Friday, November 27, 2009

Tummy too full... mind is going...

Can you blame me for overindulging when I cooked such a gorgeous bird (if I do say so myself)?

Thanks to my friend Karen for snapping this photo of the bird before it was carved and devoured.

We also had the usual trimmings: cornbread dressing, mashed spuds, gravy, green beans with shallots and almonds, creamed corn, cranberry sauce, two kinds of pie (apple and pumpkin) and rhubarb crumble (thanks again to Karen!). It was all so good. I might be hungry again in time for the Christmas feast!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Writing craft: I'm so glad we had this time together

Warning: Post contains metaphysical blather.

A friend once asked me if I felt sad whenever I finished writing a book.

I don't feel sad, though there's a certain bittersweet feeling. If I got the ending right, my emotions are similar to those you have when hearing the last note of a piece of music, or the final scene of a movie. It has to end, and no matter how enjoyable the journey has been (even though you may think "I don't want this to end"), the ending, if done well, makes you think, "Yes, this is how it's supposed to be." A feeling of completion.

The bittersweet comes in when I think about the characters. By the time I near the end of a book I've spent hours thinking about these people, and being in their heads. I know them better than I know many real-life people, including tons of details that don't make it into the actual book. And although they are my creations, by the end I see them almost as guests in my mind.

In the acknowledgments for The Color Purple, Alice Walker thanks all the characters for coming to the story. I didn't understand this sentiment before I started writing but now I do. Now I wish there were a way to throw a wrap party and say thank you to all the characters who made telling the story so much fun.

Because characters are what it's all about. You can have a dizzying, glorious prose style or a pulse-quickening plot but if the characters are cliches or ciphers, there's going to be a hollowness at the core of your story. "What's going to happen to these people?" - that's the question that often drives me when I read a story. And not just the heroes, but the villains as well. A fine example was Stephen King's Under the Dome: I could not wait to find out if one particular rat bastard was going to get his much-deserved comeuppance.

For me, one of the hallmarks of a great novel is how much I think about the characters afterward. Even though I know they're not real, I wonder what happened to them, did things work out OK, and so on. But I know I can't have that. All I can do is thank the writers who came up with these people.

As for my own characters - guys, thanks for showing up. I know I put some of you through hell, but I think you'll understand that's what had to happen. (If you're mad, blame the Muse - I've got Melpomene's number here somewhere...) Anyway, thanks for being the guests of honor in my brain. I couldn't do it without you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Oooh, it's the evening on Thanksgiving Day and I am stuffed. Just ate a bunch of spaghetti with my eight-hours-in-the-crock-pot sauce and garlic bread too. And I -

No, I'm not bucking tradition. I do a very traditional spread for Thanksgiving (look for pictures posted tomorrow). It's just that I do it the day after Thanksgiving, so that my guests can have the day itself at family gatherings (nice reason), and because it gives me an extra day of prep time (selfish reason).

So while it's pasta tonight at Casa del Cozy, tomorrow will be turkey and all trimmings. As Eli Roth* would say: "White meat. Dark meat. All will be carved."

*Warning: Link is very tasteless and not work safe at all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Draft 1 - complete!

The first draft of my mainstream novel is now complete. Document stats say it took one year and two days. 142,000 words. I am thrilled and tired, and will have more coherent things to say on this later. I will take a break from the food-related festivities of the next few days to talk a bit about finishing the book.

Starting to think I might not ever get paid for writing - no one pays you to have this much fun.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: Laserblast

My review of the lame 1970s science fiction film Laserblast is up at If you must watch it, track down the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Oh yes, THIS won't be addicting

Need to explore the entitled, crazy, and stupid side of humanity? Visit Stories of entitled, crazy, and stupid customers. Oh my. Amusement and grist for the fiction mill.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fangirl, interrupted

Bad enough that Ennio Morricone cancelled his concert last month at the Hollywood Bowl, but now the ever-awesome Nathan Fillion has bowed out of this upcoming weekend's Serenity/Firefly con.

Why, guys, why? Is it my breath or something?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Review: Zabriskie Point

My review of Michelangelo Antonioni's notorious flop Zabriskie Point is up at Horrorview. The review will convey all the awfulness of the movie to you and you won't have to waste two hours like I did. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Darn you, Stephen King!

Now playing on the iPod - "Spread Your Wings" - Queen

Here I am with an evening to myself, supposed to be kicking ass and taking names on my work in progress (only one chapter and an epilogue to go!) and I keep getting distracted from my True Purpose because your book, Under the Dome, is a damn fine read. Very old school. Reminiscent of 'Salem's Lot and Needful Things but more tightly focused. So now I'm going to read a chapter while I have a popcorn break, then get back to my own writing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writing craft: Research and other necessary evils

Now playing on the iPod - "The Boxer" - Simon and Garfunkle

I'm the first to admit that research is my least favorite part of the writing process. I know it's necessary but it feels like an impediment. I want to get to the writing, damn it! I don't have time to worry about every little technical detail.

Well, the bad news is that some research has to be done at some point. And if you're writing, say, historical fiction not only will you have to do a lot of it, but you'll have to love that part of it. (This sums up why I love reading historical fiction but am not going to attempt it any time soon.)

The good news is that there are ways to make research fun for you.

1. The Internet is your friend. The beauty of the Web is that quick answers are readily available. Little details that I've needed - the layout of the Green Bay airport, drink recipes, the symbolic/holistic meaning of gemstones and crystals - are just a few clicks away. The usual caveats apply, of course, but if nothing else it's a good starting point.

2. Have weird friends. My mom once asked me if I had any normal friends, to which I replied, "No." (She said, "That's what I thought.") Well, that's not a bad thing: my circle of friends includes a gunsmith, someone who's worked in both a hospital and a morgue, someone who knows a lot about women's college basketball, an army brat, people who've worked in theater/TV/music, and engineers of various sorts. And thankfully most of them are perfectly comfortable with me asking things like, "What kind of gun would this rogue secret agent carry?" and "How much does a human head weigh?" People love to be asked about things they know about, just make sure you include them in your book's acknowledgements

3. Entertain yourself while you learn. Not all research has to be dry-as-dust. If you write mysteries, thrillers, or any book in which mayhem happens (even mainstream books can have plenty of mayhem), by all means check out Dr. D. P. Lyle's books Forensics & Fiction and Murder & Mayhem, which answer all sorts of questions sent in by readers, from the straightforward to the esoteric ("Do zombie killers leave behind forensic evidence?"). Also of note is the Howdunit series of books from Writer's Digest Books. I've referred to Deadly Doses (poisons), Body Trauma (wounds and injuries), Cause of Death (forensics), and Missing Persons. Some are no longer in print but used copies are readily available on Amazon. Not only are the books informative, they're entertaining as hell and you can use your newfound knowledge to call shenanigans during factually inaccurate TV shows.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Watch this now: finale of Zabriskie Point

Now playing on the iPod - "Suede" - Tori Amos

How do you mess up a sure-fire combination like multiple explosions set to an awesome Pink Floyd song? Well, if you're Michelangelo Antonioni, you do it like this. (Full review of Zabriskie Point coming soon!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: Requiem for a Vampire

Now playing on the iPod - "Quan Vey La Lauzeta" - The Mediaeval Baebes

My review of the dull-yet-interesting French vampire film Requiem for a Vampire is up at Horrorview. Take a peek if you're so inclined.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Writing craft: Apostrophes

Learning the nuts and bolts of punctuation doesn't have to be boring, as this helpful primer on apostrophes demonstrates.