Wednesday, January 27, 2010

If It Was Easy, or Going on a Roadtrip

Today I wish things were easier. I've got a couple of things I'm trying to do and all of them are hard and take a lot of work and effort. For instance, on Monday, the CWC gave me a full manuscript critique. They all had good, solid comments that will help me make the Cass book better. But, it's going to take work. There's a lot to do.

Between that and other things, there's a part inside of me that's starting to whine. It's crossed its arms, plopped down in the corner, and is scowling out at me saying "It's hard! I don't wanna do this any more." That's the little kid in me who's overwhelmed and impatient. That's the part of me that sits in the back seat and keeps saying, "Are we there yet? Why aren't we there yet? Are we ever gonna get there?" even though we've just pulled out of the driveway.

Some days, my inner impatient kid has a really loud voice and today is one of them. That makes today a mediation on being a grown up. In my kindest, gentlest tone, I have to remind the kid that we'll get there when we get there. Maybe there are detours, and yes, it was really frustrating when the tire blew out and stranded us on the side of the road for hours during a July heatwave, but tires can be mended and sometimes detours turn into the highlights of the trip. We'd never have had lunch at that wonderful cafe if we had stayed on the planned route.

My inner kid is still feeling cranky and wishes we were there NOW. But, it's the grown up who's driving, and it's the grown up who knows how good it's going to feel to finally get to our destination. That first step out of the car once you're there, that's what it's all about. You finally get to relax because you've arrived. Now it's time to stretch your legs, see the sights, and take photos. Years later, it's the photos that stay with us, not the hours in the car.

The thing is, there have been things that have come easily to me. Not many, mind you, but a few here and there. The thing is, it's just like the psychologists say, when it's easy, we have a hard time appreciating it as much. Note all the lotto winners who are bankrupt two years later.

I have to remind my inner little kid that the important things are supposed to be hard. The difficulty is what makes us treasure them all the more.

Even so, there's nothing wrong with making an extra stop from time to time to bribe that kid with some ice cream.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Off the Premises

I did some bar pages last night. It may seem an odd choice to go to a bar to write, a comment voiced by a few of the people I ran into last night, but it works for me. I got a few pages written longhand, which meant more than half of the story.

I was stuck on an idea for a while, then I remembered a few sentences I jotted down a couple of days ago and realized that, with a little bit of adjustment, I could make it fit. So, I sat at the bar, sipped a drink, chatted with some people, and wrote. Looks like I'm going to meet my goal for the week after all.

Friday, January 22, 2010


My main goal this week was to write a short story. I found a contest, On the Premises, and I thought it'd be fun to enter it. The deadline is the 30th. If you click on the link, it'll tell you what the prompt is. In short, the key word is "delicate." The hard part about prompts is that there are a handful of ideas that pop into your mind right away. But, those ideas are popping into everyone else's minds as well. The trick, when working with a prompt, is to try and follow the guidelines but be original at the same time.

Frankly, I'm stumped. I think this calls for some out of the house pages.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Deal-breakers, or Books I Didn't Read

In the past week or so I've picked up three different books that looked interesting at the library. Each seemed interesting when I read the back flap, but I ended up abandoning all three. I'll readily admit that part of it was circumstance - I just came off of a couple books that were really, really good, so I'm pickier than usual. However, there were reasons beyond that for why I put them down. At least two of the three would have been put-downers regardless of mood, and so it makes me curious whether or not you would have done the same.

Book 1: The Harsh Cry of the Heron by Lian Hearn
It seemed promising because the back flap says the main character has a secret - he can only be killed by a member of his own family.
It lost me in about three pages thanks to a zillion exclamation marks - just about every other line of dialogue ended with a ! Also, there was the part where the narration was talking about how the main character sparred with his wife so their daughters could see how a woman could be a fighter. Then, a few paragraphs later there's the part about how the daughters are going to a special assassin school - i.e. they're already fighters. It's not the hugest thing, but the logic glitch combined with the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!s, were enough together to pull me out of the book.

Book 2: Cyndere's Midnight by Jeffrey Overstreet
It seemed promising because it has beastmen in it, which can be fun.
It lost me when I started to see how the premise was going to work and I just didn't get into the characters. Some POV jumping right away didn't help.

Book 3: Wraith by Phaedra Weldon
It seemed promising because it's an urban fantasy with a female protagonist - the type of books I'm keeping an eye out for as I work on the Cass book - it's good to know what's out there that's like your stuff, after all.
It lost me when the protagonist started getting on my nerves. She's 28, but she spews out this constant stream of airhead teenage vocabulary - words like "neato" and "oogy" all over the place. Now, while I don't mind the odd cornball word, when they're in every other sentence and make me think, "What is she, twelve?" I have to put the book down. Cutesy and noir do not play well together.

How about you, have you got any recent deal-breakers that made you stop reading?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I recently started watching Primeval. I had never heard of it, but it's one that's available for instant viewing on Netflix, so I watched the first few minutes to see if I was interested. They hooked me right away and I've been speeding through episodes ever since.

The premise: After a report of a "monster," in a local British forest, three guys from the university, lead by Dr. Cutter, a professor of evolutionary zoology (a professor whose wife disappeared in that same forest after a similar report eight years earlier), go to investigate. On the way, they run into a gal from teh zoo who's in the forest for an unusual lizard. They find out that the monster is actually a dinosouar who's come through a bizarre magnetic field from its time to ours. From then on, the team goes around, catching creatures that come through these anomalies. There's also an over-arcing plot revolving around Dr. Cutter's wife.

Now I'd be the first to point out certain logical/logistical holes in the series. They're minor, and not vital to the overall story, but they're the nit-picky kinds of things that bother me sometimes. Also, there are times when they over-simplify things that would, in real life, be more complicated. However, I'm hooked on the Mrs. Cutter plotline, the characters are a lot of fun and the one thing that the show does really, really well, is mechanics. There's a definite horror element to the show - come on, it's all about people getting eaten by creatures - and they do a great job of building tension. It's not often that a show makes me jump, but this one does plenty.

I'm fascinated by the fact that it's not brilliant TV, but it's definitely got me hooked. The pacing/plotting is spot on and I love the fact that I'm not paying attention to the holes because I'm too busy paying attention to other things. That's good writing.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dollhouse: The Big Reveal

Dollhouse got cancelled, so we've only got a few episodes left and Joss is really ramping things up. In episode 11, a whole heck of a lot happens. We've just been plunged into the beginning of the big showdown and, among other things, there has been one particularly big revelation. For a few episodes now, there's been the question of the identity of the man behind Rossum. Our heroes are working hard to find out his identity.

Next comes the spoiler-y bits, though I'll try to not give everything away.

I've been following Joss long enough that I can see his patterns, so when a certain character who's been gone suddenly reappeared, I knew she was there for a reason. When she entered a scene right after two other characters had a "moment," I knew no good could come of that. Sure enough, she killed one of them.

But, the biggest thing came later, in the last few seconds of the episode. The whole time we've been leading up to seeing, through Caroline's eyes, the identity of the man behind the curtain. Caroline finally walks into the office and meets him. I was immediately confused because, in keeping with Joss's M.O., this dude should have been someone we know, and he wasn't.

Then comes the turn. She meets him again (there's logic here with the technology), and this time, he is a character we know. Not only that, but the reveal comes through her memory, while in "real time" she's alone in a room with none other than that same character. Next come the credits, leaving that moment just hanging there for a week. Joss is a cruel, cruel man sometimes.

During the first season of the show, I was pretty neutral. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. Now that it's been cancelled, the stakes are higher and everything is bigger, more focused, and more urgent. I knew Joss had it in him, it's just a shame that we had to wait until it was already too late to see it.

I can't wait to see what he does next week.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Black Snake Moan, or How Far Is Too Far?

I just finished watching the movie Black Snake Moan. If you're not familiar with the plot, here's the quick summary: Christina Ricci is a damaged young woman, who was sexually abused when she was young. When her boyfriend leaves for the army, she becomes untethered, gets in a bad situation, and winds up beaten and left on the side of the road. Samuel L. Jackson's character finds her, brings her into his home to heal her injuries, then discovers her history of sleeping around. Since his wife has just left him, he decides the only rational thing to do is to literally chain Ricci to the radiator and begin the task of "getting the devil out" of her by showing her that there are ways to connect to people other than sexually.

There are interesting things that go on in the story. Ricci and Jackson are both going through the same situation, just opposite sides of it. Jackson's wife was unfaithful and as soon as Ricci's boyfriend left town, she was unfaithful. Yet, instead of taking out his anger on Ricci, Jackson's character decides to save her. In redeeming her, he ultimately saves himself. The chain goes from a symbol of imprisonment to one of safety, of connection.

The thing to remember is that the movie is meant to be more allegory - yeah, there's a chain, but it's not really about it being a chain, but about connection. Still, there's that moment when she finally regains her senses after coming out of her drug haze that's decidedly uncomfortable. She realizes she's been chained and, naturally, doesn't like it. "I have to get home now," she says. He tells her she's not going anywhere. Now, seriously, I don't care who you are or where you're from, the idea of being chained up by a prisoner is just not one that evokes warm, fuzzy feelings.

By the end of the movie, the main characters have evolved, and the fact that he held her against her will slips away. I just don't know if that sits right with me, even though I think there is much in the movie that was really good story telling. I haven't fully decided whether or not the chain went a step too far. Which isn't to say I'm squeamish. But, we all have certain things that bother us more than others. Gore? Nah, I don't mind. Body count? Eh, I'm okay. But being chained to a radiator? That touches a nerve.

What stories/novels/movies have you come across that went too far for you? Are there any you can think of that stand on the line, but don't quite cross it?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Little Bits

I've been swamped with big projects this past year, like working on the Cass novel and finishing my thesis. It's all been a series of big bites, and the past couple of months were exhausting. Going into the new year, I feel the need for a change of pace. I am officially declaring January the month of small projects.

I had some time the other week to start two new short stories, and it was fun to think on a small scale again. This month, I want to finish at least one of those - one feels like a dead end - and maybe do a couple more. The cool thing about working on smaller projects is that they get done faster, which means you don't have to wait as long to feel like you've accomplished something. I don't know about you, but I'm very much in the mood to see ticks on my TO DO list. Starting with small things, or chunking big things up into small parts can be a good way to pep yourself up and get some momentum going. It's a good way to fight the bogged-downs.

This month, I challenge you to think small. Write some flash fiction, a poem, a short story, or a one act play. By the end of the month, you'll have at least one thing finished. Not a bad way to start the new year.