Category Archives: Writing

Defying gravity! Will I fall off the cliff? (#SFWApro)

This was a good writing week.

I wrote last Friday that I was nervous about Southern Discomfort because I didn’t have a clear path, plotwise, as I progressed through the book. Surprisingly, that wasn’t even slightly a problem this week. If anything, writing was easy. I finished one chapter, asked myself “Okay, what next?” and presto, I got the answer. That’s surprising — I very rarely get into that kind of flow state — but it’s really enjoyable.

However I know from experience, that’s not a guarantee I’m on the right path (though it certainly feels like I am). Hence the use of the Fool of the Tarot’s Major Arcana (Arthur Waite version). According to one interpretation of the card, it represents the quester passing through the spiritual stages of the other Arcana. Walking to the edge of the cliff, he may be the naive, beginning quester who doesn’t realize the danger he’s in. Then again, he may be the enlightened quester who knows that if he walks off the cliff, he’ll land safely.

And it’s possible I’m either one. If it keeps going this well, I’m the enlightened quester. But it’s possible that 10,000 words from now I’ll discover everything I wrote this week has steered me into a dead end. One potential problem is that several key events, while they flow much better in this draft, now take place about 15,000 words earlier. If I don’t make up the 15,000, I’d end up about 68,000 words, which is way too short.

Nevertheless, writing the book this week felt very good.

That consumed most of my writing week. I also got off one query (as And magazine stopped using my columns, I’m hitting other markets), worked some on Undead Sexist Cliches—the Book, and started a new draft of the short story Trouble in Glass. I also tackled various paperwork issues (taxes and other financial stuff) I needed to catch up on.

I’d planned to take about four hours off to use up some of the extra hours I’d built up, but I just didn’t get around to it. Still with Memorial Day coming up, if TYG takes time off, maybe I’ll use it then.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Blind Spots and satisfying endings (#SFWApro)

So last week the second season of NBC’s BLIND SPOT wrapped up. I wasn’t a big fan of S1, but this season seemed a marked improvement, making the unsatisfying season finish a disappointment.

The premise of Blind Spot (all rights to image remain with current holder) is that Jane Doe (Jaime Alexander) shows up in Times Square amnesiac and covered with tattoos. All of which turn out to be complex clues to upcoming or ongoing federal crimes. So she winds up working with a special FBI task force run by Kurt Weller (the guy in back) as she’s also a deadly fighter, marksman, martial artist …  Over the course of the season we learn Jane has ties to a terrorist mastermind Shepard; her presence on the FBI is part of Shepard’s master plan; Jane herself signed off on becoming an amnesiac.

This season we learn more. Shepard is the leader of Sandstorm, a conspiracy that believes the American government has become utterly corrupt and must be destroyed. It turns out Weller is a part of Shepard’s plan, which involves something called the Truman Protocols and COGS. In the next to last S2 episode we learn (as do the cast) that COGS is the Continuity Of Government Subcommittee. Under the Truman Protocol, in the event of a major threat to the government, the COGS — deputy heads of various government agencies — are relocated to an underground bunker so that if the government takes a hit, they’re ready to rebuild. Weller realizes this is Shepard’s plan — an attack on Washington followed by this entirely new cadre of leaders (some of whom are, of course Sandstorm) taking over. Shepard has used the tattoos to manipulate the FBI and the government all along to activate the protocols.

Needless to say, in the following episode Shepard’s attack is averted, she goes down (Jane’s brother Roman escapes) and Jane and Weller finally act on their burning passion. Cut to two years later: Jane has left the FBI for undisclosed reason, but then Weller shows up to tell her that most of the team has been kidnapped — he needs her to find them. Oh, and he has a mysterious McGuffin that makes her tattoos glow … Cue S3 (which I imagine will be past/present alternating timelines a la Lost, Once Upon a Time, Arrow, Quantico).

After a solid season, I found the finish disappointing. Ratings were right on the edge for cancellation and it felt very much like they’d wrapped it up fast so that if the axe fell there would be no leftover issues. Which is good, but …

I think my biggest problem is that I simply can’t buy the entire two seasons were all part of a plan. Maybe with more explanation I could buy it, but like Silva in Skyfall, Shepard would have to be a precog or a time traveler to calculate exactly how this would all play out (I may be wrong but I’m not rewatching the show to find out).

The ending also doesn’t convince me why Shepard worked so hard to look out for Weller. S2 showed she’s been watching over him for years — that seems like an awful lot of work just to fill one slot in COGS. Though that’s easier to explain: maybe she took an interest in him independent of her agenda, and later slotted him into her big plan later. Still, its a flaw.

And last but not least, while the finish is certainly lively (can Patterson the nerd deactivate the doomsday weapon in time?) it seems that it left a lot of the emotional arcs (and there were quite a few of them) unfinished. We did get Weller/Jane but that wasn’t really an arc this season — it felt more like the simplest way to provide a convenient happy ending.

I’ll give S3 a try, but right now, I’m not enthused.

Leave a comment

Filed under TV, Writing

Wonder Woman, screen rants and secret histories (#SFWApro)

So my new Screen Rant column is out: 22 Most WTF Moments in Wonder Woman comics. Such as the bondage-heavy story above from Wonder Woman #4 (art by H.G. Peters).

This isn’t meant to slam Wonder Woman — as regular readers know, I’m a fan of hers, even if the execution of some of her adventures is sub-part. As I note in the article, when you’ve been published for almost a continuous 80 years, it’s inevitable some stories will be WTF. More so when they’re overwhelmingly written by men. Not that a female writer is a guarantee of good WW stories (I wasn’t a fan of Jodi Picoult’s brief run), but I’d like to think they’d do better than some of the more sexist stuff in the later Kanigher run.

(Peters art again. This is a bad guy using Washington’s image to preach misogyny)

It wouldn’t have been as good a column (and I do think it’s good) without THE SECRET HISTORY OF WONDER WOMAN by Jill Lepore, a book about how WW creator William Marston’s personal life and views (polyamory, submission and dominance, feminism) influenced his creation. While I was aware of much of this, Lepore shows I didn’t know as much as I thought. For example one angle of Marston’s menage a trois was Olive Byrne, niece of birth-control activist Margaret Sanger. And the birth-control movement frequently invoked women-in-chains symbolism to represent the burden of unwanted pregnancy (my wouldn’t that outrage the religious right today?). Marston’s WW stories likewise showed Wonder Woman bound, then breaking free — although as Lepore notes, sometimes the bondage is just kink. It’s an excellent book, though I’m not willing to write off the post-Marston Wonder Woman as much as Lepore does.

Check out the article and enjoy. Art below by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. All rights to all images remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Screen Rant, Wonder Woman

OMG, I’m writing the raunch werewolf comedy! (#SFWApro)

My standard joke about not having a multi-book contract with a major publisher (for example) is that it does at least leave me free. If I choose to write a magical realist story about Dadaist ghosts in Zurich rather than sign a contract to write a big-budget werewolf raunch comedy, it’s unlikely to affect my bottom line.

But in a sense, isn’t that exactly what I’ve been doing lately? This time last year I was focused overwhelmingly on fiction (95 percent of the time, say). The past two or three months it’s been predominantly nonfiction, which pays the bills, but doesn’t satisfy me. With the exception of my movie books and Screen Rant lists, but they’re still not as fun as fiction.

However, I like having money coming in, so I’ll have to find a way to make it work. Faster work on the nonfiction (my Screen Rant columns take less and less time to write as I get better at them). Forcing myself to squeeze in fiction time — I worked late Thursday just to get a little more done Southern Discomfort in (my own fault. I’d run out of steam and gotten next to nothing done on the book that afternoon). This is hardly a revolutionary plan, of course, but time management really isn’t a field where new discoveries shake things up.

So in addition to finishing two Screen Rants this week (one of them will be out next week) I did get several thousand words in on Southern Discomfort. And that was pretty much it. If push comes to shove, the novel has to take top priority behind the paying gigs.

The book is progressing well (over 40,000 words as of today), but I’m getting to the point where I need to make big, big changes, and I’m not sure what those are. I can sort of sense the path I want, but “sense” is a long way from actually having an outline. I did figure out one major plot point, but I’m not sure if it’ll make sense when the book is written. I’m beginning to think my goal for this draft should be to put in the stuff my beta-readers wanted, take out the stuff they hated and make sure the plot hangs together. Then go back and make it all seem coherent in the next draft, like I knew where I was going from the first.

Oh, and I talked to a publisher about a possible new film-reference book. More details if I go ahead with it.

I put in well over 35 hours thanks to waking up early most days. That more than made up for the time we spent Thursday taking Trixie and Plushie to the groomers. The new looks are revealed below

We don’t usually cut Trixie this much, but she seems to be shedding a lot.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

My dead heroes Screen Rant article is live (#SFWApro)

Specifically heroes who died and came back within a few issues, or just one issue. That includes Warlock during his early religious allegory phase, Superman, Iron Man, the Metal Men and Spider-Man.

Art by Herb Trimpe (Warlock) and Ross Andru/Mike Esposito (Metal Men). All rights remain with the current holders.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Screen Rant

Mental static (#SFWApro)

I’m increasingly frustrated lately by not being able to focus when I’m reading.

I do most of my reading in the evening. Downstairs with TYG (if she’s home) and the pups, then upstairs in the bed. If I wake up early and I’m not under deadline pressure for anything, I’ll read for a half-hour before starting work. Sometimes that’s enough to put me back to sleep.

I’m finding, though, that I’m getting all monkey-mind during the evenings. My mind wanders and I don’t focus.  Not because of the quality of the book, either, or because I don’t want to read. There’s just too much static in my head and I find myself checking the computer or doing something else that isn’t reading.

(Don’t worry, she’s just squishing against my leg. My photo, please attribute to me if you use)

Part of it is that there’s a lot to distract me lately. The dogs have been needier for some reason (in Plushie’s case it’s because he needs to lose weight, so fewer treats). We have some eyedrops we give Plushie in the evening. Throw in a couple of other distractions and it slices and dices time so I can’t really sit for very long. That said, there are lots of nights where I have an hour or ninety minutes to read. I think even then, my mind may be conditioned to not focusing on the reading.

Another aspect is that I spend most days sitting in the living room with the dogs, then I spend the evenings sitting in the living room with the dogs. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m off work and free to relax. I’ve used various tricks to relax and mark the end of the work day in the past, but they don’t work with the dogs around (taking a walk by myself, meditating, stretching out. Trixie takes stretching out as body language for “sit on me immediately please.”). That works against relax-and-enjoy, much the same way they say working in bed all the time makes it hard to feel it’s a place of rest.

I could solve the problems by going upstairs and reading alone, but I really prefer to be downstairs with my family.

A possible solution might be to do more reading during the day — morning break, say. Shifting my schedule so I take an hour off in the day to read, then work at night would be fine, but I don’t want to work if TYG feels like talking. That’s why I do most of my work when she’s at work.

This has been a problem for a while, but I think it’s getting incrementally worse. So I’d better work on a solution. Life without reading is miserable.

2 Comments

Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

Before Captain America: 17 Other Heroes Who Were Secret Villains (#SFWApro)

As you may know, Captain America has been revealed as a closet Hydra agent all along (not that I think it will last). My new Screen Rant column looks at the long list of heroes who turned out to be villains under the cowl. We have the Cobra in the Shadow pulps, Moonstone in Captain America, the Thunderbolt and as shown above, Nighthawk in an issue of Daredevil (image by Gene Colan, all rights remain with current holder).

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Screen Rant