Friday, June 26, 2009

Brilliant isn't always fun

I have a terrible admission. (Molly, prepare yourself) I have had the 4th season of the wire at my house, waiting to be watched, for almost a week and still haven't cracked it open.
And may not tonight.

We drunk writers have not been shy about our admiration for this show, and I certainly have loved it, the dialogue, the way the plot twists, and drama that seems completely true to life and really, characters like Omar and Stringer. There is a reason why this show has been hailed as the best television ever.

And when I'm immersed in a season, I watch it quickly.
But I never tear open the DVD case like a kid with a present on Christmas morning.
I know the season will have it's highs and lows and will tear my heart out while awing me with it's brilliance. I know this, and still the excitement I should have isn't there.

Because what's missing, and what keeps the Wire from being in my top three TV shows, is that sense of fun, and uplifting moments and sheer exhilaration that I got from Battlestar, or Firefly, or even True Blood.
Shows that really, in execution and scripts have more flaws, but I still find more fun to watch.
And I do love the Wire, but will I want to watch it again, just for the sheer pleasure of enjoying great TV, well, I'm not sure.

It reminds me of the movies that I loved passionately while watching, but never really felt the need to re-watch, like The English Patient, or Dogville, or even Saving Private Ryan. While I've watched Star Wars, and 10 Things I hate about you and Terminator over and over.
But in the next three days, I will open that DVD case and start the season and from there, I will once again, be immersed in the great TV that is the Wire.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bleary eyes

Dang. I should have posted before my eye doctor appointment. Pupils are uber dilated, and I just survived (barely) the most horrendous, terrifying, exhausting walk in the heat and sunshine from the hospital where I had the snaps of my retinas taken to the dark corner of a Starbucks where I sit now trying like hell to see what I'm typing.

For the second time in about a month, I am so close to blind it's scary. I can barely see my screen. I don't realize how much of my days I spend either typing or reading until I can't really do either.

I tried to comment on another blog (actually a new groiup blog I'm part of, check it out) and it took me about three minutes of squinting and blinking and staring to figure out the stupid word for the spam check. It was readers. And not even typed in that distorted a font. For most people. Right now, I might as well by typing in wing dings. (Please excuse typos.)

So much for getting any work done today. Crap. Why doesn't this book just write itself? Maybe I should go to the movies. Who cares if Sandra Bullock is fuzzy. Ryan on the other hand...

My head hurts.


Monday, June 22, 2009

We don't talk much about our drinking problems....

I have had a drinking Renaissance. I am a born again drinker. And what you may ask has brought me to this new level of imbibing? Martini's. That's right. In particular a cucumber and thyme martini with real bits of lemon and cucumber in it. I'm a beer girl from way back - but those days are over. I want ice cold glasses and garnishes of fresh mint and green grapes (can't even remember what that drink was - I was the drunkest person at a very swanky wedding last weekend. You honestly don't want to know, but I'll tell you anyway - I passed out in my hotel room at 8 pm with a mouth full of chocolate shake. It's a low point. Delicious. But low.)

So outside of drinking, I've done little to no writing. Little to no thinking. But I read some GREAT books - The Kitchen Boy, about the imprisonment and assassination of the Romanov's. Awesome book. And so help me - Belong To Me, the sequel to one of the best freaking books I read last year - Love Walked In. I cried non-stop from LA back to Toronto.

I think it's going to be a good drinking summer - I'm gonna buy a blender.

Friday, June 19, 2009

It's a thin line between character and plot

Have you ever read a book where it seems that the writer loved their character so much that they wrote even the smallest scenes, scenes that did illuminate some other facet of the character, but did little else?
Am reading the third in a trilogy right now, and the same character has been the lead in each book and I'm skimming large chunks of the third. We know this character too well now, that focusing in on her, and her interactions with those around her, just feels repetitious.

It reminds me of a great line from The Truth about Cats and Dogs. Love your character, but don't Love your character. (line bastardized for my purposes)

What was a fascinating mystery and character study in book one has become long and drawn out and really, boring, by book three.
Not everyone would agree with my assessment. I'm certain some readers must have loved this book. It's a fine line, because every reader is different.

Some readers love the intricate details of a character study, others want fast paced but in there somewhere, is a balance. And it's why writing is so freakin' hard, because the balance is different for each author, each book, and there is no equation, or course, or graph. There is just writing the scenes and seeing if they work.

But there are ways to illuminate character in short, but vivid ways. Watched the episode 1 of Tru Blood this week. And the elements that bothered me about the show were still there. I find the dialogue between Sookie and Bill still really stilted, and their relationship is still my least favourite storyline, but the rest is ridiculously great.
Love Tara and the way she is on the edge of peril, in a way we don't understand, but am salivating to discover. Love Jason, even if his stupidity is broadly drawn and the Lafayette in the cellar storyline had to be the highlight of my week.
What topped it all off, was Eric coming down and tearing apart one of the other cellar dwellers, in a vicious, bloodthirsty fashion, all while wearing highlight foils in his hair.
The foils were a brilliant touch. You have a vicious vampire who highlights his hair. Perfect character details in ten seconds.
Could not love this show more right now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Perfect Little Movie

This has been a depressing six to ten months for movies for me. To understand this fully, you must understand that I saw approximately seventy to eighty films in 2008. At least. In the theatres. (That is not counting DVD's and on TV.) And 2008 wasn't an incredibly unusual year for me.

This year has been more unusual. We are almost half-way through, and I'm barely into the double digits.

Last fall's TIFF was disappointing, and I don't know if it was that, but somehow I lost my typical enthusiasm for going to the movies. Part of this is because I got caught up on some great TV like Battlestar Galactica and Mad Men and The Wire and True Blood and Project Runway. But part of it was I just didn't feel inspired to go out to the movies, and every time I did, I ended up thinking I'd have spent my time better watching high brow TV like Make Me a Supermodel or Paris' BFF.

Other than Star Trek, I hadn't seen a film I enjoyed in a really, really long time.

And while I did enjoy Star Trek, a lot, it's not really my favorite genre of film, and since this was my highlight, it felt like AGES since I'd seen a film I truly loved. A film that made me laugh and cry and feel better (or worse) about the world. Last week I went to see The Taking of Pelham 123 (boring) and My Life in Ruins (inane). Not sure why I went to either of those films except that there was little else playing I wanted to see more.

But I finally saw a great film tonight. Away We Go.

What a lovely, smart, well acted, well written, well directed film. Just about everything worked for me in this movie. Okay, can't think of anything that didn't work for me. Don't know why I hedged that.

And nice to see Sam Mendes doing a movie with a true heart after the great but depressing Revolutionary Road. Away We Go is basically about a couple searching out family and a sense of home when they're six months pregnant. Kind of nesting on a big scale. And it's just so genuinely funny and tender and real. At least I'd like to think people like their characters exist in real life. That relationships like theirs exist in real life.

I went in knowing almost nothing about this movie and I'm glad. In fact, if you can avoid seeing trailers, avoid it. Just go. Not that there are any real spoilers in the trailer (I saw the trailer just an hour after seeing the film, because I also went to see Easy Virtue... not as good).

Instead of talking about the story, (or how great Maggie Gyllenhaal was in her small part) I'd just like to mention why I'd like to buy the DVD when it comes out. I've been taking an online class on body language in an attempt to take my characters beyond smiling and shrugging... And watching the pitch perfect performances of the actors in this film made me want to study bits of it frame by frame and then try to describe the facial reactions. One scene in particular, where Allison Janney is listening to her husband talk, while the two of them are out for dinner with the Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski characters, was priceless. With just her face, we see frustration, embarrassment, anger and then a combination of acceptance, defeat and maybe even a hint of love. Brilliant.

And Jim from the Office can act. Wow. LOVED him in this movie. Seriously loved him. Want to marry him now.

So glad I got my movie mojo back.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Is YA the most exciting genre happening right now?

Let me start by saying, it is a travesty that I'm writing a blog on YA. I know little about it and up till maybe a few weeks ago, I had the stupid, and uneducated opinion that YA was about orphaned wizards, or vampires who don't have sex.
But I was lucky enough this week to spend twenty minutes at Maureen's house, and peruse her books, and picked up a couple of YA's both of which went on to blow my little mind.

The first was, The Dust of a Hundred Dogs. It's about a pirate, a teenager, who is cursed at her death, to spend her next hundred lifetimes as a dog, until she is finally reincarnated as a human, who remembers her pirate life.

The second was The Hunger Games, which, and I've only read the first chapter, completely enthralled me. I am seriously salivating to get my hands on this book, based only on the first chapter. It's set in an alternate world, features a seventeen year old girl, who has to compete in a fight to the death with twenty-three other teens.

Both books are really dark, and the premise of both is imaginative and well thought out, and like nothing in the romance genre.
As far as I can tell, the only limiting factor in the YA genre is age, your main character can't be fifty, but otherwise, almost anything goes.
The other common factor of those two books, was the voice of the main character was crisp and clear and leaped off the page. So amazing writing is also part of the package.
So I'm going to hunt down more YA books. Or maybe just scour Maureen's house again, and take all the books she's been telling me to read for the past while.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Storylines That Arc Over More Than One Book or Does Anyone Really Care About The Spinner Falls' Traitor?

We're bad bloggers - and so I'm jumping in here with something that's top of my mind right now. Over-arcing storylines. Trilogies or more with some sort of mystery that needs to be solved, or plot line that threads through every book.

My question is this - does it really work? Really?

I am reading Elizabeth Hoyt's newest - To Beguile A Beast and she has a very excellent plot line/mystery through all her books -- who is the traitor? As plot lines go it's got it all - intrigue, betrayal, torture and death and let me tell you - I could care less. Don't get me wrong, I'm heavily invested in what the events at Spinner Falls did to the heroes of the books - but as for the traitor...don't care. I skim those parts. It just doesn't seem to have any impact. No forward momentum and not enough emotion tied to it.

Now, if Hoyt can't pull it off, can anyone?

I was thinking of Brockman and her storylines over more than one book and they're usually romantic. One couple's romance gets told over several books and that's some good writing. Some good storytelling. Captivating. Until she blew it and wrote a whole book for that couple where there was no tension because she'd used it all in the previous seven books. But a romantic story arc isn't quite the same thing as that over arcing mystery.

So, then I was thinking of one of my favorite trilogies of all time Nora Roberts' Chesapeake Bay books - if you haven't read these books - do it. Even if you aren't a fan of Nora (which I'm not) these books are absolutely the bee's knees. But the mystery introduced in the first book - who is this kid? Gets resolved in the first book - he's the brother's father's grandkid. (Complicated - there's a lot of adoption in there.And I'm not really ruining anything, if you thought that was a spoiler.) So after that the mystery turns into a problem -- how to deal with this kid. And that gets escalated into --how to deal with the kid's mother. So the mystery isn't really a mystery but an ever-changing subplot. And more importantly, I think, a super super emotional subplot.

So my new feeling is this; if a mystery is raised in the first book, it might be best to solve that mystery in the first book. But it's the fallout that drives the following books, or at least impacts the characters and plots. That way it keeps rolling forward, driving things along and becomes unskimmable.

P.S. Smurphy, Beguile a Beast is great, by the way - but it is no Not Quite A Husband. It's not even close.

Friday, June 05, 2009


It's warm and sunny outside, and while I might be working, it's Friday and tomorrow, the weather forecasts tell me, it will be more of the same.
Love the beginning of summer, not just because of the weather, but there always seems to be a sense of anything is possible through May and June. I stay up longer, day dream more and plan out my weekends like each one is precious.
And, perhaps, because there is little on TV, I spend more time reading and writing, and in the movie theater. I love the trailers for summer movies, and the possibility that the movie might live up the promise of the trailer. I love the fantasy of spending a week on a chaise by a pool, reading all my TBR pile, while someone ensures my drink is always full. (Sadly, this will not happen this year, or probably anytime soon).
Maybe it's the extra Vitamin D coursing through my bloodstream, but I get my best ideas during the summer. So right now, while everyone else is figuring out all the outdoor activities they can fit into their schedule, I'm sorting out how many hours of writing I can squeeze into the next two days.
And anxiously awaiting the second season of True Blood. The trailers look amazing.. can't wait.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Boy, I almost missed another Wednesday. Bad blogger.

I'm currently running my RWA chapter's contest and the entry deadline was Monday night, so swamped doesn't begin to describe it.

And I'm also at the beginning of another project -- one I promised my agent she'd see something on before we meet in DC in just over a month. So, yikes.

The start of new projects are a time that can be both exciting and scary for me. A time I love if the ideas are coming, characters are forming, and the story is falling into place, but a time I hate if I keep going over the same issues in my mind over and over without finding solutions. A time I hate if I keep thinking too much about the market and how my work fits into it. A time when I, personally, need to be thinking about little other than my story.

What a great time to be spending 10-12 hours a day on contest matters and putting out fires, and trying to solve puzzles like how to divide up 100 judges, all with preferences re genre and limits on the number of entries they'll judge, across nearly 500 scoresheets that need to be completed, rather than the puzzle of my plot. Fun. Fun. Fun.

My mind can't handle too many puzzles at once. And based on the 25 pages of crap I've written for my ms this far... I need to stop and puzzle out more of my plot and start again.

Why are some books so hard?

BTW. This is NOT what I was going to post about when I started typing. Go figure. Brain broken.
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