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Monday, July 21, 2008

Waking the Fire

This has been a busy summer. Family business has occupied most of my time since early May. Writing days have been rare and discontinuous, requiring constant restarts, which is just deadly for my development style. It didn't help that I was caught in the deadly middle of the book, the oft-mentioned "it's all crap" stage.

I was beginning to panic. Deadlines don't move, and I'm determined to get this book in on time. I feel as if I used up all my slacker chits on the Lighthouse books - two books instead of one, five months late with the first, a month late with the second. [Yes, Yes, many authors are constantly late, but I'm a good girl, you see.]

I've mentioned some things I've done to restart - rereading, rewriting, rethinking. But last Friday when I sat down to work, I decided I HAD to get moving. I was going to work Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, all in a row. The blessed spouse took care of several things that would have taken me away - he is the most supportive and generous of companions. And so what did I do?

I had to get reacquainted with the book - approximately 225 pages at present.

#1 - I started again at the beginning. Re-re-worked the new opening to include a couple of possible character "expansions" for my narrator Portier, who is actually the least fleshed out of my three agentes confide. One of the ideas is going to work. The other might be too much of a secret in a story where everyone has secrets. We'll see. I just laid the groundwork that can be easily removed later.

#2 - Spent a whole day with my "Conspiracy File". The biggest problem with a long layoff is losing the plethora of detail and "continuity information" in my head. Usually I maintain this store of info throughout the development of a book. But never have I had this kind of interruption [all good stuff, by the way, except for a few weeks where my mom was sick - thanks to those who were worried!]

What I did with the conspiracy file was to methodically go through my current list of clues, the current evidence against each suspect, the current progress in the revelation of the world's magic, and the current developments in the arc of one particular character of central importance. As I went through these things, I found myself referring more and more to the manuscript. Rewriting bits. Adding in a few bits that I had put in my conspiracy file, but had never gotten into the actual text.

#3 - Picked up a stack of critiqued pages from my writers group. I had not sat down to incorporate [or not] my critiquers' comments in the spring when I was trying very hard to forge ahead in the story to lay down as much as I could before the life disruption. But I felt this was the time, because it took me back into these earlier chapters while looking through alternate eyes. This is the great value of critique partners - forcing yourself to look at your writing through different eyes.

By this morning, I had gotten through all the comments and was sitting in the middle of Chapter 14 - the last full chapter I wrote. And all of a sudden, I found myself jotting down a list of "things that need to happen next" and writing an entirely new paragraph that opens the next scene. My head is full. My fingers are poised. I am anxious to find out what happens next. Hooray!!!
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Hot Days, Cool Films

When the hot days hit the Colorado front range, the spouse and I start looking for cool places to hide out in the late afternoon. We have air conditioning, but hate to turn it on for just a few hours a day. We're fortunate here to have cool nights and lovely mornings. Movie theaters work very nicely. I'll say we've seen three great summer movies.

The Dark Knight: the blockbuster of blockbusters. Enjoyed it very much. It is indeed dark. It is indeed well acted. Heath Ledger and Christian Bale - both excellent (though I still don't like his "Batman voice"), and who couldn't love Michael Caine's Alfred? Maggie Gyllenhal takes over the role of Rachel. I like her as an actress, but somehow she just didn't fit my image of a big city, assistant DA. Casting is so much more than ability. I've liked Aaron Eckhart since Erin Brockovich (though I do miss the earring!) He fit the role as the noble DA beautifully, but his story struck me as the weak spot. I'm just not sure I bought "what happened" to him. What I found the best was how the film addressed the moral dilemmas of the hero. I am looking forward to seeing the film again, which is always a good sign for me.

I might have enjoyed Iron Man just a little bit more. Robert Downey Jr was great as Tony Stark, the wealthy arms merchant captured by terrorists. Gwyneth Paltrow fun as girl Friday Pepper Potts, Jeff Bridges nicely patronizing as Tony's old friend and business partner. (Oh, Starman, how far you have fallen...) Was it the engineer as hero that made this a more "fun" film than the Dark Knight? Was it the complex, interesting relationships between these people? Sometimes excellent characters in a film don't "fit" together, but these did. I knew I was watching a comic book movie, but it was thoughtfully done without being grim. Robert Downey made Tony witty and smart and lovable and heroic all at once. I like smart.

And for the third film, maybe my favorite of the three?

It's got to be Wall-E. The Pixar folks have topped themselves with the tale of the diligent, sturdy robot left behind to clean up the garbage-smothered earth while the human population is off... Well, I really don't want to do spoilers. But I loved every minute of this film. Funny, beautiful, graceful - who would think a robot romance could result in the very definition of dancing? Good story. Unexpected heroes. Unbelievable detail in the animation. I particularly loved Wall-E's collection of interesting "stuff" he found as he worked. Can't recommend this enough. Of course, if you don't enjoy animation or such...well, as with all works of art - even books - to each his own opinion.

Still lots of films in the backlog, but these three will be keepers for my collection.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Me, Myself, and I - Part 2

Yes, I've been absent for a while. A family illness has kept me from the keyboard and I'm just getting back into Unholy Alliance.

First order of blog posting was a follow-up to my Deep Genre post about first person writing. I thought a reader's comment was worth a second part. So, if you're interested in the topic, check out Me, Myself, and I - Part 2. In summary:

the post covers ways to address some of the common writer problems with first person, such as conveying knowledge outside the POV character's grasp, keeping up tension, and so forth. Read more of this post!