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One Down

“A Study in Crimson” is finished.

The point at which I ran out of crimson paint.

I had been planning to use some violet in some way, and running out of crimson decided for me just how.

The finished painting.

Next up is to finish “Jaune.” Then I have two more canvases to play with . . . I’m really enjoying it. I’d forgotten how much I like to paint. I like that the finished product may not be perfect—indeed, cannot be—and yet can still be beautiful. I never feel quite that way about writing. The difference between a profession and a hobby, I suppose.

One Month to AFF

I’m one month away from the Austin Film Festival, and they still haven’t posted the schedule. So friends who are hoping to connect with me in Austin: be patient! I hope to know where I’ll be and when soon.

I’m staying at the Driskill, in any case, which is a lovely hotel in a great location downtown (so long as you’re not the one driving). And I know the first night is the WGA thing, at the very late hour of 11:00 p.m. because we writers don’t keep normal hours. We’re like vampires or something. Back before I had children, and therefore was required to be up at an unholy hour each morning, my prime writing time was from about 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

There are some films I’m hoping to see, and there are some panels I am registered to attend, and others besides that I would like to attend, and there is a lot of food I’m looking forward to eating, and people I’m looking forward to seeing, and then there’s always the hope of meeting more new and interesting people besides. But I’ve decided I’m not going into this with any kind of agenda or expectation outside of simply enjoying myself. I’m already socially awkward; why pressure myself too much? I’d only end up the kind of nervous wreck that people would work to avoid. So I’m planning to stay relaxed and just open to whatever. Austin is the right kind of scene for exactly that. I’m lucky to be going at all; anything more is icing.

Canvassing

I haven’t felt much like writing the past few days, so I decided to paint.

I’m not any big painter. My grandmother painted, my grandfather liked to draw, and my own father draws too, but I didn’t get whatever gene allows you to translate a picture in your head through your hand and onto paper or canvas. I’ve tried. I even took a drawing class at uni, but it didn’t take. So I never even bothered trying to paint until I was in grad school, and even then it was completely by accident. My then fiancé had a bit of canvas with a drawing inked on it that he wanted to get rid of, so I painted over it. And enjoyed doing it. Even if the final result was no great bit of art (though I’ll admit I’m fond of it).

Still, I haven’t painted anything in years. But I got the itch to do it again, so this weekend I went to the craft store and bought some canvas and paints and brushes. I use acrylics. I’ve tried watercolors, but I don’t like how they bleed; I prefer to have a bit more control over the art. I think this is one of the reasons I’m a writer—control issues. But that’s another discussion entirely.

Anyway, today I prepped two of the four canvases. I don’t have a roller, and I don’t think I’d use one even if I did have it. I like doing the brush work by hand.

“A Study in Crimson” after one application of color.
This one is currently untitled. This is after two colors have been applied to the canvas.
“A Study in Crimson” after the second coat.
After additional applications of color and some texturing. Thinking of calling it “Jaune.”

None of these are finished yet. This is just the start for them. And I’m not thinking I’m some great prodigy. I have no background in art, have taken no art history classes. I just paint for my own well-being, because it soothes me when I can’t write.

Genre Favorites Blogfest

As hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Favorite Movie Genre—Romantic comedy, I think. I watch plenty of other kinds of movies; in fact, I probably watch more other kinds of movies, but rom-coms are my favorite.

Favorite Music Genre—Pop/rock. Yeah, I’m not edgy. I’m mainstream and pretty boring. I grew up with Jimmy Buffett and The Eagles and Paul McCartney & Wings . . . And now I listen to stuff like Matchbox Twenty, Maroon 5, Train, and The Script.

Favorite Book Genre—This is actually really difficult because I like to read a lot of different kinds of books. It mostly depends on my mood. But if I have to pick just one? Historical fiction, probably.

A Guilty Pleasure—(can be from any of the three categories) . . . My Best Friend’s Wedding. I love that movie. Its soundtrack, too, holds a special place in my heart for very specific reasons that I won’t go into here. (As a secondary guilty pleasure, I’ll admit I read a fair number of biographies, which is rather voyeuristic of me, I feel. Also: self-help/psychology books.)

Now go get your free Amazon Kindle version of “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of Ichabod Reed”!

By Jove (er, Zeus)

We had dinner at a local Greek restaurant this evening, a lovely place with really good food—the tzatziki was some of the best I’ve ever had. But that’s not the point of this post.

This post is about Zeus.

My six-year-old son has an interest in mythology, and in gods and religion. And the children’s menu at this restaurant featured drawings of Zeus and Aphrodite. The picture of Aphrodite was unlike any representation I’ve ever seen of her (and me being a Classics minor, well, I’ve seen more than a few). But the image of Zeus was fairly standard. Upon seeing it, my son of course wanted to know all about Zeus. I gave him the usual sketch: king of the Greek gods, throws lightning bolts. Then my son asked, “When we’re done eating, can I go pray to Zeus?”

Well, now, hold on. I’m an open-minded person, and I really have no problem with my children feeling out what works for them when it comes to spirituality, but I know (from many years of study) that one does not simply pray to Zeus. Proper supplication requires a person to be in his presence, or at the very least access to a statue of Zeus. You must kneel, place one hand on the knee (or sometimes wrap an arm around the legs) and use the other hand to touch the god’s chin. This ensures you have his attention and that he’s not going anywhere—at least not without dragging you along. Only then can you present your request. (Barring this, there is always the whole animal sacrifice route, but I’m not keen on it. Messy, and you have to be sure to have the right kind of animal for the job; it gets to be something of a jumble.)

After attempting to explain this to my son, he wanted to know where we could find a statue of Zeus. Kudos to him for persistence, I suppose. I told him that Zeus wasn’t such a common deity in these parts and/or this day and age. We could try a museum, but they usually won’t let you touch the statues . . .

I never thought I’d need all this information, but my son certainly exercises my range of knowledge. I’ll give him that.

Old Pictures

. . . Not to be confused with photographs, which these aren’t. But my best friend’s mother (the same one who has made me Sherlock, John & Jim) once did a series of illustrations of my friend and I in various costumes, playing the games we were so fond of as kids. Here are a couple of those images—just to prove I haven’t exaggerated my love of Indiana Jones or Sherlock Holmes, and show how that love has been kept for posterity . . .

This first one is me as MacGyver (have you read my FAQs?):

And here is the Sherlock Holmes picture:

And one of the few that actually got inked, Indiana Jones:

(You may need to click on the images to see them more clearly.)

There was, at some point, a Star Trek one, too, I think. Maybe others. I had forgotten about these until my friend posted them on Facebook. A testament to my enduring love of these characters, the building blocks of my childhood.

Book Sales

My manager sent me some lovely news today. For one, sales of my e-books continue to steadily increase month over month. In fact, already this month I’ve reached the total number of downloads I had in all of August. “Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Last Line” is still my most popular title; in fact it’s been especially well received in the UK and is on the overall Amazon Kindle charts in Italy. And I’ll get my first royalty check at the end of the month.

I released “St. Peter in Chains” at the end of June, “Last Line” in early July, Star Signs in August, and “Ichabod Reed” at the beginning of September. And I have over 3700 downloads (on Amazon; these numbers don’t reflect other distributors), most of them of “Last Line” and “St. Peter,” but several hundred of the other two as well.

So what does this mean? Well, it means that having a popular character at the center of your work helps find an audience; thank goodness Sherlock Holmes is public domain! And it means continuing to put out more work can help you build your audience, too. And it shows that Amazon is still tops when it comes to people finding your work, though Smashwords has been pretty good, too. I got a few hundred more downloads from them.

So now I must ask myself, “What next?” Well, I have a play to finish (deadline 1 October), and The K-Pro waiting in the wings (a publisher recently said they’d like to get a look at it when it’s finished). And then there’s life, which always seems to be happening. Particularly when I’m not paying attention.

Star Trek via South Park

So earlier today I saw something posted about the second Star Trek movie’s title being Star Trek: Into Darkness. I don’t know if this is true, or official, or whatever. But what I thought at the time was, Isn’t space dark anyway? Mostly? In fact, that’s almost exactly what I posted on Twitter, too, and Scott answered: “Mostly . . .”

If you don’t get it, you probably don’t watch South Park, or at least not the older episodes. My rejoinder was from a different South Park episode, the [in]famous Towlie one about the Okama GameSphere. I added: “If only the Star Trek movie were going to be about THAT!” And Scott pointed out that it might at least make a good ST:TNG Season 8 synopsis. (If you haven’t read these on Twitter, you should absolutely go look up @TNG-S8; they are fucking hilarious.) “Wesley trying to retrieve his gaming console from aliens,” tweeted Scott.

But I decided to go a bit further. Here are some of my Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 8 plot loglines, as filtered through “video gaming” as the device.

Troi attempts to empathize with a group of teenagers devoted to video games; the replicators become jammed while overproducing towels.

Tempers flare when the Enterprise’s gaming network goes down for maintenance; Picard teaches Wesley to parallel park the ship.

Q thrusts the crew into a video game they must win to escape; the Orion asks to borrow some tools then refuses to return them.

Wesley & Barclay go head-to-head in a video game tourney; Geordie can’t find his towel because people keep sitting on it.

And my personal favorite:

Wesley teaches Worf to play Okama GameSphere but creates a monster; Data’s cat Spot gets stuck under the ship’s gas pedal.

Anyone want to chime in?

Once More with Feeling: Being a Fan Doesn’t Mean You Have to Be Blind (In Fact, REAL Fans Aren’t)

We’ve talked about this before, and we’ll probably do it again. You can chalk it up to my protesting too much if you like, but it’s simply that every now and then someone posts an article that is tangentially related. (In this case, should you fail to click on the link, the article is: “How Steven Moffat Ruined Doctor Who.”)

It’s no big secret that I have problems with Steven Moffat. I might feel differently if he could be bothered to act less smug and self-aggrandizing. And I’d say that’s beside the point, but it’s not really. He doesn’t allow for an open dialogue outside of his personal circle—a circle he controls. So . . . Whatever. That’s another discussion for another time.

What’s on the agenda here is the way Moffat and his supporters/fans react to criticism of him and his work. There is the smugness, and the insinuation that detractors are simply too stupid to “get it” or are otherwise jealous of Moffat’s great work and intellect. It’s not a terribly useful way to go about things, but it does close the door to discussion, which as I’ve mentioned seems to be the ultimate goal. Moffat doesn’t like to be questioned or second guessed, and he certainly doesn’t like to leave himself open to the possibility that he might not be, in fact, the smartest person in the room.

But here’s the thing. True fans of something—a television program, a person, a singer—will be the ones willing to point out when the emperor has no clothes. They do not blindly and slavishly drool over every little line of dialogue. Think of it this way: are your real friends the ones who let you walk around with spinach in your teeth, telling you all the while how great you look? Or are they the ones who’ll point out that bit of green so you can fix it before the flashbulbs go off? Do you want fans who worship you without filter, or do you want people who can think a little bit?

There is something rabid and unstable about fans who refuse to brook any conversation about where a show (or showrunner, or actor, &c.) falls down, something almost Nazi-like in their devotion as they blindly participate in follow the leader. The same can be said, of course, of those so adamantly opposed to a writer, show, what-have-you, those who seem to hate for the very sake of it or who blow their reasoning out of proportion . . . A lack of rationality and an almost religious fervor cause the ground to fall out from under any hope of finding and fixing any problems with the show in question. No one is willing to compromise.

I do think the article linked to above is well written and considered. I can certainly agree that Moffat has a terrible tendency to borrow and regurgitate from other sources, and sometimes even from his own work, to the point that it all becomes much the same. And yes, he’s made The Doctor and Sherlock Holmes—characters with rich backgrounds and history—into cute and, in many ways, far less clever versions of their originals (or even of other incarnations of the same). These are valid points worthy of discussion. Can changes be made, courses corrected? With or without Moffat? In the case of Doctor Who, there is always room for change; the very fabric of the show is woven just for that. As for Sherlock, well, Moffat holds the corner on the current BBC take, but there will always be more Holmes somewhere (Elementary preems on CBS in just a couple more weeks). And in ANY case, if Moffat would just open his door to some fresh blood and new perspectives, general opinions of him might change for the better.

I’ll admit, then, that I am not without bias on that score. I’ve been denied the opportunity to write for either of Moffat’s current programs, and not for lack of trying (nor for lack of talent or ability, at least according to some sources—and no, I don’t mean family or friends). That doesn’t make the arguments against some of his work any less valid, mind. And don’t they say you should be nice to people on the way up, and then again when you’re at the top, because what goes up . . .