Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tom Romano Day

Yesterday Tom Romano came to campus. It was the single-biggest event SCWP has ever done and Amanda and I were on the front lines. 219 teachers showed up and had to be organized, fed, and registered.

Usually, I wake up at about seven-thirty. Yesterday I was not only awake, but on campus, by seven o'clock. Then it was one thing or another to be done, or fixed, for the next nine-and-a-half hours. In some respects, the whole thing reminded me a lot of a busy night at the bar - being on my feet, running about, and dealing with a variety of stressed out people.

In the end, it all ran pretty smoothly. More smoothly than I thought it would, in fact. We had our glitches, sure - like flipping two presenters from their original rooms to each other's after they'd done their first presentations but before they did their second. But, we had enough food, everyone got to where they needed to be, and the students who volunteered to help were very, well, helpful. I'm just glad today is Saturday, because I definitely needed a bit of sleeping in.

Who's Tom Romano? He's the multi-genre dude and Katherine's hero. I even got to chat with him for a couple minutes. He's pretty neat and very personable. I was impressed by him. If you want to know more, just google him. He's written some books and is easy to find.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


After my last, bummed-out post, I got some encouraging notes from my peeps. It's good to have peeps :)

In other news, I talked with Juan today about the new vision for my thesis. He had to think about it, but he's seeing the vision. It's good.

(I've been going flat-out this afternoon, getting things ready for Tom Romano's visit to campus tomorrow. Lots of busy, plenty of stress. I only have simple sentences left in me tonight.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Over-Correction/Brute Force Isn't Working

Tonight I got another round of critiques from the CWC. This go was the whole thesis at once. The critiques didn't go so well. A few of the revisions I made worked, but more were over-corrections and others just made things worse. Not what I wanted to hear.

But, it also became clear that the harder I was pushing to make the thesis to conform to this brilliant idea I had about a family line, and the more I was pushing to unify the stories, the more it just wasn't working. Cool, huh?

What's the solution? Stop pushing so hard and let the thing be what it wants to be. It's unified in other ways, and those ways are enough. Also, I've got to go back to the stories and deal with each on its own for a while again - without worrying about how it's going to fit with the others. It comes down to a Zen type of thing - if I stop trying to force it into place, it'll fall into place easier.

It's funny. I've spent so much time and effort trying to fit it all together that I didn't realize I was jamming the wrong puzzle pieces together.

Time for a change of approach.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

And Now, Barring Bits I Missed, It's Done

Switching Cass over to a different tense and POV has proved more of a pain in the rear than I imagined. I never before realized just how many words are pronouns and verbs. Yeesh. The worst part isn't the transcribing from one to the other, but rather the part I just finished - going back over what I had already typed and fixing it on the computer. Every "I" and "says" and a million others had to be replaced with "Cass" and "said" etc.

I am infinitely glad that I'm caught up on the already-typed stuff. A few more pages of handwritten material left to switch over during transcription, and all the tense & POV will be fixed. Words cannot describe how happy I am about that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Paragraph One

I promised Juan a draft of the blasted preface tomorrow, and I think I've finally decided how to start the wretched thing. Apologies to Deb if I'm misquoting:

I can’t remember exactly when the conversation was, but it must have been over a year ago. I was with a few writer friends at a coffee shop and Debbie started talking about souls. During the conversation, she raised an interesting question, “In theory, there are only so many human souls, right? Yet, the human population keeps growing and the population of animals keeps going down. So it stands to reason that you’d have to find something to do with the animal souls. What would happen if a human body got an animal soul?” She paused, took a sip of her coffee, and added, “There’s a story in there somewhere.” Now, over a year later, I can say with confidence that there are, at the very least, nine stories in there.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Bloody Valentine (In 3D!)

Since my brother was in town this weekend, I thought we'd celebrate by going to see a 3D horror flick. Since my brother's girlfriend came with him, she came with us and for the first time watched a horror movie all the way through.

The 3D part was interesting and oddly effective in a way I didn't expect. Yes, the film-makers did use the 3D for all it was worth in a couple of gorey scenes, but I found myself really getting into it with the mundane scenes - a bizarre thing when the camera's going down a grocery store aisle and I felt like I could reach out and grab a box of cereal. Put it in a horror movie, and it's especially cool - I mean, if the cereal is real, it makes the horrific parts feel a bit more real, too.

Aside from that, of course, there was the stuff of the movie itself. I liked the scenes in the actual mine, very atmospheric. I kinda liked Jensen Ackles (he's better in Supernatural) but the writing of the movie was not good enough for me to be impressed by his taste.

Best part of the movie: the gimmicks with the baddie himself. (Save the fact that one dude with a pick-ax kept killing people who shouldn't have been that easy to kill - I mean, come on, dude has a pick-ax. Pick-ax vs. gun shouldn't be a close thing. Gimme a break.)

Oh, and the part where a gun went off with the barrel aimed at the camera and people in the audience freaked out and ducked. That part was hilarious.

Worst part of the movie: lots of people doing typical, moronic horror movie stuff that really shows bad writing and makes the characters annoying. Oh, and there were plot holes, too.

In the end, I'm not sure if I'm glad I saw it or if I want my money back. If it hadn't been in 3D, I'd say money back. But I will admit the 3D was used well - and it was throughout the movie, none of this "Put your glasses on now" monkey business that basically says, "Okay, now we're going to throw something at the camera in a few seconds."

Still, the writing... not so good. They threw in a twist at the end, too, which they just didn't pull off, thus making the whole climax much less, "Whoa!" and much more, "Seriously? That's where you want to take this?" You know a horror movie isn't working when you're annoyed instead of creeped out.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Foreshadowing and Diversion

I'm in the process of watching an Aussie show called McCleod's Daughters, the basic premise of which is two sisters (i.e. the daughters in question) running a ranch together.

The writing isn't bad - took them a while to catch their stride in season one - and sometimes it can be pretty dang good. I'm almost done with season three right now and, even aside from the characters themselves, I'm really into the writing part because of what they've done and to see what they'll do from here. Cue the spoilers.

Part way through season three, they introduce a breast cancer scare arc with one of the sisters. A few episodes really focus in on the medical tests, worst case scenarios, and characters reacting to the possible death sentence. Then comes the episode where she's going to get the results from the decisive test. At the beginning of the episode, the sister sees a wild white hose, which she takes as a death omen, clearly implying that the test results will be cancer. This sister is doomed, right? The writers have been building up to killing her off for a number of episodes, after all. Then, the results come back non-cancer and they have a party to celebrate. As the two sisters are on the way back from picking up party supplies, the horse darts in front of the car, causes an accident and the other sister dies.

Talk about effective. On one hand, it was a sudden, unexpected death which lets you feel with the characters as they reel from the impact. On the other, the audience has already had a lot of emotional build-up to this point because of the scare with the other sister. I was impressed.

Now, of course, I wonder how they'll manage from here. I mean, as fond as Joss is of killing off characters without warning, he never actually killed off Buffy or Angel (at least, never permanently) and here's a show where one of the two title characters just got shuffled off. Later on, thanks to IMDB, I know the actress who played the other sister also goes. Yet, the show went on. I don't know how well they'll be able to keep it going.

On one hand, based on the sleight of hand with Claire's death, I'm optimistic the writers can pull it off. On the other, the main reason I got into the show at first was Claire, then later on, other characters I like, all of whom (save one) appear to be gone by the final seasons of the show. It's hard to pull off replacements. Really, really hard.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Stephen King Story

The upside of writing lots of pages at a time is feeling like a rock star. The down side is feeling repetitive. It feels like I've typed "he said/she said" a gazillion times by now, even with making an effort not to tag all the dialogue the same.

Oddly enough, though, I was reassured about it a few nights ago by none other than a dream. In the dream I came across three second-hand books by Stephen King. I have no idea what the titles were, but the fact that they were by King was crystal clear. Now, the previous owner had put sticky tabs in the books that were coordinated with each other. When I looked at a tab in one book, then a tab in another, I realized the person had marked identical sentences. In short, they had marked where King repeated himself.

Yes, I know it's just a dream, but when I woke up I felt better about the voice in my head saying I was being redundant. After all, there are only so many ways to tag a line of dialogue and even the most brilliant writers can't always say the same thing in different ways. Now I'm reminding myself I just have to use the words that get the job done and not worry about it. My readers aren't going to notice, and if they do, that's what revision is for.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Shiny and New

Here we go, a new month, a new year. It's all about fresh starts, right? So, this month I'm going to make my challenge about starting a new project. The type and length of the project is up to you, but it's time to take a little bit of energy you've spent on the same old thing and re-channel it.

Me, I'm making the leap to mash the Cass stuff I've written before into a novel. It's my new plan for what I'm going to do with Cass and it's made me write new words and revise old ones into a new structure, tense, and POV. It's all smelling very brand new car.

How 'bout you?

Unforseen Turn

I've got a great deal of the Cass book, which I've settled on calling Crossroad's Promise, already thought out in my head - to greater or lesser degrees, depending. I've got plans for plot and characters sketched out and waiting to be fulfilled.

Generally, I'm pretty clear on where I'm going next, even if I'm only a few paragraphs ahead of myself as I'm writing. But, a few nights ago I experienced the same thing Deb talked about a while back, an unexpected turn.

I was working my way through the end of a scene and my plan was to lead the characters up the road a ways, then turn left. But, they turned right instead. They didn't follow the plan. Needless to say, I was surprised by their rebellion.

In my mind, I had thought I might bring them to this point a little later on (or I might not, I hadn't quite decided) and all off a sudden, there we were, ahead of schedule. Those unruly troublemakers gave me no choice, I had to go along with it. So, now I've moved another scene up sooner and I'm wondering how this will affect things overall. Time to make a new plan, I guess.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Late Xmas Present for Myself

Every year after Christmas I get something for myself off my Xmas list. This year I'm adding to my sparse DVD collection. I just ordered seasons 1&2 of Supernatural online and I'm hoping they ship fast.

Last night I finished re-watching Firefly and Serenity. The flavor of Supernatural fits really well as a follow-up. If only I had a bigger budget for fun stuff, I'd go for all the released seasons right now. Two's not a bad start, though. Not bad at all.

Colonial House

In general terms, I'm not a reality TV fan. The little that I've watched usually seems to be some kind of game show or a whole lot of people having petty fights and whining at the camera.

However, I've recently become fascinated with one particular variety of reality TV. I've watched two series of them so far, with more lined up in my Netflix queue. These shows skip the part about voting people off the island and cut right to the part about dumping modern people in the past.

The one I just finished, Colonial House, plopped a group of people in a recreated 1628 setting in New England and pretty much let them fend for themselves for four months. As much as possible, they recreated the technology, social structures, and pressures original colonists would have navigated. Psychologically, it's amazing how quickly people adjust. It's brilliant.

As I was watching the show, the thought kept going through my mind that it would be quite the experience to do something like that, either as part of the cast, or behind the scenes as one of the people creating different historically-based scenarios.

Between the three I've seen - the others were Manor House and Regency House - Colonial House is by far the most intense. Also, by far, the one with the harshest setting. Crazy stuff. Crazy, fascinating stuff.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Resolution Vid.

Here's a bit of New Year's spirit for you, courtesy of Lolcats.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Moving Along

I'm writing the Cass project different than anything else I've written. Typically, I write in the order things go in. I write the beginning, then the middle, then the end. It's different with this one.

I think working on my thesis has something to do with that. With the thesis I worked on the pieces individually, then pulled them together at the end. It was the only way I could get it done and it forced me to see the overall vision differently. It loosened me up, mostly.

With Cass, I'm doing the same thing. I started off by kind of circling it. I had a couple of story ideas and I wrote those stories down as they came to me. I knew they were all connected, and I could see a sketchy kind of timeline that connected them, but I didn't worry about the particulars. I knew I'd sort that out later.

After a few stories, I started one that felt like it had enough going on in it that it should be more than a story.

A few weeks later, after writing a couple pieces that'd fit in with the same plotline, I decided that I wanted to try and make a novel out of this. This week is when I've really started putting it all together. I've got about four stories that just don't fit, so they're tucked away to save for later. I've also got about the same number of stories/scenes I wrote out a while ago that do fit. A piece here, a piece there, and as I'm fiddling with it all, I can see that I already have a chapter 1, 3, 6(or so), one that'll be around chap. 12 or so, and a scene that'll fit into one of the last chapters.

It's like a quilt. So, I'm working my way linearly for now, stitching things together as I go and filling in what needs filling in. And, almost before I realized it, I had 30 pages. It's cool. It's exciting to see this book coming together like this.

Still need to figure out a title for it, but I've got 30 pages today and I'm not due for another CWC submission until March. I'm ahead. The novelty of it is nice.