Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Critique partners

I'm over at Writers Gone Wild today, blogging about how an awesome critique partner can make all the difference to your writing career, and your life. Swing by and say hello!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Making the Call

Over the weekend I attended interviews for The Cmolik Foundation, a private foundation providing B.C. students with scholarships for a total of five years of post-secondary schooling. I'm a Board member as well as a Student Selection Committee member so it's a lot of volunteer work, but this weekend was what makes my time away from my family (and my writing!) worthwhile.

The Cmolik Foundation seeks students that are well rounded with a clear sense of their goals. They don't have to have a 4.0 GPA, but they need to show determination and perseverance in overcoming adversity. Let me just say that out of the nine interviews on Saturday, all of the applicants had faced and overcome hardships that I hope my children never even have to contemplate let alone go through. Addict parents, parents in prison, death/suicide of a parent that left the child without care, or left in charge of all their siblings, effectively turning them into a parent before the age of ten. The amazing thing was, all the students had overcome obstacles like these and still thrived in school. And all of them somehow turned into quality human beings. An amazing feat, considering their young age and backgrounds.

Just a few weeks ago when we met to review our applications and decide on the interview short list, I was asked to draft a rejection letter. Ironic, don't you think? I've been on the receiving end of far too many of those for my liking. I wound up calling it a "regret" letter, rather than a rejection letter. And it was short and sweet. Getting one sucks, period. No need to rattle off some platitude that makes the student want to roll their eyes. If they even read that far. A no is still a no, regardless of how it's worded.

But then last night, I got to make "the call". The chairperson of the committee was supposed to contact the successful students today, but I was so anxious to let them know that she agreed to do it last night. Three of the six students burst into tears, and I think it wasn't so much the $35k scholarship as much as it was knowing someone cared and believed in their potential. That our five member selection committee saw something special in them and found them deserving of our funding.

I hope one day I'll be on the receiving end of "the call" from an agent or editor, but it was really cool to be the one doing the phoning in this case. We elected one of our other members to make the "regret" phone calls, and trust me I definitely didn't want that job. We could only take six students for this September (there are 27 students currently in our program), but the remaining three that we interviewed still may receive funding of some sort. I rounded up $1k for one of them yesterday, and at the Awards Dinner coming up we're going to ask for donations to see if we can't help out the other two as well. You never know, we might be able to pay for their education as well.

One of our students in particular tugged at my heartstrings. He's a great big football player, but if anyone could fit the phrase "gentle giant", it's him. He pretty much had all of the women on the committee in tears during his interview. He's the reason I wanted to personally make the calls, and I know he'll do us proud. It reminded me so much of my current favorite movie, The Blind Side. This is definitely one kid that deserves a chance, and I know he'll make it!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Love a book? Tell the author!

I'm over at Writers Gone Wild today talking about author praise.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tribal Fusion Belly Dance

Okay, if you've never seen Tribal style belly dance before, this is going to look mighty odd to you. It's an edgier, slinkier version of belly dance, and in my opinion, the hardest form to do. Let alone do well.

The costumes are a wild and funky fusion of Gothic, tribal and urban elements. The music has a techno edge with a heavy beat. And the dance itself? It's belly meets break dance. The muscular control this takes is unbelievable, and you can take my word for it. I started out with the Egyptian style (cabaret style, mentioned in earlier posts), but this form intrigued me from the first moment I saw it. It's so sinuous and sharp at the same time. Mesmerizing. And really damn hard. Ever tried moving your rib cage independently from the rest of your body while remaining absolutely still everywhere else? It's called a rib cage isolation, and if you want six pack abs, this is the exercise workout for you.

Try this: stand with your feet hip distance apart and bend your knees slightly. Tuck in your butt and hold your abs in by sucking your belly button back toward your spine. Nope, nope, you can't hold your breath. Keep breathing. (This is hard enough already, right?) Now move your ribcage to the right. Just your ribcage. Hold your spine, head, and lower body completely still. This is called a rib cage slide. Try a set of ten. Keep practicing. Hard, eh? Feel the pull/burn in your upper abs and between your shoulder blades? You haven't let go of your lower abs, right? Uh oh. Busted. Gotta keep holding everything tight to be able to isolate the muscles and make the movements crisp and sharp. Now move your ribcage to the left and do a set of ten. Try moving it outward (forward, by sticking your breasts out) and then back (contract those upper abs so your ribcage sucks backward). If you're feeling adventurous by this point, try moving your ribcage in a smooth circle without moving your hips even a fraction of an inch. Uh-huh. Feel all those muscles pulling that you never knew you had? Good. Now imagine being able to isolate every part of your body like that and you'll have the merest inkling of appreciation for what these dancers can do.

One of the most famous tribal dancers is Rachel Brice (excuse me while I have a fan girl moment). I haven't had the pleasure of seeing her live yet, but I own about four of her teaching DVDs and my abs scream every time I use them. Love it.

Here's a clip of Rachel from a few years back so you can see what I mean. I want you to watch this with an open mind if it's your first time seeing this dance form. Pay special attention to her abs and the way she can isolate one part of her body in a lock while the rest of her remains absolutely still. Really. You have to see it to "get" it.

Okay, so even if that style isn't your cup of tea, you've gotta give it to the woman. Have you ever seen abs like that in your life? She's a vegan (which explains her extremely low body fat percentage) and a massage therapist (yay us!). What stuns me the most is her muscular control of her abs. With a lot of practice I was able to learn to "roll" my belly up and down, but not nearly as smoothly as she can. I can even isolate my upper abs from the lower ones and do some belly locks, but I've never seen anyone who could isolate their abs into three or four separate zones like Rachel can. She's slinky and snakey and strong all at the same time. And even with all that makeup and harsh costuming, you've gotta admit she's pretty damn sexy. Whew. Wish I could move like that!

Here's another clip, and this time I want you to watch how flexible yet amazingly strong she is. Guess that comes from her years as a devoted yoga teacher/practitioner. Jeez, maybe I should get into the yoga thing.

Is your jaw hanging open? Did you see the part when she bent in half and then fell back to the floor (on purpose)? And then got up without using her arms while still managing to look graceful and sinewy? I mean, crap-on-a-cracker, man. The mind boggles. FYI, In Cover of Darkness Bryn does that same move (because she's got abs just like Rachel), using a blend of Egyptian and tribal styles in the scene where she's onstage performing for Dec in the crowded club. If that kind of display wouldn't raise a man's blood pressure, I don't know what would.

I'll probably post more about tribal style belly dance later, but I hope I've made you admire the sheer talent of these incredible dancers.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More promo!

I'm over at Writers Gone Wild today, introducing that crew to Cover of Darkness. Love to see you if you get a chance to pop over.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Guest blogging

I'm over at Karly Blakemore-Mowle's blog today because she was a sweetie and interviewed me about my romantic suspense series. And about my odd obsession with researching special ops (which she thinks is cool by the way! I love you Karly!). Come over and say hi if you get the chance.