Thursday, August 13, 2015

Character Study: Five Favorite Movie Heroes

Since I've been rewatching a few of my favorite movies lately, I decided it would be fun to list five of my all time favorite movie heroes...and why I love them.

Warning: semi-kinda-sorta spoilers ahoy, but perhaps not too terribly spoiler-ish. Read at your own peril. Now, onward to glory!

5. Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), Aliens - Good with the ladies, good with kids, and kicks a lotta ass. He may not be much of a morning person, but he's a practical guy and a good listener. (Reittrating Ripley: I say we take off, nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.)

4. Jack (Tom Cruise), Legend - Fights against the Lord of Darkness that is Tim Curry, and unlike Lily, he knows not to touch the damn unicorns.

3. Corbin Dallas (Bruce Willis), The Fifth Element - He's calls his cat "Sweetie", is kind to his mother, and is looking for a woman who is perfect. Gotta admire a man with high expectations.

2. William Munny (Clint Eastwood), Unforgiven - A widower and gunslinger. When he met his wife, he left his old life behind for her. Even after her death he's faithful. His love for her was the real deal.

And, my #1 favorite movie hero is...

1. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), The Terminator - Yes, he gets two spots on my list. Don't judge me. Why I heart him: Not only is he a handsome dude, as Kyle Reese, he's in love with Sarah Connor before he ever meets her. He's also extremely loyal. He says he would die for his resistance leader, John Connor, and he never realizes the man he admires most is his own son. He travels back in time, which he says is extremely painful, faces a robot killing machine numerous times, and makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his lady love. (sobbing ugly tears)

If you haven't watched these movies, get thee to Amazon. You're missing out. ;)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Current Obsession: My Boyfriend's Back

Hey-la, hey-la, my boyfriend's back! 
Alison Tyler recently asked folks about their favorite cover songs. Without a doubt, one of my favorites is My Boyfriend's Back by Mary Buffett, the hit song originally recorded by The Angels in 1963.

The album cover reminds me of the Cruisin' album series of records. My dad collected the Cruisin' set, and I wore them out during my teen years. The Cruisin' series album covers spanned the years from 1955 to 1970, with a bonus album that fell out of linear sequence at the end of the series. Each cover featured a snippet from the life of characters Eddie and Peg as their relationship matures and changes over the years.

I've always wondered if the Mary Buffett cover was inspired by Cruisin', since 50s pop culture had become fashionable again during
the 80s.

I remember seeing Mary Buffett's video for the first time on HBO's Video Jukebox, a one-shot music video commercial segment that played between movies.

Unlike MTV, Video Jukebox rotated a very limited number of songs per month, four or less on average, so whenever I heard the opening bar from My Boyfriend's Back playing on the TV, I'd dash into the room to watch the video. Great times!

My Boyfriend's Back (cover) by Mary Buffett, 1984 - YouTube

Yes, the singer is indeed that Mary Buffett. ☺

The video is the early 80s to me. The hair, the clothes, the attitude, and the cheese factor. I took this stuff seriously when I was a kid. (I was eight, I think, in 1984.) I totally wanted that red leather jacket! #$nazzy 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Current Obsession: Biographies... and Dennis Wilson

I've read a ton of writing guides, so I can't remember which one turned me in the direction of character study. It may have been Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott), but I can't be 100% sure. It was one of the less genre focused writing guides, one that recommended a more exploratory approach to writing. Anyway, thanks to that book, I have a huge crush on biographies - official and non. Think about it; when it comes to reading about people as characters, there is no getting closer to a person than a biography. Especially when you get a hold of one that is well written.

In grade school, I hated biographies. When I was in fifth grade, Mrs. Gardner had a wall of books at the back of the classroom. Each week, we had to pick one book from the wall and write an essay about that person. The books were quite old, from the 40s through the late 60s: cloth-bound hardcovers with stamped lettering. The illustrations all looked like this. They were children's books, but they were basically just watered down versions of adult biographies with all the controversial details about the figure's lives left out. A lot of the books in that set were about cowboys and outlaws. Almost all the books were about men. 

I didn't start to appreciate biographies until I was much older. The first biography I bought for myself was Jim Morrison, Dark Star by Dylan Jones. Or maybe hubby bought it for me. Either way, it's the first biography I read with any real interest. After that book, I ended up reading I'm With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie, a biography about Pamela Des Barres. From there, I picked up a biography here, a biography there. Once I had the internet, I began to research and read about people I'd found fascinating at one point or another: Sid Vicious, Lori Maddox, Frank Zappa, Lydia Lunch, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Edgar Allan Poe. What was it about these people that made them so interesting?  I'd read books and articles about them to try figuring it out for myself.

I never thought of myself as a biography reader, but what's funny is that I had always loosely followed celebrity news to some extent. If someone was in the news and classmates were talking about them, I'd have to find out who they were talking about, see what had them talking, just out of curiosity. Is that what we do when we're writing fiction?  Writing about someone we think is interesting (or at least we hope readers will think so), while simultaneously trying to figure out why they're interesting? 

I was raised on a steady musical diet of Jan and Dean, and the Beach Boys, so much so, that when I was a tiny tot, I thought my dad personally knew the band members; we just never visited with them or anything. (Yes, I realize that's kind of weird. What can I say?) When the band members went through their breakdowns, and divorces, and drug problems, my dad would shake his head, and it was as if he was worried about a relative or someone he'd gone to school with. 

When Dennis Wilson died in December of 1983, my dad was crushed. We were at my grandmother's house when it came on the news. Silence fell over the living room. The news footage showed pictures of Dennis Wilson, bearded, shirtless, in ragged shorts, standing on a small yacht afloat on a calm stretch of ocean. There are articles abound that say he had gotten drunk and jumped off the boat to try to recover items he had tossed overboard three years prior. The family took that news with a mixture of sadness, shock, and disbelief. It was as if we'd been informed in the most unpersonal way ever that a loved one had died. 

In looking back, what a fascinating person Dennis Wilson was. He had his demons, yes, and he wasn't a stranger to controversy, but he lived a fascinating life. Isn't that what we all hope for? To be remembered?  To live a life worth discussion after we're gone? 

Some people probably don't care for the "warts and all" approach to biographies, but there is so much to learn from that type of life story. Especially when it comes to character study. Biographies showcase real life characters living life their own way. I think that's what makes for the most interesting characters - the people who do their own thing, no excuses, no apologies. They might have struggled or whinged the entire journey, but they stayed true to their own path right to the end. It's something I've been trying to think about when sitting down to write ficticious people: what are they doing that will be remembered? And, are they living a life that will be worth discussion once the book ends? 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Professional Jealousy Dog Pile

Anyone else seeing the Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj dog pile on twitter? It's over a video award nomination. I'm team Taylor all the way. Grab the popcorn and scroll their tags. Professional jealousy has never made much sense to me, especially amongst writers. But if you've ever been curious as to what it looks like among top tier celebrities, popstars, whatever...take a look. *cue cat fight sounds*

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Now Even Sassier!

I've accomplished next to nothing today. First thing out of bed this morning the power cut, so I called that in and waited - okay, I didn't wait. I slept. In the gathering heat. We're going through a heatwave right now. Basically, you walk outside after 10 am, and it's so humid it feels like there's no air to breathe. The lake makes it worse, but we deal with it the best we can by staying indoors and refrigerating ourselves and as much as possible.

I haven't gotten in a stick of writing today, although I rescued about seven chapters from the cloud late last night so I could begin rebuilding Vampyre Night for release. The other half of the novel is on my dead PC. The new power supply should arrive on Friday. So, I know what I'll be working on that day: breaking down the comp and trying to breathe life into the old beast so I can access my files. I know, I know. I should've made a backup. I did. Sort of. Okay, I backed up half, obviously, because I have half a novel to work with. And I know It's no excuse not to be writing. Maybe after I've had a nap...

One thing I did accomplish today is the snazzy new logo for Sassy Yak. Because nothing says procrastination like making a logo for a side blog. Anyway, I think he does indeed look like a Sassy Yak. All the sassiest ones wear monicles and top hats. Cheerio and all that. What makes him extra sassy is that his particular top hat is a line art replica of Kennedy's top hat. Fantastico.

But back to Vampyre Night...I'm missing the last...roughly...25-30k words of it. Yes, I could write that in a few days, but I want to use some of the action scenes in the third act (of a four act structure/d novel). I just hope that I don't pull a good one like I did with the blurb for Moonlight and Shadows. Waste all that time and pain digging around for the original only to realize it sucks the big one, so not only did I waste valuable time, I have to rewrite the darn thing anyway. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Escaping the Lion's Den

I have a book re-release on Friday, and while trying to hunt down a copy of the original blurb, I came across some old, somewhat cruel reviews of that particular book. It was about as much fun as getting a case of brain freeze from a slushie you never wanted in the first place. I never purposely seek out this kind of thing, aka reviews, because reading reviews of my own work does nothing but make me cringe for days and question myself as a bipedal human. I'm an introvert, and really I don't need that kind of stress.

However, tonight I've been full of fifteen different kinds of fuck-up, so while nabbing the old blurb (which I realized after-the-fact must be rewritten because it's utter shit), I spotted a few words of a review - not even the full monty - about the book I'm about to "re-release" as an indie title. Of course the pensmith took great pride in informing the world that my short story blows a whole bag of dicks, and for a minute I started to feel my eyes burn a know, how it get when you're tired, you're in desperate want of a 5 gallon bucket of watermelon vodka to soak your head in, and a good cry before you pass out on the couch watching Looney Toons. Yeah. That.

And then, I decided that I'm just too tired to care. Too, too tired to waste an emotion on it. Just like that time many, many years ago, when a couple of writerly people I knew from the yahoo loops thought it would be funny and cute to mock one of my books in a youtube video (not naming me personally, but I was the obvious target because it featured the plot of my book, my characters, and that book had just been nominated for an award that had been announced on that loop.) So yeah. In Robot Chicken fashion, it was pretty easy to tell what was going on.

After watching that video, for a few seconds I was hurt, then I realized these people were not "friends" even in the professional sense. Probably only a few people laughing at the video were aware it was about my work. After that realization, all my remaining fucks left the building, but thanks for going to all that effort on my part, ladies. I even gave the video a big personal thumbs up, because the whole mess had a big ol' whiff of bitchery attached to it, and because fuck all y'all.

I backed out of the lion's den that day, and I did tonight too. In fact, it was easier this time. It hurt less. It numbed over quicker. I think there's a lesson in that.

At least once a week, I read about some author taking a blow to the chops because they read their reviews. I feel for them. I really do. Bad reviews suck. Still, there are so many other things to worry about, like school starting in a little over a month, and the engine light that has been glowing in my car for the past six months. These are things I can change. I can't change anyone else, especially whether or not they liked something I wrote. The fact is no matter what I write, how well I write it, or what audience I gear the material toward, I cannot make everyone like me, and I'd rather not have to worry about it when they don't.

However, if I could have that watermelon vodka right now, I'd gladly take it. Preferrably over ice, and in a salted glass.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

Writing Cave Friday

New cover ordered. Bills paid. House kinda-sorta tidied up. Time to do some writing sprints.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Looking For :: Endless Summer

Does anyone else remember the eight episode "The Beach Boys Endless Summer" TV sessions that came out in 1988/1989?

I remember the first episode had the Stray Cats, and Samantha Fox performing "I Only Wanna Be With You." Each episode also had a bonfire segment where the Beach Boys were sitting around talking and sharing old stories, etc. I loved it.

I think we taped it off TV the year it broadcast, but that was ages ago and we've moved several times since then. I decided to look it up last night before going to bed, and was surprised that there aren't more clips of the series on YouTube. ♦

What the What?! :: Two Bits on Horror Tropes

Yesterday I was discussing horror novels with a loved one (name omitted to protect the idiot innocent), and the conversation turned to the crash of the paperback horror market. Yes, a lot of bad books were published during the 70s and 80s, but despite what Beloved Darling said, I don't believe for a minute that "the same old crap over and over" kills a genre. If that were the case, romance would've died out a long time ago.

That's not to say that trope trends don't go in and out of fashion. Tropes, subgenres, and even genres on the whole hit spikes in popularity then fade out. That's kind of how the market works. Someone publishes a popular book on an oddly-dynamic muffin eating serial killer, and the next thing you know, there are fifty muffin eating serial killer knock off books. It's not necessarily that those knock off books are bad (although the might well be), it's that they don't have the same spark of originality as the first offender, and that's what dooms the rest to the bargain bin.

At every conference I've ever attended, at least one editor or agent on every panel has stated "don't follow the trends", but in turn they have asked for novels that are "the same, but different". For what it's worth, they're looking for dynamic characters and popular tropes with a twist - yes, even in horror.

If you can bring something completely fresh and marketable to the table - great!  Otherwise, most people want a story that has interesting characters but is recognizeable in trope and tone. When people buy a book, they want to know beforehand what they're getting in to. I have never in all my life heard someone say, "You know, what I'd really like to read about is a generic person waxing poetic over scary existential philosphy in the middle of  magestic, wild-flower carpeted forest." You go ahead with that, if that's what you'd like. I'll take the book about the crazy old woman who feeds those annoying neighborhood kids to the slimy monster haunting the old boarded up house at the end of the street.

If authors are lucky, readers want to read books simply because your name is on the cover. But most of the time, when it comes to what people say they like to read, it goes down something like this: I want to read a romance. Or, I want to read something scary. Or, I want to read a story about a post-apocalyptic diner, a sexy billionaire CEO, a bad-boy cowboy looking for lurve, vampires stalking a small town, redneck zombies, or a travelogue set in Japan. Tropes (and genres) help readers choose the books they want to read.

It's true popular themes and tropes are frequently repeated, but that doesn't mean they are tired and should be retired. Even if a story incorporates several popular tropes, dynamic characters and unique situations (plot events) can make that book come across as very fresh.

So there it is. My two bits for the day. Don't let anyone kick you in the teeth over using popular tropes. They are popular for reason. Use tropes and genre to give your readers something to identify with, then blow them away with page turning plot events, deep emotion, and interesting characters. ♦

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Current Obsession: Punk Style Icon Debbie Wilson [mildly NSFW]

There's a character in one of my books who reminds me a little of Debbie Juvenile, aka Debbie Wilson, who worked at Malcolm and Vivienne's clothing shop in London in the 70s. Debbie was friends with Siouxsie Sioux, and there are a couple of pictures of them together in this cool fan video I found on YouTube. That the vid is made to "No Feelings", one of my very favorite Sex Pistols songs (after Stepping Stone), is a major bonus. 

[NSFW warning:] If nipples and suggestive poses will get you in trouble at home or work, you might wanna skip this one - it has das boobies in it. A couple of pictures, but not the bulk of the vid. If anyone asks, it's all in the name of research. ☺

Current Obsession: Psycho Killer

I'm obsessed with the song, and I love the typography. 
What can I say? I'm the daughter of a sign artist. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Current Obsession: The Seven Ages of Rock

I shouldn't be allowed to internet. While researching historical facts for a new novel, I stumbled upon an article about this old BBC documentary called The Seven Ages of Rock. It came out in 2007, and after watching a few minutes of footage, I'm completely obsessed. Talk about falling off the gilded path.

Research is a dangerous rabbit hole to stumble into. It's so easy to find something interesting and end up on a completely different topic than what you were initially researching. I'm terrible at combatting my own curiosity.

That said, I started watching the segment about the Blank Generation, which kicks off talking about the Ramones. They had me at hello. I'm now determined to watch the entire series. I know there are pieces of the documentary on YouTube, but I'm thinking it might be worth my time to see if there's a DVD collection available on Amazon. ♦

Random Weirdness: Enter the Sassy Yak

I created this blog to test out new blog templates, but then decided I could use it as a place to post random junk, stuff I'm obsessing over, and share other collected bits of weirdness. So, yeah. 7/7/15: this blog's birthday. Grab the champagne, somebody. I christen this ship, the Sassy Yak.