Archive | Something Like Real Life RSS feed for this section

TV Land: Merlin

23 Aug

Well my back actually functions now–for the most part–so it’s back to work for me. While it was all screwed up, I had trouble even holding up a book. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s true; I carry all my tension in my shoulder blades, and I always forget just how much I use those fuckers for everything until they tense up completely. As a result, I spent a great deal of time on the couch with an ice pack watching TV.

It’s amazing what I can learn from watching TV, in terms of writing, but mostly I was too annoyed to be academic about it. So I sat there and mainlined Merlin and Teen Wolf. Here’s the lowdown on the first one:

Merlin

My parents have been telling me for years to watch this. I don’t know why I haven’t except that I don’t really watch much TV . Generally that’s time I’d rather be using to write, which is my brain’s own way of entertaining itself. (Until it’s time to edit, at which point it’s my brain’s own way of trying to fuck with me.) But as was inevitable–because King Arthur–I caved when the back started to get a bit wonky, and it pretty much saved me there in the end.

Good points:

  • Casting. Pretty much everyone is totally perfect. In particular Arthur (Bradley James) and Merlin (Colin Morgan) have great comedic timing both together and apart, and Morgana (Katie McGrath) owns every scene she’s in. Also, Gwen (Angel Coulby) is fucking gorgeous and I want to eat her up. Anthony Head as Uther? He’ll always be Sir Walter Elliot to me, so yeah. Totally perfect. And awful.
  • Adorability. Pretty much everyone is totally adorable–but in weird and interesting ways rather than being super-perfect. It’s also one of the few shows where I’ve watched gag reels and random interviews because they’re genuinely cute. (Arthurian road trip through Wales with the guys who play Merlin and Arthur–hilariously useless, these two.)
  • Re-imagining. I love what they did with pretty much all of the Arthurian myths they’ve used so far. The dragon under the castle (yes, singular), Excalibur, Mordred, the Round Table, and god, oh my god, the Sword in the Stone–I might have gotten a little choked up over that one. I actually liked most of it better than what the darker, grittier, and clearly more expensive Camelot series on Starz did. Those little moments of I know what that is! fannish glee are wonderful.
  • Characters. They went some weird ass places with the characters, and it’s cool. I never thought I’d see the day where I prefer Lancelot to Arthur–I’m not a paladin kinda girl.  Merlin is extremely awkward and cute, and Gwen is adorable–even if she does need some better stuff to do, because she’s kinda wasted so far. The knights are really fun, in particular Gwaine, who retains a von Eschenbach-ish devil-may-care-can’t-shut-up-ness. And Morgana… she’s the best, and has had the most interesting and believable arc so far.
  • General feeling. It’s a light-hearted, family-friendly show on the surface, but it manages to give you all the feels at the same time. Gotta love that.

Katie McGrath as Morgana

Morgana. Bitch be fabulous. (Links to source.)

 

Frustrating Point

Pretty much the one big one: it’s a monarchist fable in which the monarchy is shit. The ruling family, the Pendragons, are genocidal bastards who hate magic and have literally killed anyone caught practicing it for decades. (There is a reason given, but it’s a bit thin.) Arthur was raised in this tradition–a cool change: he actually grew up in Camelot with King Uther–hence most of his jock-headed douchery.

Bradley James as Arthur Pendragon

Ladies and gentlemen, your prince… (links to source)

But Merlin has to betray his own and keep saving Arthur’s dumb ass to make sure he gets to the throne (while people keep dying in the meantime) because destiny. No, really, that’s the whole reason. Arthur, in the meantime, has no idea Merlin is magic, regularly throws shit at him, and is in general a complete dick–not because he doesn’t love Merlin, because he proves often enough that he does, but he’s not awesome at showing it. He takes every opportunity to be a horrible friend, too. Again, we understand why, but yeah. Dick.

But destiny, so whatever. Merlin is Emrys! (Love that they included that, btw, although they’ve yet to explain it in the show.) He is the magical messiah! He’ll save them…

Eventually. So long as it involves not upsetting the current power structure. Kinda like, you know, endorsing a system of government that chooses its supreme leader by the “strange women lying in ponds distributing swords” method.

… okay, so it’s appropriate. But aggravating as fuck, as people are dying in every episode.

Why doesn’t Merlin just say fuck this and give control over to the magical types–his people, many of whom are still extremely level-headed and peaceful in the face of this disaster? Why, once he finds out Morgana–the king’s ward (and more, as it turns out, but shhh)–is magic, doesn’t he bring her into the loop and ask for her help and support? Um,  because it’s way more fun to let her go insane and turn hateful, I guess?

Colin Morgan as Merlin

I know, Merlin. I know. (Links to source)

Nah, says Merlin, I’m just going to keep screwing over magical people and letting them die left and right because a dragon and a doddering old dude (who is awesome, to be fair) told me I have to protect Arthur. And then I’ll hope he’s not a dick anymore by the time he’s king.

Spoiler: by the time he’s king, he’s still a dick.

And then there was the episode where Sir Elyan was possessed by the spirit of a druid boy whose whole village was murdered mercilessly by one of Arthur’s patrols some years back. Arthur ends up begging forgiveness and swearing it’ll never happen again. And druid-possessed guy is like, “I forgive you for everything.”

Did I mention Sir Elyan the Possessed is the only black guy in the knights of Camelot? Yeah. How did they film that white boy fantasy and not a single person on set stop and think, “Wait. That’s fucked up!”

But to be fair, Merlin does deserve props for including PoC in a relatively prominent way, especially for the genre. And in spite of the issues, I’m itching for S5, so it must be pretty good anyhow. I have to admit that the character growth is pretty awesome in most cases, so I’m kinda hoping they’ll fix Arthur.

But I still say I need a “Morgana was Right” shirt. But part of the whole monarchist fable thing is that all women in this show who do not actively support the current (shit) patriarchy must be evil, so I’m outta luck.

Angel Coulby as Gwen, Bradley James as Arthur

Okay, so Gwen and Arthur do have their adorable moments. (Links to source.)

Bonus material — fandom:

There is of course a large and active fandom surrounding Merlin, of which I have only scraped the surface. There seems to be a good deal Arthur/Merlin shipping, which makes no sense to me, but to each their own. (Have I mentioned what a dick Arthur is? He’s a dick. And Merlin is super adorbs.) Then again, I feel similarly about Arthur/Gwen. You know that one really nice friend you have who’s dating that guy you don’t really like? And she makes him a better man, and you know she loves him all right, but you also know she’d get so much more out of the partnership if it was with someone else? Yeah, they’re that couple. But I guess considering the current Lancelot situation, she’s bound to agree to take one for Camelot.

The most sexual tension in the show so far has been between Morgana and Morgause, which is super fucked up no matter how you look at it. But a fact.

NOTE: I am not a huge shipper, if you can believe it. Like even in the one fandom where I’m vaguely active (Marvel), I don’t give a shit. But fandom is half the fun (when it’s not being absurd).

Family Film Night — Recs Needed!

6 Jul

No, not my family, but my little vampire family. Oh, they’ll grow and grow as time goes by, but for now I refer specifically to the lovely fellows I’ve introduced in the past month, Liam and Gianni. Some of you who’ve been long tortured by this blog may recall their Vampire Awareness Month movie commentaries from two years past. I’ve decided that since I’m in a vampirey mood I’m going to watch a bunch of vampy films and have my own little Vampire Awareness Month.

And who better to do the commentary than my dudes, Liam and G?

Okay, so that’s misleading. The truth is that I am incapable of watching a vampire movie without these two going off in my brain on loudspeaker. Might as well blog about it, since their time has finally begun. (About time they were useful. Hmph.)

So I’m asking for recs. I’ve already decided to do Thirstwhich I watched recently, Mark of the Vampire, which is the best Lugosi vampire flick ever, and maybe some stuff about Being Human and True Blood just to change things up with a little TV in the mix, but I need some other good movies I haven’t seen before–or haven’t seen in a long time. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment for me! I want somewhere between 4-8 I guess, so loads of room for stuff. Here are the ones they already did:

  • Part 5: 30 Days of Night, Let the Right One In, Twilight
  • Part 4: Cronos, Interview with the Vampire, Shadow of the Vampire
  • Part 3: The Night Stalker, Vampire Hunter D, The Lost Boys, Near Dark
  • Part 2: Martin, Dracula (1979), The Hunger
  • Part 1: Nosferatu, Dracula (1931), Brides of Dracula

If you have anything else for them, please let me know.

<3

Writerspiral~

18 May

Stuff goes on over here. I went to WV last weekend to see Mom–whom I haven’t seen since New Years, which is just depressing–and the rest of my time has been all about revisions. Oh, and drinking heavily because I managed to fuck up my back during the trip home. (Better now; I can turn my head and everything! Yay heating pad/cold pack! Yes, I am like 84091 years old, it’s true.) Honestly though, it was a long time coming. I always fuck up my back when I’m stressed, even if it’s for no reason at all. Like now!

Now that I’m over it, I can discuss the awesome spiral of suck I experienced while coming down from Italy. You know that thing where you’re just really, really tired from nonstop SOMETHING for weeks and you come home to loads of work to do and you’re pretty sure you’ll never be caught up again and hey, you’re a writer, so your life is all about rejection, which is usually fine but not in that fragile state? (To clarify, I didn’t actually have anything rejected at that time, it was more the expectation of it, which is always worse–but I’m getting to that.) Yeah, so that happened. I know, I know, I went on a long Italian vacation, my life is sooooooo fuckin’ hard, right? If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself, it’s that these things can’t be rationalized. Sometimes you’re just tired and you hate everything you’ve ever written. Fact.

So I came home and, uh, see, I had this plan to sub to Angry Robot’s two week open door period this year. I had this epic fantasy all written and I worked really hard on editing it and since I’ve got a lot going on it’s just been languishing. [Side note: the fuck is up with me and the run-on sentences today? Sorry.] But of course, it wasn’t totally ready to go before I left for Florence, so I came back to the task of squishing a 150k novel into two pages–not just a synopsis, but character descriptions, one-sentence summary, and author motivation/inspiration statement. And then there’s the endless combing and recombing of the first 10k words to send with it. You know what I’m talking about.

The synopsis wasn’t that hard. I convinced my friend Jay, who had no prior knowledge of the story and therefore was in a position to tell me, “Hey, this makes no fucking sense, btw,” to check it out for me. The problem was that by the time I was done with it I was like, “Oh god, this is absolute shit. What was I thinking? Oh no, it’s not just this, everything is shit oh god nooooooo!”

Which is silly, but y’all know exactly what I’m talking about. Tired cranky writer is tired and cranky and hateful. I bought myself Fantastic Four Season One and that Scorsese movie about George Harrison (which is awesome) as retail therapy. I looked at my Italy pictures. I worked on RPP–which, what did I do for sanity before that? Seriously? (PS: New issue=awesome!) Raven the Editrix emailed and told me I had a romance novel accepted.

Okay, that last one kinda set me straight, not gonna lie.

But I was still carrying around all that needless tension in my back, so I guess it was time to get properly fucked up and get over it. And here I am, out the other side, yay! And that’s my less-than-exciting story of douchey anxiety.

Anyhow, some of y’all may be interested to note there’s a blog hop with a great message atm, the Hop Against Homophobia. It’s mainly reviewers, authors, and publishers who work with romance featuring m/m pairings (some people call that a genre–I call it romance, but whatever). Anyhow, it’s worth checking out, and if you like theater stuff maybe you’ll dig my post about The Laramie Project.

Right, check y’all later. And sorry for being a pill last week. I put on my big girl pants now, promise.

Because I can’t resist a map…

11 May

I spent most of my week doing my final combthrough with Liam. It was a weird experience since I haven’t really seen it since I submitted it back in… whenever. Last year sometime. Had a great time with it, though. Getting all excited.

Anyhow, I’ve got vamps on the brain, and I’m still kind of wistful about Italy, so I figured I’d do a little combo post. One of my kind of back-of-the-brain things the whole time I was 0n vacation.

So of course the Italian word for Florence is Firenze–the outdated version being Fiorenza. In the books, the growing “family” of vampires would be the Fiorenzas, which if you’ve seen the website will be abundantly clear. A lot of times I just pick names because they sound right, but that one was deliberate. They’re from Florence originally–which is pretty rare in the US, as most of the Italians who came in the early 1900s were southern or Sicilian. A namechange at Ellis Island was standard (see the “O”s and “Mc”s getting dropped off Irish names and Italians ending up named after their hometown all over the place), but combined with their weird provenance, probably indicative that they weren’t your average immigrants, this well-dressed guy in his late twenties and his three-year-old nephew. Not just looking for a new start, but running from old troubles.

This is not why I wanted to go to Florence, for the record–I’m sure when I made up this whole backstory, I had no idea I’d ever actually go there, though I totally wanted to. I was living in a shitty frat house (no really), surviving on ramen and Camel Lights, and pretty sure it was going to stay that way until I dropped. But that didn’t stop me giggling when B told me the name of the place he wanted to stay:

Fiorenza
Seriously, he picked it, not me. Good though, look it up if you’re ever in town!

Anyhow. There’s not much about it in the books because Gianni has been long-forbidden by his uncle to go back to Italy, let alone the actual city. (Why, and why he actually listens, well, all will be revealed. Eventually.) But like all Americans, there’s a certain amount of clinging to “home” as somewhere else. So every now and then in Italy I’d see something  that’d make me stop and think of them. Because this is what being a writer is, and we all know it: random imaginary friends invading every aspect of your life, to the point where sometimes you can’t even watch TV or look at a painting without thinking, “Huh, bet Liam likes this.” Insert-your-character-name.

Rosselli's "Fiorenza"

19th C. Copy of Francesco di Lorenzo Rosselli’s Pianta prospettica della Catena, c. 1471-1482 in the Museo Firenze com’era.* If you click to enlarge and look really close, you can even see the names of some of the landmarks written on it. “The so-called Pianta della Catena, attributed to Lorenzo Rosselli, is the first known exemplar in the history of cartography which is intended as a complete representation of the city with all its buildings and the dense network of streets and squares.”**

In Liam (and all subsequent books), there’s a wall-hanging in the Fiorenza living room in New York that’s meant to be a map like this, almost exactly. I wrote it before I even knew this painting existed and was semi-famous–in Florence, anyhow. So you know when I saw this thing on every damn coffee mug, mousepad, and everything else ever while wandering around on vacation, I stopped and grabbed the prettiest print (at the Accademia, as it happened) I could find, brought it back here, and looked that shit up.

So one of the fun things I got to do with my Liam runthrough was describe the wall-hanging much, much better than I had originally.

Yeah, I don’t know, I thought it was fun.

I bought this little map too, which is super cool, but wasn’t precisely what I needed for the book. It’ll look kickass framed on my wall, though.

Okay, I’m off to WV for the weekend. Happy mother’s day, all y’all moms out there. <3

*I didn’t go to that Museum, so I had to come home and research the fuck out of it to figure out what it was and where it was from. That sounds like I’m complaining, but no. This is my idea of a good time.

**Source: Official site of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, which I did in fact visit and adore, as I may have already mentioned.

So Long, Firenze

2 May

Apologies for all the automation and lack of attention to bloggy goodness these past weeks. I’m back, and now that my time is my own again, I’m back on it. Red Penny Papers, Fae Awareness prep, fundraising, and certain submissions that have left me feeling like I ripped my own heart out–more on that next time–demanded immediate attention upon my return. And apart from that last thing, they were all rather delicious, so there are no complaints here. Hell, that fundraiser actually restored some of my faith in humanity. Props, humanity.

Italy was, of course, wonderful. I say Italy, I should say Florence, because that’s all we saw. We had vague intentions of taking a side trip to Rome, but failed to tear ourselves away. There are a million and one reasons I chose Florence as my very first time ever Europe trip. (Yes. I have been to Tibet, but never set foot on the European continent–which is, incidentally, much easier to get to. Who knew?) I’d be lying if I said an affection for Tuscan wine wasn’t one of them, but we all know I drank my way through the vino della casas of Florence, I’m sure.

Honestly, though, it was the art and the Medici. I took a class on early Italian renaissance when I was an undergrad and sort of scoffed at the idea. God, Italian ren, it’s all been done, change the fuckin’ record. Yeah, obviously I fell in love with it, in spite of it being rather an early class and my professor having a low, soothing radio announcer’s voice that made me want to fall asleep in the dark of the museum auditorium. Convention says that the renaissance was initiated with the contest to decorate the Baptistery doors in Piazza del Duomo, just before the big old cathedral.

Ghiberti's Baptistery Doors, Florence

Ghiberti's Baptistery Doors, Piazza del Duomo, Florence. Click to embiggen.

Yeah, that’s B in the yellow jacket. He was following along with the little guidebook, reading the panels like a comic. (Life of John the Baptist. Of course.)

Extra cool points: two panels from the competition survive, those submitted by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi (who famously designed–well, everything, but the cathedral’s dome is a big one) for the honor of decorating these doors are in the Bargello, so we saw those a few days later. I remember writing an essay comparing and contrasting them in class and talking about why Ghiberti’s was so important from a compositional point of view. Ah, memories.

We also got to compare Michelangelo’s powerful David, famously ensconced in the Accademia gallery, but once placed before the Palazzo Vecchio as a symbol of the Awesome of Firenze, with Donatello’s smaller, sweeter one, which is considered to be the first nude figure of the renaissance. I thought I knew these two sculptures. Okay, I thought everyone did. But I gotta say, even knowing how huge Michelangelo’s was, I was still extremely O.o and way more impressed than I thought I’d be with how perfect the thing is. That said, I prefer Donatello’s, which B considered blasphemous.

Palazzo Veccio

Entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria. Copies of Michelangelo's David and Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus.

Fun fact: this is also the piazza where the Bonfire of the Vanities was held. I found a good book about Savonarola last year on the sale table at the National Gallery, which is the only reason I know this. I’m sitting there staring at this after a long ass day at the Uffizi (in which I saw every awesome painting ever, kinda) and suddenly thought of that and was like, “Holy fuck, I’m in FLORENCE.”

Anyhow, I was never much of a sculpture person when it comes to western art, more into paintings. But all the gorgeous Donatello was a highlight, and I consider myself a convert.

(And yes, I was singing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme a lot. “Leonardo leads, Donatello does machiiiiines… Raphael is cool, but rude, Michelangelo is a party dude!” I so so much stuff by all of them omg. Er, not the turtles, I mean–oh, nevermind.)

The other big highlight for me was the whole area around San Lorenzo–which was my favorite church of the whole visit, but it also helps that this spot, moreso than the rest of the city, is super heavy in Medici awesome. And yes, another historical obsession of mine, the Medici family, because they were fucking boss. The Medici Chapels are really popular and groovy, but there’s also  the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana on the second storey of the cloister at San Lorenzo, which is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been, or ever will be. It’d be hard for any book person not to get excited over a 500 year old research library with manuscripts of  The Divine Comedy (Dante being a favorite son of Florence) and Horace as annotated by Petrarch (another favorite son).

Desk label from the Laurentian Library

Desk label with Petrarch and Alighieri mentions. Yes, I searched them all for this. I admit it.

And there was much more Medici awesome to be had, but the thing I think people probably miss out on if they only have a day or two is the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. The supposed improvements committed there by the Riccardi family, who owned it later, are super florid and uninteresting to me (B: “It looks like the conference room at the Hilton…”), but it’s right across the square and totally worth the entrance fee just to see Gozzoli’s frescoes in the Magi Chapel. It’s this wonderfully intimate little room, somehow preserved through all the meddling in the centuries after the Medici moved to the Palazzo Vecchio.

I admit that I did a lot of amusing myself by reconstructing historical events in the courtyards and crap like that–hell, the whole time I was in the duomo all I could think of was Giuliano de Medici getting stabbed to death during high mass and  bleeding out on the floor. But that’s what I get for reading a book about the Pazzi conspiracy on the plane, I reckon. What can I say, that ugly bastard Lorenzo is another of my historical boyfriends.

Me and Il Magnifico

Me chillin with Lorenzo de Medici "Il Magnifico" outside the Uffizi.

In spite of being there for eleven days and ten nights, we didn’t get to see everything. But the souvenirs are nice. If you’ve ever had a letter from me, you might know I’m obsessed with Italian paper, particularly that popularly exported from Florence, so I had a field day there. Also, I now smell like Catherine de Medici. Otherwise, most of my souvenirs consist of guidebooks from various museums and churches… and a bunch of AC Fiorentina stuff. See the above picture for me with my scarf.

Also, I am not sure I can ever eat pizza again. Florence spoiled me utterly. God, the food. THE FOOD.

We did have one night in Milan–we got there early enough in the afternoon to walk down to the cathedral, passing La Scala and walking through the Gallery on the way, all of which were magnificent. But the highlight there was totally getting to have dinner with Zoe Whitten and husband.

And now back to your regularly scheduled diet of mean fairies, thirsty vampires, and similar nonsense.

Random genderthought moment

28 Mar

Okay so! That was a wild ass week, but I survived it, and had a good fucking time while I was at it.

I also slept for like 20 hours when it was over. I regret nothing. And I have a long and rambly thoughtpost for you, now I’m back.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have been keeping up with things in my own magpie way, which mostly involves twitter and tumblr, since I can do them on the fly while I’m actually doing work. (Not so much editing, occasionally writing, but promoing is a definite twitter and tumblr friendly activity, I find.) An interesting but unsurprising pattern began forming last week when I saw Ro Smith’s comments on the Stardust movie via tumblr:

I really like Stardust, I just want to see the film where there’s a really pretty guy who’s enslaved by the lead character and whose one strength lies in emoting reallyhard, who is only valuable to others when in love and happy, and who falls in love with the woman who started their relationship by an act of domination…

Which is something I’ve always thought about Stardust. I actually do like the book and the movie (very, very different animals), but the fact is that it feeds into something that makes me desperately uncomfortable about lit in general at times. As she says: even though it’s otherwise very entertaining, and in a world where it wasn’t echoing a history of vast gender bias along exactly these lines it wouldn’t be problematic at all. Yvane is smart and capable and Tristan is sweet and kind – I want to be swept up in their love story, but at the back of my mind, there is always this.

And that’s my problem exactly. I think that was the day Jodi emailed me to let me know Scripped had been recommended to the Tiptree panel (not a nomination or a shortlist or anything — just, they’ll read it, which is super cool) so it was kind of extra weird, because Scripped is what it is for that exact reason. But I’ll come back to that.

Today I saw an NK Jemisin post, There’s no such thing as a good stereotype, linked via Corinne Duyvis’s twitter, and it brought it back to the forefront. That one is talking about the “strong female character” type–which for the record makes me stabby. I will never forget back in like 2005 when I first queried a much, much longer, terrible version of Liam, and was told, “People want kick-ass heroines, not literary-minded boy-vampires!” I threw up in my mouth a little, thinking of what “kick-ass heroine” usually means, and that post precisely nails my reasons why.

Obviously, I love women who kick ass–both metaphorically and physically. But yeah. When a character is wholly defined by qualities that all fall into the “stereotype” category, a writer has officially stopped trying.

Related side note: for this reason, I was really annoyed with the Starz TV show Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which a bunch of friends convinced me to finally watch two weeks ago and to which I am now addicted. The women who were “strong female characters” were backstabbing and hateful toward each other, while the “strong male characters” often formed bonds between them as friends, brothers, even lovers, that were achingly awesome. There was all kinds of meaningless orgiastic girl-on-girl, zero orgiastic guy-on-guy (hey, I’m all for exhibition sex, especially when it’s so historically relevant, but dude, treat it right). The message, though unintentional, was still encoded: women are back-biting snakes who exist to compete for the affections of men. Men, on the other hand, though oftentimes complete dicks, can also be capable of such depth and bonds of emotion that they will die for another man (or a woman, but yeah, we’re talking same sex here), in the right circumstances.

Goddamn, it’s like reading Sir Thomas Malory’s woman-hating Lancelot all over again. Or, wait, half of the shit from antiquity. Nevermind, that’s another blog post.

So yeah, there were some kick ass–and not in the physical way–women, but… they were stereotypes, for all that. And the men, who so often exhibited stereotypical qualities themselves, at least had moments where they got to break those molds.

Even Lucy Lawless naked couldn’t distract me. Guys, this is bad. And only one of the issues with that show, but whatever, it’s effectively softcore and arterial spray and I love it for all that. Um, as Liam will prove, I am the last to judge badly on the basis of softcore and arterial spray.

Season two, Spartacus: Vengeance, blows that out of the water–it’s been much better about it, with the women characters operating on much more than jealousy, lust, and betrayal and being genuinely strong as opposed to catty and mean more often than not. (I haven’t seen the prequel season they did in between, Gods of the Arena, so I can’t judge there.) Cheers to the excellent writing team for stepping up their game hardcore. My point, however, is that though there are many, many other issues there, that one bugged the shit out of me with the first season because it is everywhere in our culture. Everywhere to the point that there are people of all gender identities who actually take it for granted. Many little girls grow up thinking that boys will make better friends because girls are hateful and backstabby because this is what they are fed from childhood.

Um. No. Nonononono. (Also, this is why My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, is the best thing ever. I’m not even joking. It’s brilliant. Thanks again, Corinne <3)

Now, as both Ro’s and NK’s posts suggest, there is nothing wrong with having a hateful backstabby woman character or an emotionally powerful but ultimately submissive girl-hero. Especially when they’re not utterly defined by these things, as Yvaine, just as an example, is not, or when those things are explained as the nuanced and strong characteristics they truly are, as a submissive or supportive (not the same thing!) personality really is. I love many, many novels with these types in the spotlight, because that is not all there is to these characters, and other types are presented alongside them.

I don’t generally have my heart set on a gender identity, be it binary or not, when I first think of a character. But this all made me think, as I say, of Jonah from Scripped. (Me me me–sorry, told you it’d come back to this.) I guess if you’re familiar with him, it won’t shock you to hear that I actually plotted the thing with him as a young woman. The reasons he ended up a man will be kind of obvious after the above rambling, but I’ll lay them out and try to go light on spoilers:

1. I had it in my mind that the female fairy, Sela, must be the kidnapper/captor/torturer. (Yes, I like her best, it’s true.)

2. I had no problem with a woman capturing a woman, and said woman experiencing what amounts to Fairy Stockholm Syndrome–pretty much the whole point of the book–as a result of coming to understand and eventually love her captor.

3. I did have a slight problem with said woman-captive regaining her freedom (that needs air quotes, see also: you can never go home) and self as a result of an independently thinking man’s interference and help.

4. I also had a huge problem with said woman obsessing over… well, with how it ends, which I’d rather not say because that defeats the purpose, but let’s just say there’s a lot of lack of agency going on with Jonah at one point.

I sincerely couldn’t bring myself to write a woman in that situation. There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with it, and I’m sure she would’ve been just as interesting and infuriating as characters go. But that’s all I ever saw, growing up, and I didn’t want to do it over again. It didn’t make a single bit of difference to the plot itself, to the story, to the end result, whether that character was a man, woman, or genderqueered.

But it definitely changes the way it affects the person reading it, which is the most important half of the equation. I chose male because it didn’t rub my sensibilities the wrong way–and because the character was amenable, admittedly. (The bisexuality was non-negotiable, but hey, no complaints.) And though that might seem totally arbitrary, it’s the thing I’m happiest about with that book. And, to bring it full circle, what made me happiest about someone recommending it to Tiptree, because I was like, “Holy shit, they totally felt me, there!” Which is what every writer secretly wants more than anything ever, so yay.

So okay, now I finally come to the point: do you all ever catch yourself thinking about this stuff when you write? I love it; I mean, I feel like the whole point of writing is to question these societal constructs, subvert and challenge them by playing with expectations through fiction. I love this kind of shit, and I know I’m not the only one.

But I know some people will be annoyed by the idea, say it shouldn’t matter, or something to that effect, all of which is cool. I’m just interested in the opinions of the people who actually check out this blog because, well, that means I check out theirs, and I know y’all are smart. So hit me.

If you like.

Oh, and just for the record, I know I don’t get this shit right all the time. But I’m having a good time trying.

Rewired

16 Mar

Man my head needs rewired this week. I’m doing that NEW BOOK PANIC! thing and I cannot concentrate to save my fucking life. Instead of stringing actual paragraphs together and trying to make sense, I’ll just link things that may be of interest (or not) and, um, see if any of it works.

Thing 1:

This month’s Niteblade is free now! That means, yes, “The Silver Quarter”, the story for which I brazenly displayed my nerdery in mapmaking last week, is free to read. Teenage swordfighter badass (but not as badass as he thinks)! Young genius behind bars in a brothel! Adventure! Excitement! Hookahs!

Exclamation points!11!!one!!!1!

Thing 2:

Oh hey, new book! Nobody’s Hero! So I’m doing this massively fun giveaway over at Superpowered Love, in which you can win romance by the good me (as opposed to the evil me — this one), plus comics and paddy rock and stuff. It’s a pretty cute book though. Well, cute and hot. Lots of sex. As usual. And alcoholic whipped cream!

Thing 3:

Related — an interview/giveaway with me at the fabulous Joyfully Jay. Some of you darklings have expressed a genuine or morbid curiousity about the sunshinier side of my writing, so there we go — and I talk about evil me there too. Fun times. Free book. Etc. Ohhhh and Jay did a wonderful and thoughtful review of the book the day before, so check that out too.

Thing 4:

Also related — if you follow me on twitter or tumblr, there’s gonna be good old fashioned paddy rock tomorrow for St. Patrick’s. You can hit up the DJ Kellan tag or just… you know. Twitter.

I mean, when you’ve got these guys as characters, this sort of thing is inescapable, right? So even if you don’t want the romance, I must recommend the music, because Kelly knows his shit. Even when he’s been at the Powers…

Jamie and Kellan by Astro

(Jamie and Kellan by Astro)

Writer Love

15 Feb

So I probably shouldn’t tell this story, but I’m going to anyhow. (Why yes, yes it does make me look as weird and sick as I actually am, now you mention it.)

The Editrix (Domineditrix? Ravenabler?) RT’d a link on twitter today to this How to Date a Writer article. I would like to take a moment to linger on point #7:

Don’t interrupt them at their work. If you find them in the kitchen dressed in underwear leafing through the a book of photographs while butting out a cigarette in a bowl of ice cream, you must treat this scene with the utmost respect. As if you had just walked in on a surgeon in the middle of open heart surgery.

Because — well of course that’s true, you shouldn’t interrupt. But the more important point, I think, is that you will in fact walk in on some weird shit, living with a writer, and if you’re easily freaked out, you’re in trouble.

In truth, B is pretty easily freaked out. (Sorry, dear, but you know it’s true.) He’s extremely animated and his reactions are often very dramatic. However, he is not freaked out by me, which is pretty amazing when you consider.

So here’s the story I probably shouldn’t tell:

My first ever story commission came from Mark Deniz,  long before I was more involved at Morrigan. Mark needed a pinch hitter for the international version of Scenes from the Second Storey, and Amanda Pillar — who had worked with me on both Voices and Grants Pass — said she thought I might do. Massive leap of faith, but Mark gave me a try. He told me which song I’d be writing for (“She Said”) and let me go.

There’s a reference to painting (the sky!) in the song, and when I think of painters, I naturally think of Aldo. See poster boy up there. He’s a rather wounded little art student type, and my official muse. So I decided to write an alternate reality version of him and his best friend (who is, you guessed it, Liam — coming this year to a bookshelf near you!), posing one simple question: what would’ve happened to Aldo if Liam had died young?

Yes, it’s a seriously dark story. And it involves painting. With blood.

So here I am, writing this story, and I’m thinking, Fuck, man, how well does that actually work? Can you really paint with blood? How would it keep, how dark could you get it, what kind of pigment control is going on there? What does it look like after a month? A year?

… you see where I’m going with this. Turn back now, if you’re scared, because  yeah, it’s about to get weird as fuck up in here.

So B comes back from his daily run and finds me on the bathroom floor painting a smiley face on watercolor paper with some weird red stuff. He said, “What the hell did you do?”

And I said, “Oh, I wondered how it’d look if you tried to paint with blood, so I had to get some.”

“Did you cut yourself?”

“I tried but I’m a chicken. I just remembered how much I bleed when I nick the back of my ankle shaving* in the shower, sooooo… I did that.”

And his reaction was priceless. He didn’t scream in terror. He didn’t run away and call a doctor. He didn’t send me to a shrink. He just said, “Well, you didn’t have to do that; I would’ve given you some blood.”

I’m not sure if it’s more creepy or sweet, but yeah. Bit Billy Bob and Angelina, really. You want to date a writer? Prepare for some weird shit.

Also, when I say blood, sweat, and tears went into writing “She Said”, you now know I mean this literally. I’d say that’s why it’s my favorite, but that’s not even true. It’s my favorite cuz of Aldo. (Who, in this universe, is called Tory. But still. Same guy, different world.)

I so shouldn’t hit “publish” on this one. But I’m gonna anyhow.

*Seriously, what’s up with that? You’d think it was a major artery…

Resolution

2 Jan

When I was an undergrad and did that four month study abroad thing in Kathmandu, we had to get up every weekday morning at seven a.m. and meditate. Now, they don’t just tell you to go and meditate — this shit is guided by people who have some kind of training (which sounds a bit wild, but seriously, it fucks with your head). And, in our cases, people who gave you a grade for turning up. We also had weekly meditation courses in which we talked about the method we were using. We did samata, for anyone to whom it matters — which is the usual starting point before you get into the deeper stuff. There are lots of ways to do it, but it’s the kind where you’re supposed to be perpetually mindful and aware, training yourself to be in the moment. There are lots of different practices and ways of doing it, but that’s the basic idea behind them all.

That sounds simple, but anyone who’s ever tried it knows it’s incredibly fucking hard to keep your mind from wandering while at it, and that’s the whole point. You pretty much have to retrain your brain from scratch. It can be unbearably frustrating to sit there at seven a.m., your brain all prepped from recitation of the Heart Sutra, your back straight, your stomach empty, ready to go when they start burning the incense and ring the little bell.

And you start writing a short story in your head instead of sticking to it.

While this explains why Kathmandu was where I got back into writing after a two year hiatus so I could drink my way through my first few years of undergrad, that’s not the point. The point is that I am temperamental and didn’t take well to the constant — like 100 times in a half hour session — failure of having to remind myself to stop daydreaming. I would get annoyed and ragey and be sitting there on my cushion trying to keep my hands from curling into fists. Now, the moments where it worked, where I was truly just aware of myself and my surroundings, were totally worth it. Which is why I never gave up and in to the daydreaming — as much as daydreaming is my favorite activity ever.

But god, so anger-making. And there’s an urge to berate yourself when you have those days when you can’t get it right, especially for someone with an ugly temper like mine. But the meditation courses prepared us for that eventuality (told you they were useful!). The trick they taught us was to very, very gently cut off any daydreams or trains of thought during meditation with the word: “Thinking”. That’s it. You just remind yourself, “That was a thought, it should stop.” Not, “You fucking idiot, can’t you do anything right?! Stop fucking thinking goddammit! How hard is it to sit here on your ass for a half hour and not be a complete loser?!”

Obviously meditation isn’t just a Buddhist thing or whatever; Buddhists don’t care if you’re Buddhist or not, they’ll still teach you this stuff if you want it. They’re cool that way. But there’s a general emphasis on gentleness in Buddhism that’s extremely appealing. Thing is, you also have to apply it to yourself. And that’s what I remember one instructor in particular saying to us over and over again: “Be gentle with yourself.”

It’s not an easy thing for some. By which I mean me. I frazzled the fuck out of myself several times this year. Partly that’s because when I want things, I can’t be easy unless I’m working toward them. But also it’s because of the stuff I said in that recent Chaos post, about how so much of what happened, particularly in the last half of the year, was so very, very new. And a lot of it was sudden, too. I fucked up a lot of things, I redid a lot of things, I learned several new ways to operate — ways that will take a lot of training and practice to get to the point where they’re natural and non-stressful to me.

Hell, after four months in KTM, I didn’t even hate myself while meditating. If I can do that, I can do anything, I figure. That shit was for real. Ha!

But my resolution is that I’m going to be gentle with myself, this year. This blog doesn’t really reflect the amount of browbeating I do to myself accurately — I try and keep it on the DL until it’s over, then I come here and spit up the fully digested, vaguely more neatly packaged version. But even so, I guess it’s pretty obvious that even when things are in the überawesome zone, I’m kind of a dick to myself. And dude, I just added up all the words I wrote (and didn’t end up deleting — there were lots of those) into novels/novellas this year, and it came to 317,000. I don’t know how it compares to other years, but considering the other crap that went on, fuck it. I’m okay with saying I can be a little nicer, at this point.

So there it is. Let’s see how it holds up.

How ’bout you? Got anything good?

Announcement: The Chaos Will Continue

21 Dec

So, looking back, I’ve pretty much spent the entirety of 2011 thinking, “Right, things will calm down next month.” No, I’m not trying to say I wasted time actually repeating that thought, I just mean that I had this attitude, and then when time slipped away, I was all “OMG however did that happen?!” Which sounds ironic, but no, sincerely, I was confused.

Incredibly daft of me, in retrospect. For one, this is the first year I ever had a novel hit the shelves, virtual or otherwise. Scripped has been an amazing process, and I’m kind of shocked to find that I still love it, after all that time with it… but I do. That’s pretty rad.

I invented Katey Hawthorne, who has officially signed three contracts this calendar year — two of which already dropped. (More on that later!)

KV Taylor signed another one, too. THE ONE. Also, that whole Scripped thing. Jaysus!

In other words, shit just got real. Of course I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. That’s awesome — it’s beyond awesome and into the überawesome zone. Officially. And me, sitting over here for years and years just pecking away — hell, I had no idea what that would entail, from a legwork perspective. What it’d be like to produce, edit, promote, and flog the hell out of my own books. Let alone that many. At once. It was kind of like I’d been paddling around happily and suddenly realized there were sharks under me. Like, lots of ‘em. And they kind of wanted to be my friends, but only if I did things right. Things I had never even known existed.

Shit got real! (Yay for editors who rock!)

I am not pressed for time. I am just trying to learn things all at once, which takes a little more brainpower, is all. Still, if I have a resolution, it’s going to be to stop standing here like a dumbass going, “Oh god, where did the time go…?”

It went into the  überawesome zone. Where happy time always goes.

Two fun things worth checking out that happened at the same time and forced me to finally realize this:

1. New edition of The Red Penny Papers. It is shiny. Very, very shiny. Also, free.

2. New romance novel incoming. Yeah, I know, I didn’t put any release info — actually I didn’t even list the publisher, but there are sensitive timing issues at hand, here. Contract is sent and safe and all.

Oh, also, Sherlock Holmes is worth the money and all, but not as good as the first one. Still, fun.