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Alas, a Rejection

Got a rejection for a short story today. I’m not terribly surprised; it seems my plays and scripts are more in demand, so I’ve been focusing on those anyway. Still, this was an interesting one: they sent a form letter that has a bunch of tick boxes with things like “Couldn’t suspend my disbelief” and “Dialogue weak or stilted” next to them, 16 total options. The following were ticked on my letter:

  • Not for us
  • Not compelling enough/just didn’t grab me
  • Please try us again with something else

I suppose that last one is supposed to be encouraging, but I don’t have the time right now to dig around for “something else” to send them.

Could have been worse. One box (NOT ticked on my letter) reads: “What were you thinking?” I wonder if anyone has actually received a letter with that one marked on it? I’d actually be interested in reading whatever it was that got rejected with such a note. Call it morbid curiosity.

All right then. Have a play to finish. And a television script. And two stories (well, novellas at this rate). And that Doctor Who movie script . . . Jesus. When I look at it like that, I just want to go to bed and have Tom Tit Tot spin all this straw into gold for me.

What’s In a Name?

I was thinking about how I’ve gone from my given name, which doesn’t even begin with an M, to my nicknames–including the diminutive of my given name, which does begin with M, but also other, unrelated nicknames that coincidentally also begin with M–to simply, well, “M.” It might seem at first that I’ve been reduced somehow, but I don’t think so. I feel more like I’ve been pared down a bit, distilled into the most necessary elements. I don’t need all those other letters; the one works just fine and packs more power in less space.

It also serves to illustrate how I once had rather diffuse energy, going off in all directions, but now I’m starting to concentrate that energy into certain channels. Instead of a red giant I am now a white dwarf, smaller and brighter and hotter than before.

I wear a necklace these days, sort of a good luck charm (and I gave a similar one to my female lead in “The K-Pro”) that reflects this sense of myself I’ve developed and am continuing to develop. They will know me by my necklace. It’s the international maritime signal flag for the letter M, which looks something like:

Of course, those who know what the flag means might be confused about what I’m trying to convey. So to be clear

  • NO, I am not married or dating anyone named Mike
  • NO, my vessel is not stopped and making no way (though sometimes, when I have writer’s block, it certainly feels that way)
  • NO, I do not have a medical doctor on board

It really is just my initial, a visual summary of me–the person I am and aspire to be.

Teaser Tuesday: Good Omens

We’ve all read this book, I think, but I recently picked it up to read again. It’s been, oh, ten years or so for me, and my husband has a nice little copy in which Neil Gaiman has written on the flyleaf for him to “have a nice doomsday.”

So while Teaser Tuesday is usually about teasing others into reading something new, this is more like a flashback.

There are a lot of copies of this book, so to be clear in regards to page number, I’m working with a 1990 hardbound (Workman Publishing, printed by Berryville Graphics).

I’ve opened at random to page 78:

His forehead creased for a moment, and then he slapped the steering wheel triumphantly.
“Ducks!” he shouted.

For Steven Moffat on Reaching His 50th Year

Tick tock goes the clock . . .

My high school English Literature instructor turned 50 during my senior year (I don’t know what they call all this over where you are, “forms” of some kind, which I understand to be like grade levels here, only entirely different). Anyway, Mr C had been my instructor and mentor for a couple years at that point, and I loved him dearly (in fact we’re still in touch) but at that time I thought 50 was incredibly old. Even my parents weren’t 50! Who the hell lived to 50? Who would want to? By then you might as well just stop altogether and give up.

Mr C tried very patiently to explain that 50 was, in fact, really only the middle of one’s life (particularly if one lived carefully like the Jesuit he was). But I told him in all my 17-year-old glory that I hoped never to live so long because to be so old would be TRAGIC.

In turn, Mr C made me go memorize some Canterbury Tales. Showed me, I suppose. But I’ve long since forgotten all of it, so there. (Can’t fit both Shakespeare and Chaucer. Got some Wordsworth wandering around in there, too . . . THIS is what it’s like to be old, I suspect—weird snippets of things one once knew drifting in and out like waves of fog. Or maybe that’s just writers.)

They say you’re only as old as you feel, but at 50 you’re probably at least starting to get achy whenever the weather turns. They make an ointment for that, I think. I don’t know [yet] because I am not old [yet] and will not be for some time [yet, if ever].

Yes, I’m rubbing it in a little.

But you’ll have to rub in the ointment on your own.

Happy birthday.

My Doctor Who Movie Plot

Okay, so this is just off the top of my head because of course I’ve had a phone call: “All right, M, what would you do with this?” And I haven’t had any kind of time to really think about it, but . . .

We’ll skip Gallifrey for the moment. These things just tend to come off as cheesy anyway and will limit the audience potential. Also: budget concerns. So let’s get right to the Doctor being on Earth. Wherever, doesn’t matter, pick a place to film (a city, though; the more people in harm’s way, the better our hero comes off when he saves them).

So what’s he doing? Trying to fix the TARDIS, I suspect, so we’ll start him off gathering parts somewhere—a junk yard, a landfill, a Dumpster, doesn’t matter, just somewhere there might be, say, bums or homeless people or sanitation workers because here comes our inciting incident: the Doctor is going to do something strange and amazing that will set off a sort of panic. Pretty soon authorities will be hunting for him, and meanwhile he’s desperate to fix the TARDIS and what? Get back to the Time War maybe, something like that.

Yes, yes, so then we need to introduce our companion. Probably female. Someone who recognizes him from the news reports or the YouTube footage or whatever is going around. Ready to call the police when she runs into him, but of course he does something either to save or impress her, and she takes that split second to rethink things. Curiosity, cat, satisfaction, etc.

There will be the whole bit in which she’s not sure if he’s crazy or what but finds herself helping elude the authorities anyway because he swears that blue box can time travel—if only he can fix it.

We’ll want another threat as well, something unfriendly coming at the planet. The Doctor will get the TARDIS up and running, and he’s all ready to get back to that Time War, but finds himself unable to leave Earth in peril. So he takes up precious minutes/hours/days thwarting whatever threat we’ve stacked against the humans, and only then will he be able to get back to Gallifrey . . .

But he’s just slightly too late.

BAM.

He’s a homeless drifter, has a working TARDIS and a companion, and off we go to the next film (assuming there is one).

See? Not bad for sitting at my desk while two small children scream at me to help them with their puzzles and can they please have some doughnuts.

Doctor Who Movie Rumors

Okay, so this is something I find interesting: today I received an e-mail from Variety, to which as someone in “the industry” I subscribe. It announced that David Yates–helmer of some of the Harry Potter films–was teaming up with the BBC to do a Doctor Who movie. NOT one that has anything to do with the current television program, mind you. The movie would be all new, its own thing.

This makes sense in a broad audience appeal kind of way. You don’t necessarily want to launch a movie franchise that requires viewers to slog through a lot of backlog. Look at the X-Files movies. Hell, I watched that series and still didn’t understand those films. Never mind people who went in cold.

Now there’s no script and no cast yet, just some big names behind getting the project off the ground. (By the way, if they want a script, I’d be happy to oblige . . .) Other, previous attempts have not borne fruit, so there’s reason to think the odds of anything happening are 50/50.

But what I really find intriguing is the protest-too-much reaction I’ve witnessed on Twitter. So many people in the DW camp coming out and saying that it’s just a rumor, there’s nothing in it. Really? Because I can usually trust Variety. I won’t say they’re always right, but Yates had some quotes in there that made this project sound very possible. So why the fuss? Do they see this as a rival instead of a boost? Do they only want a DW movie if Moffat and Smith and co. are involved?

The issue of creative control is always a touchy one. And fan loyalty plays into the dynamics as well in terms of planning big projects. Anyone who’s had to adapt a bestselling, much-loved novel knows that. And here is a possible recasting of a cult classic television program, so there’s bound to be some strong feelings involved. Though in the end it’s a legal issue of who has rights to what, whose contracts say what and so on.

I, for one, am curious to see what comes of it, if anything. After all, people had reservations about the television show, too, when it rebooted in 2005. They had doubts when David Tennant was replaced by Matt Smith, too. But it’s all turned out okay so far. Why have so little faith now?

Wait and see is the watchword. (And maybe consider Benny Cumberbatch for the film version of the Doctor. We already know he can rock a scarf.)

Today: The Noughties Blogfest

This is the blogfest in which you list your favorite movies, music, books and so forth for each year from 2000 to 2009. Ah, a bygone era! (Visit Dave for more info.)

2000

This seems like so long ago. It was the year matchbox twenty’s Mad Season came out, and I remember the first time I listened to it thinking, What the hell is this? Because it didn’t sound anything like their first album. But I continued to listen to it; it fact, it was on almost constant rotation as I wrote my thesis. I also got to see them play in Amherst that year.

Also the movie State and Main. To this day it’s one of my favorites.

2001

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Right? Came out just before my birthday, and what a treat. I grew up listening to my dad tell the stories of the Hobbit and Middle Earth (I had only read The Hobbit, never the others), so this was special to me, to see it come to life in such a wonderful way.

Also: Alias. Loved that show. I want Victor Garber for an honorary uncle.

2002

Okay, I’ll go for something less obvious here. The Mothman Prophecies. That movie was seriously creepy. Oh, and the book Batavia’s Graveyard. More mainstream: The Two Towers, which is my favorite of the trilogy, and matchbox twenty’s More Than You Think You Are.

2003

Runaway Jury. I really enjoyed that movie (and not only because I was in New Orleans for some of the filming of it–more that I love John Cusack). And of course, in television, this is the year Arrested Development debuted.

Notable concert: matchbox twenty with opening acts Sugar Ray and Maroon 5.

2004

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2. The Other Boylen Girl by Philippa Gregory. Also saw Rob Thomas play a special charity concert at the China Club in NYC, along with Jewel and Darryl Hall. Saw Jimmy Buffett play at Fenway Park. And got some of my first written works published.

2005

Rob Thomas’s . . . Something to Be. I saw him live again at Avalon in Boston and also saw U2 live in concert for the first time. Jude Morgan’s Indiscretion. Robert Downey Jr’s rising star with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And the return of Doctor Who to the television schedule, as well as the premiere of Bones.

2006

At this point I had an infant and did not have much time to watch or read or do much of anything, but I did go see V for Vendetta. And I read Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story.

2007

Hot Fuzz is a classic, is it not? And I loved Alison Weir’s book Innocent Traitor as well as Jude Morgan’s An Accomplished Woman.

2008

Cloverfield. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Weir’s The Lady Elizabeth and Stephen King’s Duma Key.

2009

A year for books: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, One Day by David Nicholls, and Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.

Also, Sherlock Holmes. And Rob Thomas’s Cradlesong (saw him in concert again). And OneRepublic’s Waking Up.

My Wikipedia Entry

I was thinking about what a Wikipedia entry for me might read like. I’m not worthy of one yet, perhaps, but I intend to be. Why not get a head start?

It would be under M Pepper Langlinais, of course, because that’s the name I write under, so I suppose that’s the name people would search for. But when you looked me up, the article would probably start with my actual name. So:

M Pepper Langlinais

Amanda Langlinais Pepper (17 December 19** – present), better known as M Pepper Langlinais [prn. long-leh-nay], is an American author and playwright.

I’m not putting my actual birth year here for everyone to see, thanks so much. You’re allowed to take a guess based on the following information: I grew up playing with My Little Pony and watching Indiana Jones movies, even though I was probably slightly too young to be seeing them.

Meanwhile, I’m sure I should say more after that opening line, but I haven’t thought of what yet. So we’ll move on.

Early Life

This is where they will post information about how I’m an only child and lived in Texas for a lot of my childhood.

Education

Langlinais attended school in Georgetown, Texas, and later Lewisville, Texas. She graduated as 18th in her high school class of 370 students and went on to get a Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, then a Master of Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston.

As an undergraduate at UT, Langlinais focused on screenwriting and cultural media studies (pop culture and fan psychology) and interned on a motion picture set. Her secondary concentration was in classics, specifically Greek and Roman history and mythology. But it was a course in parageography, taught by Dr. Douglass Parker, that opened new doors for Langlinais’ writing, specifically by guiding her to create the fictional world of AElit. This would later be the basis for her Masters thesis.

Also while an undergraduate, Langlinais participated in the Shakespeare at Winedale program and portrayed Corambis (in later drafts, Polonius) in a first quarto production of Hamlet.

Influences

Langlinais credits many of her teachers and college instructors as being influential in her work. But it was her early love of movies, and later television, that made her want to become a screenwriter. Langlinais was especially influenced by such films as Young Sherlock Holmes and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and later by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Jurassic Park, and The Matrix. Television series such as MacGyver and Star Trek: The Next Generation were also favorites, and Langlinais’ undergraduate final project was a spec script for The X-Files.

Okay, so now we segue into my actual work, right?

Works

Although Langlinais wrote poetry as an undergraduate, she abandoned it shortly thereafter to focus on prose. In 2004 her short story “A.B.C.” was published in Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine. She would later include it in an anthology of short stories titled The World Ends at Five (2008).

Langlinais’ writing slowed to a stop between 2005 and 2010 due to the births of her children in 2005, 2008 and 2009. She began writing again late in 2010, but it was a request from friends that started her on the path to playwriting. Langlinais received an e-mail from friends who helped run a community theater asking if she would consider writing a short play for a directing workshop. “Warm Bodies” (2011) was the result.

Discovering that she liked the format of writing for the stage, Langlinais now focuses primarily on playwriting and short stories. She is best known for her Sherlock Holmes stories and her novellas about British spy Peter Stoller.

And then we list all the stuff I’ve written, but I’m not going to bother; the key stuff is over on my Bibliography page, and there’s a lot of little stuff besides . . . Oh, but what about my personal life?

Personal Life

Langlinais met Scott Aaron Pepper while they were both graduate students at Emerson College. They married in 2001.

That’s about all I really need to say about that, I think, since the kids got a mention earlier.

Okay, so that’s what I have for now. I’ll improve upon it as I go, but it’s good for starters, don’t you think?

NaNoWriMo Fail

It appears I’m not actually doing NaNoWriMo this year after all. The month is nearly half over, and though I’ve written one play and started another, I won’t have anything like a novel by the time the clock runs out. I’m fine with this . . . I think. Since I write all the time anyway, the deadline for NaNo seems forced and arbitrary. I’ve produced more work in the past year than I had in the three or four years prior, so I have nothing to be ashamed of. And hopefully this is just the start of my prolific career.

The play I’m writing now is coming along very well, much better than the last one I wrote (which wasn’t bad but was like pulling the proverbial teeth to write). And I have several other projects in the works as well that need to get finished. So I’ll keep adding to my oeuvre, I suppose. NaNo or not.

A Writing Meme

1. Tell us about your favorite writ­ing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

When I was an undergrad (this appears to be the day for undergraduate nostalgia), I took a course called Parageography, which is “the study of imaginary places.” It was developed and taught at the University of Texas at Austin by Dr. Douglass Parker, who structured the course as partly literary–we read things like The Wizard of Oz and Orlando and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–and partly creative writing in that we were required to come up with our own, well, worlds. We made languages and maps and all kinds of things. My world was called AElit, and I wrote part of its holy book (the Teuchos) in actual AElitian. I came up with an extensive theology, etc. I even started writing a novel based in this world, and I hope some day to finish it. I go back and tinker with it now and then.

2. How many char­ac­ters do you have? Do you pre­fer males or females?

How many characters do I have in what exactly? Right now I’m writing a play with two characters and a third poised to make an appearance later on.

3. How do you come up with names, for char­ac­ters (and for places if you’re writ­ing about fic­tional places)?

If I’ve got a character fleshed out enough, the right name will come to me. I’ll cast around for a bit until something fits. Same for places. I couldn’t begin to tell you where I came up with AElit except maybe I had been looking at a bookshelf with an old encyclopaedia and thought I’d like to use an “ae.” Or maybe it was an archaeology text. For my deities in that particular world, though, I used Greek and Latin roots. Like the goddess of death is Telamenos which, if I’m remembering right, means “ending spirit.” I recall a different Classics professor being very excited by that for some weird reason.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Well, you know, I started out writing stories based on movies and television shows that I liked (which is why I went into screenwriting later), so all my early characters were borrowed. Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, etc. I guess one of the first stories I wrote that was original is one I sort of came up with while playing with my best friend. We were the Hemlock sisters and we solved mysteries. I was Elizabeth and my friend was Lauren, and we lived with our Aunt Miranda (“Aunt Randi”). Later I wrote a short Hemlock sisters story for a reading class. I still have it somewhere, I think.

5. By age, who is your youngest char­ac­ter? Old­est? How about “youngest” and “old­est” in terms of when you cre­ated them?

Good God, I don’t know. Akkad and Sekhmet are probably my youngest in terms of age; they’re just shy of 13. And Tithendion would be the oldest, since he’s basically the father of the gods. But the Hemlock sisters are oldest in terms of when they were created. And these play characters (Arthur & Dilly) are youngest, I guess.

6. Where are you most com­fort­able writ­ing? At what time of day? Com­puter or good ol’ pen and paper?

Mostly it’s important that I be alone. Not just in the room, but the whole house should be empty. And I’ve found it difficult to write where I currently live for whatever reason, so I travel a lot to write. Mid-afternoon and late at night are best for me. As for computer or pen and paper, I do both. Sometimes it depends on the story, sometimes it depends on where I am and what I have access to.

7. Do you lis­ten to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your char­ac­ters?

Music inspires me, so I get a lot of ideas from it. But that’s usually when I’m driving and listening to the radio. And there are songs that make me think of my characters. I do sometimes listen to music while writing, too, but most often I don’t.

8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?

I’m not sure what I write. Fantasy, I suppose, and sometimes mystery. I started a YA novel that I never finished. I’ve got a paranormal romance novella going at the moment. Which is funny because I’ve never read any paranormal romances. I do like to read mysteries and historical biographies and Regency romances. I used to read a lot of fantasy, too, but got bogged down by so much of it.

9. How do you get ideas for your char­ac­ters? Describe the process of cre­at­ing them.

I haven’t a clue where they come from. I usually start with a situation, I think, and populate from there.

10. What are some really weird sit­u­a­tions your char­ac­ters have been in? Every­thing from seri­ous canon scenes to meme ques­tions counts!

My fanfic characters get into way weirder situations than my original ones, but let’s assume you mean my originals. Well, Seladion and Amaurodios get kicked out of Argyros (think of angels being booted from Heaven and you have the gist), David and Andra have a past history as Greek gods, and in one of my plays two of the characters are possessed by ghosts.

11. Who is your favorite char­ac­ter to write? Least favorite?

I guess this depends on the project, but I often enjoy writing Seladion because he’s just so sly and can be so nasty. It’s fun. Akkad might be my least favorite, since he whines a bit.

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world­build­ing? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?

Oh, the AElit stuff by far. I trenched in and created something very complex there. A whole other language, in fact, and snippets of their literature (plays, prayers, inscriptions).

13. What’s your favorite cul­ture to write, fic­tional or not?

It’s funny because AElit isn’t actually my favorite culture to write, which may be why I haven’t finished it yet. I’m having fun with the film set culture in “The K-Pro.” And I also like setting things in ancient times, Greece and Rome and Egypt.

14. How do you map out loca­tions, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I have a map of AElit but there’s no digital file.

15. Mid­way ques­tion! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether pro­fes­sional or not!

I like a lot of Neil Gaiman’s work. Stephen King, too. These guys know how to tell a compelling story.

16. Do you write roman­tic rela­tion­ships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you will­ing to go in your writ­ing? 😉

I write attraction. I write sexual tension. And sometimes there’s even some actual sex, though I’m of the pan-the-camera-away type, so my readers usually only get a taste of the foreplay and the aftermath.

17. Favorite pro­tag­o­nist and why!

Of mine? “The K-Pro” has two protagonists, and I like them both because they are very real but also just slightly unreal. Being incarnations of Greek gods does that to a person, I suppose.

18. Favorite antag­o­nist and why!

Him in “Warm Bodies” maybe. There’s something weirdly malicious about him . . . It’s a short play, but I could see taking that character and doing some more with him.

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove him­self into the spot­light and why!

Alfred in “The K-Pro.” He was just going to be a funny but annoying co-star but he’s been given a bigger role than I originally planned.

20. What are your favorite char­ac­ter inter­ac­tions to write?

Banter. I’m a dialogue person (screenwriting again, and now playwriting I suppose). And I’m good at character-driven interpersonal relationships.

21. Do any of your char­ac­ters have chil­dren? How well do you write them?

Some of my characters are children. They’re definitely more difficult to write. I have to think about what I liked and did at that age and hope I don’t sound dumb.

22. Tell us about one scene between your char­ac­ters that you’ve never writ­ten or told any­one about before! Seri­ous or not.

I can only think of fanfic scenes I scrapped. Like Sherlock’s first encounter with Charles Whitcombe–I had to know in order to write the rest of that story, but I never actually wrote the mental scene I came up with. Or there was a scene with Sherlock and John in a church, and Sherlock gives John his coat because John is cold and his jacket isn’t heavy enough.

23. How long does it usu­ally take you to com­plete an entire story—from plan­ning to writ­ing to post­ing (if you post your work)?

Depends on the story. Some come fast and some have taken years (and continue to take years).

24. How will­ing are you to kill your char­ac­ters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most inter­est­ing way you’ve killed some­one?

I don’t have a problem with killing a character off, even a major one. Writers have to be fearless in that way, and be willing to go where the story demands. That said, I’m not sure I’ve had any especially interesting deaths.

25. Do any of your char­ac­ters have pets? Tell us about them.

In my unfinished YA novel, there was a cat named Nacho.

26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your char­ac­ters? Do oth­ers draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite pic­ture of him!

Oh no. I can’t draw. I’ve tried, and I dearly wish I could–I even took classes. My brain just doesn’t work that way, though; what I see comes out as words not pictures. So instead I cast my characters. For example, Dixon in “20 August” was a young Ewan McGregor.

27. Along sim­i­lar lines, do appear­ances play a big role in your sto­ries? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about design­ing your char­ac­ters.

Well, I mean, I describe my characters but I try not to belabor the point. I don’t know how it is for most people, but when I start reading a book, I almost immediately formulate mental pictures of the characters on my own, often regardless to what the author has written. So unless it’s just that important that he or she look a certain way, I touch on it and move on. Though I do like eyes. I’ll often talk about someone’s eyes.

28. Have you ever writ­ten a char­ac­ter with phys­i­cal or men­tal dis­abil­i­ties? Describe them, and if there’s noth­ing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

Oh, I’ve written people who walk with canes or something. Nothing major.

29. How often do you think about writ­ing? Ever come across some­thing IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

I think about my characters and stories a lot. While driving, when a song reminds me of them, when I see or hear or read something in the news I think I can use . . . In stores I’ll walk past clothes and think, so-and-so would wear that, or I smell cologne and think, he’d smell like that. I feel like it’s important to know these things, to know my characters intimately.