shadowkat: (Default)
Woke up in a good mood, then alas I went to work and my mood slowly drifted downhill from there. Not helped by the weather. Whenever I went outside, I felt as if I was treading through water. The air was thick with perspiration and electricity...

1. This week, Sci-Fi fan Co-worker, the one who loans me books...which would be cool, except he likes to loan me books that have tiny print and he'd bought in the 1960s, so they make me sneeze...

Sci-Fi Co-worker aka RZ (short for Roger Zelzany fan): I saw the worst science fiction/fantasy series on television ever this weekend. And I do mean the worse of anything I've ever seen in my entire life.
(I take a breath and brace myself...just in case it's one I happen to like, there's so many to choose from. Also this is rare, because he pretty much likes all sci-fi/fantasy shows, even shows like Midnight, Texas. )
Me: Okay...what was it?
RZ: Twin Peaks.
(I burst out laughing.)
Me: Okay, do you mean the current one? Or the original?
RZ: Yes, the most recent..
Me: Did you watch the original?
RZ: No -
Me: Because the sequel won't make a lick of sense without watching the original, or so I've been told.
RZ: My wife saw the original...
Me: Did she like the sequel?
RZ: Really not. It made no sense. Everything about it was horrible...
Me: Well, you got to understand it's David Lynch. After the first two seasons of Twin Peaks, he sort of went off the rails...and decided to be surreal. So if you don't like pure surrealism, you probably won't like it...
RZ: Maybe. Except this was just awful.
Me: David Lynch is often an acquired taste. For me he's hit or miss. I liked the first two seasons of Twin Peaks, Mullohound Drive, and Blue Velvet. Not so much the other stuff. Dune was a disappointment.
RZ: Skip this.

Considering everyone online including my mother's cousin adores the sequel to Twin Peaks, I find this conversation rather amusing and somewhat informative.

2. Discussion with freshman roommate, who happens to be African-American, lives in Boston, and works as financial planner about that Racism chart that I posted the other day. This also includes my aunt, who had to pipe in her two cents. The national debate on necessary but extremely painful.

Ex-Roommate: I have a problem with us trying to define racism. What about people who march, make space, "put themselves in harms way" for other motives? Defy parents, low self-esteem, trying to prove something? What about POC who are racist against other POC? It's fine when people are obvious about racism, but you can't get into the minds and hearts of people, look at surface behavior and yell racism. I think this chart is fine, but its so much deeper then this.

Me: Thank you. I've been wondering about this as well. Can we define it so neatly? And is there a relationship between racism and "privilege", which should be emphasized? I think you are right -- it's much more complicated than this.

Ex-Roommate: I know plus size white women who say they can only date black men because white men aren't attracted to them. Is that racist? I know a woman who adopted a little girl from China, and she would constantly say racist things towards Asian people at work. When we called her out on it she said, "I'm not racist my little girl is from China." And I constantly have black people telling me, "You should have financial education classes just for black people as we don't know how to manage our money like white people." Racist?

Me: I think it's prejudice and racism but it is socialized racism. But not necessarily discrimination in all cases? There's a huge difference between racial prejudice and racial discrimination and profiling. I mean everyone is prejudiced in some way, right? I think we all make generalizations based on physical traits and develop prejudices many of which we are socialized to believe. But, that doesn't justify racist or prejudicial behavior that hurts another. So I think it depends on the action? I.e. The woman who prefers dating black men because they see her as beautiful is a bit different than the coworker who thinks it is okay to say abusive and derogatory comments about the Chinese even though she has an adopted Chinese daughter. If anything what she's doing is worse because she's reinforcing negative racial views regarding her own daughter. Just as it is different for black people to use the "N'' word and for a white person to use it. Or a white guy to say blacks can't manage their money as opposed to the black woman stating it -- however in both cases it's not true. My white grandparents and many family members are horrific at it and I work with a lot of black financial whites.

Aunt: The chart is not diagnosing your racism. It's a tool to open your eyes as to where you stand and then hopefully, you strive to improve yourself. It's not a judgement tool. It's a self help tool.

Aunt to Ex-Roommate: No. Mentally maladjusted. I've worked in the public sector and, let's face it, there are some out there who are just plain nuts! (Whoops, I hope I wasn't being offensive to the mentally ill).

I don't know. Racism is admittedly a trigger for me. I have strong opinions regarding it. I think in part because I've seen up close and personal the consequences of it. I've met and talked and become close to people who were severely hurt by it. And I've listened to and sat with the bigots. I think I told you about my Uncle Earl, he died several years ago. The man would talk about "Nigger Ball" that's what he called Basketball. And he disowned his daughter for marrying a person of color. And at one point, he pointed out to my parents that they might want to worry about my brother marrying his wife, who was part Cherokee (and Jewish) because they tend be quite dark and will have...dark kids.
My father had to leave the room and could barely stand him. He called him "Lonseome Dove", half in jest.

I'm trying to listen. And not say too much. I think sometimes I say too much. I've been criticized a lot in my life for saying too much.

3. On a brighter note...Voyage to the Other World: A New Eulogy for Ray Bradbury by Margaret Atwood Okay, it's an eulogy, so maybe not brighter?

4. I don't know, I think several episodes of Great British Bake-Off need to be binged this weekend. I need a palate cleanser. Either that or the Defenders...although I think Great British Bake-Off would be better.
shadowkat: (Default)
1. There's an horror/sci-fi novel out there entitled Amish Vampires in Space and according to smartbitches its not that bad and not a parody.

The plot seems to be about a transport crew that picks up a cryogenically frozen scientist and her wrecked lab along with a bunch of Amish colonists, out in the reaches of space. One of the crew members fiddles about in the scientist's lab and gets bitten by something -- which turns him into a vampire. He feeds on the livestock and most of the passengers and crew, until before you know it -- you have Amish Vampires in Space.


2. I couldn't think any more or focus on anything or listen to anyone by the end of the work day. Felt a bit like I'd been hit by a Mac Truck. So nixed going to the Psychology Lecture - entitled Mad World. (I honestly didn't care, I wanted to go home and be a vegetable.)

Tried to write some during downtime, but brain fog made it difficult. Haven't been sleeping well, which may be part of it. Don't know.

3. Current state of politics is confusing and headache inducing, so I've been ignoring it for the most part.

eh UK and US politics )

3. Riverdale

Well, the season finale surprised me. The resolution of the Jason Blossom mystery didn't, I sort of figured out who killed him some time ago. Although they did plant a few clever red-herrings.

The show is sort of a hybrid of various genres, noir, mystery, teen soap, and a bit of the Surreal Twin Peaks/Graphic novel. The parents or adults are the villains in the piece.
With their kids navigating the stormy waters of their secrets.

I'm sticking with it. Rather enjoyed it. Doesn't require that much attention, I like the characters, and find their subversion of the bad trope interesting. Jughead is the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks, but he's wickedly bright, not strong or tough at all, and a bit of a nerd, who loves to sit in a corner and write. A sensitive soul. And slight of build. Betty Cooper is the quintessential good girl next door, except she has a dark side, and her own secrets.

None of the kids look like kids of course. They all look like they are in their 20s. I think Stranger Things might be the only television series I've seen that employs actual teens.

4.) I have written 279 pages and 147,700 words on my novel to date. Which could prove problematic when I decide to publish it. If I publish it. At this rate, it may well clock in at a little over 350 or 400 pages and 199,000 words or thereabouts. I tend to write books about that length.

I am not a short story writer. And, while I dabbled with fanfic, I find it difficult to write.

somewhat lengthy discussion of writing fanfic, writing in general )
shadowkat: (books)
Was thinking today about writing styles, and how subjective they are. What sparked this was a New Yorker Article about The Girl Who Circumvented Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making - the crowd-source funded web series that got published, won various awards, and became a best seller. I tried reading it as a web series and just couldn't get into it. I did buy the paperback and give it to my ten year old niece for her birthday, she couldn't get into it either. Read a few reviews on Amazon at lunch and realized that my difficulty with the writer is her writing style doesn't work for me. It's too academic, too cluttered, and formal in tone. I read/write/negotiate/manage public works construction and architectural design contracts and technical specifications for a living, so...I like cleaner writing. Cluttered writing tends to bug me, I think? And for pleasure, I want emotion more than intellect, and Valient's stories are more about the mind than the heart, or the intellect more than the spirit. So when I read them, I feel like I'm at work or back in school. (I think it is a really good thing that I didn't become an English Lit Prof. Sometimes what we think we want isn't good for us.)

The negative reviewers pretty much said the same things -- that the stories would be great for linguistic and literary analysis, or that they fell a bit too much into allegory. One went so far to state that they are allergic to allegory and that Valiente's story was all allegory and thick with it. It's worth noting that I'm not a fan of allegorical writing either. It irritates me. It irritated me in high school, when I read Animal Farm, in College, and as an adult. And that I had somewhat the same reaction to The Master and The Margarita, it felt more for the head than the heart. It was more philosophical or allegorical than spiritual. It didn't speak to my spirit, which is what I craved.

The book that I'm reading now, The Power of Now is a spiritual book, not a good idea to analyze it or think about it too much. It's all about turning off the mind or brain and just going with your gut, finding that place of inner peace and silence. Being in the moment.

David Forster Wallace's style also requires a different type of thinking -- his style is cluttered, undisciplined, and comes razor close to pretentious. Too literary for its own good. And then there's Elmore Leonard who believed that you should kick to the side any phrases or words that readers tend to skip. Pretentious words had no place in his writing or archaic ones. He wrote like people actually spoke. Used slang. And focused primarily on character. Theme be damned. He'd have despised Neil Gaiman and Cat Valiente's writing style - which is often more interested in the theme, world-building, allegory, and setting than character. But then there are people like my co-worker who don't like Elmore Leonard, who felt he was just writing movie scripts, and perhaps he was.

People either heap praise or criticism on individual writing styles and are chock full of opinions. They often state their opinions in dogmatic or didactic fashion as if it is fact not opinion, which I guess in a way it is - if it is something that you feel absolutely. But I think it really is a matter of individual taste. For example? While I adored James Joyce and Gabriel Garcia Marquez writing styles, I did not much like Roger Zelazny, Marion Zimmer Bradley, or Pamela Deans. While I enjoy Neil Gaiman's style in some of his books (not all), I don't like Cat Valiente's who has been compared to him. Illona Andrews and Jim Butcher work for me, I love their sardonic wit, but I hated Charlene Harris' writing style. Liane Moriarity and Helen Fielding's style worked, but I found Jo Jo Moyes unreadable. I enjoyed Stephen King, but not Dean Koontz. Adored Jane Austen, found Charles Dickens to be ponderous. Mark Twain amused, while Henry James could cure insomnia with his wet and sticky prose. (Mark Twain oddly, agreed.) Edith Wharton was poetical, Nathanial Hawthorn jarring. Charlotte Bronte satisfied, while Emily Bronte aggravated. Chris Claremont entertained with tight character-driven plotting, while Brad Metzler bewildered with insane plot twists that fell out of the sky and winked at me.

Thinking about it too much makes me rather self-conscious about my own, which it did today. What if no one likes it? There's a sort of fear that I have that if I don't write like A, B. and Z, you won't want to read my work. But I've learned that's not true. There's no way of knowing who will read me or not read me. And worrying too much about one's own writing style is death to a writer. You can't think too much about what you are doing as a writer, art doesn't come from the mind, it comes from the heart, the spirit, the gut. Whenever the mind gets involved, the whole kit and caboodle shuts itself down, leaving the writer rending their hair in frustration, muttering, why, why, why.

* What I just finished reading?

Night Broken by Patricia Briggs - a quick read, with a clean crisp style. Not overly descriptive, as is to be expected considering the genre. This one surprised me a little because it was much better than her previous books. And I hadn't expected it to be. There's two antagonists or villains. One is Adam's ex-wife. Or rather, Mercy Thompson's husband's former wife, Christy. Christy is beautiful, manipulative, and put Adam through hell when he was married to her. The pack loves her.
And his daughter is by Christy.

Christy pops up requesting protection from Adam and his werewolf pack (hello, urban fantasy). She's being pursued by a stalker ex-boyfriend/lover. She also makes it clear she wants Adam back, even though he's remarried to Marcy and has moved on. Playing all sorts of manipulative mind games to get her way.

Enter the antagonist, Juan Flores, who is Christy's ex, and head over heels in love with her. He thinks she's the reincarnation of his one true love, the sun goddess. The metaphor isn't lost on me, a fickle goddess, who races from one place to the next, one lover to the next. Much as Christy has in the background of the books. Jesse's always talking about her mother's multiple lovers.

Juan, it turns out is a volcano god. He consumes in flames whatever he touches. And once he starts consuming, he can't stop...the hunger won't abate. And in human form, he looks like a sex god or porn star. He's lust personified.

Both antagonists are, and they are both narcissistic, it's all about them. Mercy at one point thinks they are made for each other. Except Christy is human, so..

I found that dichotomy rather interesting. Also, a few of the female characters are better developed than they'd been previously.

What I'm reading now?

The last in the Mercy Briggs series, Fire Touched. There's probably going to be more, but I'm stopping here. Actually no, there's one left, I've bought. A series of short stories about various characters in the series that I wanted to learn more about.
shadowkat: (Tv shows)
1.)Scrivener is really helping with the novel writing. No longer do I have to scroll a hundred and sixty-some pages to get to where I left off. And it provides the ability to write a little synopsis of each chapter as you go. Plus character sketches, settings, and an area for research. And, it has a built-in spelling and grammar check. Not to mention formatting for paperback, hardcover, e-book, and scripts. It's not that expensive for a software program - about $45 bucks and you just download it.

Highly recommend. I bought it for my birthday.

2.) Loving this new Shondra Rhimes/Betsy Beers series entitled The Catch - which was pitched by British author, Kate Atkinson, who wrote the novel Life After Life and serves as one of the executive producers. It's sort of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels meets The Thomas Crown Affair, with Peter Krause playing a con-man and Mirelli Enos portraying a private investigator who is chasing him, after he conned her out of millions and stole her heart. The catch is that he fell for her. But it is fiendishly clever in places. And diverse. With complicated characters and two cases of the week -- the con that Peter Krause (Christopher) and his associates are plotting and the investigation that Alice and her associates are investigating, plue Alice evading an interpol agent while she hunts down Christopher.

Last week he gave her a painting that was hanging in a museum. She thought he stole it to set her up. But what he actually did was forge the painting, switch the forgery with the actual painting and give
Alice the real one. With her lawyer, she discovers that he picks his aliases from the obituaries. (Hey, I came up with that idea first -- my con artist in Doing Time on Planet Earth chooses her aliases from the obitaries as well.) Adore that idea.

It's fun. And the actors portraying the lead roles are good. Also stars Penny from LOST as Christopher's boss/lover Margo, who he's been with for over 15 years. There's lots of back story and each week we get another intriguing tid-bit.

Sexy fun. With very little violence.

Although will state that like all television mystery shows...the mystery is somewhat predictable. (It's always the first person they suspect for some reason.) But, unlike Elementary, the mystery plot line holds together better. My problem with Elementary is their mysteries don't work, they sort of fall apart. (I watch Elementary for the characters not the plotting, the writers suck at plotting).
So far the plot of this series is working for me.

I know it got mixed reviews, but once again I find my taste diverging from the critics. It may just be me, but television critics seem to have a taste for raunchy, over-the-top, and violent television series. I'm wondering if it is just that they watch too many television shows? Must suck being a television critic.
shadowkat: (city clock)
1. Tempting but pricey: A Writers Workshop with two Writing Professors, who specialize in genre blending. The program is supposed to address craft issues common to fiction in all its forms, whether mainstream or genre. But alas, it's $575. In Brooklyn, but $575. Also, next week is going to be busy, busy, busy and people intensive at work. (Lots of traveling back and forth to Jamaica from Manhattan - which is an hour, and various meetings that I have to present stuff in, listen closely, and/or facilitate. My job is partly to run. present at, facilitate, and coordinate meetings that involve projects that I'm procuring.) And, at this point I've taken so many writing courses, I could teach a course about it. But tempting, definitely tempting.

The science fiction novel that I'm currently working on has a huge plot bunny. Or mcguffin that I'm struggling with. Read more... )

2. Saw The Robber Bridegroom today, 2pm matinee showing, which was relatively uncrowded. I got to move up five-six rows. So that I was about five to six rows from the stage.

It's a fun, interactive musical, told in the style of a tall tail and adapted from Eudora Welty's short story of the same name. Actually, Margaret Atwood used the idea in her novel, entitled The Robber Bride. Stephen Pasqual who is known mainly for various supporting television roles, portrayed the lead character, Jaime Lockhart. And the man definitely has a pair of pipes on him - he can sing, and well. So could the others, but he's really good. They had a live bluegrass band on the stage, which intermingled with the actors.

I've recently re-discovered my love of bluegrass music, so thoroughly enjoyed it. It was put on by the Roundabout Theater Company, an off-broadway, not for profit company. They put on numerous plays each season. Afterward, they were collecting funds for HIV Drive - so I gave a donation.

I wouldn't say it was great theater, but definitely worth the price of admission -- and enjoyable.

Some interesting gender metaphors and cultural metaphors on play during it. And it has fine old time poking fun at stereotypes. A bit off-color in humor, may offend a few folks out there, and definitely raunchy, but fun.

Debated getting tickets to Richard the II at BAM, with David Tennant in the lead, but alas, it's sold out - standby tickets only. And I don't have the patience or time to do standby, did that in my 20s.

Remember doing it in London - to see Phantom of the Opera, which had just opened in London. I was so disappointed by the performance, that I swore never to do it again. (We stood in line every day after class for a week. I was in London in the 1980s for a Theater Studies Program, we saw theater and wrote critical meta-reviews about it. It was mostly classical theater, Shakespeare, or 18th Century pieces. I don't think we saw anything that was modern.)

I make it a point to see at least three theatrical performances a year -- my favorite art form is live theater. I adore it to pieces, but I'm not willing to spend hours waiting in line for it any longer. Some people love live music (which is sort of wasted on me, (can never hear it properly and I found watching people standing and singing on stage boring), I love live-storytelling. It's a bone of contention between my brother and I, he adores live concerts, hates theater, I'm the exact of opposite. To me -- story and metaphor and characters are everything. We have similar differences regarding our taste in art as well - he prefers conceptual art or minimalistic abstract art, I prefer art that tells a story or conveys an emotion or feeling. Although we are similar in some ways as well, neither of us have any paintings, posters, photos, or drawings on our walls - yet we're both artists. Which my niece and parents consider odd. We also both prefer serial television series. Neither of us play video games or are into spectator sports, we watch them with ambivalence. Having a sibling feels at times like a double-edged sword, or a gift that spits in your face, repeatedly.)

3. The city is in partial bloom. Lots of flowering trees in my area, and the weeping willows in front of my apartment complex and along Ocean Parkway and Ditmas Park are quite lovely sprigs of kelly green. The areas becoming increasingly gentrified. And more populated than it was when I moved to NYC back in 1996. Today, I was once again near the vicinity of my office -- making me miss the days the office was situated in Jamaica, not in the city. Talk about culture shocks. Old office was in a run-down Carribean/Haitian neighborhood, and next door to various projects or low-rent housing. New area is rather upscale in comparison. We're next door to J Crew and across the street from Brooks Brothers. Oh, and Berkely College is just down the block. Before it was Jamaica Community College. And each Wednesday, they'd give away food to the homeless and destitute in Rufus King Park. While at the new location, it's ice skating and wine bars in Bryant Park. The homeless are studiously ignored. One young guy's been rather industrious, he's set up shop between two doorways next to Barnes and Noble. He lies on a mat, with a blanket. Sheltered underneath the awning. With a sign - I'm homeless, friendless, with no family, and no job -- please help. One day, I gave him five bucks. Now, I'm beginning to wonder why no one has moved him into a shelter. In Jamaica, they were moved into shelters. Also, he seems rather clean and well-kept for a homeless person.

The Roundabout Theater was located between 6th and 7th avenues, off of 46th street. Just a few blocks north of the fancy Grace building, which houses amongst other things, HBO Television and Film Studios. (I applied for a job there once in the licensing department, glad I didn't get it, it doesn't pay well and I'd have been bored out of my mind in a month.) Lots of fancy clothing stores on Mad Avenue and 5th, such as Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor, Elle Tahiri, J Crew, Paul Stewart, Urban Outfitters, and Sketchers (less fancy). Not so much on 6th and 7th, which are reserved for restaurants and cultural venues, like the Steinway Piano Store. Few trees until you get to Bryant Park. It's very much the concrete and glass jungle that you've seen on television, where you feel like you are walking through a concrete canyon of buildings, various shapes, sizes and styles. But all painted gray, brown, white, and black or shades of each.

I've lived and worked around the city for so long now, that I barely notice. And zig-zagging through lots of people to get from point A to point Z is second nature to me now. It has it colorful touches for the observant - the buskers who perform underground and above ground, the clothing styles, which included today, a man walking towards me in a kilt. The various spoken languages and accents.

The city has a buzz to it, a vibrancy...that sings beneath one's feet. An energy. It can be exhausting at times. By the time I got home, which took about 45 minutes, I was exhausted. Weirdest thing, it takes about 45 minutes to get anywhere in this city, regardless of where you are coming from. It's bizarre. We used to joke about it. Took me exactly 45 minutes to get to the theater and to get home, and it was 18 stops on the subway. Straight shot on the F, thankfully. Got off in front of the HBO store.
shadowkat: (Calm)
[ profile] truepenny aka the author of the notable fantasy novel, and Hugo nominee, "The Goblin Emperor" has been blogging on her writing process in a series of posts. The latest, which is entitled Five Things I Know About Worldbuilding, I find to be rather interesting and quite helpful.

In case you missed the link, go HERE for her post "Five Things I Know About World Building".

Never tell your audience everything you know.

This goes back to both (1.) and (2.) You aren’t writing a textbook; there isn’t going to be a test. You don’t have to explain everything, and in fact you’re better off if you don’t.

Also, there should be a difference between everything you know and everything your viewpoint character knows. Unless you’re writing in omniscient (in which case you, sir or madam, are as mad as a fish2), you need to filter your information through the character. If she doesn’t know it, she can’t tell the reader about it. If she doesn’t think it’s important, she won’t tell the reader about it. If the version of the facts she’s been given is wrong …

This is a problem that I've seen in historical novels as well. Most recently in the novel "The Other Daughter", where the writer got distracted by the time period. It also happened in a friend's novel that I read several years back. It's why I'm not a fan of historicals, because the writer's often
forsake characterization for well, sharing their extensive research. Hint - if you prefer research to writing, don't write, hire yourself out as a professional researcher.

I hate researching. Doesn't mean I'm not good at it -- I am. And I'm fast, when I have to find the answer to something. But I hate it. Something I have in common with my father - he has no patience for it either, but is wickedly good at it. The man is an encyclopedia of information and can find things quickly - or he used to. Age has had its effects.

But it is also a problem with a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels. Various popular writers do it all the time and get away with it. So non-popular, beginning writers think they can do it too.

I had a creative writing professor once who cautioned us not to try world-building until we figured out characterization and plot mechanics. But I think truepenny really provides some good tips. One of which is to build the world through the point of view of the characters.

Omniscient science fiction novels rarely work for me. I prefer sci-fi that sticks to a point of view, one or several, doesn't matter. And builds the world through it. See for example what George Lucas does in Star Wars - the first three films, he builds his world through the eyes of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa and to a degree Vader and C3PO and R2 D2. The next three films - he loses most of his audience, by building the world outside of a specific characters perspective. Instead of the characters being the focus, the world becomes the focus. Which is why various actors looked like they were walking through their roles. Liam Neeson and Natalie Portman in particular. Because the point of view was omniscient, not specific to any one character. Skip to Star Wars:The Force Awakens, in that film we go back to the original model - the point of view is the characters. We are in Rey and Finn's point of view and to a degree Kylo Ren's and BB8's. The switch to the character's perspective, brings the audience into the action. We care about the characters, so we also care about the world. While making the focus on the world, distances the audience from the action and characters - so we are no longer invested in the characters, and as a result don't care so much about the world.

Another way of looking at it - think of buying a house or an apartment. When you visit a house that has no one living in it. It's well just a bunch of rooms. But if there is someone in it - you see it in a different way. Houses that are inhabited often sell faster than empty houses, because we can see how the house is a home. A model home or house looks very different than a house that your friend or someone you know lives in. Or even a stranger. The house takes on the personalities of the people in it. As does the world that you are building - it takes on the characteristics of the people who inhabit it.
shadowkat: (Tough enuf)
In lieu of the Wed Reading Meme, mainly because I haven't read anything interesting to comment on this week. So figure I'll talk about writing about gender instead.

Over the course of the last few weeks, a couple of posts about the differences between male and female writers popped up online. The first, was a comment to a post that my cousin made concerning the popular novel Girl on a Train, and how well written the female characters were, even if they were all crazy. And that from a male point of few, seeing the inner workings of the female mind, he couldn't help but wonder whether women really thought like that. His wife stated, no, these women are crazy. (Although it did make me wonder about my cousin. Seriously? You're going to base your understanding of the inner workings of the female mind on a dark noir thriller? Be like me basing my understanding of the male mind on Thomas Harris novels. He was probably just joking, or at least one would hope.) At any rate - the comment that caught my eye, stated:

Mike V
Question: "How do you write women so well?"
"Simple, I start with a man, and then I take away reason and accountability."

Deb V: Hey!

First off? Over the course of my life, I've been told at various times that I write like a guy. At school, friends would ask me to hand write a note that came from a guy to fool someone. They wrote too "pretty", while my style resembled my Dad's - crisp block letters and clean.

In fandom, a couple of people thought I was guy, which blew my mind. I tend to write in a conversational, somewhat snarky style, most of the time. Also, when I was on one particular fanboard, a poster got pissed with me for assuming s/he was female. S/he preferred to be neither. (I'd been told elsewhere by folks who'd met s/he that s/he was in fact female. But they didn't want their gender specified online.)

The nifty thing about online posting is -- if you so desire -- you can basically keep gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, looks, etc - invisible. All people know about you is what you decide to convey through words. And after over 10 years of online interaction on various fan boards and social medias, I can tell you this - you can't tell if someone is black, white, purple, gay, straight, queer, female, male, transgender, or anything in between unless they tell you or indicate it somehow. Can't tell by icons or GIF - women use male icons all the time and vice versa. Can't tell by poster name. A lot of people deliberately pick gender neutral names or there are women who pick male names and vice versa.

Writing style? No, sorry. It's rarely clear.

Interests? Please.

Second? My father used to tell my Mom that women were more nuturing and men less so. Possibly his explanation for why she was better at staying home with the kiddies, while he worked? The Universe being the eternal jokester, decided to give him a daughter who resembled his style, and a son who resembled my Mom's. My brother loves to garden, he inherited the green thumb, he's nuturing, love children, and is great at taking care of animals. I, on the other hand, have more of a protector personality. Kill plants. Have no idea what to do with small children. My brother was always into fashion and staying on top of the latest trends, I just wear whatever is comfortable.

We were discussing books once, my brother, my father and myself. My poor Dad, who is a fan of Ernest Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy, had to deal with his son - who couldn't stand either, because he found them to be too macho and as a result, unrelatable and unrealistic. Portraying a male stereotype.
He said, a lot of women wrote male characters far better. Which blew my Dad's mind, because he bought into the view that you can't write the opposite gender.

It's not that hard, actually. You write the opposite gender more or less the same way you write your own, as an individual person. Then imagine what it would be like to be that person, to be under their skin. It does help if you read a lot of books, by both genders. I've known male writers who write women characters better than some female novelists.

Speaking of novelists and gender writing? Magaret Atwood sucks at writing male characters. It's my major issue with her novels. She doesn't like men that much and has some serious issues with the male gender. Great prose stylist, sucks at character development. It's my main quibble with The Blind Assassin -- I find her male characters to be a bit cliche and stereotypical. The female characters on the other hand are well-drawn. She gets away with it - by having the novel in the point of view of the female characters, both of which have serious and understandable issues with men.
Another literary writer who doesn't write gender well is Jeffrey Eugendies whose depiction of female characters threw me out of his novel The Marriage Plot. The lead character was such a cliche, that I gave up. Felt the same way about his earlier novel The Virgin Suicides - which had exactly the same problem. He sucks at writing female characters. The male characters were fine.

Oddly, some genre writers are often better at it. I don't know why. Agatha Christie was a master. So too is George RR Martin. Dorothy Dunnett also was quite adept. The book that I'm reading now, a historical romance, entitled the Highwayman, has great male characters. Only one female character - so hard to tell, but even she's well drawn and not a cliche. Same deal with Courtney Milan and Illona Andrews.

I think the trick with writing gender is the same one in regards to writing POC, don't make gender or POC an issue. Write it color-blind. Flip the roles. Make the female the hero, and the guy the damsel.

The other comment that I saw online was that men write better historicals than women, because, hello, they are about war and not parlor dramas. I laughed. Considering one of the best historical novels to come out in years was Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies. And let's not forget the blokes who wrote parlor novels - Julian Fellows - Downton Abbey (okay television series), the guy who wrote The Parade, and Thomas Hardy. So. I beg to differ. Also, let's not forget Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Series or PD Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster. And on the nonfiction front? We have Doris Kearns Goodwin.

I've been told that women read more broadly than men. It's hard to wrap my head around this. Because, my father reads like I do, he devours books. Granted he's more particular. But he does read a broad range. As does my brother. I know a lot of men who read. I have a male co-worker in his 60s who enjoyed the Twilight Novels and ahem, 50 Shades of Grey. He also loved Lord of Light and various sci-fi novels, and historical fiction and non-fiction. He reads a wide range. While I know women who will only read non-fiction or the newspaper, they have no tolerance for fiction. Actually the female lead in the film 84 Charing Cross Road, famously states that fiction is a waste of time because it's not about real people.

In short, assuming you read all that, our gender appears to have very little to do with how we write, read, or what interests us in books. Yet for some reason or other, people persist in thinking it does.
shadowkat: (Tv shows)
I know people vary on this point, or I suspect that they do, but I'm always more interested in the why than the what or the how or the which or the when, mostly because I believe the why governs everything. If you don't ask why questions as a writer - I believe that you are leaving out 90% of the story. Stories that ignore the why are forgettable, and feel rather flat, stories that focus on the why...stay with me long after they are done. Why is also, often, the question we don't know or want to know the answer to, which is why we don't ask it.

There was a list recently online somewhere for the 75 Greatest Living Women Writers, which I did not agree with...and was wondering if anyone would like to throw out names of female writers that while not "greatest" are at least "notable" and "memorable". Writers that you would read a second time - and whose books or novels or writing made you think, moved you, or inspired you?

The meme?

* List 5 to 10 women writers whose novels or writing made you think, inspired or moved you.
* Beside each list the book, novel, or piece of writing that made you list the writer as inspiration or memorable or notable
* Explain why
* I think they should still be alive, if at all possible, makes it harder (in other words, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Shirley Jackson, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Dunnett, and Octavia Butler - are disqualified because they are dead.)

Here's 10 of mine, because seriously 75 would take me forever. But I'm not ranking them, so order isn't important:

1. Alice Walker - The Color Purple, told in diary format, read it in high school never forgot it. Haven't read anything else by her though. What hit about the book was it focused on female relationships - that had zip to do with men. It was about a young gal who was different, and managed to have the courage to fight back against those who enslaved her.

2. Toni Morrison - Beloved - a haunting ghost story told in stream-of-conscious poetic prose, and partially in the perspective of the ghost. It's a book about the resilency of the human spirit. About how women handled slavery and how the ghosts of slavery continue to haunt you. It's also about rising above and fighting back, without violence, and without silence.

3. Sherri Tepper - Grass - a science fiction novel about gender, religion, tradition, and relating to something completely foreign. It's a mystery and a horror tale - about a family who journey's to a distant planet to determine the cause of a plague that is rapidly killing everyone on their home world. And what is happening to the settlers on this planet, who appear to be sort of mindless. But it is more of a why tale than a what - because it asks questions regarding human relationships, and why we feel the need to enforce our own culture on others. The aliens are particularly fascinating in this novel - for the young fear metamphorizing into the next stage...and see the next stage of their development as foreign and twisted.

4. Maria Doria Russell - The Sparrow and its sequel, The Children of God, this is story about a group of people, including a priest, sanctioned by the Catholic Church, to journey to a distant world - and do a cultural exchange. It explores the arrogance of this endeavor, the nature of faith, how we view god and why, and all the cultural misunderstandings that can occur and why knowing the language of another culture isn't enough, you have to understand the meaning as well. She's also written a novel on Doc Holiday.

5. Donna Tartt - The Secret History - it's a murder mystery, but we know the killer at the beginning of the novel and we know the victim, what we don't know is why. Or more to the point, why the narrator agreed to cover it up and continue his relationship with the murderers. It's about a religious ritual gone wrong, and the arrogance of scholarship.

6. Minette Walters - The Ice House - about a murder and why it happened. The murderers are common place, ordinary women, and the victim...well complicated. They actually made this one into a film. Also The Sculptress - a story about a woman convicted of a heinous crime, the question is why she did it - and it slowly breaks it down.

7. Anne Rice - Interview with a Vampire - which weirdly enough turned the vampire trope on-to its head and may well have created the urban fantasy genre. In Rice's novel, the vampires are the protagonists. It's in some respects an allegorical and lyrical tale about death - and the desire to avoid it at all costs. To preserve one's loved ones - even if by doing so, you destroy them. Lestate creates Louis, falling for him and needing him to aid him with his mortal father. Louis and Lestate create a child vampire - hoping for a family...which becomes twisted. Rice delves deeper into the mythos with The Vampire Lestate and Queen of the Damned - exploring Egyptian myths and ancient goddess mythology and how the twisting of the "goddess mythos" by "the god" followers created vampires.

8. Ellen Kushner - Privilege of the Sword and Swordspoint - comments on the historical romance and swashbuckler tale, creating a fantasy world where swordsman are like guns for hire, fighting duels for the rich. In Privilege, an eccentric uncle agrees to give his sister her inheritance in exchange for teaching her daughter to become a swordsman, and in Swordspoint, a swordsman falls for a young male scholar...who acts like a damsel, but eventually saves him with witty political maneuvers.

9. Margaret Atwood - the short story "Rape Fantasies", The Robber Bride, and the Blind Assassin - in Rape Fantasies, the protagonist discusses the various rape fantasies women have and how women view rape - at the end we realize who she is telling the story to, a man in a bar who she fears may want to rape her. In the Robber Bride - told through a series of flashbacks, three women friends reflect on how their long dead classmate, Zenia, robbed them of a series of beaux. It's based on the fairy tale the Robber Bride. The Blind Assassin which I'm reading now is about two sisters, one who dies at the beginning of the book and whose novel, the Blind Assassin we read throughout. It's a story within a story within a story. Like a series of chinese dolls nested within each other.

10. JK Rowling - Harry Potter - creator of a rather innovative and often darkly witty series of stories of a Boy Wizard who fights and ultimately defeats the evil Wizard who destroyed his family. But that's not what it is really about - or the main focus, the main focus is a coming of age tale, about school politics, leadership, friendship, and why and how the decisions we make influence everyone and everything around us. Within the book, Rowling takes a rather biting look at British classism and imperialism, not to mention xenophobia. But she does it with a light and witty tone. Her later book, A Casual Vacancy, I've heard is much darker.
shadowkat: (warrior emma)
After having finished Yours Until Dawn by Teresa Mederios - which is an average romance novel with a "dreaded" plot twist, I've come to the conclusion that plot twists are difficult to pull off. Actually its not just this novel but various others along with television serials that have brought me to this conclusion.

The trick to a good plot twist is that the audience and/or reader is surprised, yet at the same time when they think back on the plot, it makes perfect sense. Or some of the audience, have figured it out - but it works so well and furthers the plot and conflict and characters in such a way, they can't wait for it to happen.

The thing to remember with Plot Twists is that it is okay if your reader or audience figures it out ahead of time. The only thing you, the writer, should be worried about is if it tracks, it furthers the story, furthers the characters, and makes sense. Also it should take the story in a new direction or change it in an interesting way - or at the very least explain things about the characters, etc.

Examples of good plot twists include the following:
Read more... )
Examples of the Dreaded Plot Twist :

The dreaded plot twist is when you can't track it back, or it can't be figured out as you are watching or reading the novel. The writer has left so many red-herrings or misleads a long the way, that you'd have to suspend logic to figure it out or know about it ahead of time.

A really good way to know a plot twist doesn't work is if upon re-reading or re-watching, you can't quite see it and realize it makes no logical sense. It's also when the twist feels jarring or something the characters would never do, in order for the plot twist to actually happen - the characters have to go against their true natures. If it throws you out of the story - it's a bad plot twist.

This happens when writers are working overtime to fool their audience or readers - when they don't want their audience to see it ahead of time. In short they want that OMG moment, or the jaw drop.
Read more... )
shadowkat: (flowers)
1. Cousin posted these writing tools on FACE BOOK and now, I WANT. Am seriously lusting after Scrivener.
And UnStuck looks cool. Am already trying 750 Words - a means of private journaling online. Not sure about it though.

2. Eloisa James is interesting romance writer. From Wiki:

Mary Bly was born in Minnesota in 1962, the daughter of Robert Bly, winner of the American Book Award for poetry, and Carol Bly, a short story author. She was the inspiration for her mother's essay "The Maternity Wing, Madison, Minnesota," which was published in the anthology Imagining Home: Writing From the Midwest.[1] Her godfather, James Wright, wrote a poem especially for her, which he included in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Collected Poems.[2] Bly has three younger siblings, Bridget, Noah,[1] and Micah.[3]

The Bly family did not own a television, but did own over 5000 books. Robert often read to his children, choosing to expose them to classics such as Beowulf instead of more traditional children's fare.[4] Even at a young age, however, Mary was fascinated with romance. To entertain her siblings during a snowstorm, she built a puppet show, complete with lights, that featured a romance. Several years later, after discovering the romance novels of Georgette Heyer in her local library, Bly convinced her father to allow her to read one romance novel for each classic novel she read.[1]

After graduating from Harvard University, Bly went on to attain an M.Phil. from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in Renaissance studies from Yale University. She is a tenured associate professor lecturing on William Shakespeare at Fordham University in New York City. She has served as Director of Graduate Studies in the English Department, as well as head of Fordham's Creative Writing Program.[5][6] In addition to publishing an academic book with Oxford University Press, she has published an academic article on 17th century drama in The Publications of the Modern Language Association, the most prestigious journal for English literary studies.[6]

From Wiki.

Does explain why her novels are a wee bit subversive and sort of remind one of Georgette Heyer. The latest one has a romance between a widow of 32 and a young writer of 27. It's a Regency Romance. The reviewers at Amazon and Good Reads were a tad put off by this novel, it was a wee bit too subversive for them.

Still? Not as interesting a background as Rosemary Rodgers who was married to a Sri Lankan Cricket Player (I think it was Cricket) and supported herself with ground-breaking, subversive, and controversial boddice ripper romance novels in the 1960s and 70s. The woman is still writing and publishing books. Amazing. She's got to be in her 80s by now.
James in stark contrast got published in her 40s. The publication dates are late 1990s and early 21st Century, and she's about five-six years older than I am. (1962).

I don't see myself writing in the genre. Although I could try...I've certainly read enough of them, and a wide variety at that. Most people just stick to one type in a genre (ie. New Adult, Young Adult, Historical, Contemporary, Religious, Boddice Ripper, Chick-Lit). I'm too omnivorous for that. I skip around.

Still hot. Although not as bad as it was in Kansas. 90s is bad. 100s is worse. Having experienced's hard for me to worry too much over this, unlike the rest of the people in my state. NY'ers are weird about the weather. They have a hissy fit if it dips below 20 degrees in the winter, and if it dips above 89 in the summer. Partly because they don't really have a/c or great heaters. Stupid city doesn't know how to handle bad weather.
You'd think after 200 years...they'd figure it out. But nooo.

Weather is admittedly wonky parents living in South Carolina, where it is normally in the 90s and 100s this time of year, are enjoying pleasant spring-like conditions. 70s and low 80s. Meanwhile we're having 80s and low 90s up north. Oh well, they are outside more than I am anyhow.
shadowkat: (Calm)
Below is a post that I've been tinkering with off and on for a while now, and can't quite bring myself to delete or post. It's on a controversial and emotionally heated subject. Although here's the thing about writing about controversial subjects, I tend to agree with Anais Nin who states:

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.

She also states...

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.

Perhaps she is right? Writing should be to a degree at least dangerous or unsafe. And you should feel free to tackle dangerous and emotionally heated topics. But how you write about these topics, whether they be fictional or otherwise is important. And as readers and viewers, I think it is important to figure out how to listen, to hear the joke, the story, the tale in our heads and hearts in a manner in which we can see inside another heart or head to the degree to which we can understand. But understanding can be thwarted in how its told. It is also important to appreciate and pay attention to the context, medium, and manner in which the story is told.

From Clarissa to Buffy the Vampire Slayer : Sexual Violence in Fictional Narratives Written For and often (not always) by Women


While traipsing about the internet this morning, I stumbled upon a rather interesting video regarding the reasons why murder is more acceptable or less atrocious in video games and narratives than rape. Or to be more precise why we are more forgiving of murder or murderers in fictional narratives than rapists, and more tolerant of video games with murder and torture, than a video game where people are raped.

Here's the link, in case you are at all curious:

I uncovered it in the comments thread of Buffy Rewatch - Seeing Red by Foz Meadows, wherein Meadows uses it as a rationale for why fictional characters that torture and murder are periodically and understandably forgiven, as opposed to rapists. Meadows and others in the thread believe that what applies to video games applies to other fictional narratives. But I'm not quite certain it is that clear cut. Also, not all rapes are similar, just as not all murders are. There are mitigating circumstances and various scenarios. But there's a human tendency to lump everything in one category, wash our hands, and say - that is what it is. Obviously. As if it were obvious to everyone who comes upon it. Also, people love to justify their perspective. It's almost competitive in a way - my moral perspective is better than yours, nayah, nayah, nayah! We never quite leave the school-yard, do we?

The lovely thing about fictional narratives is they resemble what-if scenarios - providing various possibilities and reactions to one act. Through the narrative the writer can safely dissect the reasons for the act, its consequences, and how the act affects everyone involved. The longer the narrative arc, the better the dissection. The point of most narratives, if done well, is to explore the motivations of characters, the why of it, as well as the act itself or what happens when the characters do this. It is often a means of understanding ourselves and our own darker impulses as well as those around us. Even video games do this to a degree. Read more... )

Below is rather lengthy analysis of how the romance genre has handled this particular topic and the various and often conflicting opinions regarding it. I start with in the 18th Century and go all the way up to the 21st. If this topic triggers you in any way, you may want to skip. Trollish responses (ie. name-calling, abusive behavior, personal attacks on myself or anyone else) will be deleted and the poster banned.

What follows is a rather lengthy depiction and analysis of how the romance genre has handled sexual violence. )
shadowkat: (Default)
personal )

Good Reads is depressing me in regards to books. So I'm ignoring the forums and discussion threads from this point forward. And only paying attention to the quizzes and friends reviews. It's also posed the question - what is a bad book or a badly written book? How would you define such a thing? And have I written them? Probably, but at least they aren't published. (And, God, I don't want to know. Hence the depression. If you think I write badly, don't tell me. The worst critique I got on a fictional book that I wrote, was from someone I met online who stated: "well some people just are better at writing essays than fiction, maybe you should stick with that" (ouch).

Read this link provided by [ profile] oursin - regarding how academics view bad books (proving that everyone has an opinion on this topic, but no one agrees):

This made me laugh, well the last paragraph did at any rate:

From Susan Bassnett, professor of comparative literature in the department of English at the University of Warwick

What makes a bad book? Well, sometimes it isn't the book itself, it is where we as readers happen to be at the time we encounter it. We might rate a book bad and then years later reassess our views, or vice versa. I recently gave away a pile of books I had never been able to finish, all of which had "postmodernism" or "postcolonial" somewhere in the title, because in the 1990s those were fashionable buzzwords.

Somewhere on my shelves is a book about aliens visiting the Earth and drawing the Nazca Lines (in Peru), which attracted a global readership and must have made the writer a lot of money.

High on my list of Really Bad Books are two best-sellers: Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, both of which I rate as dreadfully badly written. Brown wrote to a computer game formula: solve one level and move on to the next, whereas Mantel just wrote and wrote and wrote. I have yet to meet anyone outside the Booker panel who managed to get to the end of this tedious tome. God forbid there might be a sequel, which I fear is on the horizon.

Hee. I can think of at least three people who finished Wolf Hall and enjoyed it, including my own father (who granted likes long non-fiction novels that are incredibly detailed and a bit on the ponderous side, he's right now reading the latest Lyndon Johnson bio, which goes into detail regarding what Lyndon was thinking at the exact moment John F. Kennedy was shot in front of him, including the time stamp.)

And from Thomas Docherty, professor of English and comparative literature, University of Warwick

I don't think that the world is full of bad books, but I do think that it is full of books that have not yet found a reader adequate to the task of reading them. And I am, of course, one such reader. The real task is not to make ungenerous judgement from a position of critical superiority but rather to find a critical humility that allows for the possibility of reading, for the necessity of re-reading and, above all, to respond to the great call from Rainer Maria Rilke that, when faced with art, "you must change your life".

While I'd say I generally agree, I'm guessing he most likely is not referring to the books offered for 99 cents on the Amazon Kindle.

Valerie Sanders, professor of English at the University of Hull
What is a Bad Book or Unreadable Book according to some experts in the field of literary criticism )

2) In other news...I'm moving along in Feast of Crows - changed my mind about Cersei again. She does something reprehensible in the chapter I was reading that reminded me of what a sadistic selfish bitch she can be. I really feel sorry for poor kind Tommen. And Cersei created Joffrey, no doubt about it, granted Robert helped, but she definitely had an effect.
spoilers for Feast of Crows )

3) Rather liked the keynote speech by Julian Castro at the Democratic Convention. Yes, it's mainly rhetoric. But at least it's rhetoric that I agree with and makes me proud to be American, and not spike my blood pressure or make me want to throw fruit and rotten meats at people (amongst other things).
shadowkat: (Ayra in shadow)
1. So, I went to the "writer's meetup" group in my area. Like 90% of these things, ten people RSVP'd with two on the waiting list, with only three people plus the organizer showing up. The organizer doesn't really count for two reasons - 1) we were at his house, so he sort of had to show up, and 2) he's the organizer - you'd hope he'd show up to his own event (although they don't always...bizarre I know, but there it is.)

It was interesting, but...sigh...I don't know if this is going to work out. Granted it's only the second meeting. Eh, best to show you -
why it is not always a good idea to bring up Buffy in cultural conversations with strangers )
2. Enjoying Feast of Crows - it's a bit like reading an analogy of interconnected short stories. You get slices of these people's lives, and how they interconnect with each other. Also lots of stories within stories. Some horrific, and some touching. In some respects it reminds me of Stephen King's The Stand, except far better written and less grating in places. King's The Stand - had a sexist overtone to it, which admittedly was so 1980s.

I've changed my mind about Cersei. spoilers on Feast of Crows, note only 65% through, do not spoil me )
George RR Martin has managed to charm me with his blog, his interviews, and his writing.
Oh dear, am I in danger of becoming fannish? I hope not, he writes very slow. And has the annoying habit of doing other things that are unrelated to Game of Thrones. His fans often want to tie him to a chair and make him finish his Song of Ice and Fire, before he commits to anything else. It's hard thing to be a fan of a story that has yet to be finished and is only half-way through in the telling. Much easier to be one of a story that has been completed and already committed to paper and long published.
shadowkat: (chesire cat)
1. writer's workshop, somewhat personal, very boring, best to skip )

2. Have come to the conclusion that cultural reviews from an increasingly socio-political or politically correct/sociological perspective can be grating. And if not written well, can come across as cloyingly moralistic or shall we say a tad self-righteous?

So will attempt henceforth to not write any. We'll see how long that lasts. I'm anything if not woefully inconsistent.

I'd say schizophrenic, but that adjective annoys people apparently. Someone at the writer's group last night got all nutty over it. This, THIS is the problem with political correctness taken to extremes, we start to go wonky over words.

3. Rhapsody on Words

*Political Correctness applied to language and whether it goes too far. Or actually just a Rhapsody on Words...from bitch to bipolar, from schizophrenic to fuck...with a link to squick thrown in for good measure not to mention the entymology of the word fuck.

Yes, I get that words such as nigga, cunt, dick, fuck, etc...are truly hateful if used in the wrong context. And do count as "hate speech". But language evolves it does not stay static no matter how much you may want it to.

*In the English language, often one word will mean various contradictory things. Take for example the word "bitch".

From the Wikipedia:
bitch )
So context is about 90% of it. Same with the word "squick" which someone on the whedonesque board got all hot and bothered about me using once: (The origin of this word is incredibly gross, suffice it to say, you were warned.)

And here is the various definitions for the terms bi-polar and schizophrenic:
bi-polar defined )

While we're on mental illness terms, let's look at schizophrenia, shall we?
schizophrenia or schizophrenic )

Another interesting word is fuck...and this is rather a rhapsody on the word, its associated meanings, orgin...basically everything you wanted to know regarding the WORD Fuck and were afraid to ask.
shadowkat: (Alicia)
My interactions on the Good Reads "don't like it, don't read it thread" - have begun to make me question the definition of badly written. It's also made me regret all the snarky, negative reviews that I've ever written myself.

I'm experiencing cultural dissonance, folks. Not for the first time. Also why does this always happen on discussion board or comments threads? Where you find yourself constantly trying to defend your point of view? Point of View or Perception is almost impossible to defend.

Read more... )
It makes if very difficult to discuss something, when the points of view are so diametrically opposed. Sooner or later the discussion will derail into name-calling.
That's what happened whenever I tried to discuss Spike online in certain forums and with certain individuals, until I learned (sigh the hard way) never to do so. We just had diametrically opposed views on the character, we agree on other things, but we came at that character from diametrically opposed angles, we would never see eye to eye on him.
I do understand why that is.

It's similar I think with anything. Even writing. Certain styles of writing bug people.
I tend to be fairly flexible. Read more... )


Jun. 7th, 2012 09:26 pm
shadowkat: (Default)
I wonder about words. People put so much store by them. Take them so much to heart. Often giving a word, a phrase, a paragraph more importance than they ought. Been reading these books lately, and in each one the heroine believes the hero doesn't love her until he says the actual words "I love you" as if that is all she needs. Ignoring all his actions which to my thinking speak far more truly towards his actual feelings than mere words. Thinking only romantic heroines believe this to be so, notice my surprise when I many of the reviews on Good Reads and Amazon...the reader's think the same way. A three word phrase, I love you, is louder and more true, than actions. Words they think somewhat foolishly speak louder than actions, and I feel this overwhelming desire to make them all read Pgymallion or at the very least watch My Fair Lady, where Eliza Doolittle sings that wonderful song..."words, words, words...don't speak, show me! If you love me, show me! I'm so sick of words."

Being a bit of a wordsmith, I know how easy it is to thread a lie with words. To embellish a truth. To weave a falsehood. To speak pretty verse to woo. And I've certainly experienced such things first hand. So, I tend to be a bit...distrustful of words. I know their power, and I know how they are used to twist truth and change perception. As one creative writing teacher told me once upon a one lies better than a fiction writer, that's all we do, tell lies. Except, I beg to differ, non-fiction writers excel at it too. At least fiction writers...tell you they are lying, you have to give them credit for that.

How we write, our style, and how accessible it is to the writer...fascinates as well. Dorothy Dunnett's Chronicles of Lymond is a bit like reading sanscrit at times. You have to work to get to her story. Much like you have to work to get to the meat of James Joyce's Ulysess. Now people tell me they find these people easy to read, but I don't believe them. You certainly feel as if you've accomplished something when you have read them, like leaping over a big rock or climbing a mountain. While other writers such as Stephen King or Terry Prachett or JK Rowling...are a bit like walking through water, no obstacles in your way, the pages turn crisply and rapidly, your eyes skim without breaking for rest, and the story unfolds inside your brain like a cheap movie in HD or cinemascope, you fall inside its arms.

Pulp by its very nature is far more accessible than literary, which often feels like being read to by your old somewhat prim English Professor , his or her spectacles perched oh so perfectly upon the bridge of his or her nose. Lips pursed. Each word enunciated just so.
Literary prose for some reason or other is always written so formally. Precisely. Except by those who like to experiment and throw the rules of grammar into a blender. But very few do that. Risky business breaking rules, you have to know them first and that takes time and effort. And when you do...few readers have the time or patience to untangle or puzzle out what you did.

You'd think writing was primarily about communication. But then we arguably define communication or how to communicate differently. Semantics. Always about semantics. To this day I remain uncertain what the words forgive and soul truly mean, I argued their meaning far too frequently. And what is accessible to one poor weary soul, may well not be to another. Pulp clearly is accessible to most or it wouldn't sell so well. Yet, what is pulp? And what is literary? When you start playing with the meaning of begin to ask questions such as how each person defines each word. A person from Bangladash for example may define forgive differently than one from America.

I admittedly like to play with words. As I grow older, I've discovered....that I like writing more than I like to tell stories. As a child, I cared only about the story. Now, I care about the words, the sentences, how they dance upon a page and how I can change their meaning with a mere nudge. I miss the stories. I tell them in my head still. But not so much upon the page. The stories disappoint me when they hit the page, the words don't feel quite up to the job. In my head...they are four dimensional, on the paper..flattened.

So, to say I'm struggling with my writing right now, is not true. My writing is in fine form, thank you very much. I can write anything. And I write volumes. Every day. What I'm struggling with are my stories...which stay bottled up inside my gut like gas, unable to be released in a burp or a fart...although that would be a trip...imagine farting stories?
shadowkat: (Default)
I'm beginning to think everyone remotely interested in Joss Whedon that is also on lj has seen The Avengers now, but me.

Anyhow...speaking of The Avengers and Whedon - here's a nifty interview I found of Stan Lee (the original creator of The Avengers) interviewing Jane Espenson (with a perky and somewhat annoying assistant).

What interested me most about this interview was two things:

1. Stan Lee states that people always ask who he writes for, and he says that he writes for himself. Espenson wholeheartedly agrees. She writes things she wants to see and read.
And it's what all successful novelists have stated.

[If you want to write a story that will appeal to others...make sure it's one that appeals to you first, that you want to tell, want to read, that it is your fantasy, your adventure, something you can't find anywhere else, that you have to get out of your own head - and you are writing it because you can't find it out there. Otherwise the writing feels empty and lacks soul.]

2. Villains. Very important to create a great villain.

Stan Lee: If you don't have a good have a hero wandering around not knowing what to do.

Jane: My favorite villain was Spike, because we turned him into a hero. He was this evil villian, horrible, a big bad, and we over time turned him into a great hero, who sacrificed himself to save the world and save others.

Lee: That's amazing. Because it's new. People don't tend to do that.
shadowkat: (Default)

I believe a good story, plotted or plotless, rightly told, is satisfying as such and in itself. But here, with “rightly told,” is my conundrum or mystery. Inept writing lames or cripples good narrative only if it’s truly inept. An irresistibly readable story can be told in the most conventional, banal prose, if the writer has the gift. - Ursula Le Guinne


Forbes Interview with Joss Whedon regarding his work. (Note, if your movie becomes the biggest blockbuster of all time, regardless of its content, you get an interview with Forbes). Below are out-takes that I found rather interesting and different from what he usually says. Yes, (if you follow the link) he still thinks he's Buffy, I still think he's Angel and Spike, with a bit of Warren Miers and Xander thrown in, but what do I know? ;-)

Interviewer: Do you ever delve into the voluminous fan fiction around “Buffy”?

Joss Whedon: I have delved into it. There’s a bunch. There isn’t a better barometer of the kind of success that I crave, which is that people haven’t only enjoyed the work; they’ve internalized it. I don’t, obviously, spend all my days reading it because that would make me creepy, but it’s a huge, huge thing for me that people have taken it into their lives.

There you have it, folks, proof that Whedon has possibly read your fanfic. I'm not sure how I would feel about that. I know he hasn't read mine - because it is hidden. But he may have read my meta ...which would be weird. I really don't want to know.

Artistic freedom can be dangerous. A lot of times it can lead to very self-indulgent work, but it’s also, if you are aware of your audience and what you’re trying to do, it’s very necessary.

Regarding Twitter...which is a comment I agree with, and is the reason I'm not on Twitter, but luckily I'm not Whedon, so I don't have to open an account because someone else might steal my name and pretend to be me on it. (Someone did this to Cormac McCarthy by the way, so Whedon is not alone.)

Interviewer: You’re not on Twitter, although you do have an account in your name.

Whedon: I created it because someone was using my name.

Interviewer: So why aren’t you using it?

Whedon: I think I would find it a little paralyzing. If you tell me I only have 140 characters, that’s like writing a haiku. Shit is hard. Try to write a children’s book and you realize, oh, this is much harder than writing a novel because every word matters. I don’t want to be on Twitter and just go, “That burrito made me gassy.”

I’m not interested in sharing my life with people. And I would feel an obligation, if I were to tweet, to tweet something worth tweeting. And believe me when I say if I could lose four days of work — of page after page of good, solid work of my job of being a writer — to trying to figure out a tweet. Now, eventually, I might throw caution to the wind and dive in and see what happens, but right now I think that would be poor time management for me.

And no, he never mentions the Buffy comics, which leads me to believe he's given up on them like I have? Okay, not exactly like I have.
shadowkat: (Alicia)
1.Rainy most of the week. And the insane downstairs neighbors have turned on the heat when it is 60 degrees outside. Tempted to send an email to the landlord to complain, but will refrain. Opened a window instead.

2.Behind on my tv viewing, because I've been reading at night instead. Lost in pulp fiction. Gotta love it. Although the getting lost in a book thing...appears to be hereditary.

Momster: I haven't done anything all day today but read. Didn't go to the gym, nothing. I feel so guilty.
Me: You know this is oddly reassuring...apparently the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree -
Momster: Had troubles getting into the book and it just took off-
Me: Yeah, I know what you mean. Then you just can't stop reading the thing. This must be hereditary.

Momster is reading a literary historical novel called Time In Between by a Spainish novelist, about a dressmaker who becomes a spy during WWII. And, guess what? It's not about the holocaust. I know, go figure.

3. Since I can no longer read personal blogs (aka live journal and/or dreamwidth) at work due to the evil device known as Websense which blocks them, I've been reading the NY Times and book reviews/movie reviews at lunch. Which isn't all that different than what I was reading on lj to be honest - it's just on sites that aren't considered entertainment.
Read a fascinating interview yesterday with Ridely Scott and Damon Lindenoff on Promethus, the new sci-fi flick coming out this summer via Scott. First he's done since Blade Runner. Ridely Scott is my favorite sci-fi film director. This one delves deeper into the mythology of the Alien verse. And it stars Naomi Rapace as an archeologist named Elizabeth Shaw who goes off on an expedition to hunt down an alien race that may or may not be responsible for humanity's origins. It also stars Guy Pierce, Charize Therone (as a cool and nefarious corporate head), and Michael Fassbender as an artificial lifeform (aka robot). Scott states in the interview that the idea behind Promethus is to follow a loose thread from his original Alien film that no one else picked up on, and he'd hoped Cameron would in Aliens, but Cameron is too much of a logician to get into mythology. (True, that's the problem with Cameron, he's not that interested in world-building, so falls on cliches a lot, see similar problems in Whedon's work - which makes sense since Whedon fanboys Cameron. I, as you all know, fangurled all three, but think Ridely Scott is the genuis of the bunch. The fact that Scott is executive producing The Good Wife, only furthers my case.) The loose thread is who was the huge humanoid pilot with his chest cavity exploded carrying the dangerous biotechnical weaponery in Alien? And why was he doing it? And why did he land on that planet? Also, Scott wants to explore the notion that Kubrick often we really want to meet our maker?

4. The other thing I read was a review of 50 Shades by a frustrated and rather jealous, literary writer living in Conneticut. She got blasted in the comments and sort of deserved it actually, poor dear. I do feel her pain. When you work your ass off writing an book, struggle to get it published, only to see someone like James or Meyer become an instant best-selling novelist/phenomena a la Jacqueline Suzanne or Judith Krantz - you sort of want to pull your hair out in a fit of fury. Although not that sorry - the woman is doing well, has several books published and won several awards. But she does write rather boring "mid-life" crisis whine books. That's what I call them at any rate. I can't read them. When I read I want to escape the depressed and lonely whiner in my head, not reinforce it. I'm guessing from the sales figures and replies to her review that I'm not alone in this sentiment? Read more... )

That said...the review reminded me of two separate tales that I feel the sudden need to share with all of you, whether you want me to or not:

1. 1989, Senior Year, College - burning the midnight oil literally in the computer room located in the basement of the library. Me and Spike's look-a-like discussing the merits of the English Literary Canon - trust me the title of this is more interesting than the story. )

2. 1995, NYC, Editorial Offices of Random House - Informational Interview with Robert Loomis, Senior Editor for John Grisham and Emily Praeger. I've gotten the interview through kid-bro, whose girlfriend (later wife)'s dad is living with Emily Praeger.
Loomis tells me two things that I've never forgotten.

*Speak from your heart and you will sell )

* The best-sellers, the pulp novelists like John Grisham, Danielle Steele, Sydney Sheldon, Judith Krantz...they make it possible for us to represent the Emily Praeger's. Without them we wouldn't be able to afford Emily or other nitch literary works that need to build word of mouth and are quieter stories and better written. If it weren't for Grisham, Emily would most likely never get published.

I've never forgotten that. Keep that in mind when you want to rant and rave about the latest pop best-selling novel. It made it possible for that other book you loved, the one you had to hunt for, to get published.

I've learned or been reminded of a few things regarding art appreciation, taste and culture this month.
Five Things I've Learned About Taste - watch out, I'm in lecture mode, sure to become all didtatic and tiresome...I might even lisp. )
I found that out reading the 50 Shades's like everyone read a different version of the same book - I've yet to find a reviewer who read the one I got, although there was one who came close on Amazon - who stated, well at least in this book they talk to each other - they communicate and have conversations and do so honestly. They don't lie. It's a relief, said the reviewer, and refreshing to see this, finally. I agree.

90% of romance novels, mystery novels, thrillers, and literary novels - have misunderstandings - the characters don't talk to each other. I often want to shake the characters and the writers. Damn-it - have these characters TALK. How hard is that? Are you afraid to do dialogue? Dialogue - good dialogue is a bit of a fight - it's two people jockeying for control of the conversation and what they want to reveal. I think a lot of writers need to read more plays. I'm guessing James is good at dialogue because her hubby is a television script writer and read the book, and she works in TV. You can tell. So many literary writers suck at it. Or don't do it at all. Making me think - dialogue is a lost art.
shadowkat: (Default)
1. If anyone is reading this? Please wish me luck. I just sent the first 105 pages of my novel Doing Time on Planet Earth to a former work colleague who is the Director of Contracts at a Publishing Company in MA. I know this is a longshot.

Brief summary of Doing Time? Told in the point of view of three people - an unemployed and depressed former editor of a library reference publishing company, a struggling private eye who wants to help the editor because he has a savior complex, and an embezzler/identity thief that they are both tracking (who just happens to be the editors best bud). During the course of the novel and against all odds they come together to help each other.

What I didn't tell her is the novel references pop culture, and the editor and identity thief met online in fandom. It's a weird book. Doesn't quite fit in any genre. And takes place in a post 9/11 NYC during the Bush era.

I finished it five years ago. And sporadically been sending it out. It's the best thing I've written. I keep hoping it may get published someday and someone besides the five people who have read outside of me will read it. I'm too cowardly to publish it to my blog.
It's hard enough when you don't get responses to blog posts but to works of fiction, ugh, the pain!

2. My weekend was more or less swallowed by a trashy novel. It's quite sad. But I think I needed it. To just lose myself inside a book. Have you ever lost yourself inside a book, just fallen into that world. Laughed, cried. And even if its not doesn't matter, you love it? And then afterwards feel a bit guilty because it's not great and probably forgettable? I hope it's not just me. At any rate, I need to lose myself a bit.
Last week was fretful. And the next two will be two. I'm overwhelmed at work. And personal life feels almost non-existent outside of church. And my relationship with kid-bro is tenuous at best. .So am a bit lonely. And frustrated. And wired. Sleeping badly. So losing self in book was a welcome release, particularly one that I did not envy or want to be the characters or felt the need to think. In honor of this, a list of books I've lost myself in that I remember:

Ten Books I've Lost Myself in That I Remember )

Two things I lose myself in - books and writing. I'm considering purchasing Tess of Durberville's next on my Kindle and maybe renting the Roman Polanski film, along with Far from the Maddening Crowd. I've never really read Thomas Hardy, sorry to say. Also need to read some Henry James...although I tend to agree with Mark Twain's assessment. James lacked a sense of humor. I need a bit of wit.
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