Monday, April 30, 2007
Other events in life . . . replotting Lesana is proving to be a real pain. I think my problem is that I'm used to devoting time over a long period to writing, but not to plotting. This means that I have to fight the feeling of needing to plot the whole book NOW. It's okay to do this over time, but I have to keep reminding myself of that. It's undoubtedly good practice for me to be doing this, and I am coming up with some good ideas. Anyway--that's about it for now.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
In other news, I've been ramping up my involvement for this year's upcoming BYU's Writing for Young Readers conference. If any of you out there are interested in learning more about writing for children and young adults (or illustrating), then this is one of the best conferences you can go to. It's pricey ($430 or so), but compared to other conferences, that's really not much for the caliber of instructors they get. Check it out here. Ask me questions if you have any. Toodles.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I feel like this book has gone very well. There are some aspects of it that I'm not sure about, but that's what writing group is for--to help me figure out how to solve those trouble spots. Anyway--that's it for today.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Anyway--that's what I'll be up to. If any of you are too upset about the loss of new GOV episodes, then . . . you're just going to have to make it through life somehow without them. Or, you can email me ideas for new episodes, and I'll write them. Anywho--have a happy Monday.
Friday, April 20, 2007
There are certain things I like. Among these are movies by Woody Allen, or movies starring John Cusak. So when I saw that there was a Woody Allen movie starring John Cusak, I was physically compelled to watch it. Free will was entirely taken out of the picture. And I’m very pleased to say that it was worth my time. I loved it.
The basic plot is simple: Cusak is a playwright who’s trying to get one of his plays produced on Broadway. In order to do this, his manager enlists the help of the mafia: they’ll back the play on one condition. The crime boss’s girlfriend gets to act. What ensues is a wonderful example of what happens when people with different agendas are forced to work together and interact.
One of the things I like most about Allen’s movies is how free flowing they can seem. He encourages his actors to act, and to do so in long takes. In a way, at times his films can seem like filmed plays. Not many cuts between characters, and you get to see people behaving naturally. His dialogue is the same way--somehow people seem to talk the way they would talk, not the way they would talk in a movie.
Bullets Over Broadway was an even better match for me than I suspected at first. Since Cusak’s character is a writer, Allen has the opportunity to explore a lot of the things that are important to me. For example, the contrast between being “literary” and being a sell-out. There’s a hilarious part in the movie where Cusak, dismayed at what he is agreeing to in order to let his play be produced, opens the window of his apartment and screams out into the night air, “I’m a whore!”
Having attended my fair share of English creative writing classes (where many “literary” people dwell), I could just see one of my professors having this happen to him, and him responding the same way. But the fact is--in my opinion--that if you want to be successful and live off the earnings you make writing, you need to write for an audience, and you’re going to have to--sooner or later--make some concessions. Either that, or somehow manage to reinstall the patron system in literary circles.
In any case, I recommend this movie to anyone who writes. The dialogue and acting is all excellent, and the plot has just as many ups and downs as anyone could want. It was nominated for seven Oscars and won one (for best supporting actress, Diane Wiest). It’s rated R for some language (including the f-word). If that’s enough to make you not want to watch it, then at least do yourself a favor and see if you can watch it edited somewhere. It’s that good.
Four stars (out of four)
Other than that, I'm still sick. So I feel pretty awful, but such is life. At least I don't have homework now. ;-)
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Yesterday I had a minor writing crisis. I got to the point in Ichabod where I realized that the ending--as I had plotted it--didn't work. I hadn't thought through some of the implications of various events. So I had to switch gears from writing mode to planning mode, and that was something that proved more difficult than it should have been, really. I guess I just had gotten myself into this nice little rut where I could just out my head down and barrel through the story, and I was enjoying that so much that when I ran into an obstacle, it left me dazed for a bit. No worries, though. I've fixed the outline, and I like it even more than I did before. Problem solved.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
Actually, what it reminds me of is the comics section in the newspaper, believe it or not. You know how sometimes you read them, and they're just not funny? Not even remotely? I think a large part of that is probably the pressure of having to come up with a new thing on demand, week in and week out. Making the first Grumpy Old Vampires episode was fun and enjoyable, because I had a good idea for it. Making some of the later ones . . . not so much. Why do I keep on doing it? Because I think it's good for me to get practice writing things no matter what my mood--just persisting anyway.
I'm a very goal-oriented person. It's how I get big projects done. When I set a goal to write a GOV episode every week, I did so conscious of the fact that I'm not very good at short fiction. But I'm doing it anyway, and I think in the long run, I'll be happy I have. If nothing else, it's got me thinking about these characters, and I have some ideas for a longer story kicking around in the back of my head.
Anyway--enough random thoughts that don't seem to lead anywhere. Here's the start of this week's episode. Enjoy.
Step One Continued: Still Finding a Bank
One of the main reasons I wanted a Rascal was to free me from the burdens of public transportation. Do you realize that buses just don’t come on a regular basis at 2 in the morning? And have you ever tried getting a driver’s license with a Bavarian birth certificate that was issued back when witches were still being burned at the stake?
So I was stuck relying on the whims of the bus system. And since I didn’t want to be seen briefcasing the bank, I went out at night. Late night. As in, the bus only comes once every two hours night.
The bank I had picked was the one nearest the bus stop downtown, because if I had to rob a bank, at least I wasn’t going to have to walk far to do it. By the time I got there, it was one in the morning, and the streets were empty.
I tottered up to the window and put my hands up to peer in without a reflection from the streetlights. It looked remarkably like a bank. I tried the door.
Locked. Go figure.
Of course, the door was made out of glass, so I was pretty sure I could have broken it, but then there would be the problem of the alarm, and of getting into the vault. If I were current on my blood intake, I could just go and melt into mist or something and sneak into the vault that way. That’s what a vampire would do in the movies. Come to think of it, why didn’t more movies have vampires as heroes? If you ignored the whole blood sucking thing--something most of us didn’t get to do anyway--we had a lot of super powers. Spiderman would have been much better if Peter Parker were a vampire, that was for sure.
I sighed and stepped back from the door. Who was I kidding? All I had done was taken a bus to a place where I’d have to wait another two hours to take a bus home. The whole evening would have been a complete waste, but then a light came on inside the bank.
A light. In the bank. At one in the morning.
And someone was coming to the door. Well, teetering to the door. He came up and shouted through the glass, “Ve’re closed. Go avay!”
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Maybe the euphoria of having written well will fade, but it's still nice to have it now. Yay me.
Friday, April 13, 2007
I attribute much of my success in school to Walt Disney. Of course I never had the chance to meet the man, but I’m still finishing what he started. Hours of my childhood spent watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Pete’s Dragon have formed a habit I just can’t kick. So I’ve decided to embrace it. Elder Anderson, my mission companion in Weimar, liked to quote his soccer coach. “That which does not destroy us makes us stronger.” It’s hackneyed philosophy, but it works for the task at hand.
One period in my History of the English Language class, Professor Oaks got started on another one of his infamous tangents. He would always get started discussing the homework, but he would end up talking about linguistic studies on dialect or sociology. Did you know that the original pronunciation of “ask” sounded like “ax”? Or that “apron” used to be “napron”? As usual, that day’s departure didn’t have much to do with Old English, but as with most of his digressions, I learned more from it than I did from the rest of the lecture. “Everything is learned in curves,” he said. “To go forward, you need to go back.”
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Anyway. Enough of the depressing stuff. For all you Ozzy-philes out there, I've posted the commentary for chapter ten of Cavern of Babel, and it includes a preliminary sketch Shawn did of Ozzy. Go over and check it out.
Now I must go to consume Korean food with my writing group. Have a pleasant evening.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
I don't want to talk about it anymore.
Monday, April 9, 2007
In other news, I'm now over 46,000 words on Ichabod, and it's still going well. There have been a couple of instances where I've forgotten to include something key in my outline, so I've been having to go back and rewrite a tad here and there, but nothing major. This is definitely the most pain free experience I've had writing so far, with the possible exception of Barboy (my seventh book). But even with Barboy, I had to just sort of make connections on the fly to things that had been mentioned before, as far as the plot went. With Ichabod, I've been able to actually foreshadow things and realize what I was doing when I foreshadowed them, if that makes sense. Writing group was going to read the first chapter this week, but I have to attend a funeral, so it'll have to wait another week. Such is life.
Case in point. My grandmother died, and I have a bunch of family coming out and will be in and out of such fun things as the viewing and funeral. This is the side of my family that's already lost two uncles--brothers--and so it's really a touchy situation. I call my work and tell them I'm not going to be able to make it tomorrow, and my boss (who just happens to be in my ward) says "I don't mean to be uncaring, but we really need you here. When can you make up the hours?" She then proceeds to guilt trip me into agreeing to coming in just an hour or so late.
What the hell? I mean, I'm all for the company loyalty thing--if they've been loyal to me. But on the one hand, they tell me I'm a flex--which means I get no benefits (such as bereavement time off) and get paid less--but which is supposed to mean that I can work when I can and am under no "pressure" to be there all the time. But on the other hand, they expect me to troop in whenever they "need" me.
Maybe I'm being unduly harsh. I mean, they are falling behind, and I was sick two weeks in a row the week before last--which meant that I ended up missing two days. The thing that gets me is that if I were a "real" employee, then I could just take the bereavement time off and that's that. The other thing that gets me is that my boss was on vacation ALL LAST WEEK. So what's up with that? When she wants to be on vacation, then fine. When I have my grandmother die, we're "really busy" all of a sudden. And when I was sick, did I get paid sick time? No. When I was going to not be there for family functions at this sucky time, was I going to get paid for that? No.
Whatever. I'll go in tomorrow late, and I'll do what they need me to do. But I think that mentally, I've already quit, which I know is bad, but there you have it. The way Orem treats its employees--at least its "grunts"--leaves much to be desired. I'm about to graduate next week with my second masters. What do I make? $10 bucks an hour. What do they have me do? Put barcode stickers on books and scan them into the computer, or check to make sure ISBN numbers are right, or compare budget numbers to make sure they're the same. There's nothing I do at my job that even requires a high school education.
Okay--I guess I should stop ranting and go back to work. Can I just say though that having my boss be in my ward is not a good thing?
Maybe Brandon's on to something with that evil librarian bit. But I really think that this is a situation with the management, and not the career. I like the library--I like working with books and with people. I don't like getting jerked around and being expected to like it.
Friday, April 6, 2007
It’s been a while since I posted a movie review on my site, and as I just saw this movie for the second time the other day (after giving it to my wife as a birthday present), I thought I’d take the time to tell you why this is a movie you owe it to yourself to watch. It stars Katherine Hepburn, Carey Grant and Jimmy Stewart, and it was directed by George Cukor, based on a play by Philip Bary.
The story takes place in--you guessed it--Philadelphia. Not the city, really. More of a rich country estate near by. Tracy Lord (Hepburn) and C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) were married but divorced some years ago. Now Tracy’s about to marry again, this time to George Kittredge, an up and coming politician. Haven pops up at the Lord estate the day before the wedding, accompanied by two “friends” (Spy magazine reporters hoping to get a scoop on the wedding), Mike Connor (Stewart) and Liz Imbrie.
I think what I like most about the movie is the dialogue and the way the characters interact. Anyone looking for an excellent example of a character-driven plot need look no further. Hepburn and Grant are spot on as a feuding divorced couple, and their interactions are fantastic, and Stewart is tremendous (and hilarious as a drunk). Better still, the plot never forces its characters to do things they wouldn’t naturally do. Everything--including the finale--fits and makes sense, something Hollywood isn’t always able to do. The film was nominated for six Oscars in 1941 (including best actress, supporting actress, director and picture) and won two (including a best actor statue for Stewart).
Too often these days, people are willing to overlook a movie just because it’s old. I have friends who see the latest pop culture efforts, but they’re missing out on so many movies that have proven their lasting worth. Sure, this is in black and white. So what? The characters and plot and dialogue are better than most of the films that come out today. It’s funny and intriguing and appealing to men and women alike. Or it should be, at least. I challenge you to watch this and then not like it.
As an interesting note, the play this movie was based on (by the same name) was also made into a fairly well-known musical: High Society, with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly and music by Cole Porter. I hadn’t known this until I wrote this review, so I have yet to see this version, but you can bet I’ll be watching it when I get my hands on a copy.
Four stars (out of four)
In other news, I just wanted to post about blogs in general. I know that there are a lot of people who post their entire lives online, and frankly . . . I'm not sure how good a thing that is. There is such a thing as privacy, and while I suppose I can see the voyeuristic appeal of peering into someone else's life, I also think such a thing can be overdone. Here at my blog, there are some things you're never going to see. For example, if I ever disagree with my wife or family, I'm not going to tell you about it. My blog isn't going to be the staging ground to publicly criticize people (or at least not intentionally or directly). I believe privacy is a wonderful thing, and I value my own.
Now, my own struggles with writing and school and work--that's all fair game. I'll try not to hold back on issues that I could theoretically see other people being interested in in general. But anything that I wouldn't tell someone in person if I didn't know them well, then that's the sort of thing I might hold back. I realize this might be a touchy subject for some--and please don't think that this post was made because of anything you posted on your own blog. It's more a reaction to blogs in general, now that I've been reading them for a month or so.
And I think that's all I have to say about that for now.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
"No excuse for what?" you ask.
No excuse for not submitting my books to publishers. Sigh. I fail at submitting. I did a good job oh . . . about . . . ten months ago, but since then, I've really stunk. For the first while, I was okay, since I had to wait to hear back from everyone I sent to. (The answer? Four form letter no's, two form letter no's with personal notes, and one request for the whole manuscript--still haven't heard back on that last one, but it's the only thing making me feel like I'm still not a complete and utter failure at submitting. When it comes to excuses, it's my ace in the hole. "I can't submit anywhere else until I hear back from that one place.")
You see, I have two novels that are submission-worthy, and only one of them is tied up at the moment. The other is ready and rearing to go. The problem is that I need to write a two page summary, and I hate doing those. Maybe "hate" is too strong a word. I dislike doing them. Probably because I've only done one other before. But that's all going to change. I'm going to turn over a new leaf and get better at submitting.
In a couple of weeks.
That's right, even after all the self-loathing expressed in this post, I'm STILL not going to change for now. But I hereby proclaim that once I'm done with school (for ever and ever and ever--meaning in two weeks) I'm going to use my newfound freedom and time to write a two page summary of The Adventures of Barboy, and I'm going to submit it. Whoosh! Out the door. And when I hear back from the place I haven't heard back from in ten months, I'll send that one out, too. And when I finish Ichabod and the Lesana revision, I'll get those puppies moving.
Mark my words: by the end of this year, I will be a submission *machine*. I will have four manuscripts worthy (IMHO) of publication, and they will be traipsing their merry way out of my hands, into mailboxes, into submission houses (where they will take a well-deserved break) and into recycling bins across the country. And that's a promise.
Anyway, it's time for me to get ready for work. But before I go, I wanted to share some blog-goodness that I came across today. It's one kept up by an editor at Arthur Levine books, and it had some great advice that I enjoyed reading, and you might, too. Catch it here. Of particular note is this entry on what to do and not to do with query submissions. Enjoy reading, and have a nifty Thursday.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Now, I feel like that's not a problem with my current book, Ichabod. But then I find myself questioning it, since things went so wrong last time. But I do feel like I learned a lot from the experience. Lesana was the first book I ever tried to plot out ahead of time, and I discovered that if I'm going to plot out ahead of time, I'd better do it all the way instead of just partially. Ichabod's totally plotted, and so I know (or I think I know) that it will have a plot, and that the plot will be comprehensible and sensible. Even if it ends up sucking, which I hope it doesn't. My hope is that things start going better once I start submitting Ichabod, and that I get some of my confidence back. It's silly that I should get feeling this way just because I have a "bad" week at writing group, and it makes me wonder how some of the other members of the group feel about my comments. I can certainly dish it out, and if I can't take it back, then I'd be rather hypocritical. I give honest feedback because that's what I expect in return, no matter how much it might make me whine and complain.
In any case, I know I'll just keep writing Ichabod. I think I'm about halfway done already. It's certainly been a piece of cake to write compared to Lesana. What have I learned?
1--I think I like plotting a whole lot more than I thought I did. But if I do it, I do it all the way.
2--NEVER start rewriting a book mid-way because of writing group's comments. NEVER. This is a stupid thing for me to admit to having "learned," because I thought I knew it to begin with. But I fell into that trap, started retooling Lesana, and that's one of the reasons it's so convoluted now.
So great. I have a moral to the story. But that still leaves me with the question of what to do with Lesana now?
I think I'm just in the middle of a very tumultuous time. I'm finishing school, looking for a job, trying to make my writing work, helping my wife with her thesis and trying to keep my house from becoming a disaster zone all at the same time. I should probably just try to not feel a need to perfect everything right this second. I have to tell myself that it's not cowardice to leave the Lesana alone for a bit before I revise--it's good sense. Right?
Anyway. Maybe none of that really made sense, and I'm not sure I feel the hoped-for catharsis of having gotten it all out on paper. I read it over and look like a big whiny mess. Oh well. I thought about just deleting the post, but maybe it'll make sense to me later. That's all I have time for right now--I need to go vacuum something. There'll be a Buttersby post later on, and I'll try to make it light and fluffy.
Monday, April 2, 2007
Can I just say how much Mondays are getting on my nerves? There's always just so much to do. Sigh. On the plus side, I took a couple of hours this morning to look for more jobs, and I've found another seven or so that I qualify for easily and are in areas I'd like to live. Maybe I'll put off actually applying to them until tomorrow, though. I still have the laundry to finish, my writing to do, my homework to finish, Family Home Evening to plan and do . . . Tomorrow is looking pretty good.
Oh--and I haven't given an Ichabod or revising update in a while, so I might as well tell you how those are going. I'm trying to work on both. At first I'd thought I'd set aside Ichabod while I worked on the Lesana revision, but things were going so well with Ichabod (I'll pass the 40,000 word mark today) that I didn't want to lose my momentum. So I still do my 1,000 words, and then once I'm through with that, I turn to the revision. Right now I'm about halfway through summarizing the book, chapter by chapter. It's a real pain, honestly, but once I get it done, I'll be able to see the plot as a whole and retool it more easily. In theory. I hope to have the summary done by tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on how much time I have for it. All things considered, I'm really happy with how well I've been doing on my writing--and this is even at the end of the semester, when school's going crazy.