Potential New TV Yum

HBO’s newest series features two of my faves from the way way back: Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins. And oh my god are they old! (This doesn’t exactly make me feel like a spring chicken.) But once I get over all that, I’m right back to reveling in just how much I love ’em.

The first episode introduced me to new favorites: Daniel Zovatto, Jerrika Hinton, Raymond Lee, and Sosie Bacon. I wasn’t sure why the baby sister character (Kristen) appealed to me so much until I saw her real name and realized WOW that’s Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon’s kid! No wonder. She definitely caught a great dose of the acting gene.

As for the other young members of the cast, I can’t claim any previous knowledge or recognition. No matter, I’m in love.

The premise of the show was irresistible—two eighties hippies chock full of grand ideals adopt children from around the world, perhaps in hopes of building a family that reflects the diversity and unity they believe the future holds.

Greg (Tim Robbins), has spent his life striving to bring positive change to the world … a world in which frequent mass shootings are now a thing and a reality TV president resides in the White House. Poor Greg, the philosopher, tends to throw up his hands a lot nowadays after yelling What’s The Fucking Point! Meanwhile, his lovely wife Audrey (Holly Hunter), the once free loving world changing hot coed who used to drop acid for enlightenment has become a middle-aged prudish control freak who can’t host a family get together without hiring an army of caterers. Neither of them realize just how much of a mess each of their kids are. Yet.

There’s Ramon, the gorgeous proud and out youngest son (and the show opener) who has possibly prophetic dreams and freaky hallucinations. Duc (pronounced Duke) a new-agey counselor and author plagued by memories of his early childhood prior to adoption that have left him pent up and confused. To say the least. Ashley, the eldest of the adopted children, who’s managed to acquire stylish dream job and perfect family but likes to stir up excitement on the side just for the hell of it. And last, but not least, the youngest of the family and the Bayer-Boatwright’s only biological child, Kristen who’s seventeen and outraged, or excited, about everything.

In the second episode we find out that Ramon has met the perfect guy which is awesome because he’s perfect, too; Greg and Duc are going off the deep end at separate ends of the pool, Kristen and Ashley are on the edge of major trouble. Meanwhile, Audrey is not giving up on trying to tell everyone what to do even though they never listen.

I can’t wait to see what happens next. I can’t wait to see if next time I can actually do this cast and their terrific show justice in a blog post. Are y’all watching tomorrow night?

 

 

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Love, Death, and Sweetness

Did episode 4 kick you in the heart, or what?

Jamie finally gets to be a daddy, only to never admit so aloud, and eventually must leave his offspring  behind for the sake of appearances, family honor, and all that. I have to admit, though, even while sinking in all the precious sweetness, I definitely got kicked in the head with more of that deus ex machina. Jamie has that in spades.

Sure, he can’t take his kid back to Lallybroch and introduce him to the rest of the clan, but check it out — he has a son! How? Because a hot young heiress wanted him to be her first. And not once, but three times, he’s told oh yes we know you’re a dirty jacobite, but it’s cool. Hang around as long as you like, leave whenever you like, don’t worry about getting charged for murder, etc., etc. By the way, your good chess buddy, the socially acceptable Englishman, will gladly raise your son for  you. Phew! That worked out so well.

So, we torture Jamie within an inch of his life, then give him everything, then torture him some more. Is this going to go on forever? Meanwhile, I’m nuts about Brianna and that McKenzie lad.

Wasn’t it sweet that after years of cold shoulder, Brianna called Claire Mama! For me, that was more than sweet, it was an actual advancement in the 20th century segment of the story. Brianna feels closer to her mom now, finally seeing her as a complicated woman, rather than a cold-hearted task master, which allows us to see her in a better light. And, since she’s a history geek and young McKenzie is such an adorable history geek, their attraction and affection bring a bit of … I don’t know, maybe it’s plausible normalcy … to the story.

Which leaves me curious: Are these characters well developed in the books? Is their story followed while Jamie is still lonely in the 18th century?

One thing that I expected to see this season was an exploration of that little hint given way back in episode one of the first season. Remember, Claire’s in the quaint Inverness inn and Frank has gone off somewhere. Down on the street is the shadowy form of a fella in obvious highlander garb, peering longingly up at Claire’s window as she brushes her hair. Frank spots the peeper on his way back up and remains so suspicious that once Claire goes missing, he has sketches distributed all over town … sketches that resemble the Dun Bonnet. Jamie went through those damn stones, I just know it! But landed a wee bit too early and feared ruining his reunion with Claire?

I need to see this played out, or at least have it explained.

This episode satisfied me with some much needed story advancements. Now I’m looking forward to the next, instead of sitting here sour-faced hating on Claire.

 

 

How do you say Deus Ex Machina in Gaelic?

Boy howdy! Does Jamie get saved by the hair of that fine, fine chin an awful lot! Sure, he’s suffered terrible treatment over the years, treatment meant to torture the life out of him … but that God in the Machine just keeps on churning out the salvation. (Warning: there are spoilers for Outlander’s Season 3 ahead.)

Last week’s episode was emotional, but I’m not sure it evoked the intended emotions. Fairly certain I hate Claire with a much bigger hate now. But I keep checking that, questioning myself. Trying to (and this may seem a bit beyond the point) see her as a real person, trying to step into her shoes, rather than feeling around the screenwriter’s page for insight. Ok, so let’s think in terms of real life for a moment. It’s true people can over-complicate their situations out of sheer stubbornness, narrow mindedness, emotional pain, etc. True.

Is that what happened with Claire? Why she couldn’t articulate to Frank, hey, I’ve always loved you. When I was stuck in 18th century Scotland that first few months I was utterly miserable and desperate to get back to you, I swear! She’s so perfect in everything except dealing with what’s happening right in front of her face, am I wrong? So there’s poor old Frank dead from drunk driving AND NOW SHE APOLOGIZES? NOW SHE FEELS REMORSE FOR TREATING HIM LIKE SHIT AFTER MAKING AN IMPOSSIBLE BARGAIN?

At this point I can just imagine her going through the stones and reuniting with Jamie only to bitch at him for not coming to find her, or for getting some inlander strange once or twice over the past two decades. Yeah, she’s totally going to find a way to screw that up.

Meanwhile, Jamie’s getting into one near-fatal scrape after another and all the gay boys find him impossibly irresistible. At least the warden wasn’t a sadist. At least. Poor Jamie’s major flaw seems to be his charm. Will it be the death of him before Claire can get there to needlessly over-complicate his life some more?

It seems to me that these characters’ path is twisty enough without the author (or the screenwriters?) creating more perils for them to wrestle out of. Yes, I do prefer a bit of plausibility in my fiction.

Maybe tonight’s episode will convince be, once and for all, if I should succumb to the screenwriters or go ahead and get the books to find out, once and for all, if Claire stupidity and deus ex machina reigned so hard throughout the original pages.

Outlanders & Underdogs

So, here I am two episodes into Season 2 of my favorite TV show since the introduction of Game of Thrones. And I’m miserable.

As with Game of Thrones, I was introduced to the show before knowing about the existence of the books, so I bypassed reading and sit googly eyed for scheduled viewings. (I know, I know. Hush.)

Here’s the main reason I’ve opted to ignore the books, for now: In the past when I’ve read before viewing, murderous rage gets a bit overwhelming. Murderous rage is exhausting. So, yeah, I get why all the fans of Martin’s and Gabaldon’s books sneer and call the shows mere fan fiction. I get it. With that said, leave me to my TV geekgasms. Kthnx.

Or misery, whichever.

What I do see besides utter heartbreak in this season of Outlander, is the attempt to bring Claire out of the muck of Mary Janeness. There were moments in Season 1 that made me quite sick of her. Okay… we get it… she’s a bundle of hotness in bed, she’s a brilliant healer, and a daring feminist among brutal patriarchal assholes. Got it. She’s so awesome she’ll even do favor after favor for the despicable Black Jack. Sure, she’s operating under the guise of ensuring Frank is born centuries later, but come on, anyone can see she’s digging the drama.

Then there’s Jamie’s own threat of Mary Janeness … he’s a bit much sometimes as well. It’s often in the moments of his inexplicable perfection that I long to read the books. Claire, one would think, is the intended protagonist of this story, this series. But it seems to me the directors and writers of the show just might be all about Team Jaime. I don’t see a thing wrong with this, but still, I wonder what was intended by Gabaldon. Seriously, just how much of an underdog can one character be?

More than a few acquaintances on social media have made remarks in past weeks along the lines of “but what about Frank? While all you sluts are swooning over Jamie, take a minute to think about how amazing Frank is!” I agree, to an extent. Still, Frank will never come off as an underdog. Maybe it’s the way he tilts his head when he speaks in that English accent — nobility on the verge of utter snobbery. This guy isn’t going to humble himself. Not completely. Whereas Jamie would, has, will. And so, in this respect anyway, the underdog wins it all.

After a couple decades of soul-crushing misery anyway.

Right?

While I’m twisting here in the conflict of to read or not to read before the series finale, the question of whether or not I could write such an underdog niggles in the back of my mind. Early on in my writing, I found out just how easy it is to write a Mary Jane all the while thinking this was an amazing, complicated, brilliant character. (Totally not, as it turned out.)

She was an underdog that eventually overcame three rather nasty plot twists. But could I, without setting out to, write an underdog of Jamie’s stature? Would I stop myself one day and say, WAIT. How many self-sacrifices do I actually need in this 50k word count? Why am I doing this?

What would be the goal of writing such a character, other than making certain another character, either his foil or one true love, survived to be called hero?

I’ve done really well, remained absolutely strong in avoiding book spoilers and online book reviews/analysis. I’ll stay strong and stick to a promise I made myself in the third season of Game of Thrones — I’ll get the books about five minutes after the series finale.

Avoid Imposing Today’s Sensibilities On Yesterday’s Events: A Blog Post About Close Reading To Kill A Mockingbird

In a class called Writing Across The Disciplines, a required course to complete my major in English (with an emphasis is writing), I was assigned to conduct an interview with a History professor then write an essay about the experience and what was gleaned from dabbling in the discourse of a “soft” science. Luckily, I had the opportunity to meet and interview a teacher whose focus was teaching his students how to write about History.

When I asked him what he believed to be the most important lesson any student of History must learn, he said, One must avoid imposing today’s sensibilities on yesterday’s events. The good professor wasn’t at all surprised by the fact that I paused — at length — and sat there frowning at my notebook. I left the interview with enough material to write five pages for that assignment. I left that interview and went straight to my advisor ready to beg and bribe, if necessary, in order to change my minor to History. Thank you, Professor.

Years later I can say with confidence that I’ve since learned other important lessons from both academic and leisurely study: One must avoid imposing literary characters’ sensibilities on the author, as well as avoid dismissing the impact (and importance) of a character who possesses a world view unpopular by today’s standards.

Both of these lessons are stamped upon my mind in bold caps today, have been since I read the first review of Go Set A Watchman. Admittedly, those bold caps were not an immediate reaction. My immediate reaction was a shrill shout DID NO ONE REALLY READ TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD? EVER?

Outrage did not drive me to go purchase a copy of Go Set A Watchman. Instead I have been inspired to revisit Lee’s first publication, in fact, I plan on a close reading while simultaneously researching original interviews published in the 60s. Why? Well, in part, I want to write a very thorough essay about this novel’s characters, POV, social statements (intentional and otherwise), etc. Why? Because, I suppose my outrage stems from the shock experienced when evidence was put forth that so many readers kind of missed the point(s) made within Lee’s original tale.

In my search for original reviews I came across TIME’s article by Dan Kedmey, February 3, 2015 in which the original review, entitled “About Life and Little Girls” is quoted (although the original reviewer is not named here). I’ll leave with an excerpt:

The novel is an account of an awakening to good and evil, and a faint catechistic flavor may have been inevitable. But it is faint indeed; Novelist Lee‘s prose has an edge that cuts through cant, and she teaches the reader an astonishing number of useful truths about little girls and about Southern life. (A notable one: “Naming people after Confederate generals makes slow steady drinkers.”)

So This Happened …

I’m working like mad on the z-fic and guess what? Another old story starts playing at full volume, demanding attention. At fist I thought, this is ridiculous. Shut up. I’m busy. Then I realized, who am I to argue? So, yesterday I completed a 6000+ word second draft — Part 1 of a story originally titled “The Reaping”.

The star of this story is Grace. Like my girl, Holly, Grace has a fairly specific skill set she must rely on to protect herself from mystical freaks. Unlike Holly, Grace is no warrior, so the Universe sees fit to provide her with one. His name is Gavin.

It’s obvious to me at this point that composing the prompt for Week Four at Brigit’s Flame subconsciously dug up Grace’s story, regardless of the fact that I had no intention to work on it until next month. I won’t be entering the reworked piece in the Just For Fun segment of the contest (since I’m the host), but I did decide to post Part 1 beneath the Fiction tab here on the website for my friends to read.

Working with Grace again has been fun. Here’s to hoping that deviating from my schedule won’t cause me serious delays on getting the collection completed.

What are y’all writing?

Day Eight Has Arrived

Finally.

Many days wrestling RL responsibilities into submission have passed and now I can get back to spending hours at the desk. All that was actually taken care of Friday, but I gave myself a “free” day to celebrate. I explored Downtown yesterday and succeeded in coloring in a mental map vital to this story.

It’s gorgeous Downtown, even beneath murky skies and naked trees.

Afterwards I dosed up my sore knee, ate a metric ton of Chinese food, and reclined in front of the TV to watch Serenity. Saturday was made of awesome.

And now I am ready to start over.

Yeah, you read that right. First person present is being tossed. It’s just too limited, and has the tendency to stiffen up. I felt for a long time after recognizing all the problems with first person that I couldn’t deviate from it, that somehow a different POV would bury the emotional impact of the protagonist. In the end though, I had to make the change. This story cannot be allowed to stiffen up.

So, now I have a title, a storyboard, 800 fresh words, and a lot of leftover Chinese food. Sunday is made of awesome, too.

What are y’all writing?

Day Six

The writing positively flowed yesterday. Which is good news. I was beginning to fear that this herky-jerky two hundred words per day was the best I could hope for until my head exploded and ended everything. Good news! I put about twelve hundred brand new words down and cleaned up dialogue from a previous session.

I love days like that, because when everything is flowing a new little tidbit of information usually pops out. In the initial episodic pieces of Holly’s story (written in 2009) I only gained a vague sense of her true nature. The writings were brief and rushed back then, and that vagueness was a delicious tease. Yesterday, late into one huge chunk of dialogue, her best friend revealed what I always wanted someone to say out loud — Holly is a born killer. Her best friend, Stephan, has known it for years. As far as he’s concerned, it’s one of her best qualities.

I like Stephan.

Stephan’s true nature was even more vague than Holly’s until yesterday. And though I learned a lot about him, his back story isn’t vital to the progression of the overall story, it won’t be discussed. That’s kind of a shame, really.

Day Five

According to that tidy little schedule for The Second Project, I am now three thousand words behind and lacking at least one day of necessary research. Not bad.

Yesterday was all about the dialogue. This project has a LOT of dialogue, which wouldn’t be a problem if not for Holly’s propensity for cliché. I have to keep a close eye, and ear, on her. So far, so good. I think.

Well against the advice of many writing bloggers, I have jumped into this project without a clear plan for what is to be done with it, exactly, when it’s finished. Initially I planned to research publishers of speculative short fiction collections and practice query letters in my free time — I have since realized such places might not exist. The only similar collections I have read were penned by well-knowns who already had publishers firmly in hand before they ventured into speculative short fiction.

I am not well-known.

Sorry. That was a bit Captain Obvious.

Also, there has been the toying with the idea of e-publishing. I have the title of the collection in place, an inkling of what the cover art should look like. However,the last time I researched e-publication formatting issues alone were enough to make me run away screaming. Maybe options have improved in the last three years?

I can’t think about that right now. The dialogue is calling.

Today’s portion of the project includes a lot more dialogue, some intense gun and ammo info, and a few exploding cars.

Day Four

That critical eye…

Perhaps the most difficult part of writing — once I have actually gotten the words on the page — is being able to use a critical eye appropriately. I have a tendency to hyper-focus on all the wrong things, and thus, miss the most important issues that an objective reader will immediately notice.

It never fails that I read over a piece eleven-seventy times, declare it ready, hit the send button, read through again and yelp, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”. Never fails.

When will this stop? Seriously.