Saturday, July 31, 2010

Boardwalk Ramble

So, this morning, I had to get out of the hotel for awhile. I actually feel bad for the Equinox, sitting lonely in the parking lot. I wanted to get out and drive somewhere, take advantage that I have an actual car here. Only I was worried I might not find my way back. Well, the car has On Star, so I wouldn't have actually gotten lost, but I might have gone too far afield and not gotten back in time, and I'm the type who worries (obsessively) about these things.

ANYWAY. I put on my gym clothes, thinking that was a start. Headed for the gym. Somehow ended up walking out of the hotel instead, and going over to Disney's Boardwalk. It's build to resemble the turn of the century boardwalks in Atlantic City and all that.

Here. A picture is worth a thousand words:
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Oh, well, you have to ignore that big pyramid thing back there. That's my hotel, the Dolphin. Nice, but not exactly turn of the century Atlantic coast.

Anyway. I walked down to the Boardwalk Bakery, stood in line for an egg and cheese croissant and a cup of coffee, then took it outside and sat on a bench to eat. It was only 8 am, so while I was dripping from the sauna humidity, the sun was still low enough that I could still breath, just not deeply.

Here was my view of the vacation condos across the lagoon:
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They're pretty swank, with activities and very fancy pools and stuff. But mostly I dig the lighthouse and the shipwreck. Obviously the lighthouse isn't very effective. (I walked around the lagoon, which, as it turns out, is a solid mile, so I felt less guilty about skipping the gym after I found that out.)

While I was eating, I had a visitor:
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This guy was very interested in my sandwich. I MAY have *accidentally* dropped a few crumbs into his waiting beak. I'm a sucker for beady little eyes.

As it happens, the egg and cheese croissant had WAY too much cheese on it, even for me, so I ate enough to silence my mother's voice in my head telling me to eat some protein, then I just peeled off the yummy croissant part. Disney is surprisingly not very vegetarian friendly. Most menus have only one meatless option (not counting a dinner side salad). That surprises me, with visitors from all over the world. So it's been a bit of a challenge getting protein.

Anyway. I was sitting there, feeling all Boardwalk-y, and vacation-y, except for the sauna and the complete lack of breeze. Then a bird splat landed on my shoe, and I decided it was time to walk back.
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Could be worse. Could have been in my coffee.

Tonight, the Rita Awards, where I get to present the award to some lucky YA author!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mouseketeer Me


It's actually the first full day here, but it feels like two days. I want to do a long photo post from the trip, but I just realized it's 1:45 here in Orlando, so you just get this picture:

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My favorite part of this picture, though, is this little girl's face:

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Tomorrow (well, today, after some sleep) it's back to work.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Touchdown, Orlando

I'm in Florida. Soooooo Sleeeeeepy. Have determined that:

1) It is Freaking Hot and Humid in Florida. I mean, I thought Texas was hot, but central FL is a whole other annex of hell.

2) I can sweat off sunscreen as fast as I can apply it.

3) Disney World really is in the middle of a swamp.

4) You can see the turrets of Hogwarts from the road to Disney/Universal. But not if you are (supposed to be) driving. Also, your passengers will gloat over seeing it when you didn't.

5) The bellmen and parking valets at this hotel have seriously attractive accents. Who knew?

6) The fireworks at Epcot go off (extremely loudly) at 9PM. If you scream "Holy $#%^!" when they do, people with children WILL give you (extremely) dirty looks.

7) The Steamboat Pale Ale in the Big River restaurant on the boardwalk is very good, and quite effective on an empty stomach after driving 8 hours.

8) The stores stay open late to give you every opportunity to purchase Disney Merchandise. Also, Dooney & Burke makes Mickey Mouse purses. Um... just saying.

9) Eastern Time zone is great at bed time, but not so much in the morning.

10) The people in the room next door let their kids stay up WAY too late.

See you in the morning!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

iLesson: the Do Over

This post is about more than just writing. It’s about giving up on a dream. As in, don’t do it.

Recently I was a writers meeting a someone said: “Well, real life has taken a turn for the crazy, and it’s interfered with writing, and I’m no where near my goal of finishing a book by the end of the year or quitting.”

And I thought... Quit writing? I think I could quit breathing first.

My first printed works of fiction were written on these:
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Even before I could write, I was making stuff up. Okay, some people would call it lying, but it wasn’t to get out or to make trouble. It was just to make a better story. Writing books is a job. But telling stories is an art and a passion. And if I am pleasing no one but myself, I will keep writing.

This is not the first time I’ve heard writers give themselves a deadline “or quit.” I’ve heard “If I’m not published in 3 years, I’m done writing.” Or, “If I don’t have an agent by January,” or “If I get one more rejection, I’m never submitting again...”

But that makes me wonder why they’re trying to be published at all. Writing, like all artistic professions, I think, can’t be limited to external measures of success. There has to be internal satisfaction. (See above re: writing = breathing.)

Maybe these people don’t mean quit writing, but simply quit submitting for publication. Fair enough.

But.

Who is to say what a “reasonable” timetable is in a business that is completely unreasonable? It’s driven by reader fads and economic trends and individual editor likes and dislikes.

Why set an end date on a dream? It’s not like we have an expiration date. I was going to write: It’s not like it’s something we can only do when we’re young and fit, like running a marathon or climbing Mount Everest, but even THOSE things are accomplished by people who work toward it their entire lives.

Of course it’s important to make goals. The thing is, so much of life is out of our control. Parents and children get sick and husbands leave and hurricanes blow. Your goal will sometimes have to take a back seat, but you should never kick it out of the car.

That’s the difference between a goal and an ultimatum. You can ALWAYS set a new goal. But an ultimatum is more of a threat, and you’re punishing no one but yourself. If you take your toys and go home, the only one who loses is you.

Remember: Never give up, never surrender. But do overs are completely allowed.

--
PS-- A recent event makes me worry someone will think this is aimed at them, and it’s not. Just this week I’ve heard “Or I quit” from three different writers, but I hear this more often than you might imagine. Hence the rant.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

A little taste of Texas Gothic...

The cow took off, and I took off after it, running across the pasture like William Wallace in Braveheart. Except in panties and a bra, which sounded like a Monty Python sketch, but had become my life, thanks to my sister, who had obviously left the gate open, not to mention gotten me here in the first place and don’t think I wasn’t going to let her hear about it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Movie Monday: The Lightning Thief

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Actually, this weekend I watched The Book of Eli, but I think it’s pretty near impossible to discuss without Massive Spoilers, so instead I’ll talk about the movie I watched the weekend before: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.

Now, I really enjoyed the books. I’m getting that up front, because I’m generally not one of those people who gets upset if something isn’t exactly like the book. They’re different media, and you can do things in books that you can’t in movies. I understand streamlining the story and having less characters to keep track of. Unfortunately, this script simplified the story to the point where I wondered if I’d read the same book.

It should be noted, however, that Mom, who hasn’t read the book, didn’t find it lacking. (But then, Mom has a great affection for Syfy channel and disaster movies like 10.5 Earthquake Apocalypse.)

Some of the dialogue really clunky. “I’m the daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom and battle strategy, so I always win [at war games].” Clearly Athena is also goddess of the exposition bomb. (Actually, all the gods had clunky-exposition-disease. Though judging by Clash of the Titans (both versions) this must be an established a trait of the pantheon.)

It’s hard to find a review that doesn’t call it a “Harry Potter wanna be” but I think that comparison is unavoidable. Not everything that follows the HP... well, let’s say formula, though that’s more negative than I mean it... is a ‘wannabe or a clone.’ HP was hardly the first story where a boy when to magical school and learned he was Special. Not by a long shot.

That said, it did remind me of the first Harry Potter movie, which I’m sure isn’t a coincidence, since Chris Columbus directed both. Mostly, it had that same “oooo, aaaah, look, magic, isn’t it cool” feeling. I think that if the script hadn’t been dumbed down so much, it wouldn’t have such a ‘thin’ feel. The movie lacked depth, even though when it loosened up and had fun with its concept, it was quite enjoyable.

So, pluses:
  • The adult cast. I do love me some Sean Bean and Kevin McKidd.
  • The Medusa. By far my favorite sequence. Uma Thurman was perfect, really went over the top, in a good way.
  • Driving out of the Lotus Casino in the Maserati. (Which happens to have a trident as it’s logo. Nice.)
  • In general, the visuals were just cool and fun to watch.

Minuses:
  • The clunky dialogue was hard to get past.
  • The characterization of Persephone.
  • The complete absence of Ares, despite his being integral to the plot of the book. Also, he was played by Ray Winstone, in the scenes which ended up on the cutting room floor, which would have been awesome.
  • The dumbing down of other plot elements.

Overall verdict: fun to watch, but rather undemanding. If you haven’t read the books, you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

iLesson: Move along


Here is a lesson that I never seem to learn.

I'm working on a scene. And it's a thinky sort of scene, where I'm trying to get a lot of information across, or perhaps a lot of emotion across, and I'm second guessing myself about how much is too much exposition and/or introspection, and how much is not enough to get the point across to the reader. I'll work for DAYS on, say, three pages. (I know. I KNOW!)

roundabout-2010-07-15-08-00.pngThen I'll decide that I don't really need that explanation anyway. Or, it was better in the first draft. Or I want to put it in a different place entirely.

And even worse! These pages aren't really terribly important to the A plot. They are fine details of the character's internal journey, or tweaks to the world building, or... basically, they're not structural. They're design details.

The moral of the story is, when you bog down on things like that, it's easy to go in circles, writing, rewriting, and generally second guessing yourself. The best thing to do at that point is to throw the whole scene away and start over move on to the next chapter or scene.

Too often, I find myself changing stuff just to change it. When all I'm doing is moving paragraphs around, it's time to move along.

The important thing is to not stall out. Don't let the minutia of your book keep you from finishing it. Leave that battle so you can go one to win the war over the manuscript. You'll be coming back to that scene later, anyway. As with anything, tackling the big stuff first will allow you to more clearly see the fine details that need to be finessed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Field Trip!

Y’all should trot over here to Whimsical Fic-ery, an absolutely charming blog, where the absolutely charming Leigh interviewed me about Maggie Quinn and the gang, plus the whole nature of good and evil thing. I suspect magic may be at work, because I was pretty laid back in the interview, dishing on Lisa and my opinion on demons on the Internet. (I know. Asking for trouble.)

Click over, for no other reason than to check out their truly whimsical header, complete with owls and toadstools. Leave some comment love, and if you ask a follow up question to anything I’ve said there, I’ll answer. (Within reason. I can’t give away too many secrets.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

World Cup Fever (recovery edition)

In the midst of World Cup Fever, I overheard (overread?) someone on Twitter say (in a somewhat condescending tone) that Americans don’t love soccer/football and/or the world cup so much as they love big events and spectacle.

S/he may have had a point. Because try finding football matches on TV at any other time. (Without buying a special package, anyway.) Not that I make a big effort, though that’s generally because I’m just not a sports fan At. All. I don’t follow any American sports regularly, unless my college team is doing well (and usually someone has to tell me).

But I love world sporting events, and do make an effort to follow the action. For me it’s not about the spectacle (I don’t watch the Superbowl and that’s MADE of equal parts spectacle and arrogance).
Here’s why I love watching the World Cup:

1) Football (and tennis) are in my blood. My grandfather played in Holland and South America. The World Cup was ALWAYS a big deal in the Boelhouwer house.

2) Football players are, overall, the hottest athletes of any team sport. Even some the referees are hella good looking.

3) American television pretty much forgets the rest of the world exists, unless something bad happens somewhere. Tennis matches and World Cup are the one time we really get anything approaching international flavor. (Except for BBC America, PBS and SyFy when it runs Doctor Who). I do not count the Olympics because the production values turn the coverage of those into a distinctly American thing. Big, bombastic, everything filtered through the lens of "Americans are idiots about other countries so we have to explain everything to them."

So I really appreciate ESPNs coverage of the World Cup. Commentators of different nationalities. No stupid puff pieces for “flavor.” They treated their audience like they were there for the soccer/football.

4) Americans were not a shoe in for anything. (See above, re: Olympics.) We played well, made a good showing, but were on a level field. Also, we were not the most arrogant and worst behaved country. So that was awesome.

5) The Dutch went to the final. (The Telegraph (UK) reported some bad behavior by fans following their defeat. (All countries have jerks, I guess.) But on the whole, the country supported their team’s second pace finish. )

My brother and his family came over and we turned the day into an Event. We love our international heritage, our melting-pot traditions, our ties to Holland, the fact that we’re both very American (and Texan) but also not entirely so. (I love this country, but am fully aware of it’s flaws, one of which is a very insular way of thinking. Of course, I’m also the one who had to ask my agent, when I signed my first contract, if, under “Citizen of...” if I should filling “America” or “Texas.” So I get a double whammy of centrism.)

ANyway. Peter and I went all out for the day.

We hoisted the Dutch flag in front of my house:
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And Pete and his spawn made a special cake:
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(Wonder why the Dutch wear orange if their flag is red, white, and blue? The answer.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Movie Monday: Independence Day

On a belated note: Happy Canada Day to my friends north of the border. That is by way of apology for this Yankee-centric post.

I have to admit, it doesn't have to be the Fourth of July for me to watch Independence Day. This movie is on All. The. Time. And if it's on, I watch it. It's one of my wallpaper movies. It makes me happy.

We all know the reasons it's ridiculous. And if we didn't, the nitpickers at IMDB will be happy to innumerate the all the reasons why. It breaks the laws of physics within the first 30 seconds. Serious Science Fiction people consider this movie an offense to mankind, and the rest of the world (apparently) hold it up as further proof that Americans are jingoistic idiots with no taste.

But is this fair? Does every alien movie have to be Serious Speculative Fiction Cinema? To take Independence Day as cultural commentary is to take things way too seriously. The aliens come. They are uncomplicated and evil, and essentially drones. We blow them up. Cue Fireworks.

I know real life is more complicated than this. But there are plenty of movies about complex cultures and realistic examinations of the effects of war and cataclysm and blah blah blah the enemy is us. But every once in a while I want to watch a movie which exists sole as an excuse to blow $#^% up.

So here is my list of ways that Independence Day is filled with awesome:
  1. Jeff Goldblum is at his neurotic, nerdy best. His schtick fits the character and the absurdity of his role in the unfolding Saving Of The World. And he is the perfect foil for....
  2. Will Smith, who is at the height of his irreverent, kick-ass hotness. His schtick hits just the right note of 'I'm fully committed to this ridiculousness, but also fully aware that it's ridiculous.' (Goldblum and Smith allegedly improvised at least half their dialogue, which is doubtless why it is so awesome.) Contrast that with how...
  3. Everyone else in the movie place things with complete sincerity. Not a tongue to be seen in cheek. Even Bill Pulman's awesome and oft quoted speech is played with complete commitment, that toes the line of melodrama, but doesn't quite tip the scale. The exception to 'everyone' is...
  4. Randy Quaid, who's character is SO over the top, that his character's fate seems perfectly plausible, and in fact, inevitable, when taken as a whole with the cheesy smorgasbord that is this movie. (And I may just shed a tiny cheddar-colored tear when he says "Tell my kids I love them." Maybe.)
  5. Jeff Goldblum saves the world with a Macintosh...
  6. in a plot device that is a complete rip off of homage to H.G. Wells.
  7. $#6% blows up. Copiously.
  8. But the dog lives.
  9. President Roslin plays the First Lady.
  10. Jayne!
  11. And of course, this...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Twitter Writing Lessons (iLesson)

As much as I love Twitter (and I do) I know it can be a bit banal. But I work at those stupid posts. And it occurred to me, a lot of things I do to squeeze my formidable wit into 140 characters can be carried over to tighter, efficient prose. (Bear in mind, I am an over-write-then-cut writer, which makes me a bit of a freak, according to my friends. Apparently.)
  1. Pick what’s worth saying. Not every Tweet has to be rofl hysterical or omg profound. But the best tweets, the least mock-worth and most re-tweetable have something worth saying. Likewise, what you put in your book has to carry information or reveal character, and if something is occasionally funny or deep, throw that in two… as long as it’s short.
  2. No one wants to read inside jokes or stuff that’s only amusing to you. There are tons of things in the Maggie Quinn books that never made the cut. Trust me on this.
  3. Cut the ‘nice-nice’ as my friend Candy calls it. (Polite exchanges that no one really cares about.) We have to say ‘hi, how are you’ and ‘fine, thanks,’ in the real world, but we only want to eavesdrops on the tweets that are juicy good stuff. Dialogue should kind of be the same.
  4. You don’t need as many words as you think you do. Things you can easily cut:
    • The word “Just.” Also, almost, simply, merely, and other words that don’t add meaning. Most of the time you don’t need them, and the few times you DO want to use “just” for emphasis, (i.e., it was just not going to work) it will actually have emphasis.
    • Adverbs in general. Now, I don’t have the “-ly” hate that some people do, but it is true that one well chosen verb is better than a weak, boring verb plus a modifier. (He took it quickly out of my hands. Vs. He whisked it out of my hands.) And not just (ha!) because it’s less words, but also because it’s more vivid and specific.
    • Prepositions and prepositional phrase. These can be very useful when you need to give a location of something. He sat on the chair might be an important distinction from He sat on the bed. But look at, “The rain fell down.” With few exceptions (like if you’re on a space station), there’s only direction things can fall, so ‘down’ is unnecessary. Same with ‘sat’ and ‘knelt,’ and the reverse with ‘stood.’ (This, btw, is something I never catch unless I’m looking for it.)
    • The other one that gets me? “She nodded her head.” What else would she nod?
Can deleting these tiny words and phrases make a difference if you’re writing something more than 140 characters? Yes, because the effect is cumulative. These little tweaks are like pruning a rose bush. You cut off the brown, useless bits to show off the roses.