Friday, March 30, 2007

Hurry up and wait.

Been racking my brain to figure out what to blog this week. It’s been a really busy week in my other life, so haven’t even been thinking about writing much.

But from the few conversations with writers I’ve had lately, one common element has surfaced more than once.
The long, long waits we have to endure.

I’ve had fulls with agents now for over 8 months, longer perhaps. I’ve asked for updates and been ignored, and while normally that would frustrate the hell out of me, that I’m working on finishing my current WIP makes the wait much easier.
Nothing seems to happen quickly in this industry.

Even friends who are agented have to endure waits. There’s the wait for their agent to read the manuscript, send it out to editors and then wait for responses.
With the right agent, the waiting for responses won’t take too long, but this too can vary, I know of a few agented authors who waited for responses from editors for up to 6 months. And that’s a good agent.
My own personal experience is, if an editor doesn’t respect an agent, the submission is treated basically as slush. In which case, why have an agent… but that’s a whole different blog….

Even the published authors I know have to wait, months sometimes, for their editors to approve proposals, approve finished manuscripts and yet are given very little time to work on art sheets, line edits.
But that’s the nature of this business. I imagine when you become a bestselling author, wait times dramatically reduce..

How do I deal with waiting? Well in my stupider days, I allowed myself to become distracted, didn’t write much, and basically sat and day dreamed about the ‘call’. Now I write and concentrate on the next book I’m sending out. It helps me deal and allows me to do something positive.

How do other people deal? Anyone know of those wonderful stories where an author got an agent and a book deal with in a week?

Just curious, if anyone else’s experiences are different from the ones I know of..

Thursday, March 29, 2007

No follow-through

The other day, I started thinking about great ideas with no follow through.

The Showcase channel in Canada has started screening Huff, which I already watched when it was on the The Movie Network, a couple of years ago. (At the same time it was on whichever US channel, Showtime?, US originally screened it.)

Watching this series again from the beginning, I was reminded of the homeless Hungarian character who was in most of the first season's episodes... at least the first half of the first season.

And it made me think... If you bring an element into a story that's cool or interesting or mystical or different, I think you need to follow through on it. If you just drop it, the audience/reader will be left feeling unsatisfied at best, annoyed at worst. The defection of fans from Lost comes to mind. (Me? I'm still hoping the Lost writers know what the hell is going on and what that black smoke is and why some people are on the list and why some aren't and why Locke can walk on the island. But I admit I'm very naive when it comes to Lost. Who thinks those burried alive people this week will live?)

With Huff, for me, the dropped thread was the Hungarian. I don't know if any of you watched or are watching this show, but I was originally so impressed with it, especially during the first season. Talk about your interesting characters.
A psychiastrist who's basically a really good guy but who's going through a bit of a mid-life and career crisis.
His mother, brilliantly played by Blythe Danner, who gives new meaning to controlling and manipulative.
His wife who tries to be supportive but is pushed the breaking point by Huff's crises, by Huff's mother and by her own problems.
His best friend, played by Oliver Platt, who's a drug-addicted-prostitute-using-brilliantly-successful attorney.
And the lawyer's very cool admin assistant. Love the relationship between Russell and Maggie.

And that's not even touching on Huff's patient characters.

But the Hungarian... In the first few episodes he showed up at some point during each show asking Huff for help and then disappearing in such a way that it was absolutely obvious to the viewer that the Hungarian wasn't real, that he was in Huff's mind, but somehow Huff, the psychiatrist, never seems to figure this out. The Hungarian was a device, I assume, to symbolize Huff's inner turmoil, to help show how Huff is questioning who he is and whether or not he's a good person and whether he's really actually helping any of his patients...

But then the Hungarian just disappears, or rather stops appearing in the episodes.

One must assume that the writers no longer found him a very interesting device or something, because I don't really remember any trigger for him not being there anymore. This made the Hungarian a very unsatisfying literary device, for me anyway. Speaking of unsatisfying... The final episode of Huff was pretty unsatisfying, too... but I have more trouble blaming the writers for that, because this series was cancelled prematurely not allowing the writers to wrap up all the characters' stories properly.

Anyone else watch Huff? Anyone have any different ideas about the Hungarian? Why he was there and why he disappeared??? Was there a trigger or change in Huff that I missed? Or did I miss the connection?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Apologies and Books

So sorry to be such a bad blogger these days. I've been at my parent's house in rural Illinois and it's not that they don't have internet or even a fancy flat screen monitor - it's literally that I've so ENJOYED being unplugged. What a break. You know, it's not until you get off the totally exhausting non stop schedule of checking email that you realize how ridiculous it is. So, I took it one step further and didn't blog either. Apologies. BUT -while not blogging or checking email I have been reading some AMAZING books. AMAZING.

Water For Elephants -- excellent book and an excellent example of what happens when literary writing meets fantastic storytelling meets a super cover. Blockbuster. A bonafide can't put it down blockbuster.

Match Me If You Can -- is it the best Susan Elizabeth Phillips has ever done - no. Strange back story dump and a - for her - sort of blase hero -- however even a bad book of SEP is one of the best books I've read this year. Great heroine and as an addition to Sinead's thought provoking post I would have to add the heroine from Dream a Little Dream. Can't remember her name but man oh man was she something. She might be the heroine I aspire to replicate the most.

The Memory of Running -- just getting into this one but wow. Wow. Again. A beautiful meandering story - excellent storytelling but in a literary fashion Ihave no idea what's going to happen next and it's fantastic.

Silent As The Grave -- again just great storytelling told in a solid not flashy way. Excellent example of subplots and vivid imagery and a really great historical mystery heroine.

So - that's what I've been doing. Maureen? What's new with you??? Hmmmmmm????

Friday, March 23, 2007

My favourite ladies…

As the title might suggest, I’m blogging about heroines.

Been thinking about my current WIP and my heroine lately. She feels a little bland to me. Serviceable, definitely practical, and I’m wondering what I’m going to do to spice her up.
To be fair, she’s not the central character, she’s part of a subplot, cause the romance is a subplot, a major one, but not the core story.. Which could either be really interesting, or me shooting myself in the foot when it comes time to market this book.

I write historicals and while I try and make my heroines fascinating and proactive, they are limited by the restraints of the time period, as well as my own shortcomings as a writer.

I’ve been thinking lately of my favourite heroines. Here’s my list, in no particular order.

1) Anyone who knows me is going to see this coming. Ellen Ripley, Alien, Aliens. I loved her especially in Aliens. She is strong, vulnerable, maternal and completely kick ass. On top of that she’s smart, resourceful and I could go on and on, but she might be my favourite female character ever, and considering the time period when the first Alien came out, one of the earliest true screen heroine’s kicking butt.

2) Buffy. Can’t have this list without Buffy, one of my favourite all time TV shows and a great central character. She became so much more than the Valley girl stereotype in the movie, but again, strong, kick ass, and again vulnerable, with a wonderful sense of humor.

3) Starbuck – Battlestar Galactica – I love that the original character was male and they made him a chick. A chick who’s the best pilot in the fleet, drinks and swears harder than any male on board the ship, and can take a punch with the best of them. I feel they created this character and the last thing they did was define her gender. Then they layered in a sad backstory of abuse and neglect by her mother that explained her self-destructive behavior. I love the contradictions in her, the way she can be cutthroat, but also completely loyal.

4) Jenny Jones – The Promise of Jenny Jones – by Maggie Osborne. I love,love this book, because of Jenny Jones. A large, mean tempered(by her own description) foul mouthed, ungraceful and completely loyal and honest woman who hides her vulnerabilities behind a hard fa├žade. To me Maggie Osborne creates the best heroines out there and Jenny Jones is my favourite of hers.

5) Anita Blake – Laurell K. Hamilton – I loved the first ten of these books, loved the stories, the world building and the sexual tension, but none of these would have worked with out the main character. Anita Blake is capable and straightforward, caring and loyal. A great series till it went off the rails.

There is a theme to my favourite heroines. They all in their own way kick ass. They are all strong, if not physically, then mentally and they all have a deep vulnerability under their hard exteriors.

I believe it’s the contradiction of the strength and vulnerability that makes them so fascinating. They are not all immediately likeable, but they are interesting and intriguing and a benchmark for me.
Benchmarks are important for writers. We need something to use as inspiration, to reach for, and these are my heroine benchmarks.
If I at any point come close, I’ll be a very happy woman.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's Write, not Right!

No, this isn't a post about spelling or diction... it's a post about the highly subjective nature of writing and storytelling.

I've been doing a fair bit of thinking about writing contests recently. Not because I'm entering any right now, but because I'm involved in my local RWA Chapter's contest, to a certain extent. And debating about how much detail the score sheet should have, how specific the questions should be, has got me all fired up.

Writing is an art, not a science. Sure, like any form of art, there are techniques. There are basics to be mastered, skills to be learned. But like art, writing and storytelling would not exist or be so popular, or stimulate so many people's minds and hearts, if everyone painted, drew, sculpted, constructed a chapter, told a story in the same way. Similarly there's no right answer to whether a piece of art or a particular story is "good". What one person loves, the next will hate. It's subjective.

In art schools, budding artists learn by first drawing and painting mundane things, all in the same manner using the same media. They start with cylinders, balls, cones and other shapes, first with pencil, then charcoal, then conte or ink, then paint (if they are painters) or clay (if they are sculptors). Then they move onto apples, oranges and pears (an art school favorite). Then onto more complex still life compositions and then the human form.

After this, in most art programs, the students learn to imitate. They copy the old masters, the impressionists, the great modern artists. They learn techniques by studying and imitating the artists who have gone before them.

But then? After those skills are mastered? Artists are expected to forget all that. No, not to forget, to put all those skills and techniques in a toolbox and start creating art in an entirely new way--their own original way. Being derivative isn't rewarded, even in more commercial areas of art. What everyone loves and rewards and gets excited about, is someone who does something different and interesting. Whether something is "good" or not is entirely up to the viewer of the art. In fact, whether or not it's original versus derivative is also up to the viewer. It's entirely subjective.

I believe that all these things hold true with writing. Even genre writing. Writers learn the basic building blocks of sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters, acts, novels. They learn about careful word choice, avoiding redundancy, clean writing, the advantages of using an active voice and when they might use a passive voice for effect. They study other writers and perhaps do some imitation at first. They learn other skills of storytelling like escalating conflict and point of view and managing the release of information to create the desired emotions and experiences for the reader. They study theories, developed by those who've analyzed storytelling, like "The Hero's Journey" and "Goal, Motivation, Conflict" and "Three Act Plotting".

But how to best use these skills once they are learned? Entirely subjective. If it weren't. If there were one way to do these things, then reading -- particularly reading more than one book within a given genre -- would be hopelessly boring for the reader. Readers don't notice the writer's technique, unless it's dreadfully poorly executed. (Occasionally, if the story's great, they don't even notice when it's poorly executed -- evidence that little religious thriller that did pretty well a few years ago.) Readers know when they are drawn into a story, when they are pulled along so they can't put the book down. When they are entertained.

Now I completely agree that genres have conventions and this is particularly true in the romance genre. Romance readers know what they like.

That said. Romance readers are the most voracious flavour of reader on the planet. Romance accounts for over 50% of all paperbacks sold and I've met countless readers, since I began my association with RWA, who read a book a day, minimum.

Now if all those books were executed in exactly the same way. If all the events unfolded exactly as expected and in the same order. If all the characters behaved predictably, the same way they behaved in every other book... Wouldn't readers get bored??? Of course they would. That's why the common claim that romances have a "formula" irks romance writers and readers alike. Sure there's technique involved. Great writers in the genre have developed ways to maximize the reader's enjoyment and there's much to be learned by studying those techniques. Sure there are conventions like happy endings. But there isn't a "formula" and there aren't "rules" and even for the most ingrained conventions like happy endings, there are highly successful exceptions.

I've been to a lot of writers conferences over the past 2-3 years. Too many, some may argue. But as a result, I've probably heard no less than 30 different editors and probably double as many agents discuss what they're looking for and the most common mistakes/problems they see in submissions.

What is it? It's that the writing is boring. That it lacks spark. That the story is too derivative of others already published. Too cliche. When writers ask editors, "What are you looking for?" The most common answer is, "A good story." When writers ask, "What's the next big trend coming along?" Most editors answer, "You tell us. You're the writers. You're the creative ones, the ones inventing the characters and unique story lines."

So, back to contests and score sheets... With all this inherent subjectivity, with editors wanting something "different", how is it even remotely possible to create a score sheet that can judge precisely, without bias, some one's storytelling and proclaim whether or not they did it "right"? One person's "right" is another person's "wrong".

One of the biggest challenges in running a contest is that, not only the entrants, but also the judges will be at different skill levels, different places along their journey to becoming great (or even good) writers. Some entrants will still be at the learning the mechanics stage. Some judges will still be learning to recognize whether or not the mechanics were properly applied. Some judges will be stuck at some point in the past, thinking the best practices when they were learning are still the best practices now.

But with any luck some entrants will be very close to publication. Some entrants may have moved beyond the mechanics stage and onto manipulating the tools in their toolbox in their own unique ways. To me, the most important goal of a contest is to maximize the chances that those entries which will be of most interest to the editors, the ones closest to publication, are the ones which final. Second to that, is for the judges to provide excellent and useful feedback for the entrants, so that, no matter which stage they're at, entrants learn something to help them move on to the next stage. That's where it becomes extra-difficult, because some judges will be less experienced than some entrants... but that's one of the foibles/realities of peer judged contests. You pay your entry fee and roll the dice hoping at least one judge who looks at your work knows more than you and/or will have something useful to tell you or will simply give you a great score. And lets face it. Even if all the judges were agents and editors, anyone who's submitted knows that even agents and editors can't agree on what's "good". But they can usually agree on which entries don't have the basics down.

So we can judge the basics. Does the writer understand "show don't tell", do they know how to use POV effectively. How's their use of grammar, their spelling? Is the storytelling gripping? If it isn't gripping, why? Is there no conflict? No emotion? No setting? Too much of any of the above? Is the dialogue stilted or artificial? Are the characters flat or stereotyped? There are lots of things that could be "wrong" if a story doesn't grip us. (Including personal bias...)

But if the story is gripping. If a judge picks up the pages and reads them straight through and wishes there were more to read... who the fuck cares whether the external or internal conflict is resolved first, or whether the heroine uses her sense of smell, or whether there's chemistry the first time the hero and heroine meet or whether, in the first chapter, the reader can fully understand all the reasons behind each characters' actions?

Bottom line. There is no one way to write a story, even a genre specific story. Because of this, it's impossible, and in my opinion wrong-headed, to try to create a scoring system to pretend differently.

Right and write may be homonyms, but they they have entirely different meanings.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Writing time.

I met with a friend for coffee one evening this past week. This is a rare occurrence for both of us, as we both have young kids to get fed, bathed and put to bed and by the time this is done, it’s usually 7:30 or eight.

But we carved out the time, which was really nice. Not only to spend some time talking about adult things, but also to discuss the time constraints involved with our lifestyles.

This woman has a full time, busy job, comes home, takes care of her kids and if she’s lucky, the work/mothering portion of her day ends around 9pm. Then she’s back up in the morning at 5:30am.

And she was berating herself for not writing as much as she would like to. My response was ‘when’. By the time her kids are in bed, she’s exhausted and has zero mental energy.
I have a slightly easier schedule than this woman, lunch hours, a couple more hours in the evening, which I waste watching of all things, American Idol. But I’ve sort of rearranged my life to free up these hours. Taken less challenging jobs, I don’t work overtime, and I have a really helpful husband. But not everyone has this luxury.

I know there are tons and tons of working women out there trying to find time to write, some successfully, usually at the expense of sleep, or relaxation time. Others less so, and maybe like this friend of mine, feel guilty at how little they get done. Her wording was ‘fraud’ to think of herself as a writer and to go to our local chapter meetings.

What makes it worse are the stories out there. Women with five kids and a full time job writing five books in two years, full time mothers writing four books a year. I bow to these woman, but man are they setting the bar high for the rest of us.
Hell, all I have to do is look at Molly. Who has written three books in the past year, as well as take care of her infant son full time.
These are amazing examples and while inspirational, can also make the rest of us mortals feel guilty.

That’s a lot of pressure on top of what is already a full day for so many women. Screw guilt. Do what you can, for the love of it, but ignore the stories of what everyone else accomplishes. I’m trying to, not always successfully.

This isn’t a free ride for everyone out there to surf the internet and not write(I’m lecturing myself at this point…must stop surfing the web…), but let’s cut ourselves some slack. We can’t be superwomen, it’s exhausting, mentally draining and how can we be creative when all we can think of is getting another hour of sleep?

Some excuses are valid.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Images and brands and websites, oh my!

I've been working with a designer on a website this past week and struggling with a bit of an identity crisis. The designer went way above and beyond the call of duty creating about 3 times as many preliminary designs for me to consider than we'd originally agreed on... And yet, none of them seem to be quite right. I'm torn between two choices and they're very different from each other.

And I know I picked a good designer. And I know she "gets" me. But we're both having a terrible time finding some kind of graphic image or photograph (at a reasonable cost) that really represents me. It's like every commercial graphic artist over the past ten years has drawn images of women in the same style, and to me that style's not only boring and overdone but also "too cute" or "too silly" for what I write.

I guess my identity crisis stems from the fact that if I know what I want and can't find an image to represent it... Is what I want too out there?

One issue is that I don't write in a super-distinct genre. Yes, I write commercial women's fiction, which is certainly a genre, but a pretty broad and loosely defined one. And what does "commercial women's fiction" mean, anyway? To me it means books for women that hopefully will have a wide appeal, because they're fun, easy to read and have happy endings. Hmmm... Is that the definition of commercial vs literary women's fiction? Might be. But obviously romance meets that description and so does chick lit... So it has to be refined to also say "where the main plot is not a romance". And maybe "where the heroine isn't a twenty-something woman trying to find herself". But that's where the definition becomes trickier... because I think the chick lit genre is really defined by voice more than plot and frankly has also been defined by the graphic images put on the authors' books and websites...

So where I have trouble with an exact definition of what I do write... I do know what I don't write. I don't write literary fiction. I don't write thrillers. I don't write romance. I don't write chick lit. Although what I write is much closer to chick lit than it is to romance... I've heard the term up-scale chick lit bandied about and I guess I wouldn't hate it if someone used that to describe my work. But all that said, I don't want my website to look like a stereotypical chick lit writer's website. I want something different. I want my website to say, hey! Here's someone coloring outside the lines a little. Someone who might make me think as well as laugh. But I also want to appeal to a wide audience...

What's a kind of artsy writer-chick to do?

How do I create an image that represents "me", "my writing", "my brand", when I still haven't sold a book and am miles away from having an actual book cover?

Some may ask, "Why bother trying?" Or at least, "Why stress about it so much?" But I disagree. I have a suspicion that this may be the only point in my entire writing career where I have any real control over my image. Once I do sell a book, people in the publishing house's marketing and art departments, who'll probably only read little snippets of my book, will start making these decisions for me. And I know I'm probably naive about this next bit... but if I've already created a strong image or brand, my eventual publisher may use that as a base or inspiration for my book covers. (Okay, maybe that's delusional... but possible? It's certainly not possible if I haven't done it.)

One way or another, I do think it my website is important even though I don't have any books yet.

Am I putting too much pressure on myself? Sometimes I wish all I had to do was write.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Secret

A few weeks ago I finally used up a gift certificate I'd been given to a swanky downtown spa. I got a sitter, a fancy coffee and settled in for a manicure, pedicure and a facial. About ten minutes into my relaxing day all about me -- in fact just after I had said the words "how are you?" to the woman providing me with all this relaxation and I'm Not A Waitress toenails - she opened her mouth and spent the next three and a half hours burying me in her horrible life story. Horrible. Little girl dying. Husband leaving. Boyfriend lying. No money. etc.... great -- very relaxing. And then at the end she asks me if I've read The Secret. I haven't -- but I've seen it's cover on Amazon and I thought it looked like a fantastic historical romance and was waiting for Sinead to read it and tell me if I should. So, this lovely woman who has spent three hours talking non-stop about terrible things to me, a stranger, tells me that this book is about putting positive things out in the universe so positive things will come back to her.

She told me in a very honest way that that's what she was doing. She was putting positive energy out there to get positive things in return. I stared at her dumbfounded and told her I had to leave before she finished the facial. I did, however, give her a good tip - but I will NEVER go back.

Anyway - what does this have to do with writing? I think as a profession writing breeds in writers a black hole of negativity. The rejection, the wait time, the constant publication of books you don't think are as good as yours, the dealing with people and personalities that are constantly rude, combative or over-sensitive. This is a tough job and it can wear on us and make the kindest of us turn into !$%holes. And lately, I've been a big one. I've felt miserly and mean-spirited and closeminded - which let me tell you is no state of mind for writing romance novels or novels of any kind. As corny as this is going to sound and I can't beleive I'm writing it but writing is really at it's foundation about sharing. Points of view, entertainment, thoughts on the world, a good laugh, a voracious thrill -- you get the point. And trying to get all that done from a dark little corner of self-obsession and disappointment does not work.

However, I didn't really realize I was in that place until this weekend. Toronto Romance Writers had it's annual critique group meeting -- writers bring in five pages of thier work to be critiqued by a published member of the group and a selection of their peers. I don't need to tell you that this can be awful -- the peers can be cruel, the writer can be combative or obtuse or overly sensitive and I can say the wrong thing and watch the writer crumple a little bit. It's always a crap shoot -- but not this year. NEVER have I had such a group of kind professionals. And watching these people be kind and generous to each other reminded me that I want to be kind and generous, too. In general. In my career.

So last night I met a college student writing a paper on romance novels for a coffee. I was a journalism student once too - and I remember how grateful I was when someone would actually talk to me. And she was grateful and I tried a Vanilla Creme at Starbucks -- win win.

So, this long point to this rambling post is -- I'm shaking it off. The crappy attitude. The overly-critical outlook. And I'm working towards kind and generous. I feel better already.

But really? That picture of Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent -- yikes!!!

Not really a post

Just had to post a photo of Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent from the Blackadder series... Now do you understand why I had trouble seeing him as sexy until the House character came along????

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Endings

Been thinking about this for a while as I approach the end of my current WIP.

Thought about it even more as I watched House last night. First, I want to declare my everlasting love for Hugh Laurie. The infatuation started in Sense and Sensibility. He had a small role, but I loved him in that movie. You can definitely see the genesis of the House character there.

Back to the point. House needs to end. I love the character, love the actor, but the show seems to have exhausted what they can do with him and his cottages, as Television without pity calls the three doctors under him.

Last night (spoiler alert) they introduced the idea that House might be dying and you know what, I liked it. And much to my dismay they crapped out on the concept.
Cowards!
It would have been a great way to end the show, on their terms, lots of dramatic possibility and then the show ends before it gets derivative and boring.
For examples, see Friends, and as much as I hate to admit it, even Buffy. The last two seasons of those shows were never as strong as the first few for me.

You can see it in other shows, an amazing concept that the writers never planned to last past one season. Prison Break, Lost, even at times, my absolute fav, Battlestar Galactica, although that last one has serious flashes of brilliance in it’s third season.

With the upcoming Harry Potter 7th book, I think, even though she needed to be edited more over the past two books, that Rowling made a smart choice limiting the series to seven. She said it from the beginning and I really hope she sticks to it.

Even within stand alone books, I find endings to be a serious problem sometimes. Authors extend the endings, tack on suspense plots in the last third, misunderstandings or long, long scenes that add nothing to the plot, just to get to 400 pages, when realistically the book should have ended 100 pages sooner and been so much stronger for it.

But endings are tough for me. They’re the hardest part of the book for me to write and I tend to rush them.

And now, it’s time to end this blog entry…. before I ramble on aimlessly any more.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Can't Get No Respect....Matt Damon

I used to really love watching In The Actor's Studio. I loved actors talking about craft in pretentious and uncomfortable ways -- I loved the way James Lipton would fall to his knees for even the most mediocre movies (ie Ben Affleck in Bounce -- PLEASE??!!!) There are things I learned watching the Mike Meyers episode and the Tom Hanks episode that I still think about -- that I still try to keep in my own process and work life. But now it's turned into this vehicle for movie studios and the guests get shipped off to the James Lipton walk down memory lane just like the do for Lettermen or Leno. Terrible. Just terrible.

But tonight there he was in all his All-American, guy next door who grew up to be smart and sexy and still kind of awkward in a smart and sexy way -- Matt Damon. And as Lipton is going on and on about his life in Cambridge (when in the world did I get the idea that Damon and Affleck really were from the south side of Boston? I like them just slightly less -- Affleck more so -- still not over the Bennifer days and the hours of my life I won't get back from reading US Magazine at the gym). And Damon is being both smart and charming and real. And then he gets to the movies and WOW! this guy has been in some incredible movies. The Talented Mr. Ripley? How scary and creepy and vulnerable and sad was he in that movie (the bath scene when he asks Jude Law if he want's Damon to get in with him?). Courage Under Fire -- he's gone on record to talk about how much it hurt that no one seemed to notice how much weight he lost or how good he was in that movie -- but let me second that. He was really good.

The Rainmaker? Private Ryan? Though for me that movie belongs to Giovanni Ribisi. The unbelievably worrisome Gerry. He's really something to watch in the Departed and he is electric and suprising in the Bourne Movies. To say nothing of Stuck on You and of course - don't get me started on Good Will Hunting.

So? Why can't the guy get an award or at least a nomination? Is it his looks? His relationship to the Black Hole that is Affleck -- though he got a Golden Globe nod this year...

In the Actor's Studio tonight Damon let his resentment show a little regarding awards and his lack of them when he mentioned that over acting and bad acting always gets noticed - people stand up and cheer for it. He then made some kind of weepy hysterical face and then said "who the fuck does that?" I loved it. Anyway -- why not Damon. He was in two big movies this year - Departed and The Good Shepard?

What do you think? And further -- who do you think gets no respect and should...besides Stephen King. He's got all the cold hard, green stacks of respect that anyone really could wish for.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Genre Fiction vs Literary Fiction...

I don’t have many more interesting things to say about the Oscars. I love them for the pomp, pretty dresses and the annual pat on the back for an industry who really doesn’t need any more pats on the back.

But I also know they don’t usually give the Oscar to the best picture of the year. The best example I can think of this is when Forrest Gump beat out Pulp Fiction for best picture. Or Roberto Benigni beating out Edward Norton for best actor. Sometimes the choices haven’t made sense to me. But, it's all subjective.

I have no literary aspirations, none. I’m interested solely in telling entertaining, engrossing stories and in my over simplistic approach, that’s how I assess everything. To me the best in literary fiction and in genre fiction tells a fascinating story with engrossing characters.

Books like the Poisonwood Bible, Fall on Your Knees, The Lovely Bones and so many more I could list, all tell amazing stories. The best in genre fiction, be it Stephen King, Michael Connelly or Susan Elizabeth Phillips, also all tell amazing stories, and hey look, they’re bestsellers.

I’m sure there are some wonderful literary authors who write incredible books who toil in mid list obscurity, as well as some amazing genre authors, but great stories connect with a wide range of people and subsequently sell a lot of books.

So to the literary author who grouses they don’t get the sales or publicity of a Stephen King, I say write a better story.

Simple, but that's what genre writers know, that perhaps Literary authors are still trying to figure out..
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