Sunday, September 29, 2013

Never stop learning. . .

I can't believe I missed HOMELAND until now. Purely by accident, I switched on the telly during a HL marathon, and that was it. I was hooked. Incredible writing, turns and twists I never saw coming, and incredible acting. Claire Danes can act circles around anyone in the business, and Damien Lewis has always been a fav. One show I never missed was LIFE, and he was spectacular in it. They use a ton of tight shots, lighting is moody and effective, and the characters so complex I'm in awe.

I heard a songwriter say that Springfield's JESSE'S GIRL is the perfect pop song, and anyone wanting to learn to write one, should study that one song thoroughly. Same with HOMELAND. Anyone who cares about goals, motivation and conflict can learn a ton of lessons from it. Up the ante, make it worse, and I mean really, really bad, then throw in some more problems, and you can't imagine how they're going to write the end. I sure don't see how, and usually, I can foresee the next move. I'm going to take notes, believe me.

A writer should never stop studying other creative works, whether of art, music, drama, or literature. It's easier to see what others do and how they do it if you're keeping yourself open to learning from them. I imagine whole stories in paintings, pick up tag lines that are entire novels (I wish that I had Jesse's girl. Where can I find a woman like that?), and add depth to a scene that follows the emotional arc of a song. (Sting's "Desert Rose.") I'm never one to turn down writing help, wherever it arises.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Time Out

Early morning at the beach. Is there anything better? Well, maybe early Christmas morning with little rug rats racing down stairs, but it's close. Just thought I'd take time out to sigh wistfully and remember last week's quick break at North Beach Plantation.

I've been thinking about defending one's chosen genre. As writers, we get pigeon-holed regularly. I still remember being shocked when a David Morrell I picked up, Brotherhood of the Rose, wasn't a western. The title should have given me a clue, LOL, but I was just sure he was a western writer because of a superb one I'd read by him. My days as a western writer are pretty much closed (though I still have one I want to write), and I remember feeling as if I were a member of a dying, obsolete breed when I told people what I published. Western readers are still out there, but their pickins' are slim and mostly reprints of old stuff. People act as if I'm an old fogey for having written westerns.

Romance authors get their hackles up on a regular basis, with good reason. Those who don't read them sneer, with a look of disdain, if they find out you write them. So they're over 50% of the market? They're not real books right, just all that bodice-ripping rot.  Makes me want to whack people over the head when I get that superior attitude. Romances have dross and gold, just as in any other genre. The golden ones are absolutely superb. I have several on my keeper shelf (Laura Kinsale's books will have to be pried from my cold, dead hands).

Whether you write vampires, werewolves, punk, urban, scifi, horror, romance, or any other genre, you should never have to defend your chosen line of work. There're readers for them all, and many of them are discriminating and well educated. Some read them just for fun, for a quick escape into another world, and some just want to read a good, well-written story.

As they say on the warning signs to alert you to slow down for workers when a highway is being fixed, " Give 'em a break."

Friday, September 13, 2013

Barbara Kingsolver Flop

No, not a bad dive, though FLIGHT BEHAVIOR feels like a belly flop. I never thought I'd actively dislike a Kingsolver book, but this one took me into that hitherto unknown territory. Yes, the writing is top notch. I could even tolerate the ecological polemics. But I couldn't stand the heroine, Dellarobia Turnbow. The book opens with her trekking up a mountain to commit adultery with the telephone guy. She doesn't, but she sure wants to. And she doesn't get much better.

I just couldn't see that this woman, a high school grad of a terrible education system, really cares all that much about her husband ending his sentences with a preposition. Ninety per cent of Americans do it, and I can't buy the notion that it upsets a woman born and raised in the hills of Tennessee.  All she does is bitch,  bitch, bitch and then bitch some more. Sure, she has a smart mouth, but who cares? I found her to be ungrateful and whiny. She cares more for some displaced butterflies than she does her husband. I'm sorry I wasted my time.

My beach reading pile has Donna Tartt's book from 2004 (?) up next. I'm praying it's better than the Kingsolver bomb. Won't take much to get there.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

More books and a movie

Just finished reading Sonia Sotomayor's MY BELOVED WORLD. What an extraordinary woman she is, and unflinchingly honest, too. If ever there were an argument on behalf of affirmative action, she's it. Given a chance, she ran with it, and it's all to her credit that she is such a success story and inspiration for all minorities, and for women everywhere, who aspire to follow a passion. Though she's very smart, it took Princeton to teach her how to learn for the rest of her life. I was surprised at how she condemned her Catholic school experience for being rote memorization (isn't that the norm for all school children in a state with standardized exams per grade?).  Learning to analyze and critique were skills she learned only in college. Yet her HS debate experience provided her with confidence in her ability to speak publicly and argue on her feet, so she got something out of it.

She's a woman of unqualified optimism, unflinching honesty, and I'm so glad someone like her is sitting on the Supremes. Long may she last in that grueling job!

I'm on a kick to re-read books I've hung onto for longer than a year, and Barbara Kingsolver's PRODIGAL SUMMER falls into that category. I love how the story is a perfect circle, with intertwined lives and themes. 

We managed to get in one movie this past weekend, and it was a winner. THE WAY WAY BACK is so worth your time and money, even if its title refers to the jump seat in an old station wagon. Sam Rockwell is wonderful as a mentor who quickly discerns a young boy's need for a father figure, and Allison Janney steals the opening scene. Funny, sad, and very different from the usual summer film fare, this is a movie you'll think about or days. Put it on your list.