Friday, July 22, 2005
Plus, watching Mr. Law be his beautiful self got me thinking about the heroes I write, specifically about their eye color. In one shot of the film, the lighting was such that his eyes were a true green, the kind of green you read described in romance novel after romance novel but rarely if ever encounter in real life. This, of course, sent me scrambling for images of Jude Law so I could capture that green-ness for future reference. But most of what I found indicates his eyes must range from true blue to a blue-green, none of the images containing that same green I’d seen in the movie. Not that I'm complaing about what I did find, mind you.
Whatever exact color they are, I consider Jude Law’s eyes to be of the Paul Newman caliber. I use Paul as my benchmark since his have to be probably the prettiest set of eyes to hit the big screen. Even as he’s aged, those icy blues retain the ability to dazzle:
Then there’s Elijah Wood, whose own eyes are such a pure blue the digital enhancement performed on them for Lord of the Rings seemed superfluous.
Another of my favorite light-irised actors is Viggo Mortensen. His eyes can appear so pale that they seem translucent.
What is it about beautiful light-colored eyes that I find so appealing? And I’m not just talking in famous people.
We have a good friend whose eyes are the palest pale gray, and I think they are just lovely. My son’s eyes are the color of faded denim, and I hope they retain that particular shade because they are also large and fringed by thick eyelashes, speaking of a future as a true lady killer. I could look at his eyes for hours at a time.
My own eyes have run the range from sage green all the way to turquoise when I put on particular sweaters, although normally I’d call them a muddy mixture of blue/green/gray. I don’t find them beautiful by any means, but I like knowing that the shade changes.
To be fair, it’s not only light colored eyes that appeal to me. It’s any eye color out of the ordinary. My husband has deep brown eyes, so dark they appear almost black. The color of rich chocolate, and I find them beautiful, much like those of Goran Visnjic.
I’ve seen countless sets of hazel eyes that really are beautiful, especially on women. Demi Moore has gorgeous hazel eyes.
Kristin Kreuk of Smallville has stunning eyes.
I think the way Julia Roberts’ eyes match her reddish auburn hair is very cool.
And I tune in to NBC Nightly News so I can admire Brian Williams’ eyes, which perfectly match the charcoal gray suits he so often wears. Sorry, no picture of Brian’s eyes. Couldn’t find any. I don't think we're supposed to be waxing poetic on the color of an important and serious newscaster's eyes.
But whatever color, one thing seems to be universal when it comes to the heroes and heroines of my books. They must have gorgeous eyes. I’m not talking your run of the mill sky blue or hazel flecked with green and gold. They are always so striking that they become the character’s most attractive feature.
I have to work on changing this, of course. Because a world populated by Newman-eyed people is not only completely unrealistic but it dilutes the impact. Not every single one of my heroes can have a piercing silver stare, because then he wouldn’t be special.
What I find so often in reading romance is when the character has eyes a color that goes against what you'd expect. Usually this is the raven haired hero or heroine with bright blue eyes. I remember reading in Priscilla Presley's autobiography Elvis and Me how Elvis found a black-haired woman with blue eyes to be the epitome of beauty. Thus she spent a good portion of her formative years dying her hair jet black. Most of the time, though, I don't know how heroes and heroines manage to pull off their unique eye colors without the aid of colored contact lenses. Most blue-eyed blonds are of the average blue, not the drop dead, color of the sea after a tempest tossed night blue. Most brown-eyed folks aren't doe-eyed nor do they have chips of mocha radiating outward to a ring of obsidian. They're just an ordinary brown, as far as I've noticed. Not so in romance novels because normal brown and blue just won't do.
However, I do feel better about writing people with drop-dead gorgeous eyes because I know there are some really out there. Sure, I have yet to meet a man or woman with tawny, golden-colored eyes which I’ve seen described but can’t imagine on anyone human. Too, I'm not really sure what eyes the color of a new leaf would look like, nor sapphire eyes or eyes the color of flaming emeralds (how, exactly, to emeralds flame?). I know Liz Taylor is famed to have violet eyes, but I suppose I just haven't met her up close and personal to see how purple they truly are. It seems in fiction, eye colors can reflect every single hue of the Crayola color chart, the deluxe 64 count box even. Perhaps the reds and oranges should be reserved for the paranormal and villains, though.
I guess that means if I stick to the blues and greens and hazels and browns, there’s plenty to work with where I can find real examples of what my mind’s eye sees.
After all, the windows to Jude Law's soul are the most perfect shade of Caribbean blue.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Except, honestly, even if I were an RWA member, I have to admit that I'd be scared to death to go to the conference. As an unpublished writer, I rank somewhere on the same level as the bus boys as far as importance goes. I have no contacts yet, and the idea of going to this place where everyone knows everyone else is more terrifying to me than the prospect of standing up in front of a room full of strangers and giving a speech. I'd rather give a workshop at Reno than be an attendee because then I wouldn't be expected to hobnob.
I'm not a big party person. My favorite kinds of gatherings are the small, intimate type, with a handful of really great friends who all know each other well. When it comes to going to big bashes where I know perhaps only the host or hostess, I'd make up any excuse to get out of it. I don't find the prospect of meeting new people adventurous or exciting. It makes me sick to my stomach.
Not that I'm socially inept. I can small-talk with the best of them. I've honed my diplomacy skills through years of professional project management that have required me to stroke more egos than an LA talent scout. I know how to gush and fawn over those who think they deserve it, to feign interest in those who might one day think they deserve it, and to buddy it up to those who some day in the distant future might be in a place to give me, that cool chick they met in Reno, a mention in the right ear. I'm not a wallflower who would remain in her room, too scared to join the masses.
But even so, I'd hate every second that I stood on the edge of the crowd, shifting my drink from hand to hand while I looked for a loner person who might not mind if a total stranger nobody started talking to him or her. I'd loathe those moments when I hung on the fringe of some circle, wanting to understand the inside jokes and laughing as though I did, wishing that I'd already paid my dues in time spent to become one of the in-crowd. I'd glance at my watch, wondering how much face time I still needed to put in before I could return to the haven of my hotel room. Then once I had returned, I'd sit on the edge of my bed consumed in guilt and remorse over missing the party that continued without me, wondering if I shouldn't go back down to the big ballroom but wanting more than anything not to.
I hope by the time I'm ready to go to Reno, I've made a few real live writer friends who will come with me. I guess despite my near 40 age, inside I'm still that 13 year old girl who wants her friends to come with her to the bathroom.
Because actually, the idea of a few days away from the family to attend what is virtually a non-stop party with a whole bunch of people who have the same interests and passions I do sounds like a blast. I just need someone to hold my hand until I've gotten a start.
Conference going training wheels, if you will.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
I happen to fall in the first group. I love to read books in a series, where the same characters populate the world and show up for guest appearances. Wait, I have to qualify that. I love series that are done very well. I don't like secondary characters that have been shoved in simply to set up a future book when otherwise they have nothing whatsoever to do with the current plot. And I do get tired of books about a group of brothers or best buddies who are all identical hero-types with simply a change in hair and eye color who all pair off with groups of sisters or best friends who are all identical fiesty heroine-types with simply a change of hair and eye color.
But that's not good storytelling, regardless of whether the characters have known each other in past books or have nothing to do with each other. If a writer doesn't change her characters enough from book to book to make them all distinguishable, it's not a problem of being a series verus a stand-alone effort. It's just sloppy writing.
Even if you don't love series books, you have to recognize that when it's done well, it's a pretty amazing thing. Because one thing I've learned on my quest for publication is that plotting over multiple books is very, very hard.
There is a talent involved in putting all of the characters into the proper positions. Of knowing who to feature in which book and when and why. What stories have to be told in what order, so that Heroine A isn't five years old in Book 1, then having a wild romance in Book 2 which occurs a mere six months later, and then is entering high school in Book 3. Continuity begins to rule your life.
And if secondary characters need to develop over time, the order of the books becomes even more critical. As an example, I turn to the master of the series and continuing character arcs, Suzanne Brockmann. Take the Sam and Alyssa relationship: they meet in Book 1 of the series. They first have sex in Book 2. They experience much angst - including Sam's impregnating and marrying another woman - in Books 3 through 5, and it isn't until Book 6 that they finally find their HEA. Through six books their relationship needed to move forward without coming to an early end. There's a fine line between stalling and real conflict in why these two take so long to get together, and Brockmann's works it very well.
I'm saying all of this because I currently have an entire stable full of heroes who are all connected and will be coming and going in each other's stories. They'll each end up with a book of their own, but deciding who does what and when is a real challenge.
What is even more challenging is when an idea for a later book is more fleshed out than books that must come first. I have two heroes whose stories are so clear in my mind they run like a movie. But other things must happen first before they can come into their own. They need to pay their dues as secondary heroes before they take the spotlight.
So I'm torn on whether I should write these things out of order or work on what is easiest first. Since I intend every book to work as a stand-alone - you won't have to read every book in the series to pick one up and dive in - I suppose writing out of order isn't such a bad thing. It will force me to make sure that I've covered enough that someone who hasn't read anything else will get it. If I can write Book 3 now and send it to a reading buddy who hasn't read Book 1 or 2 and she gets it, I'm probably better off.
Except, what gives me pause with this plan is my fear of writing myself into a corner. If I set up certain facts and parameters in Book 3, it means I need to back into them in Books 1 and 2. It's kind of like picking out pink tile for your new kitchen floor and realizing that you'll now have to decorate your entire house around pink tile because every room touches on the kitchen. Sure, you could change the tile. But that's a whole lot of work.
I won't even get into what it will probably be like trying to sell these things. I'm taking one mountain to climb at a time.
For those who would pan JK Rowling's writing ability, you have to give the woman a huge round of applause for managing something that is much harder than it looks. She's created a world and a story and has sustained it over six books, with plans for a seventh. No small feat, that.
Monday, July 18, 2005
But after Justin is nearly killed in an explosion, Brian realizes that not saying it doesn't make it not true. And time isn't endless and he has to stop fooling himself and grab the best thing that has ever happened to him before he loses it forever.
I've rewatched that scene probably 20 times, and I come to tears each time. Because this moment has been so hard earned and is so poignant, it epitomizes everything I love best in romances. Even better, Gale Harold, the actor who plays Brian, said it so perfectly he deserves an Oscar or Emmy or whatever acting award they give out for this kind of show. He didn't belt his "I love you" out for the world to hear or follow it up with a long monologue about how deeply he feels or that he couldn't go on if something had happened to Justin. Rather, he chokes out those three critical words as if it is almost painful to get them past his throat. Saying them is probably the hardest thing he has ever done - harder, even, that defeating his own cancer - and Gale shows exactly how much it means that he's saying it. Honestly, it is an amazing moment.
Which leads me to discuss my favorite all time plot device, the Near Death Experience. This is followed closely (and usually in conjunction with) by the Bedside Vigil With or Without Confession of Love.
Any reader of romance is intimately familiar with these siblings. The hero or heroine is nearly killed, either in an accident or by some evil guy or by a near-miss fatal illness. The possible death of this character finally awakens in his or her love interest the knowledge that he or she has become Very Important, so important in fact, that his or her death would devastate the partner left to wander the earth alone. If the hero or heroine had any lingering doubts about his or her true feelings, nearly losing his/her one true love clears them up in a hurry.
I love this situation. I think maybe it harkens back to my childhood when I knew by heart the words to worm eating song and sang it frequently. You know the one - the "Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, think I'll go eat worms" song that predicts how everyone will be sorry that they picked on the poor worm eater once he/she's gone? Isn't it every kid's thought at one time or another when they are feeling particularly unloved that if only his or her parents were to lose him, they'd be oh-so-sorry they were so unreasonably cruel? I think this idea passes on into adulthood, although it doesn't take too long to learn that eating worms isn't necessarily the best or easiest way to bring about one's death.
The grown-up version, too, doesn't carry as much of the self-destructive tendencies. In romance the Near Death is never self-inflicted as a way to gain attention. If it is, then we are looking at an entirely different level of psychosis that is beyond the scope of a normal romance. The Death in the Near Death is always a result of something external, from the innocuous natural disaster to the purely inventive Evil Overlord out to get either the hero or heroine or both. Regardless of the method, the Near Death is clearly unexpected to the degree that it can shock the non-injured party into admissions of deep, dark feelings.
When the Near Death results in some serious injury requiring The Bedside Vigil, things get even better because the angst can be prolonged. Not only does the survivor have to come to grips that they almost lost the love of their life, they have to suffer through endless hours/days/months of not knowing for sure if they did or didn't. They have the time to realize how how foolish they were not to admit their love and take advantage of their time together. They have time to imagine how empty their life might soon become.
Really, as cliched as these situations are, I love them nearly every time I come across them. They work especially well with hardened heroes who have resisted the heroine at every turn. Nothing seems to melt an alpha male's heart faster than watching the heroine walk into a building that then explodes in a massive fire ball.
The only problem with declarations of love made after a Near Death Experience is the fade factor. I've never experienced a Near Death, so I can only imagine how long its effects last. But I would guess that as time passes, the appreciation the survivor and his or her loved ones have for having escaped death fades. When things have quieted down and life returns to normal, how soon does the hero and/or heroine come to take time for granted again? How quickly do they forget that they can't hide feelings from each other in case these moments are the last ones they will ever get?
I have a very strong idea of what Brian is going to do now that he's confessed his love for Justin. And while I fully support it and am nearly swooning over the prospect of it happening, I have to wonder what happens in a year, when his feelings aren't so new and raw. Does it take an annual Near Death Experience to remind him of how he feels about Justin, or will he always now carry his love much closer to the surface?
I guess this question and its possibly negative answer has to be filed away with the reality that life after the Happily Ever After ending is full of things like dirty clothes on the floor and toilet seats left up and nagging about taking out the garbage. Since - hopefully - most of us will never experience the Near Death, we can keep believing that the emotions such an event evokes are everlasting.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
The Excellent: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
I went to the midnight party with my daughter. She made her very own feather-tipped magic wand and got her picture taken. We made it home with gobs of give-aways including half a dozen pairs of Harry glasses and at least that many green stretchy bracelets with the release date immortalized in plastic.
I finished the book at 3 a.m. Sunday morning. At this point I'm not going to go into detail because it's still way too early to reveal spoilers. Suffice it to say, I think this might be my favorite installment yet, and I can't believe I now have to wait two years until HP #7.
The Very Good: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Absolutely loved Tim Burton's interpretation of this movie. I completely disagree with every critic who thinks Johnny Depp's performance was a weak link. I found him captivating. The man is amazing in how he manages to convert himself into characters so completely over the top.
I had to laugh at my DH, who didn't appreciate this version. In fact, he prefers the original Gene Wilder movie over this. He kept saying "It's just the same as the old movie. There was hardly any differences." To which, I kept trying to explain to him that both movies are based on the same book, which would mean a humongous amount of repetition. I don't think he couldn't figure that out, more that he couldn't understand what the point of a re-do is if nothing is that much different.
Give me Johnny Depp. Please.
The Slightly Disappointing: Breaking Point
No surprise to people who visit me regularly that I was anxiously awaiting this latest Suzanne Brockmann title. I actually finished this on Wednesday, and I've started a pretty lengthy review which I will post at a later date. Again, suffice it to say that of all the Troubleshooter books, this one falls to the bottom of my list as far as preferences go.
Yeah, I know. You're betting I didn't go outside at all this weekend. Well, it was really hot!!
Friday, July 15, 2005
I have yet to submit a manuscript and receive the inevitable rejection letter, so I can only imagine what that feels like. And I can only barely imagine how discouraging it must feel to receive the 100th rejection and the 1,000th. Basically, it's gotta suck.
This morning I got a tiny taste of that suckage in the form of the AAR Purple Prose Parody Contest. For fun, I decided to enter. I spent an afternoon writing a fun little parody, another hour or so fine tuning and shaving off words to get it down to the 1,500 word limit. It was a blast to write, and I convinced myself that win or lose, it was something I'd done just for grins and giggles. I have no desire for the prize, so really, a win would just mean a fleeting moment of pride, right?
Well, as would be expected, I did not win. But when I logged on this morning and learned this - and please know that a healthy portion of my brain had expected this outcome - I was surprised by how disappointed I felt. Honestly, I felt really bad.
Isn't that so stupid?
Being the catastrophic (and cynical) thinker that I am, my immediate knee-jerk reaction was that I suck as a writer. That since I didn't even warrant mention as one of those stories that had received a healthy quantity of votes, clearly I cannot even write badly well enough to get noticed. Therefore, I'm silly to be wasting my time and I should just throw in the towel.
The second knee-jerk had me feeling sorry for myself, figuring that I must not have even placed simply because I'm not part of the group of regulars who voted for each other. I hadn't stood a chance even if I'd written the best story ever. Yeah, that was my inner six year old coming out. Thankfully, she stays in her cage most of the time, playing with the inner four year old who pouts whenever she doesn't get to watch the TV show she wants because the hubby already has the remote control.
So, feeling bruised and deciding that there is no way in hell I can handle real live rejection letters if I let something as silly as losing a web contest bug me so much, I left the house and got myself a big cup of English Toffee cappuccino as a consolation prize. Maximum fat, maximum sugar.
And when I sat back down at my laptop, I felt much better. Because I kind of got a grip. Really, my reaction was so ridiculous. Who cares if I didn't win a silly web contest? It was fun to write the story, and it was the first time I'd ever written something like that.
Also, I actually read the winning entry. I hadn't done that yet - I hadn't read any other entries because I didn't want to suffer weeks of beating myself up over how much better they were than my own. I also didn't vote in the contest. Kind of just submitted my story and ran.
Anyway, I read the winning entry, and it's hilarious. It deserved to win. If I would have voted, it's the story I would have voted for. Laugh out loud funny, very clever, really really cute.
And reading that entry pushed any bad feelings I had completely away. I gave it a shot and my shot wasn't the best. The world is still a fair place. This has nothing to do with *me* personally and everything to do with the story. Now I know what it takes to win, what I would have to do differently. I have a bar with which to measure myself.
Perhaps that's the key to accepting rejection. Perhaps when you enter a contest and receive less than pleasant results, getting a chance to read the winning entry might be a balm for the emotional wounds. If you can agree that what won is worthy of the honor, it's a lot easier to accept your own loss.
So, congratulations to Amy Edwards and Kate Johnson! What a great story. Thanks for putting a big grin on my face.
On a non-related topic but one that is near and dear to me, tonight is the big night. To all of my fellow Harry Potter Fans, I hope you have a lot of fun in whatever way you've decided to acquire The Half-Blood Prince. My daughter and I will be hanging out at Barnes and Noble, and I'll be praying for enough stamina to read at least a few chapters once I get home.
If you don't hear from me until Monday, you can picture me curled up with my copy, a big happy smile on my face.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Please, tell me when the narrow minded people of this world will finally understand that *they* are the ones creating evil, bloodsucking fiendish children?
And another reason I'm glad I converted away from Catholicism. I'll get to sit at the fun table when I get to Heaven.
UPDATE: I just read on The Leaky Cauldron that the Pope, or at least those who speak for him, are doing a bit of backpeddaling. Sounds like at least one Catholic official, Monsigner Peter Fleedwood, is a very intelligent and perceptive person. A Transcript of the Vatican Radio program 105live on Thursday, July 14, 2005 can be found here, and it is quite impressive. If Pope Benedict really does reflect the same opinions as those expressed by Msgr. Fleedwood, then I will offer my apologies for jumping to conclusions.
Even so, I'm sticking with the Episcopalians.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Since I can't cruise the internet, the only reason I'd be taking my laptop is, ostensibly, to get some writing done. (Well, that and we'll probably use my laptop's DVD to entertain the kids on the seven hour drive, but my DH's laptop could do that if I wanted to leave mine at home.) And it's this "get some writing done" that's stopped me cold.
I view writing as both a pleasure and a pain. I love to write, and nothing sounds sweeter than the idea of having a relaxing week with no structure to it in which I can grab quiet moments here and there to get some writing done. If someone told me I had to stay locked up in my house for an entire month with no one else around, I would be jumping up and down at the idea of writing as much as I wanted rather than whenever I could.
But the flip side of this coin is the guilt. When I don't write, I feel guilty. I feel like I'm playing hookey from my job. I'm trying to live by the writer's credo of "Write Every Day", and I pretty much do. Even if I don't get anything done on my WIPs, I at the very least write this blog. Every single day I make the effort to put word on paper.
So if I take my laptop with me on vacation but end up not writing a single word, will I feel horrible? Will I feel my vacation was wasted? If I surrender now - decide I'm truly going to take "time off" to be with the family - and leave the laptop at home, it's a guarantee that I won't get any writing done, and there will be none of this glancing at it longingly as I run out the door and down on to the beach.
Whenever I get to the point of thinking I'll devote my attention 100% to my family for an entire week, though, I get a bit twitchy. Because there are bound to be a few down moments. An hour here or there when the kids are resting or occupied and the DH napping. Moments before bedtime when the condo is quiet. And those are the moments I'd regret not using. So maybe having the laptop along, just in case, is a good idea.
Or what if I'm blindsided by The Idea, the one that has never before been conceived and will be The One to win me permanent banning from the NYT Bestsellers list because it's just not fair to all of the other writers out there (a la Harry Potter books)? What do I do if I have a rush of creativity and the words are ready to stream from my fingers, yet there is no recepticle to catch them? And before you remind me that there is always those things called pencils and paper, I cannot write creatively via longhand. My brain works in backspace mode, and trying to write on paper is nearly impossible for me. I'd seriously regret not having my laptop if the Muse strikes hot.
Except, she might be on vacation, too.
I don't know. I've got ten days to decide.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
When do you officially declare a blog dead? After a month of no activity? Two weeks? Six months? I have a couple of blogs bookmarked that I drop by on a daily basis. Some of them have had sporadic postings from the get go, so it's not entirely unusual for three weeks or more to go by without a new posting. Those I have at the bottom of my list and skip occassionally.
Others, however, have always been updated fairly regularly, and by that I mean if not daily, every other or every third day. But a couple of them have now gone at least three weeks without any new postings. Since the bloggers hadn't indicated an impending vacation, I wonder if something has happened. I hope those folks are okay and real life is just keeping them too busy to blog (can relate to that). I hate to knock those blogs off my visit list because I do enjoy them.
Candy over at Smart Bitches has an interesting entry about men refusing to read "female" fiction while women have no problems - and no stigma - reading "men fiction." Totally agree with everything she's pointed out, but the comment by Arethusa really hit it home:
"Would Harry Potter be as popular a book, if the protagonist was a Harriet?"
I would claim that the answer to that question is a profound and sad "No". I have no doubt in my mind that if J.K. Rowling had decided to focus her stories on the adventures of a young witch - if she'd changed nothing in her stories except making Harry a female - there is no way the books would have reached the level of success they have. Because every boy who has leapt into these stories (and thus, bought one of the gazillion copies sold) would not have touched this book under threat of nothing but brussel sprouts for dinner for an entire month. Uh huh. Cause it would have a "girl" in it and thus girl-cooties. So uncool.
This segregation in reading materials between men and women starts very young. When you go into my public library, the children's department offers these handy book lists that offer up titles suitable for different age groups. "Books for First Graders" and "Books for Third Graders" kind of lists. And it doesn't take long before the lists get split into "Books for Third Grade Boys" and "Books for Sixth Grade Girls". In order to keep them reading, I suppose, teachers and librarians try to offer boys books that will capture their attention, and apparently the ones written for girls won't achieve this goal. I know this because I was an elementary education major for a while and was specifically told that keeping boys reading is a lot harder than keeping girls reading.
What's sad is that boys who sat still on the reading rug listening to their first grade teacher read Junie B. Jones books outloud wouldn't be caught dead checking out Little House On the Prairie. Which seems to mean it's not necessarily the story or female protagonist that disinterests them but rather what their friends might say if they get caught with a girl-cooties book. This brainwashing starts young and continues through adulthood. I admire a man who has the confidence in his manhood to read a romance novel if he enjoys it, despite what his macho mates might say.
Perhaps the answer is to put brown paper covers on all romance novel books so that only the title shows. And the titles, of course, would need to be changed to things like "Two Hot Chicks and a Car Chase" regardless of the contents. Then men could show their reading materials to the world with pride.
My show, Queer As Folk, is running down to its last four episodes, and I'm starting to get twitchy. I'm pretty sure the writers intend to wrap it all up, in other words, not leave any story lines dangling too loosely so that we sign off feeling that endings have been reached. Even so, this is the kind of show that has me glancing at the clock while watching each episode, dreading that we are coming up on the end of the hour. I'm never, never ready for an episode to be over - a sign of great storytelling IMO since it means I've been so drawn into the world of the characters that I don't want to leave it. What I'm going to do when the end of that final hour comes up I have no idea. I have the DVDs, but it's just not the same as knowing I get new episodes.
Today Suzanne Brockmann's newest Troubleshooter book, Breaking Point, comes out. I was all ready to be standing at the doors of B&N when they opened to get my copy, but then I realized this book isn't as likely to get the Harry Potter Book 6 treatment. I've decided it might be prudent to call ahead and make sure they've actually gotten that box unpacked before I head over there. I cannot wait to get my hands on it!
To those of you who enjoy the Purple Prose Parody Contest over at AAR, better read and get your vote in. Voting ends at midnight tomorrow, July 13th. I think this may be the PPP's last year due to lack of interest. Maybe if the voters turn out they'll decide to keep it. I enjoyed participating.
UPDATE: By 11:00 I couldn't wait anymore, although I'm using the excuse that we were already out and about and killing time while waiting to pick up my dauther, so we headed over to B&N. I walked through the door, my eyes peeled for the shiny cover of Breaking Point. It wasn't on the hardback Best Sellers list, which makes sense since it has just started selling plus Nora has a lock on all those slots (her name is stenciled on the rack spaces). It wasn't on the New Fiction rack right by the front door, so I started to get worried. I geared myself up for telling the nearest salesperson they were going to have to go back to the stockroom and start cracking open boxes while I wandered deeper, toward the romance section. And then, before I reached Romance Central, I found it. A stack of them were placed on a Great Summer Reads table. Not hugely prominent, but still not shoved spine out in some random romance shelf.
I snatched up my copy and am heading for the choice reading spot on the couch. See ya in a few hours!
Monday, July 11, 2005
Now, I understand the origin of the word and that the prefix "deca" is Greek meaning ten. Even so, when someone has indicated that something has been decimated, I picture complete destruction. Decimation is the succinct, one-word way to paint me a very specific image, and it's a powerful word that indicates the level of violence I would assume is necessary to decimate anything.
Except, now whenever I see that word used, I get yanked out of the story because I think about the difference between what the writer means versus what she has written.
Same thing with the word hopefully. I have no idea what the percentage is but I would guess over half of the US population understands the meaning of the sentence "Hopefully I will get a pony for my birthday." This person has great hopes that she will get a pony. This person is my daughter and this person is going to be disappointed.
But hopefully really means to do something in a hopeful manner, according to Dictionary.com. So you can wish hopefully or you can pray hopefully or you can work hopefully toward a goal. Dictionary.com goes into great detail how, technically, using hopefully as a sentence adverb is incorrect. So now when I see any sentence beginning with hopefully, I come to a full stop.
We all have pet peeves, the misuse of some word or another that drives us crazy. My particular buggaboos include those who refer to the people of Scotland as Scotch (to which I reply "Scotch is a drink. A person from Scotland is either Scots or Scottish.") and the word irregardless. But the longer I write and thus, study the craft of writing, the more words I learn that do not actually mean what we use them to mean. And I'm coming to think this isn't always a good thing.
My point is that sometimes, ignorance may be bliss when it comes to our living language. I'm a firm subscriber in the idea that languages evolve over time. Heck, if they didn't I'd be writing this in some pure form of some ancient language that no longer exists. Especially here in the US, where the Melting Pot concept is demonstrated in all it's rich and interesting glory, different languages come together, blend and bend and become something new, sometimes improved and sometimes not. Sometimes the original intention of a word or phrase becomes blurred when it's adopted for use in speech in a way that was never expected. Thus decimated no longer means only the destruction of one in ten but also entire destruction. In fact, if you were to take a poll, I'll bet the majority of people would choose the second definition as the correct one.
Which leads me to conjecture that if the majority of a particular language speaking group believes that a word means something, isn't it logical to think that the word does mean that very same thing? If I hold up a covered object and say ball and 99 people out of 100 picture a cube-shaped object that is stacked to make a tower, when I remove the cover to reveal a smooth round object that is thrown, who do you think has miscommunicated? Perhaps once upon a time saying ball caused people to form the image of something round, but now it no longer does. I know that I'm correct, but it makes no difference since my word no longer has a shared meaning. I can stand firm in my rightness or I can shrug and accept that when I now say ball, people will be imagining a block.
I think we writers need to choose the words we use carefully. It's downright critical if we have any hope to convey the pictures and stories in our brains properly so they can be seen the way we want them to by the readers.
But sometimes I think we need to feel free to use the word that conveys what we mean even if that word technically isn't correct.
If I have a hero angry enough to decimate an entire tribe of cannibals who ate his best friend, I think using that particular word will clearly convey to the reader that the hero plans to destroy every single cannibal, not whip out his calculator to figure out exactly how many cannibals is 10%.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
I debated the various ways of obtaining said copy. With Book 5 (The Order of the Phoenix) I decided at the very last minute to waltz over to my local Borders Bookstore at midnight to join in the fun. Come to find out they'd initiated a ticketing system to keep things nice and orderly. Depending on if you'd pre-ordered a copy and how early you'd arrived at the store, you were issued a colored ticket with a number on it. Then, at midnight, an announcer began calling out ticket colors and number ranges to come to the back of the store and get a book ("Yellow Tickets numbered 500 through 600 can now get your copy."). Since I hadn't preordered and I'd arrived at the store sometime around 11:30, I was issued a black ticket with an obscenely high number and had to wait until nearly the end to get a book. Thankfully the store had all cashiers on hand and the mile-long lines to pay moved as swiftly as possible. I think I managed to make it home by 1:30.
It was a lot of fun. I went by myself and found another book I'd been wanting to read and curled up in a chair to wait until my ticket was called, a bonus for Borders because I walked out of the store with HP plus my time-killer book. The atmosphere was like that of a carnival, and no one felt like a big geek for being out at midnight simply to buy a silly kids book because we were all there for the same reason.
At least I felt somewhat more normal than many in that I didn't crack open my copy until I got home. Many, many people stood in the cash-wrap line reading as if they'd been starving to death and couldn't wait a single second more to find out what Harry had been up to.
Since I had such a great time, I've decided to go the midnight route again this release. I toyed with ordering via Amazon or Barnes and Noble but decided I didn't want to be at the mercy of the delivery systems. Not that I would suffer unduly if I had to wait until Monday or Tuesday to get my copy, just that I'm the type who wants what she wants when she wants it. As in now.
The only thing I'm doing differently is that I've actually preordered a copy. I've decided not to go back to Borders but rather to Barnes and Noble since I have a membership card which will garner me another 10% off the cover price. Only problem here is that the B&N closest to me has the tiniest parking lot which is hard to get into on a normal day and will be impossible on Friday night. I'm assuming the B&N management will have the problem solved with traffic cops helping us patrons cross the major six-lane road that runs between the store and the shopping mall across the street where we will find ample parking at midnight.
I haven't decided if I want to take my daughter. She's only seven and she hasn't read any of the HP books yet. She's still too young. I won't let her watch the movies both because I think she'd be a bit frightened by them and because I'd prefer her to read the books first. Keeping her up until midnight isn't a big deal since it's summer vacation. It might be fun to have her along and maybe she's old enough to form a memory of the experience. I assume that by the time HP #7 is ready she'll have started reading the series and will be as excited as I will be.
In preparation for next week, yesterday I started re-reading HP: atOotP. It's the only one of the HP books I've only read once, and that was when it came out two summers ago. I've honestly forgotten what happened other than I remember which key character died and I remember that Harry got on my nerves more than once because he's become an especially whiney and self-centered teenager. I forgive him this because, well, a lot of teenagers are whiney and self-centered. As much as he annoyed me, I have to give J.K. props for allowing her character to grow up, even though it causes him and us readers some pain.
And speaking of J.K., if there is any writer out there that I both envy like crazy and feel sorry for most it's J.K. Rowling. Her success is the stuff of writers' dreams. But the amount of pressure on this woman has to be unfathomable. The entire world is waiting with its collective breath held to see what she's written next. Will it live up to the hype and the expectations of what's come before? Will we all regret staying up until the wee hours to get the book as soon as humanly possible? Talk about stress.
And by midnight next Saturday the majority of HP fans will be asking the same question: So when's HP #7 coming out?
Friday, July 08, 2005
My two extreme redemption stories came in the form of the movie Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (I know, just go with me on this one) and the book Jackson Rule by Dinah McCall. Both stories feature heroes with criminal pasts, but both stories diverge widly when it comes to how those heroes were redeemed. What follows includes SPOILERS for both, so read on at your own risk.
In LCTR:TCOL, Lara seeks the help of Terry Sheridan (played by the very sexy Scot Gerard Butler). Terry is an ex-Royal Marines commander turned mercenary and traitor, and Lara has him sprung from some remote Siberian-like prison to help her locate...well, just leave it at helping her. Throughout the story it is revealed that a) Terry and Lara shared a love affair in the past and b) Terry and Lara still have feelings for each other. So Terry is presented as hero material, and I settle back to watch the road to his redemption.
The first stretch of this road - the first big move toward redemption in most such stories - is to learn that the crimes the hero has committed were either false, a case of an innocent taking the fall, or the reasons for the crimes not only understandable but expected given some extraordinary circumstances. Terry stands accused of abandoning his men, so maybe there was a darn good reason he'd done so. Maybe he'd been leading the enemy away or had been kidnapped and brainwashed. Something that would let us believe he never would have willingly done so and is therefore truly Good At Heart.
In Terry's case, we find out pretty fast that he did indeed commit the crimes. Not only did he commit them, he admits that he found doing so pretty easy. The guy is guilty and for no good reason that we can tell except greed, which does not a hero make. He didn't pass the First Redemption Milestone.
No problem. There are other ways the hero can be redeemed.
For example, he can show true devotion to the heroine, risking his life to save hers. Terry does this. Or at least, he does a pretty darn good job of covering Lara's back. And if he doesn't exactly risk his own life above and beyond the fact that bad guys are shooting at him pretty much non-stop, he does manage to save the day on the few occassions when it looks like Lara's a goner.
So, he passes Redemption Milestone 2 and is on his way to true hero-hood.
Redemption Milestone 3 comes in the form of having the chance to revert to his old, evil ways and choosing to take the high road. The heroine trusts him and he comes through.
Terry does do this in a sort of backassward way. At one point in the story, Terry has his hands on the artifact that he and Lara have been searching for. He could make a break for it, taking the artifact with him. He doesn't, but I honestly can't say if this is because he has been redeemed or if it's because Lara was standing there with him and could have given him the fight for his life if he tried. The general sense I got was that he had no intention of taking the artifact.
Finally, Redemption Milestone 4 often involves the heroine giving the hero a chance to walk away with everything and he chooses not to take it. In Terry's case, Lara handcuffs him to a bedframe and tells him he is free to go start the new life he was promised in exchange for helping her. She no longer needs him and confesses that she fears he will not be able to withstand temptation. For both their sakes, it's better if he just moves on.
Terry chooses to go the distance with Lara, which puts him in place to save her life yet again. Instead of taking his freedom and money and starting all over, he sticks by her side.
So if you look at the fact that Terry passed 3 of the 4 Redemption Milestones, you'd be satisfied that this guy has turned over the proverbial new leaf. He's now worthy of our heroine, and our HEA is clearly in sight, right?
Except in this instance, Terry isn't redeemed. Because when it comes down to the end and he's required to walk away from the final prize, love isn't enough. He can't resist the lure of untold riches and be satisfied in having the love of a kick-ass woman like Lara Croft. When he insists on taking the deadly treasure they've found, she tells him he can't have it. That's not acceptable to Terry, and since Lara takes no shit from anyone, even incredibly sexy guys she loves, well, his ticket is bought.
At the end of the movie, I felt kind of let down. I liked Terry. I bought every inch of the Redemption theme and was excited over the prospect of Lara and Terry becoming a team, at least in the bedroom. When he proved to be as corrupt at the end as we were told he was, I was very disappointed.
On the flipside of this redemption coin is the hero Jackson Rule in the book, Jackson Rule. The book opens when Jackson is being released from prison after serving a fifteen year sentence for murdering his abusive father. He's spend nearly half his life locked up after spending his formative years being physically, emotionally and mentally tortured, so he's ripe for redemption.
And sure enough, as the story unfolds Jackson passes every single Redemption Milestone there is.
Skipping the first for a second, Jackson saves the heroine, Rebecca's, life more than once. Not only that, but he risks his own life to save a child from a burning building. For a while I wondered if he was really an angel disguised as a human.
As for the third milestone, Rebecca quickly comes to trust Jackson with her business. He has access to her money and could easily take it and run. In fact, the situation was so frequently staged such that I kept waiting for a bank deposit to disappear and Jackson to be the first one blamed. Never happened, and I was highly surprised.
The fourth Milestone was easily passed at the end of the story when a pregnant Rebecca buys Jackson a new motorcycle (his had been destroyed in the previously mentioned fire) and tells him he's free to ride away from her and his child. What do you think Jackson does? Yeah, no big surprise there.
Back to the first milestone, the whole "innocent of the crime" or "good reasons for the crime" issue. From the second Rebecca sees the scars crisscrossing Jackson's back, we as readers have already forgiven Jackson the crime of killing his father. Clearly the man was an abusive monster who deserved to die, and we only feel sorry that Jackson had to spend his life in prison.
Except, McCall doesn't even stop there. She had safely crossed that line but she pushed on with a near-the-end twist involving Jackon's sister, Molly. I won't reveal here what that twist is, but I can admit that I had a feeling from pretty much chapter 2 that what happened was the case. The twist came as absolutely no surprise to me.
So here we have two heroes who walked the Road of Redemption, one successfully and one not so much. Thing is, as much as I loved Jackson Rule (and I did love this book - so much I read it in a single day), the hero and his redemption rang so much less real to me. Because in the end, it turns out there was nothing to be redeemed. Jackson really was an angel wrapped up in ex-con's clothing. He tried to appear tough and menacing and hardened beyond the ability to love, but nearly every single thing he did spoke to his being completely the opposite. By the end of the book, I almost didn't like Jackson because he was too perfect.
Terry, on the other hand was really bad. And I liked him. Right up to the very end, I wanted him to succeed. Maybe that's why it was so hard to have him fall down. He was fully three dimensional - neither completely good nor completely evil.
All of this to say, I think redemption works best when the hero (or heroine for that matter) is so well rounded that at any given moment we can imagine him going either way. Then his redemption, when it happens, is real because it's a choice he's made.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
I can't begin to express the sadness I feel, and my thoughts and prayers are with all of the people of London as they sort through this nightmare. Not even a full day after their city rejoiced over having received the honor of hosting the 2012 Olympic events, this tragedy now takes center stage. What should be a time of celebration has instead become a time of mourning.
I truly don't believe that any writer alive can construct a villain or group of villains as viscously evil as the ones who exist in this world that would do such a thing. They are cowards of the lowest order who deserve neither compassion nor forgiveness, regardless of whatever cause they believe warrants their actions. Nothing warrants such needless death. My only consolation is that there is a special place in hell for these people, and it's there that they'll all spend eternity. I have to believe that what comes around goes around, otherwise things like this would cause me to crawl into my house and lock my doors forever.
If such an event results in anything positive, it's to remind us all that time is short and that we need to tell those closest to us that we love them. Things we put off until tomorrow shouldn't be made to wait. Those trivial concerns and problems we have pale in light of the bigger picture, and we need to remember how lucky we are to have another day.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Instead, I think I might indulge myself in a little fantasy I have. I say fantasy because I think a dream is something that has a chance of happening while a fantasy is most likely not to happen. Anyway, I've always had this little fantasy of buying or renting a little thatched-roof cottage tucked into the glorious English hillside, perhaps near some quaint Cotswold village or ancient town like Bath. This fantasy includes me living in this cozy cabin, writing the hours away and reading book after book snuggled up to a dancing fire. I'd take walks in the countryside and visit the interesting folks living nearby, enjoying their English accents. I'd cut myself off from all of the modern distractions such as TV and Internet so I could remain focused.
The holes in my plan - the reason I say fantasy and not dream - begin pretty much with my declaration of wanting to cut myself off from TV and Internet. I honestly cannot imagine my life without the Internet. It's my window to the world. And while I don't consider myself a true couch potato, there are a handful of shows that I don't miss. I suppose with the proliferation of TV shows on DVD I could afford to miss a few seasons and catch up that way. And I have no doubt that quitting the Internet is no worse than giving up any other addiction. It's hard and painful at first but gets better until you find that living without is no big deal.
Another stumbling block is the idea of being away from all things familiar for any long amount of time. My husband and I took a five week tour of England and Europe, and by the time we got back to the States, I would have sold my eye teeth for a diet Coke with ice and a bowl of Captain Crunch. You don't realize the things you have in your life that you would miss until you can't get them anymore.
I suppose I could have my family send me care packages loaded with the things I'd miss most.
Which leads me to missing my family. I think I'd miss my family if I were gone for a long time. I'm assuming that in my fantasy, my kids are grown and living lives of their own and that Hubby would come with me on my little adventure. But those I left behind would have to come and visit me. A lot.
In the end, it all falls apart when it comes to being able to afford such a dream. A quick glance at real estate in England reveals it is down right expensive to live there. Granted, I live in a part of the country where real estate prices are increasing at a frightening pace, and if I sold my house tomorrow I might have a nice little sum to plunk down somewhere else. But how would I afford to actually buy food and pay utilities once I got there? My fantasy has no space for working a real job.
Since this is a fantasy, though, I think maybe I'll indulge in a couple hours checking out the offerings. What does it hurt to cruise some websites and see what's out there? Maybe it's just what I need to get me out of this slump I've sunk into. Maybe seeing ways that the fantasy can be converted to a dream and then into a reality might be motivation enough to pick myself up and dust off and get back on the horse.
It's that or a truckload of chocolate. Since I have a twenty year high school reunion to attend in two months, I can't afford that chocolate.
Monday, July 04, 2005
Too, there was some perverse part of me that intentionally avoided reading any Nora Roberts titles simply because she is so damn prolific. If such a thing is possible, she's almost glutted the romance novel market. I have no facts to back up this claim, but I'd guess that Nora Roberts probably has as many books out there - in sheer number of copies printed - as the entire rest of romance novel writers put together. Clearly she needs my business and my fanship like Paris Hilton needs a little bit more media attention.
Plus there's that whole J.D. Robb alternate personality thing. I know Nora never made a big secret that J.D. Robb was a second name taken when she veered off-subgenre, and I know lots and lots of writers take second and third and fourth names for their titles in different sub-genres. But since Nora is so pervasive - you can't turn a corner without walking into one of her gazillion titles - it just seemed like another sneaky attempt to gain a monopoly on the entire book market. At the rate she's going, every book we see in the bookstores and on Amazon will have been written by Nora under another name.
Funny enough, I discovered that this is exactly the reason she's become J.D. Robb as well as Nora Roberts. Her website explains that because of the quantity of books she releases, she took on another name so she could put out even more. See, I'm not completely paranoid when I mention conspiracy theories.
I say all of this, of course, assuming that Nora is really a very nice woman who works incredibly hard and deserves to be where she is. It's not like she simply has to write down her grocery list and hand it over to her agent to make the New York Times Bestsellers list. Clearly if she didn't have something, something that her fans (in other words, everyone) love, she'd never have gotten as far as she has.
Just, like so many who refuse to go to Disney World on principle, I boycott La Nora because, well, I can. I've resisted her addictive qualities and have the ability to walk away from the rack. I didn't drink the kool-aid or take the blue pill.
But last Friday, in search of an audiobook to take along on a lengthy car trip, I grabbed Naked In Death, the first title in J.D. Robb's In Death series, off the library shelf.
I'm not finished listening to it yet. It's an eleven-hour reading and my car trip clocked in at only eight hours round trip minus time spent talking with the DH instead of listening. So now I'm walking around the house carrying a small boombox because it's the only working cassette player we have in our house.
But I like it. I really am enjoying the story. I like Eve. I like Roarke. I'm interested in the murder mystery. I like the time setting of only sixty or so years into the future. Heck, I even like the actress (Cristine McMurdo-Wallis) who's reading the story because she has a gravelly voice that completely suits the tone.
I'm itching to go buy every single one of the In Death titles on Amazon so I can just bullet through them, one after the other. But I'm holding off until tomorrow, when my UBS is open again, so I can try to get some of them there. It's the least I can do to maintain my self-righteous stance - pay only half of the cover price. I don't think La Nora will have to take out a second mortgage on the yacht if I deprive her of a little In Death income. Besides, I hear she's got another one coming out on July 12th. I think she'll be just fine.
Even though she got me while I wasn't looking, I still plan to stay far, far away from the Nora titles. Except I heard her In Fire trilogy is especially good...
Friday, July 01, 2005
Yesterday I headed to the library in search of some Susan Elizabeth Phillips titles, specifically Heaven, Texas and It Had To Be You. I found the books and was hanging around the PCs while my kids played for awhile. A friend of mine happened to be there and she walked by and saw the two SEPs sitting on the table. Immediately she started praising them, saying they were wonderful reads and that I'd surely love them.
What was really cool, though, is that my friend actually knows SEP!! They're friends. Or maybe only acquaintances. But anyway, my friend knows a really famous published author.
Even better, I found out SEP lives in a suburb a mere twenty miles or so from my very own suburb. She's local!!
See, that's where the geek part comes in. Why in the world this thrills me is beyond explanation, but it does. It's not like I'm now best buddy pals with SEP who will impart to me all of the pearls of wisdom necessary to mimic her success. She would treat me no differently than any complete stranger who happened to bump into her in the grocery store aisle. But I feel we have this connection just because we live so close and we have one person in common.
I think my reaction is based in my need to meet writers who are just normal people. Not that all writers aren't normal people. They are. What I mean is, if I met a famous writer who goes to Dominick's in her shorts and tee shirt without makeup and schelps her kids to the pool and to soccer practice and has to sit in the car pool line, I would see that she's no different from me in any fundamental way. She's living the same life I am but still managed to write and get published.
Which means there is no reason that I can't do it, too. Yeah, I know. There's that whole talent and determination and discipline thing. But you know what I mean.
I guess I just have the image of the Nora Roberts of the world being some kind of unreal person who has hoards of nannies and drivers and chefs and housecleaners who take care of the tasks of her life while she sits sipping her Oolong in a third story writing loft, classical music playing in the background while the household silently tiptoes around so as not to disturb her genius in action. Suzanne Brockmann surely hangs around at the local bar rubbing elbows with Navy SEALS and collecting stories of their exciting missions, while Loretta Chase flits around the world gathering atmosphere from all the exotic locations to infuse into her stories. All of these things I have no ability to do at this point in my life, perhaps never unless I make enough of a success of writing to afford the plane tickets. I am friends with a woman whose daughter is dating a Navy SEAL, but somehow I'd feel...really weird...if I fawned all over a complete stranger pumping him for details about his latest op.
But clearly in the case of SEP, this is not so. If she knows my friend, who is as normal as I am, then she must be somewhat normal, too. My friend said she's just the sweetest, most down-to-Earth woman you'd want to meet. I love hearing that.
And did I mention that I could probably find her address to start stalking her! *G* I'm kidding, SEP.
Geez, now I'm going to have the police knocking at my door.
I'm off for the long weekend out of town. If I'm not back by Monday, Happy Fourth of July!