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.

Bonus Bad Movie

I can’t believe I forgot to put Lady in the Water on my list from yesterday’s Worst Movies blogfest. Or as my husband calls it, Ron Howard’s Daughter Is in My Pool. I love M Night–hey! we have similar names!–but this movie was just . . . It was awful. Really. A cute idea in theory but hamhandedly executed.

Or maybe I just really hate movies with so much water?

Worst. Movies. Ever.

It’s another blogfest! Courtesy of Alex J Cavanaugh: the ten worst movies I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch.

Now this list is supposed to be theatrical or DVD releases (no made-for-TV movies), but that’s all good since I don’t watch made-for-TV movies. I won’t attempt to put these into any real order; they were all awful–though I’m sure plenty of people might disagree. Without further ado:

  1. Vampire’s Kiss. Okay, so in the interest of full disclosure, I have an issue with Nicolas Cage in general. But even if I didn’t, this movie was terrible. For a long time I used it as the ruler against which all other bad films were measured, asking myself, “But was it as bad as Vampire’s Kiss?”
  2. Queen of the Damned. I love Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, which is why this movie pained me so terribly. It was an incoherent mishmash, and Stuart Townsend was all wrong for Lestat–I mean, they couldn’t even bother to try and make him blond? And yes, I do understand that as Aaliyah’s last big moment, this film has a special place in many people’s hearts, but let’s face it: it’s bad.
  3. Daredevil. So bad vampire movies can be followed by bad superhero movies. I cringed my way through this one, almost ending up curled under the theater seat in a sort of duck-and-cover move designed to save myself from its atomic bomb of bad.
  4. Van Helsing. Yeah, okay, more vampire stuff. Either I watch a lot of vampire movies, or a lot of vampire movies are just really bad. Or both. But this movie . . . They kept ending up in the water, for one thing, which got irritating after a while. And it’s such a shame because I do love Hugh Jackman, but ugh.
  5. Jackie Brown. I know a lot of people love this movie, but I’m not sure why. Then again, I don’t remember anything about it except that I absolutely hated it. My brain has wiped out all other memories related to this film, probably for good reason. Which is why I won’t tempt fate by ever trying to view it again.
  6. Atonement. Another movie with a lot of water. It was supposed to be all artsy and whatever, but it just ended up beating the audience over the head with its, well, artiness. I hate movies that do that (or books, or anything); it’s like they’re proselytizing or something. A movie shouldn’t have to work that hard to make its point.
  7. Underworld. We walked out of this one. That’s how stupid and bad it was. Just an utter waste of time.
  8. Borat. Another one we walked out of. And it wasn’t that we were offended; it just wasn’t funny.
  9. Cradle Will Rock. Oh my God, I’m such a big John Cusack fan. Seriously. But this movie was awful. Such star power put to such bad, bad use.
  10. The Secret Lives of Dentists. Also a big Denis Leary fan. But not here.

That’s ten. The first ten that come to mind, though I’m sure if I kept thinking, some of these might be replaced by others. I have a film degree, after all; I’ve seen a lot of movies.

I know that a few on this list are generally considered crowd pleasers and/or cult favorites. Meh. I can’t help the way I feel about these things.

Two of Swords

I really want to get back to my writing. Problem is, I’m not connecting with my material these days.

I’m never sure what to do about this sort of thing. I don’t think it’s writer’s block per se so much as me not feeling it. And in order to write well, I really do need to be emotionally invested in what I’m writing. After all, it would be easy to do a paint-by-numbers job and just construct the story, but (at least in my case) it wouldn’t be very good.

Now it’s often said that writers should just write, even when they don’t feel like it, and I do this a lot of times, but I usually don’t get very far. Not because I want it to be perfect (though it’d be nice if it were); I know the important thing is to get that draft out and then go rework it later. I just don’t have the steam to push through like that. I get restless and want to move around the room, find something else to do. It’s a weird sort of impatience, with myself or the work or both. So I often channel that energy into submitting things. Which, of course, only ups my impatience because then I have to wait for feedback and responses.

I love writing. But it’s a lot of work. And yet it’s even worse when I can’t write for whatever reason.

I will try.

My Writing Process

I sometimes get asked (as I’m sure many writers do) what my “writing process” is or involves. It’s rather complicated, actually. It involves a lot of daydreaming, usually while lying on my bed clutching my stuffed dog (a Patrick Puppy from FAO Schwartz).

Before you say, “Well, that sounds easy!” let me assure you it’s not. For one thing, I have a husband, three children, and a cat that seem to want or need me almost every second of the day, so finding enough minutes to string together for daydreaming is a trick in and of itself. And a lot of times I’m so tired, I can’t conjure anything to daydream about. And the daydreaming bit is crucial to the writing because after I get something worked out in my head, I go, well, write it.

Once I’ve got something well and truly underway, however, I can usually go sit at the computer–again, when I’ve scraped together the time–and work on it without needing long sessions on my bed or couch. It’s only when I hit a wall that I go back to the virtual drawing board and begin dreaming up new angles.

The next question is, I suppose, “But where do you get your ideas? How do you decide what to daydream about?” And that I really can’t answer except to say I gather these thoughts from everywhere and anywhere and weave them in my mind. It might be that I marry a song lyric to something I saw on the side of the road, or a line of dialogue pops into my head and I feel the need to build a circumstance around it. A horror story I never wrote because I really couldn’t bear to put it on paper was prompted by a weird drive during which the family and I drove through a small town and saw not a single soul, then turned onto a road that ended in some kind of family-owned smokehouse. Truly eerie. And I had this terrible thought that, if we were to go in there, they would take my baby (she was 8 or 9 months at the time) and turn her into sausage. I imagined her crying and–worse, far worse–the sudden stopping of that crying when they cut her throat. So you may see why I couldn’t write this, but there you have it, one of the places and situations that “inspired” me for good or ill. (And for the record, we turned around and left that town as quickly as we could, and we never did see a living soul.)

The final bit of my process is the hardest part. Whenever I finish something, I want to send it out right away. But of course it’s always better to wait, let the work simmer, then revisit and edit prior to sending it anywhere. Getting others to read it is an option, too; they may see things you don’t. Bottom line is: you want to send out a polished gem, not just-mined ore.

Teaser Tuesday: Queen of Kings

So it’s Teaser Tuesday again, which is when I open the book I’m currently reading and post two “teaser” sentences. I just finished Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson last night (the review is up on spooklights), so this is the next book I intend to pick up and read. It’s Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley. I’m a sucker for those Cleopatra books.

The teaser comes from page 115:

The woman was half snake.
“I hired you,” she said, too calmly, “and you left me.”

The American Version of Sherlock?

So I was reading my Daily Variety (and no, I won’t make fun of my husband’s inability to interpret the headlines–or even most of the articles’ content–due to jargon) and saw that TNT was working on a show called Enigma, which is “a modern-day Sherlock Holmes.” Haven’t I already seen this show somewhere?

Oh, yes. Yes, I have.

Well, Sherlock Holmes is public domain. But I wonder how closely the BBC and Steven Moffat and co. will be watching for potential infringement. It’s a murky area, I would think.

And where will they set this American version? New York maybe? Is that the closest we have to a London on this side of the Atlantic? Will the character even be named Sherlock Holmes, or was that just the general pitch for the show?

Curiouser and curiouser.

I don’t watch anything on TNT myself, but I may need to keep an eye on this one.