestra with Boris Karloff--You'd have to be a Grinch not to love this one.

* "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," Elmo N' Patsy--This song absolutely cracked my Grandma up when it first came out, and I think it still does every year. I always think of her and my Grandpa when I hear it, which is probably disturbing to some, but oh, well.

* "Oi'che Chi'un (Silent Night)," Enya--The Celtic version of Silent Night. Gorgeous. And probably spelled wrong.

* "Feliz Navidad," Jose Feliciano--Always reminds me of Christmas at home--my mom LOVES this song. I like it more and more the older I get. Which probably means I'm turning into my mother.

* And finally, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Band Aid--I'm REALLY embarrassed to admit to liking this song so much. It's pedestrian, politically incorrect, and factually incorrect as well (seeing as the freaking NILE flows through Ethiopia, thereby making the lyric "no rain nor river flows" wrong). Also, seeing as Christianity is one of the two main religions of the country, of course they knew it was Christmas. A more appropriate title might have been "Do They Give a Rat's Ass That It's Christmas, Because There's a FAMINE Going On?" And the whole manner of referring to the people of Ethiopia as "them" and "the other one" always felt weirdly condescending to me.

But somehow, some way, I manage to ignore all of this whenever that blasted song comes on the radio, and I start belting out "FEEEEEEEED THE WOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRLD!!" along with Duran Duran, Boy George, George Michael, Phil Collins, et al. There it is--I love this song. I. Love. This. Horrible. Song. It puts me in a Christmas-y mood every year.

I'm so ashamed.

* And, of course, there are the old standbys--Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," Nat King Coles "The Christmas Song," Jimmy Durante's "Frosty the Snowman," etc. Love those. And even though I'm not Jewish, I do love Adam Sandler's Hannukah Song.

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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