Monday, April 26, 2010

Shadow of the wind

I just finished Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind. This is a much touted literary "masterpiece".

I will agree that technically it was beautiful. The prose, the language, the style was carefully and skillfully crafted. One could easily lose themselves in the beauty of the prose. However, I found that that seems to be what happened to the story. The story line was not compelling and seemed to play second fiddle to the prose--to the "crafting" of the words.

Maybe I'm just a simple person with simple tastes, but I have to find the storyline the number one draw to the book.

I was reading the remarks from a friend who attended a writer's conference and she remarked on how romance writing still isn't really accepted as "real" writing. I blame this on the transition that happens to people about middle school to high school where we start to put emphasis on "classic literature". In doing so we tend to suck the fun right out of reading.

In middle school and high school I remember the guilty pleasure of sneaking a Harlequin romance. They were fun to read. So were comic books. But these were looked down upon as not real reading by those who are in the position I hold now, a reading/ELA teacher. We read Animal Farm, The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, etc. in the seventh grade and I used to think that was an awesome thing.

It is in some respects. There is a certain body of literature that everyone should have a passing knowledge of and the three works above are among them. In the WIP I have going, which may turn out to be a YA novel, the protagonist is bemoaning her third trip to the land of Chaucer. Yes, we all need to have a passing acquaintance with The Canterbury Tales, but by focusing entirely on those kinds of works we are at deep risk of sucking the fun out of reading. I mean, come on, how many of you who have read Chaucer, enjoyed it? Not many. We may admire it, we may appreciate it, but enjoy it?

Classic works are a must. We need to know, understand and be familiar with great works of literature. But thank goodness for writers who know how to keep reading fun. I'd lost the fun in reading until I picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to figure out what the hype was all about. I devoured it in a few hours and went back for more.

Yet still, it seemed that fun and adult literature were forever to be separated until I attended my first DragonCon (the SciFi-Fantasy-Horror convention in Atlanta). I saw a panel with Sherrilyn Kenyon-dressed in pigtails with bright red yarn fluffed through them and horns. (I had no idea at the time she was dressed like the demon Simi from her books.) I'd never heard of her before that day, but was drawn by the vampire-goth theme of the panel. She was hilarious and fun.

A check of my local library showed they had her novels and I, again, discovered the fun in reading. Now I embrace my romance reader side. It took longer for me to embrace the romance writer side of me. My first novel, Access Denied, was written without a clue on my part that it was a romance until one of my friends gave me a reality check. It had been declined by a couple of publishers when Courtney said, "Duh, you're sending it out wrong, you don't have a sci-fi novel on your hands, kiddo, you have a romance."

I was shocked. I'd written a romance? Yes I had. The story of James and Leah was definitely a romance. Not your typical one, he's a difficult kinda guy to warm up to, but it was definitely a romance.

I don't have aspirations as a writer to write the great American novel. Like Leah, who reminds me a great deal of Lizzy in The Rainmaker, my dreams are much more simple. I just want people to have fun.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A little bit of exercise feels good.

I don't mean the type of exercise that makes you sweat and makes your physical muscles ache. I mean the type of exercise that you do with your mind, your imagination and creativity.

I've been writing fairly steadily the last couple of days. A mere 4,200+ words at the moment, but it may just be a good start that leads to a good finish. Writers will tell you, we all have stories we started that we never finished. We all have stories we finished but which just sit there and don't ever find a home and often for good reason. Some are just never ready to be out their on their own.

This little story I've started recently has been brewing in my head for a while. It seems to be coming fairly easily and most promisingly the hero is very demanding. That is generally a good sign. When my hero is uncooperative, pushy and demanding it usually means the story will at least get finished. He won't let me not finish it.

How is he pushy? Well I had decided after a great deal of research just what name I was going to give him. You know that look someone gives you that says, "You have got to be out of your f'ing mind?" Yeah, that's the look I got. No, seriously. That's how he looked at me. Then he informed me that if I wanted to know his name I should have asked. It's Gideon by the way. And this is what he looks like.

Friday, April 9, 2010

An Exercise in Randomness

Caution: Today's blog is an exercise in randomness.

Television used to be a rarity in our house, but I confess that is changing, mostly since we got cable. We got the cable as a bundle with the high-speed internet and because we did want Z to have access to Discovery, the History Channel, Animal Planet and PBS.

Oops…tangent. Can you have a tangent in randomness?

The much touted 100th episode of the Fox television show Bones aired last night. I’ve seen a few episodes, but sometimes it can be a bit ripe for me. Ditto CSI. But as I’ve watched the commercials it occurred to me that all of these folks owe their success to one man. Jack Klugman.

Yes, Jack Klugman. Klugman (and yes, he's still alive) has portrayed several iconic characters over the years including Oscar Madison --who while he didn't inspire Oscar the Grouch was later given a nod by Henson and pals. Sesame Street paid homage to the other famous Oscar by giving their trashcan residing grouch a best friend named Felix the neat Grouch.

After his time on The Odd Couple (which came after years of impressive parts in movies including 12 Angry Men), in 1976, Jack Klugman gave life to the original forensic scientist/crime fighter--Dr. R. Quincy, ME.

Originally conceived as part of the rotating NBC Sunday night mystery theater that included McCloud, McMillan and Wife and Columbo, Klugman's Quincy was so popular that he was quickly given his own weekly show. Using the skills of a medical examiner Quincy used 1970's forensics to solve mysteries. The seven year run of this show opened the door for shows like Diagnosis Murder (1993-2001); Crossing Jordan (2001-2007); CSI and all it's spin-offs (2003-present) and Bones (2005-present).

I remember watching Quincy, and not just because my grandmother liked it. I liked it. I found the way Quincy used medical science to solve crimes fascinating. I found the secondary characters interesting and enjoyable. It was a terrific show. Or maybe it was just that in 1976 I was 11 years old and found it the mark of being a grown up to watch the 9:00pm (CST) grownup show. It was the same with M*A*S*H*. I didn't actually understand many of the jokes, but being able to stay up late to watch was a mark of adulthood.

I find myself writing again recently. I thought for awhile this was going to turn into a YA story. I'm not sure of that now. The heroine is young, just how young I'm not sure yet. Somewhere between 16-20 so I guess that is YA. And it's paranormal. Part of my world, but an aspect I've only ever touched on. It will be interesting to see how and if it develops.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Death of the Road Trip

I just returned from a trip to Florida for our spring break. We drove down to my mother-in-law's house so that she could see Z. She'd not seen him since last October because he came down with bronchitis around Christmas. No slight meant to my mother-in-law, but I was actually relieved. I have this thing about wanting to keep the major holidays for just our little family. But that's not what this blog is about. It's about the fact that the days of taking road trips are over for me, and though there is some denial involved here, for my SO as well.

The trip to Ft. Myers is between 11 and 13 hours long depending on road construction. It was a hop in the car, drive and keep going until we arrived. Now, things are different. The trip is a two day event, an event marked with frequent stops and a great deal of Barney and Elmo. Yep, such is the reality of driving with a toddler.

We prepared for the event as much as possible including breaking down and buying a portable DVD player for the car. Though we try to avoid television in our house, my son has gotten hooked on the purple dino and the little red whatsit. This I could deal with, even after hours of "I love you, you love me, ...etc." The glitch is the fact that evidently a toddler has a much more limited tolerance for sitting still. *insert eye roll here*

We'd been taking breaks, snacks, drinks and diaper changes. However, as bedtime approached, Z decided he was done, punctuated by projectile vomiting brought on by crying and refusing to be comforted until he'd worked himself to a sick. And like the two highly educated adults we are with five university degrees between us, we caved. And I must say the trip back home was much more enjoyable. We stopped at a hotel, had dinner, watched television and then slept.

Now why does this prompted a mournful blog about the death of road trips? Because as nice as it was, there is a loss of freedom here. There is a destruction of the youthful dream of being able to just hop in the car and go. This is gone.

So dear, dear road trip...RIP.