Best. Birthday. Ever.

I wouldn’t normally post this kind of thing here–I’d save it for my personal blog–but there is some entertainment value to my birthday this year. After all, the first part of my birthday celebrations came when I flew to London to attend the Sherlock preem at the BFI. And yesterday, I received a box of cupcakes from Crumbs. (Okay, there’s not much entertainment value in that, but it was worth a mention.) And tonight I get some Robert Downey Jr. and some Sherlock of another kind/color/flavor . . .

The ladies at my salon asked me the other day who my “movie star boyfriend” would be. Well, I’ve worked with, er, “stars,” so it didn’t seem fair to pick one. But then, after some thought, I chose Robert Downey Jr. anyway. I’ve never had the pleasure of working with him, so the choice is academic. I like a man with a quick mind, and anecdotally, Robert is just that. Some say that makes him difficult to work with in some ways, but it’s understandable; smart people can have a hard time slowing themselves down, or rather, they assume everyone is with them when they’re five leaps ahead. At least half of a genius’ conversation is dropped (sometimes more) because he or she leaves out what s/he thinks is unnecessary to articulate. It seems obvious to him, after all. It’s also why they make lousy teachers; they can’t be bothered to break down into steps something that comes to them with so little effort.

I know all this because my father is brilliant, and we’ve had entire conversations that go like this:

Dad: Did you . . .?
Me: Well, I . . .
Dad: But then . . .
Me: Yeah, because . . .
Dad: Yes, okay.

Drives my mother crazy.

But I digress. On top of tonight’s film, tomorrow night I’m going out to a comedy club with friends. I don’t normally do that kind of thing, so I’m a little nervous, but also curious. I do like to laugh. Sometimes. If the jokes are clever and not too rude. My friends have made me promise to bring Sherlock along, and I can only imagine what he’ll have to say about the whole thing.

Teaser Tuesday: The Hypnotist

So I’m finally home and reading something new that allows me to participate in Teaser Tuesday. For those of you who haven’t seen this on my site before, it’s where you open your current read to a random page and post two teaser (but non-spoiler) sentences.

I picked up The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler at the library yesterday. It’s about, well, a hypnotist who is enlisted by the police to help solve a series of violent murders. There’s been a lot of buzz around the book (“the next Dragon Tattoo,” movie rights, etc.), so I was curious. I’m not very far in, so it’s too early to say what I think. But here’s a teaser, taken from page 211:

“Down, down!”
Simone doesn’t realize the men are talking to her until she feels a powerful blow in the stomach that forces her to her knees.

The novel was originally written in Swedish, and I can’t decide how I feel about the present tense. I’m trying to get past it, but I don’t know if I can.

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.

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.

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.

Hallowe’en

Yes, I do prefer it with the apostrophe, thank you. The apostrophe shows a letter has been removed. That is the function of apostrophes.

I like Hallowe’en, I suppose, though I find the roots of the holiday more interesting than its current incarnation. My minor was ancient and classical history, after all; I’m designed to find old things interesting. (And yet I also study pop culture . . . So I guess I find some modern things interesting, too.)

I enjoy dressing up, and I like having an excuse for it at least one day out of 365. (When I modeled in college, I had more excuses to dress up but also never got to pick my own clothes, so that didn’t really count, I don’t think.) I’d be more excited about the whole candy aspect if I were a kid, but once you’re grown up and can have candy whenever you like, that part of Hallowe’en loses its shine. We’ll take the kids trick-or-treating tonight, though, and we’ll probably eat a fair amount of the candy that is collected if only to keep the kids from having too much of it.

On the other side of the holiday, I don’t like gory things. I find psychological thrillers are more to my taste. So while I’m happy to read Stephen King–and he can be graphic, but he does also have a relatively subtle touch and doesn’t tend toward gore for its own sake–I don’t go see movies like Saw or whatever. Just not at all my thing.

And tomorrow is All Saints’ Day. I will make a gris gris, probably out of the dried rose on my desk.

Teaser Tuesday: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I’m finally getting around to reading this; I wanted to try it in advance of the film’s US release in December. I’ve never read any John Le Carre (though his name makes me think of being home in New Orleans). I don’t do a lot of spy/thriller reading, though I do tend to go in cycles in which I’ll devour several in a matter of a few months before moving on to some other genre.

Today’s excerpt is from page 212 of a very old library hardback:

He had a penknife ready but he wasn’t using it. Jim would never have cut string if he could avoid it.

I have no idea what’s going on in this scene because I haven’t got very far in the book yet. I’m on, like, page 5?

National Playwrights Conference

Yesterday evening I did something awful to four of the five toes on my right foot. So after hobbling around all last night and most of today, I figured I might be due for some good karma and so have thrown my hat into the ring for next year’s National Playwrights Conference. They have open submissions through 21 October, and while the odds are slim that my work will be picked (they receive 800+ submissions), I can hope. Plus, I love that they have an online submission process. (Visit the O’Neill Center site for more information.) As a rule, I don’t submit to places that require a fee, but I decided to take a chance with this one. Wish me luck! With this or other submissions . . .

Teaser Tuesday: Becoming Jane Austen

For those of you not familiar with it, Teaser Tuesday is when you take whatever book you’re reading, open it to a random page and blog two (non-spoiler) lines. Although considering I’m reading a biography of Jane Austen and she’s been dead for, like, a couple hundred years, I’m not sure how I could possibly spoil anything.

I’m reading Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence because it occurred to me a week or so ago that although I like Austen’s writing, I know very little about her. I mean, I know she never married and that she died of something like consumption or whatever, but that has been more or less the extent of my understanding. I did try to watch the movie Becoming Jane but turned it off because it was boring (or I wasn’t in the proper frame of mind, or both). The book, though, has been interesting. And as it turns out I was born 200 years + 1 day after Miss Austen. So that’s something.

Here now is the teaser, taken from page 132:

Jane and Cassandra were both still unmarried, and Bath was a magnet for eligible men. In the country the girls had little opportunity to meet prospective husbands, and it was by now clear that there was little chance of their being chosen by men in the Steventon neighbourhood.