April 1, 2015
March 30, 2015
As I mentioned in my review of the movie, I somehow avoided ever reading this great American novel. I don’t know how, it just happened. Because we read Madame Bovary or something stupid like that instead. I hear from lots of people that they hated The Great Gatsby in high school, but I rather suspect this is a book that teenagers aren’t really going to get — post-war existential angst, etc. So, I was curious. What’s it like reading this book for the first time at the age of 40+?
This book is amazing. Amazing writing. Just. . . See, most “classics” I read are classics for a reason — they’re really good. To Kill a Mockingbird, Moby Dick — I’ve read them all later, out of high school, and I love them all. Here, just look at this:
“I had no sight into Daisy’s heart but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.”
What I wouldn’t give to write a sentence like that. One sentence, Fitzgerald nails that character to the wall. The whole book is like that. It’s a character study more than anything, of this group of people chosen to represent a specific time and place that the author suspects might be kind of terrible.
It’s actually kind of wonderful in a horrifying way how every single character in this book is just an awful, awful person. And you know what? Nick Carraway is the worst of the bunch. What a spineless git. (Question for the academics: Has there been any commentary about the possibility that Nick is suffering from shellshock? His drifting, his seeming inability to make any decisions, his shifting attitudes and perceptions… Or is he just the ultimate post-war nihilist?)
But the most horrifying realization of all is the one that slowly creeps upon you as you are reading this book, almost a century after its publication, that a big chunk of 20th century American fiction has been all about people trying to write a book just like The Great Gatsby and failing miserably.
March 27, 2015
It’s AnomalyCon this weekend! I will be there in all my steampunk finery. My programming is all Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. Maybe I’ll see you there?
And the following week, on April 2 I’m co-hosting a screening of Highlander at the Alamo Drafthouse in Littleton, CO! There may be some dressing up on my part. Basically, given the closet of costumes I have, there’s no way I’m co-hosting a screening of Highlander and not wearing something awesome.
April 4, I’m taking part in the Mountain of Authors event with the Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs.
Yeah, looks like things are about to start getting busy again…
March 25, 2015
I used to be a HUGE X-Files fan. Massive. I organized viewing parties in the dorm in college for second season. I dressed as Scully for Halloween at the bookstore. (I still have the fake FBI ID badge I rigged up from my old military ID. I probably broke some laws doing this, now that I think of it. Hm.) How big of a fan was I? I have pretty much every magazine that put the show on its cover in the mid-90’s. I have them bagged. Cinefantasique did great episode guides, and I have all those too. This is only part of the collection — I didn’t dig the rest out of the basement.
I realized recently I don’t talk about this fandom of mine much. Mostly because I completely stopped watching the show after about sixth or seventh season. It lost its way, it lost the thing that made it great, and became one of my early data points on how not to write a series.
The early episodes, particularly right around seasons 2 and 3, are still brilliant. Go back and give them a spin.
So how do I feel about news of a reboot? Very, very meh. I’m glad it’s a mini-series — less chance for everyone involved to embarrass themselves. But mostly I feel the way I did when the second movie came out. Why? Why? Is there a reason for this except to cash in on the nostalgia of old-school fans? The first season is more than 20 years in the past. In some ways The X-Files was a product of its time — post 80’s cynicism merging with the growing paranoia of the 90’s. Can this premise even really function in an age when Ancient Aliens is an actual TV show? Can The X-Files really do anything new? Does it even want to? Or is this just to roll around in the nice cozy blanket of Scully and Mulder’s banter? And the idea of The X-Files ever being cozy is a bit much for me to wrap my brain around. This is the horror TV show that made all horror TV that came after it possible.
I’ll watch, most likely. I’ll probably even like it. But I don’t expect it to be in any way as amazing or as revolutionary as it was then.
And really, I want something new to get excited about.
(If they can get Darin Morgan to write an episode, I’ll take everything back.)
March 23, 2015
I FINALLY got to see Urinetown, the satirical dystopian musical, which I’ve known about since it came out 15 years ago because you can’t be into musical theater and not know about a musical called Urinetown. I had no idea what to expect, but it turns out it was great, because it knows exactly how silly it is and goes full meta, and it turns out that’s a great way to do a quick, punchy, funny musical.
I also had no idea what to expect because this was the first production I’d seen by the local theater group, the Longmont Theater Company. I was braced for iffy, but they started singing, they were great, and I relaxed. The show had that homemade look to it but everyone knew what they were doing and they did an excellent job. I enjoyed it. (Having done community theater in high school, I know exactly how iffy it can get, like when your Nellie and Emile in South Pacific have zero chemistry, and in fact your Nellie and Joe start dating before the end of the show… ANYHOO.)
I’m caught up on this final season of Justified, and for the most part I think it’s great, particularly the villains’ tangled plots and Raylen trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up.
But I gotta tell you, I think they’re completely screwing up Ava again. After the last two seasons, you cannot convince me that she’s that much of a wet dishrag idiot. That she would really put up with the shit Boyd’s pulling on her. All I can think is that she must have some big epic plan up her sleeve to screw everyone over by the end. But if so, the show is keeping it really well hidden. And it’s not satisfying.
Also, I propose that you know Sam Elliott’s a bad guy in this because he doesn’t have his mustache. Sam Elliott without a mustache is JUST WRONG.
March 20, 2015
I haven’t had solid deadlines for a couple of months, and I’ve been doing a lot of revisions, and my motivation has not been what it should be. Revisions are hard — it feels like running in place sometimes.
So what do I do when I can’t seem to get anything done and yet feel like I have too many things on my list? Because it turns out that’s one of the things I do when I don’t feel like I’m getting anything done: I make to-do lists. I have so many lists on my desk right now.
Here’s what worked for me yesterday. I’m sharing in case it helps anyone else.
Work on one thing for half an hour then move on.
All the things I really need to get done feel like huge jobs. Daunting, big jobs. I’m doing a third draft on one novel, revising a zero draft of another novel, writing a speech for an event where I’m the keynote speaker — plus there’s all the new stuff I want to write. This is too much to work on in one day! So, I don’t have to actually finish the whole job. Any of the whole jobs. I can work on a little piece of each. For a short burst. Sprints, if you like.
I’ve always known about breaking big goals into smaller goals. This is why writers are often so focused on word count — you can’t sit down and write a novel, that’s too big a job. But you can sit down and write a thousand words. This is the same thing, but breaking a big day into smaller chunks — I couldn’t revise the entire book, but I could work on it for half an hour.
You guys, I got so much done yesterday. Added a polishing thousand words to the third draft. Finished a chapter of the zero draft. Added 500 words to the speech. Started a brand new thing that I’m so excited about.
And I knitted in the evening guilt free. I’m feeling good! And the jobs all feel doable instead of daunting now. So, let’s file away that strategy for the future.
March 18, 2015
A lot of writers talk about how writing is like describing the movie playing in their minds. I do that, too. But you have to be careful. You have to make sure you’re not just writing down endless inconsequential details and movements, that your characters aren’t constantly blinking and fiddling with their hair and sighing, because that fills in the space of the pacing you’re seeing in that mental movie.
Instead of focusing on describing the movie playing in your mind, think about the effect your words have on the reader. You aren’t trying to replicate a movie; your trying to prompt a visceral, emotional, intellectual reaction in your reader. See the words the way they would. Make sure they’re evoking what you want them to.
I find this helps with revising immensely.