Monthly Archives: February 2013

Mapping the Year

Back in early January, when I was pointedly not making resolutions, I did write out a list of dreams that would be a stretch to hit but not impossible if I worked diligently and committedly to meeting them. I revisited the list this morning to see what it contained, and if I could cross anything off yet. No, but ll the goals still seem attainable. Depending on how this weekend goes in terms of creative output, I might not even be “behind schedule.”

If I can stick to my schedule even 75% of the way, this year will be the true start of my publishing career. True start meaning multiple publications at a professional quality (of product, not content) with planning put into release schedule and author branding, as opposed to the best efforts of an amateur experimenting to see if I could and to see what came of it.

I don’t regret publishing my 12th Night novellas nearly 2 years ago. That was the beginning of my journey, and every path has to start somewhere. Taking that step forced me to learn and grow and figure out a plan. I am only sorry it will have taken me two years or more to finish and publish anything else. But that was how life went, and I refuse to look behind me with regret. I learned from all of it. I learned an invaluable lesson about not assuming you can produce “on schedule” and waiting till several pieces are in hand to move forward.

That lesson is why even getting a C on the year will make this the real launch of my writing. 75% is still multiple publications…it’s just not multiple pub’s AND half of next year’s drafted. 🙂

Now, about those goals for the weekend….

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How A Lady Does It

I don’t think I’ve talked much about The Bachelor in my blogging—not even sure if I’ve talked about the fact that I watch it. I do, and have for many seasons now. I always watch it to laugh at the desperate and shallow people on it, but by the end I am usually invested in one or more of the relationships and hoping that this time maybe it’s legit, and not just the semi-scripted speeches all the contestants have to give every season and fake relationships that barely last past the final episode’s air date.

This season’s bachelor, Sean, has seemed very earnest in his intentions, but his choices for his final two make me question that. Specifically, his choice to keep the nearly illiterate Lindsey on and send Ashlee home (it might be snarky to point out the girl’s issues with language but she speaks like a child, and it isn’t cute). My guess is he knows he’s going to pick the other of his final two and thought Lindsey could take the rejection later better than Ashlee. Anyway, what I wanted to talk about was not the ones he kept but the one he sent home, specifically how she handled her exit.

It was a spectacular woman scorned exit. It was the best exit in Bachelor history, in my opinion. And it was also exactly how a lady should behave.

Unlike the girls who break down and cry, or sob all over the shoulder of the guy who just rejected them, Ashlee held her emotions in and didn’t make a big display. She was perfectly willing to leave without any words at all, because, really, what is there to say in that situation? Does it matter why a guy is choosing someone else? No. All that matters is that he wants someone else more than you. But he asked to explain himself, and she graciously allowed him to speak his trite little piece about not hurting her and how he had thought he would choose her, etc., in order to expunge his own guilt. It was hilarious how quickly he shut down when she did not encourage him to keep going. Through it all she just looked at him, and then she left without a word. There’s nothing to say.

In the car, she managed to keep it together long enough to make her point, and even when she was crying she made a point not to be seen crying. I loved that. She put her hair in the way and kept it off camera, so even if we all knew she was, the emotion was still hers—private, internalized, and unwillingly revealed rather than thrown out for everyone to watch. I have that aspect to my personality, that need for absolute secrecy; the look on her face, the pride that kept her eyes dry until she was alone and that held her tongue because nothing she could say would do anything other than make her look weak or pathetic.

I was impressed with how she handled it all. It was old school. Very ladylike. I go back and forth on whether I actually want to be a lady in my personal life, but I always admire those who commit to it and pull it off. It’s a helluva defense.

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“Write It Out”

Some people hug it out. I prefer to write it out.

One of my favorite quotes about writing–perhaps even my very favorite–is from Garrison Keillor:  “Nothing bad ever happens to a writer. They just say, ‘It’s an experience,’ and go write about it.”

I tend to live by this.  One of the ways I can rationalize away the negativity I feel or experience in life is by finding an appropriate story from the catalog in my head and channeling that emotion toward character development or situation-sketching or out and out fantasies of how I wish I could respond in my real life. I don’t know if this is a writer thing or an INTJ thing (or maybe it’s both), but I am not sure I could function without this kind of coping mechanism. I am by nature a positive, optimistic person, and I don’t like feeling angry or pushed around (sad I generally don’t mind, as long as the reason is something I consider worth grieving). If I can make something useful out of the negative, then it ceases to be a negative drain on my psyche, and I can get over it.

I spent two years being shunned and schemed against by co-workers who didn’t like me, and I found it a useful parallel to the heroine of the novel I am still working on, because she was outcast from “polite society.”  This week has finally, after nearly a year, thrown some interpersonal work drama my way again. It’s really bringing me down, in part because it just brings back all the old feelings from the other place, which this job was my escape from. Rationally, I realize I’m overreacting emotionally to this one asshole’s attempts to control their environment, but I can’t help feeling despair and anger and an overwhelming confusion at the fact that this just doesn’t make any fucking sense, and I want to escape. I don’t want to have to wear emotional armor every day again. I don’t want to come home and feel weighed down by a burden of negative energy dumped on me by someone else who is unhappy and insecure and needs either a target or a scapegoat to expunge those emotions from their own mind. Clearly, you have never heard of writing or drinking. My two favorite pasttimes for a reason, bitches.

I suppose I should be glad I’m about ready to start working on the finale of that novel. I should thank Jerkface for giving me the emotional fuel I need to write an angsty “but everyone hates me / who gives a shit what they think” kind of scene. I’d rather just have to fake it, though.

Alas. Such is not my fate. So time to buckle on the ole chestplate again, and at the end of the day I’ll have my squire of a muse scrape off all the shit and put it in a bottle for me to use when I need it.

And in the meantime, Jerkface, go fuck yourself. You have nothing on an entire department of vindictive middle-aged harpies with too much time and too little work.

Write-out done. For today.

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Beautiful Creatures: Just another sexual morality tale masquerading as a witch story

So I got drug to see Beautiful Creatures over the weekend, and though the film was pretty terrible I saw enough potential in the set-up that I decided to download the book. I couldn’t focus well enough to write last night, so I finished reading the novel instead. Better than the movie, for sure, although I have some serious suspension of disbelief issues–no way a boy spends that much time emoting; have these people ever been to the rural South, much less lived there?; there is no way two creative and determined teenagers can’t figure out how to get off together even without “mating” if that will kill one of them, so why bother pretending otherwise?

My corrollary reaction was simply, WTF is up with all these teenage forced abstinence tales? First Twilight with Edward’s diamond penis and now this.

I think it’s the acknowledgment that, without such an outside imposition, two kids in love aren’t going to find a whole lot of reasons to resist physical intimacy, because they never have. It would be unrealistic for a pairing as electrically attracted as this couple not to have sex sooner or later, but their doing so would take the book out of the “safe” zone of intense longing and wanting to with no fear that it could actually happen.

For me, it’s a cop-out of addressing the actual issues of teenage sex and physical intimacy and what happens when it sucks the first time or two (or ten). I understand the impetus to leave such uncomfortable topics out of books that are about “other things” (like magic or vampires or the end of the world), and I get that a demand exists for “clean” YA, since apparently much of the plain contemporary YA has a lot of sexual content, but at the same time…why, then, do you need to write a romance? Why couldn’t this story be about lonely witch girl finding a best friend? Not a whole helluva lot would change if it were. Castrated romance is actually kind of pointless, now that I think about it.

Well. Time to go enjoy another day at work with the dulcet tones of actual Southern drawls instead of–well, whatever those atrocities were. And maybe now I’ve finally found my inspiration for that sex scene I’ve been debating….

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Filed under Film, Rants and Storms, Reflections on Romance

A Week Without Words

As much as I like to talk about writing as being an analytical process, something anyone can train themselves to do well with enough time, effort, and practice, the truth is that sometimes I can’t write for one simple reason: the words aren’t there.

I am in such a funk this week. Even blogging has been nigh impossible. I think my mind just switched tracks to a completely different mode, and I am struggling to get back to writer mode. I think some of it is time anxiety; I often need long, uninterrupted blocks of time ahead of me before I can work on a project (any project), and that has been in short supply for a couple weeks.

Hopefully tonight I will have nothing to do but focus on my ending again. That would make it a perfect day.

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Wearing Someone Else’s Face – #Amwriting cross-post

Masking has been with humanity about as long as we’ve been human. Something about self-awareness just seems to open us up to the allure of borrowing someone else’s aspect for an hour or two. Whether made of paint or tile, fabric or wood or the skin of another creature, a mask creates a physical barrier over the face that enables the wearer to drop the psychological masks they normally carry. The masker can then choose to assume a trait or personality not their own, or to bring one of their less dominant sides to the fore, or to simply be, without any pretenses at all.

Writing—well, writing fiction, anyway—is a form of masking. The writer steps into the soul and circumstance of someone else in order to explore the world as that person.

Forget the notion of writing what you know. If all of us confined ourselves to writing only what we know, there would be endless novels with no plot except what William Goldman summed up so well as “what with one thing and another, five years passed.” No, we don’t write what we know; we write to tell a true lie.

And part of that truth is understanding what the characters experience.

Not just understanding it. Feeling it. Believing it. You have to put yourself in that character’s mind as if you slipped their face on over your own and subsumed your personality to theirs.

Sometimes writing takes you to a place of happy abandon, like a street party during Carnivale or a Twelfth Night revel. You can be someone funnier, or smarter, or handier in a fight. You can triumph in ways that, in real life, you would never dream of.

But just as many times writing takes you to a darker place—a Halloween night where you must literally dress as a devil in order to survive. You might have to be someone who has lost things you can’t bear to think about, someone who is angry and volatile and hurtful, someone who could never be you…unless they could be.

No matter how far you sink into the role-playing, though, pretending isn’t the same as doing. Empathy is not the same as experience. That’s the beautiful thing about masking. The persona that comes out from under the mask isn’t our usual personality. It is a part of ourselves we might work diligently to control, or a foil to our everyday self. Putting on a mask is the chance to try out being someone else without having to change who we really are.

The writers who create the best characters are the ones most willing let that mask quell their inhibitions—the ones who let themselves feel the emotions or demons or ambitions driving the hero and the villain alike. The ones who let raw humanity take over the thoughts and actions of the characters on page, even when that human element is not refined or glamorous or logical.

Not all writers can (or, perhaps I mean are willing to) do this, just like some people can put on a mask and be too self-conscious to speak. A mask is an opportunity to be free, not a guarantee of freedom.

A mask opens the door to the cage we keep ourselves inside—going through the door is a choice.

You can read it on amwriting site here.

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Filed under Lily Elsewhere, Writing

This Means War: Everything I Hate About Rom-Com’s and Substandard Romance Novels Personified

I made the unfortunate decision to watch This Means War last weekend. I didn’t pay for it, and I suppose I got enough of an intellectual reaction to it that I won’t even snark about paying with 97 minutes of my life, but…it was still an unfortunate decision. Perhaps what made it most unfortunate was that it had potential to be actually kind of fabulous.

this-means-war-reese-witherspoon-chris-pine-tom-hardy

The problem I had with the movie is who she ends up with (spoilers ahoy, maties!).  I am sure the intention was the irrational nature of love and that you can’t choose who you fall in love with off a list of traits you’re looking for, but the end result was a movie that made me believe in the power of divorce and disillusionment, not romance and happily ever after.

Reese (sorry, didn’t bother to notice the character names) supposedly wants to settle down and find her best friend and marry someone who is solid and loving and dependable. You know, like women all claim to want. She is matched with Tom Hardy on a dating site and has a great first date with him–a man who is exactly what she claims to be looking for. Then she meets Chris Pine on her way home, and he is the stereotypical playboy jackass but very handsome and someone she is wildly attracted to. She dates both of them, and since they are both spies they bug her apartment and get to hear all about her doubts regarding both of them. Naturally they then compensate for those doubts on their next dates with her, continuing her confusion as to which is the better guy for her.

So, on the surface this is either equally legitimate or ridiculous, that she can’t choose between them after they tailor their behavior to what she wants. BUT. And this is the but that made me dislike the movie. When she was with Tom, he wasn’t putting on any pretenses or pretending to be someone he wasn’t. He just picked a date that would show her a new side of himself, but one that was true. They had an actual compatibility based on personality and interests and values.  Chris, however, spent his dates trying to be someone he wasn’t in order to impress her. So all the confusion she had about them? Was because one of them actually was compatible with her and the other was pretending to be compatible with her.

Have you guessed where this is going?  Have you figured out that she picks the wrong one?  That she choooses the guy whose entire behavior toward her was a lie?

The only thing she had more in common with, with Chris, was sexual chemistry. And while I don’t mean to imply that chemistry isn’t important…when you have one guy you’re attracted to and have all the other bases for a good relationship with, and one guy you’re wildly attracted to but have nothing else with, if your actual goal is marriage you pick the first guy.  But in this movie, she picks the second guy.

By doing so she killed my ability to believe in the romance of the moment. All I could think was what happens when she learns he knows absolutely nothing about all the subjects they supposedly shared passions for? What happens when the lust wears off and she takes a step back to see how shallow, insecure, and pathetic that guy is?

This is a problem I see a lot in romantic comedies and romance alike–a couple that has little to bind them but a superior lust, that we (as an audience) are told is totally good enough to base a lifetime on. No. No, it isn’t. It’s why I appreciate romance novels that take place over weeks or months rather than days, and why I prefer stories that are only about the relationship (rather than a mystery or a spy ring or an adventure), even if they are slower and a little “boring.”  At least by the end I can believe the characters know one another well enough to make an informed declaration of love rather than be left wondering what they have when the adventure is over.

So, to sum up, This Means War could have been awesome if it had been a story about a woman choosing the slightly less handsome man who actually had some character over the super-hot playboy who had nothing more to offer than great sex, but instead it just pissed me off. The only reason it wasn’t an irretrievable waste of time is that it delineated so starkly my own romance aesthetic…and sometimes that kind of validation can be inspiring.

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Filed under Film, Reflections on Romance