Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Don't be her

There’s a song by Tool – the first line is: "You’re such an inspiration for the ways that I will never ever choose to be." Being a Tool fan, every time I hear that song I’m reminded of this woman I met a few years ago.

Okay, looking back, it must be something like five years ago, if not six. See, I had a friend in Toronto, who had a friend in LA, who was flying up to Vancouver BC to visit the set of this television show. My friend couldn’t go meet her, so it was decided by committee or something that I would drive up – being only three hours away from Vancouver BC myself.

So, I figure this is gonna be harmless. I drive to Canada all the time, no big deal, and if something were to go hinky or get strange, I could just turn around and drive back home. This woman I was meeting was around my age, single, and had no clue what to expect in Vancouver, so I knew if this turned out to be one of those internet meeting horror stories, I had the upper hand.

Well naturally nothing happened, seeing as how I’m right here talking to you. I met this woman, and we got along just fine for what we were there to do. We made several set visits, talked to lots of actors and directors, producers, bla bla bla. But the one thing that really hit me from that entire trip was something this woman said.

Actually it was something she asked me, that first night. Some awards show of some sort came on the tv that night, and she was all excited to watch it. I frankly had no clue what was going on, since I pay absolutely no attention to any show that doesn’t interest me – and very few do. But she was settling right in to watch every second of this awards show. When she realized I didn’t know the majority of these actors or programs, she asked me this: "What is it you do with your time, when you’re not working?"

Now I don’t mean she was asking to be polite. And she wasn’t asking to make conversation. She was asking me because she literally had no idea what else there was to do on planet earth between working and sleeping except for watching television. She had no hobbies. She had no life.

She had nothing outside of television.

I’m not exaggerating here at all, I swear. She started grilling me about what I did, what hobbies there were and why did I like them – and would she like them – and what do other people do?

Her life was wrapped up in television. She even recorded programs during the work day so she would have enough to keep her going during weekends and holidays. This woman had nothing else in her life. She didn’t go out, she didn’t have friends, her family lived on the other side of the country. She lived for television and movies.

The only time she left LA was to visit television sets that weren’t filming in LA. She was wrapped up completely in these little fannish things, like fan clubs and fan fiction and all things related to people who can’t turn it off and go outside.

It was sad.

So do me a favor – if you don’t have a hobby, go get one. If you know more about the actors you see on television than you do your friends or coworkers, it’s time to turn that thing off and go outside. Buy a book and read it. Pick up some needlepoint or knitting. Learn how to build birdhouses or tile a floor.

Don’t be that woman.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Whatever

I'm in a bad mood. I don't know why, there's no good reason, I just am. And I'm missing my happy pills.

When I had surgery on my elbow last March, I got these lovely pills to take for pain. Lots of them. Many more than I really needed, so I used them accordingly. Meaning, whenever I wanted to feel happy. I called them my Happy Pills. Just one, not two, and only on a weekend since they'd keep me wide awake all night long. But damn if they weren't the nicest things around. I'd lay there, awake but feeling very secure and happy and calm about the fact that I wasn't getting a lick of sleep. Got these same pills when I had a kidney stone, and I made them last nearly 6 months with rationing.

And my Muse adored them ! I could envision entire stories while laying awake, feeling so secure and happy. I'd smile and watch my characters interact and imagine fantastic scenarios for them. Those Happy Pills even gave me the inspiration I needed for the story I'm writing now.

But I'm all out of Happy Pills. And the stupid elbow is beyond the point of convincing the doctor I need more. Rum doesn't do the same thing, though I do enjoy that in my coke some evenings.

No more Happy Pills.

That's not what has me in bad mood, mind you. I wasn't addicted to them or anything. I think I averaged taking one every other weekend or something, no big deal. I was using them as a special inspiration-treat.

This isn't even the point of my post, I'm just grumpy.

The point of this post was going to be about Criticism.

As writers, we get a lot of that, in bulk, from Costco even. We sometimes ask fellow writers to read our work and give us a critique, and let me tell you, that is not for the faint of heart ! Luckily, I already had a pretty thick skin, so I can take it. But . . . oddly enough . . . I won't let them read my Precious (Alex and Evan). Mostly because those characters are near and dear to me in ways I can't even articulate - but I know in reality, they're anything but literary.

I'm going to stop there, 'cause I love my guys and I'm in the middle of writing them now, even.

So back to my point - The other day I was watching something on HGTV, Sell This House, I think it was. Anyway, someone comes in to check out a house that's been on the market for a long while without selling, and points out the issues and problems. Meanwhile the homeowners sit back and get all huffy and angry at the remarks. Watching this makes me think: You'd never make it as a writer, kiddo!

As a writer, you have to hear all sorts of opinions about your work, and smile politely while nodding and looking for the truth in what's being said. Because aside from "This sucks", usually there's something in a critique you need to hear. And you usually don't want to. But it's helpful, and you know it, so you listen bravely and try hard to think objectively.

It's not that much different than being told the color scheme of your living room is horridly outdated ! In both cases, someone you don't know is making a comment about something that's near and dear to you, personally. An expression of yourself, your emotions, or your creativity.

So what IS my point? I'm in a bad mood, that's what !

Some got brave and submitted to the Crapometer over at Miss Snark's blog. I didn't submit one, but I've been going there now and again and reading the comments she makes regarding the hooks people did send in. Yeah, a lot of them suck wind. And they deserve to be told there is wind being sucked. And sure, I've taken some pleasure in reading her snarking remarks, especially to the ones that leave me thinking: WTF?? I'm harsh when reading stuff like that, like when I'm in a bookstore looking for something to read - I'll give them all one paragraph to make me care enough to read one page, after that they're history and I move on looking for the next one that might interest me.

But this bad mood of mine has me feeling sorry for a lot of these people. Sure, their hooks suck, but they're based on a story this person just took months to write and fuss over. A story this person clearly devoted time and energy and emotion into, all the while hoping and praying that this was The One.

Only to find out, in mere seconds, that it isn't.

All seems rather futile at times, don't it? And yet we press on, write our little hearts out, sweat bullets over our queries, and submit again, and again. Then we do it again.

Writers aren't sane.

Happy New Year.

Now let's take a moment to enjoy my new Happy Pill :)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

You Lost Me

So yeah, I watched The Lost Room on the SciFi channel, and I have to admit I was really getting into it. I missed some bits here and there because I didn't DVR the thing right away, but I caught it all on the replay and have it stored for later.

But as a writer, I have a gripe.

Now, first off, I love a complex plot. And for emphasis, I'll repeat: I LOVE a complex plot.

I love writing that assumes the reader/watcher is intelligent enough to follow along, and takes us on a journey with twists and turns and unexpected originality. So while I was watching this miniseries -- and frankly my sole reason for taking an interest in this presentation -- was the writing. That lead actor was okay, could have been better looking for my tastes, but he was good in the role. The other actors were fine, all that falderal.

It was the writing that drew me in. The room, the key, the objects, the potential this tale had for a complete series and the sense of writerly wonder it boosted in me -- I found myself analyzing how fantastic it would have been if I'd come up with this idea, and where I could have gone with it. There were major feelings of jealousy involved, since I hadn't, in fact, come up with it.

All the while I'm watching this thing, I'm thinking ahead and wondering just how this writer is going to bring everything full circle. I was all set to be amazed, nay, dazzled by the conclusion. In my mind were all manner of possible angles and twists, and I could only wait with anticipation to see how this writer wrapped it up.

Then it was over.

No explanation. No conclusion. No satisfaction whatsoever!

Had this been a book, this would have been the point at which I would have thrown it physically and with great enthusiastic force across the room ! Threads were left dangling, answers were left completely Unanswered, and not one mystery was brought to a logical or satisfying conclusion.

And if you're thinking this was a perfect open-door to sequels, No, it wasn't. Sequels would have required a much different and better scripted lead-in.

This is what we call a Dud. A writer who had a fancy-dancy idea, and no where to go with it. A writer who envisioned a great, convoluted plot with twists, turns, flips and spins . . . but couldn't figure out how it ends!

As a writer, I can say that many of us start out with this. We have a picture in our heads of one scene or one idea, then realize there's a story there that needs to be told, so we work up some characters, stretch that one idea out into a set of ideas that connect into something we can call a plot. Then sometimes we'll even start writing the thing before we've figured out how it ends.

But -- and here's the real kicker -- we don't END that story until we HAVE figured it out! During the process of writing, more plot twists come to mind, and eventually, as you're busily placing your characters in peril and working out their eventual success, the ending comes to you. You spend a little time working out the logic, making sure it truly IS the ending you're looking for, double-checking to make sure it wraps up all the mysteries in a logical manner, and one that a reader could have figured out (which entails making sure you left just enough clues without giving it all away).

Then, and only then, can you type The End at the bottom !!!

If you have a great story, a twisting and complex plot, but NO logical conclusion, it isn't DONE YET !

Okay, rant over. I have to go figure out why this thing won't load images anymore, and think about switching to the new blogger. I just had to VENT first !

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Uh-Oh, it's NaNo!

Yeppers, started at midnight, November 1st. So if I seem a bit scattered over the next 30 days, that's my excuse!

You can stop by and check my progress there, but since my username was already taken, I'm known as Legend at the Nano board. Come see how many words I have down, maybe read an excerpt if I put one up later, and check out my buddies - see how they're progressing and maybe even cheer us all on!

I'll be the one in the back corner, drooling and holding a bottle of Rum.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Got Nano?

November is National Novel Writing Month. It's a worldwide whirlwind of insanity, wherein you must write a 50,000 word story in 30 days, start to finish. If you think that's easy . . . I dare you to try it.

Sure, for me, writing something of extreme length is a non-issue. I do that all the time. I write novels, after all. But doing that in 30 days? Even I think I'm an idiot.

What do you win when you finish, you ask?

Well . . . a cute little plaque to put on your web page, and the respect of your fellow Nanoers. And the envy of any writer who's never broken the 20,000 word barrier.

Yep, that's about it.

But there are perks. You get: Insomnia, Nervous Twitches, Headaches, Aching Fingers, Burning Eyes, and you either gain 20 pounds from all the chocolate, or lose 20 pounds from all the involuntary muscle spasms.

Either way, it's pretty much a win-win!

So, what might I be doing, you ask?

Well . . . here's the thing. I have this story waiting for edits, to be sent around in the hopes of winning an agent. I have a few more sitting around, waiting for the same process. I have another that just started, but my brain is having spasms, so that's going on hold. And, at the same time as Nano, have to finish a short (2,000 word) for a contest.

But for Nano, I'm going to revisit Alex and Evan.

My fans know what that means - another Alex and Evan for the web page. I couldn't take it any more. I cracked. I had every intention of writing this super serial killer story, mainstream thriller, intended for commercial publication. But my brain kept stammering up against this blockade, and nothing I could do was breaking it free.

Those of you familiar with the publishing world, understand how near-impossible it is to actually break in, write something spectacular, win an agent, then get a publisher. We all stand a better chance of being struck by a toilet falling from the International Space Station while a shark is nibbling on our leg and lightning is striking all around, then we do of getting through the writing, querying and acceptance maze.

One day I feel like I'm gonna make it. The next day, I realize there's no way in hell, and I can hear that toilet falling from above. A day or two later, I figure I have as good a chance as anyone. Then the clouds roll in and I find myself wading in the ocean.

Okay, I'd offer cheese to go with all this whine, but I'm lactose intolerant.

Sitting here, thinking very hard on each and every word in that "will this win me an agent" way, only served to keep me sitting here thinking - not writing.

I came to a conclusion the other day that has finally put a smile back on my face, and made me giddy about writing again. I've been taking it all way too seriously lately, and it stopped being fun.

I've met a lot of people this year who are brilliant writers. Very witty, intelligent and amazing people who can write circles around all the drek we find in the bookstores. The problem is they're not getting anywhere. I won't go into boring detail, but see my comparison above re: the shark and the toilet and you'll get an idea.

These people continue to plug away, but the fact that their work isn't being read by anyone, anywhere, is slowly and surely eating away at their writing souls. All they crave is an audience. All they hope for is that some day, someone will read their stories and love them. And they deserve it ! They really are brilliant writers - but for many ridiculous reasons, they're not getting published (at least not yet). It's a game of patience, luck, skill, ridiculous luck, patience, stupid luck, timing, patience and ABSURD LUCK! Now and again, one of them strikes the motherlode, and wins an agent -- only to wait years and find out that agent can't sell the story to a publisher.

Don't get me wrong -- I've also met writers who HAVE made it. They ARE published now and can be found on the shelves of your local bookstores everywhere.

It's not impossible -- just highly unlikely :)

For those of us who have day jobs, and write for pleasure -- that's all we want. Sure, the little (and I mean little) extra cash and the pride that goes along with it would be welcomed with open arms and a glad heart. But I see those who have been trying for so long, and they're close to giving up. I see those who crave only an audience, who simply want their "children" to be seen by others, giving up on ever being known.

And, frankly, I spent an hour at Barnes & Noble the other day and couldn't find a single thing that interested me beyond page 1. That's no ego talking, just personaly taste. I write what I want to read, because I can rarely ever find it anywhere. I find myself reading non fiction almost exclusively.

I've been feel guilty, and a little stupid, and more than a bit humbled because I do have an audience. I have fans, I have a base of readers, and I have stories to write that give me great pleasure.

What does this mean?

Basically, that I'm grateful for what I have, while still envious of what I don't. It means I'm going to continue to try and write for commercial publication. I have one ready, one and in the works. But it also means I'm going to continue to write for the web page.

I've spent the last 8 months learning what is and isn't true about publishing, and the truth is more bizarre than the fiction it produces! Talk to enough published writers, read enough Agent's blogs and Publishers advice, and you, too, can have scrambled brains for breakfast !

Oh, and rest assured -- with my fickle hormones, this could all change in a week ! But for Nano - it's gonna be a brand spakin' new Alex and Evan story.

So now that this blog post has gone from Nano to Nuthin', in sixty seconds or less, I'll try to recap.

Feeling lucky? Got Pen? Sign up now, join the Nano -- and abandon all hope !!!

Oh, and if you see my brains lying around anywhere, please mail them back. I'll pay for postage :)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Simplify, simplifly, semper-fi!

I saw a commercial yesterday afternoon that made me want to throw away every electronic device I own, cancel my satellite TV, my cell phone service, and sell my computers, then learn to knit for entertainment.

Okay, sure, I do have other entertainment. I cut, shape and polish agates and gems, for one. I read, I write - neither of which requires technology. And my sister and I love an evening spent at our Mother's house, playing cards with her and her husband.

But really -- There was this commercial about some electronic gadgetry, or the future of possibilities, or maybe it was soap, but it was going on and on with these images of people all over the globe, in all cultures and countries, using all manner of computerized consumer products to email, web-surf, phone, fax, scan, and even track "friends". There was one image with some words that conveyed the opinion that, in the not too distant future, you can "subscribe" to your friends and look up their exact planetary location at any given time.

Does this disturb anyone else?

Not only that particular trick, but this entire trend of always on, instantly connected, always aware?

Anyone?

Seriously, it's getting to me. Yes, I own a cell phone, but you'll have to trust me when I say I only own it and only use it for emergencies. It's a security blanket for a single woman in this crazy world, who drives a 50 mile round trip commute daily. I swear the only time it's an indulgence for me is when my sister and I are out and about and decide we should phone Applebees for a carside dinner to go.

Yes, I have satellite TV. Yes, I even have cable internet. And okay, twist my arm and you'll notice I use a DVR to record programs automatically (look, ma, no vcr).

But suddenly, as I'm watching that commercial, it all felt very suffocating. I do mock people who have the Internet on their cell phones. Those self-important types who feel the need to check email while sitting at their son's school play. The guy watching a movie on his laptop, his cell phone and his FREAKISHLY HUGE hdtv, all during his supposed train commute to work.

I read somewhere that 80 percent of all cell phone calls people take in public are faked. That they're just pretending, in order to look cool. You know why I keep my cell phone on while I'm in public? Because it shows me the time. I don't wear a watch.

I don't disparage all electronics, because clearly I use and enjoy them. They have a place, they have a time, and they have a purpose.

But dear GOD, do we seriously need -- or deserve -- to know where our friends are at all times? Is it vitally necessary that we have access to our SPAM while we're waiting for our latte? Can we not go five minutes between Instant Messaging during dinner at a nice restaurant?

I was going to avoid any mention of: Back in MY day -- but . . .

It was just ten years ago when cell phones began to be interesting to the average Joe. A mere 15 years ago, most people didn't have a PC, satellite TV was a gigantic dish that took up your entire backyard and screamed your affluence to your neighbors.

It wasn't that long ago when we could drive down the freeway and only have to worry about people shaving or applying mascara. When pay phones were considered a necessary item on every block, just in case you had an emergency.

Not long ago, we didn’t have MP3 players insulating us from the outside world. Back then, we'd act a bit more polite to the other people in line, because we could hear and see them. We wouldn't dash across the street in traffic as if we were the only humans on the planet, because we could hear the car engines coming up from behind. I remember a time when we could walk down a sidewalk, see people coming and make room for them. Even smile as they passed.

And sure, this sounds really ridiculous coming from the mouth of someone who enjoys writing Science Fiction with futuristic settings.

But does the future really have to be so . . . annoying? Doesn't it feel sometimes like, if they invent one more thing that isolates us from the humans around us, we're all gonna forget what life is really like?

Yeah, sure, it's an exaggeration. I'm being ridiculous, overreacting and blathering at the mouth. That commercial just brought me to the brink, is all. It's just odd how these products designed to "bring people closer" are really there to isolate everyone.

Like they want to bring us all closer, but only in a virtual manner.

Okay, enough rambling. Consider this just a: Unplug that thing and go outside! Rant, 'cause that's all it really amounts to.

Now, let's just scroll back down to my post about MEN and relax, shall we?