|This port contains my musings on writing and life in general. And yes, it is one hundred percent real. I pull no punches, and I co-sign no one. Enjoy.|
|...taking reviews and taking names.
I think it's time I stopped talking about my revision of "Visionary Part 1: 1st Draft" and showed everyone what the end result is.
"Visionary(Novel Version) - Excerpt 1" is still based on the same concept, but showcases the new characters I had inject into the story to turn it into a full length novel. Natrea, the main character, has a little sister, and new associates in the form of Sugar Free.
What's interesting is that Sugar Free existed in a separate piece of work, an untitled rock opera I completed about two years ago. Also, the members of Sugar Free make an appearance in "Friendship Part 2" and "Friendship Part 3" , in slightly different forms. I'm not trying to build my own little universe, but I figure, what the hell. I like the band and their little group dynamics.
I also wanted to build the relationship between Judy and Natrea. Originally, since Visionary was going to be a novella, it was going to be a wham-bam relationship overnight. But the more I thought about it, with the centuries worth of issues between them, and the constant assault of visions, modern-day homophobia, racism, and sexism, that they would have to contend with, it would be anything but an easy relationship. Especially since they knew each other so well. I think Judy and Natrea playing the roles of chaser and chasee would be more appropriate given their character histories.
So, I hope that explained the changes between the novel version, and the original.
I'm offering 225 worth of gps for reviews, so if you're curious, check it out and tell me what you think.
|...I'm leaving my newly established soapbox to inform you----> "Admission v.2"
It's departing a little from Morgan's perspective, but I was really missing out on sharing a big part of the story by not giving the readers Katrina's point of view.
I'm considering posting the bits and pieces of Visionary in it's novel version shortly. It's defenitely different than the warm and fuzzy version I came up with when it was orginally going to be, with more characters and philosophy than most of you are used to seeing from me. Don't worry. I'm not shoving some bastardized form of a religion down anyone's throat. Believe me, that stuff makes my teeth hurt as much as anyone. But I am asking questions through my characters, which is something I've grown to enjoy lately.
As usual, I'll let you guys know when it's posted.
|When writing from a first person or third person point of view, I find it essential to know my character as well as possible to write the story in the main character's "voice".
What annoys me as an avid reader is finding authors who don't take the time to craft their character's voices honestly. Unfortunately, a lot of books have been written by people who don't care about this important part of writing a story. It isn't all about action and drama in popular fiction, and convincing someone you're a good person in your memoirs. If people don't feel your characters are authentic, then chances are you won't be up for The Booker Prize anytime soon.
Rule Number 1 when it comes to crafting your voice: If your story has a solid basis in reality, write about what you know. If you're going to write about an investment banker swindling millions of dollars from a client, and that's the major plot of the story, then you should find an investment banker to talk to. How are you going to write about investment banking if you don't know their slang and their banking techniques and procedures? Good authors thank people who help them with their stories all the time. Who do you think those dedications are going out to? It's not all editors and family members who are thanked in the afterword of a book.
Something to keep in mind: There are a lot know-it-alls out there. Be prepared for people who pick apart every little thing you write about. But you as an author should be knowledgeable enough to draw the line between complete fiction and what you find to be an acceptable bending of the truth. If an investment banker should happen across your book about stealing investments, they should be able to laugh out loud at your mistakes and anachronisms in the book, not jump all over your shit and demand a refund.
|I've read a lot of books, but some of my favorite books aren't books at all. They're graphic novels.
I could try to make graphic novels sound more sophisticated than they are by telling you: A graphic novel is a narrative work in which the story is conveyed to the reader using sequential art*; but that would be snooty bullshit. A graphic novel is a very large comic book, and most graphic novels are simply collections of a series of comic books.
With the definition of a graphic novel out of the way, here are a few of my favorites:
1. The Sandman series: A collection of books that cover the life of the king of dreams. But it's much more complex than that. Dream, the title character goes back and forth through history, encountering humans and their approach to life, death, and everything in between. Death and Delight/Delirium really steal the show, and I prefered them to Dream himself.
2. Death-The High Cost of Living: In this book, Death may look like a typical all-black clad goth girl, but she's actually a friendly, happy...being. This is the same Death from the Sandman series, and I was happy that she got her own stand-alone piece.
3. Top Ten Books One and Two: Imagine a society where having superpowers are the norm. Unlike X-Men, these superheroes are beat cops. When they die, they die, when they get hurt, they have to heal. I wouldn't call it an anti-X-men series, but it adds some much needed realism to the genre.
4. Fables series: Fairy tales are real, and they live among us in New York City, with the exception of The Three Little Pigs and other animal Fables who live on The Farm in the countryside. Fables have come to our world to escape from the mechanations of The Adversary, who conquered their original Homelands. Fables deal with political infighting and other drama, just like one big happy family. The Big Bad Wolf reminded me of Wolverine, Jack kind of struck me as a typical comic book character, but Pinocchio and other characters were a welcome spin on the idea of Fairy Tale heroes.
5. Watchmen: What happens when Superheroes go bad? Or get fat? Or go into retirement? Watchmen seems to answer all these questions without pat, cut-and-dry, answers. The graphic novel is just as good as the movie, if you've seen that already.
6. Martha Washington Goes To War: Based on an Ayn Rand novel, the aforementioned heroine joins revolutionaries in overthrowing a dystopian government known as PAX. She kicks a lot of ass, and to top it off, she's African-American with a blond crewcut. Her hairstyle may be dated, but the overall message of the book isn't.
7. DOLL volume 1: Even though it's a very disturbing read, it definitely made me think about the nature of human existence, and the way we treat each other. I also thought a lot about technology and reaching the point of no return. Stepping out of my comfort zone to read this english translated japanese manga was worth it.
8. V for Vendetta: The graphic novel takes more complicated turns than the movie does. When I compare the two, I think of the graphic novel as the better of the two. The movie is about liberalism vs. conservatism, while the graphic novel is about facism vs. anarchy. It really goes into the political motives behind past and future attrocities and how politics and armed forces are used to control the population. Even though, I'm not a fan of anarchy as a solution, I must say this was a facinating read.
I've read many other graphic novels, but these are the ones that stand out, and aren't connected to major superheroes.
* ""graphic novel, a and n." Oxford English Dictionary Additions Series, 1993, Oxford University Press
|Some people don't see the point of having a cat. After all, cats don't fetch, they ignore commands, and they aren't big enough to chase off intruders, so what's the point of having one at all?
I've always liked cats for some reason. Ever since I've been old to talk, I've always liked cats. I briefly had an orange tabby affectionately named Heathcliff when I was a baby, and I suppose it was the memory of soft orange fur under my cubby little hands that contributed to my ever-present love of the animal.
Which brings me to the present. Why have a cat? Is it useful? What's the point of "owning" something you can't completely control.
It's for that very reason that I prefer cats over dogs. I got my present cat, Figgy, from an animal shelter not to long ago. She's a smoke-colored tuxedo cat, which means she either looks black and white, or gray and white depending on the light. I have to say, she's a mixture of contradictions. She's totally fearless when hunting her plushy orange carrot, but shies away from the stuffed chicken toy because of it's large eyes. She'll approach newcomers in my home, but shies away from them when they get too loud. If I sit down too quickly in my chair, she runs, but will eventually come back to flick her tail silently against my ankle. She hates to be held, but will climb up on my sofa and and sit at eye level, demanding with chortles why I haven't petted her yet. When she's curious about something I'm doing, she watches me from her hiding place and waits until I call out for her.
And yet, I don't have any doubt that she loves me. I suppose to other people love is defined by the fawning obedience and worship of a dog, but I can understand the same emotion in a cat. Cats love by accepting others into their space, in their own time. Force a cat to do your bidding, and you're only welcoming scratches, hisses, and/or the cat running away to hide. It took me awhile to gain Figgy's trust. She had been in the animal shelter for 90% of her life, and she spent the first three months in my home hiding underneath my recliner. Eventually, she figured out I was okay, and before I knew it, she was begging for "rub-bies" and for me to throw her toy so she could retrieve it.
I don't have a problem with dogs, but there's something special about earning the trust of an independant cat. I suppose that's what I like about them. Dogs show their bellies to show submission. Cats show their bellies to show trust, from one predator to another. I'll choose trust over submission any day.
|While I've been writing, which has been for the past fourteen years, I've come up with some pretty radical short stories. Some of them are in my port. Others are too out there for public consumption.
Which begs the question, where the heck do my ideas come from? Since I'm going through a little spring cleaning(see blog entry below), I'm really starting to think about all the books that really stuck out to me in my mind.
Edgar Allen Poe and RL Stine were my biggest influences as a child. I liked Edgar Allen Poe's moody creepiness. It was the antidote to the all the happy go-lucky books I was forced to read. RL Stine was also equally creepy, but after awhile, I caught on to his formula and became jaded with his work.
Maya Angelou's autobiographies, while both humorous and sad, really got me thinking seriously about telling my own stories(that and trying to outdo RL Stine, lol). She was the first black woman I read about who wasn't born over a hundred years ago, and who I really identified with. Up until I read "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings", I was actually getting ready to stop reading books for fun altogether(at around age 11, lol). Thankfully, I changed my mind.
Piers Anthony was an influence that came later, but I started reading his Xanth series when I was questioning whether or not I should continue reading for pleasure again(at age 15, this time). "Zombie Lover" was both hilarious and opened up a whole world of the english language to me. I definitely learned a lot about puns and double meanings from Piers.
I've enjoyed reading books by many other authors, but they haven't really influenced my writing style.
As for some of the ideas, such as reincarnation, and the intersocial relationships of my characters(let's face it, 90% of my short stories are relationship driven), I don't know. A lot of my ideas come to me when I'm just sitting quietly by myself. Poof, out of thin air. That's pretty much how "Visionary" came about. My songs on the other hand, usually start off with a melody I think up myself, and then I work out the lyrics.
So, that's pretty much where my ideas come from, and why I write what I do.
|I know New Years is usually the time to make resolutions, but I often find the need to make personal changes in the springtime, particularly around the Ides of March. I consider this time of year to be my own personal Spring Cleaning time. Take that Julius Caesar! XD
And you won't believe what I get rid of. It's not old furniture that I have lying around. I don't try to thin down my book collection. I don't even put my hard copy first drafts into digital formats on my computer.
I review my social relationships, and I review what's working, and what isn't. The first question I ask myself is: Am I fucking my world up? And if I am, is there something I can do about it? Better habits, better food, better ways of expressing myslef, etc. If there's a problem to be fixed, I wholeheartedly believe it starts with me first.
The second question I ask is: Are the people I'm currently associating with worth the time and effort I'm spending on them? I found out around this time last year, and honestly again this year, that I was overrextending myself for people who didn't care one way or the other. Playing a sport with people who are constantly late to practice and undermine your self-esteem is not healthy. No matter how much you want to be a team player. Nope. Not for me. Thank goodness my season ended early. It was a painful lesson, but one I learned well. As for this year's lesson...let's just say I should have walked away a long time ago. There's something to be said about useful criticism. Emphasis on the word 'useful'. Sometimes people simply cannot help you reach your goals, even though they make the attempt to. Such is life.
The third question is: Where do I go from here? How am I going to impliment these changes? The answers I came up with last year, still hold true-get your ass out there and mingle, dammit!-but now I've realized I can be a little bit more choosy with who I spend my time with. I don't have to just join a flag football team I know nothing about just because I want to meet people. I don't have to be a part of this club or the other just because I have a few stereotypes in common with them. I can persue my own interests on my own terms without having to play popularity games. And that suits me just fine.
|I did it. I totally did it. I retconned my own work.
After a thorough analysis of "Admission v.1" , I realized something: It was totally out of character for Morgan and Katrina to behave that way. Is Katrina kinky? Well yes, but I don't think Morgan would have so willingly given herself up to an experimental BDSM session like that. At least, not the first time they were together.
I suppose it can't be helped. "Admission v.1" was the first short story I wrote in the series, so I wasn't too sure of the complete history of Morgan and Katrina myself at that point. I also had no idea I was going to write any more about the characters, anyway.
But in order for the story to make chronological sense in a novel version, "Admission v.1" has to go. I might revisit a similar BDSM scenario between my two main characters, but for right now, I'm replacing it with a milder, more believable scenario. When I'm done, the "Admission" currently in my port will be renamed v.1, and the newer version will be named v.2, to cut down on any confusion.
|First of all, let me say that I read 'The Help' last year as a book club selection, and I enjoyed it. Both the black and white characters were thoroughly fleshed out, and were non-stereotypical, as is rarelly the case in a book that contains an interracial cast. That being said, my knowledge of the novel will have no bearing on my review of the movie.
The Help, chronicles the humble efforts of a young well-to-do yet awkward white woman as she tries to compile the stories of various black maids as an attempt to make their voices heard in the burgeoning Civil Rights Era of the early sixties in Jackson, Mississppi. The main focus at the beginning of the movie is on "Skeeter" the young white author, and Abileen, a middle aged maid who works for Skeeter's friend Elizabeth. As the scenario unfolds, the characters of Minny, Constantine, and Yule May Davis along with their perspective employers are introduced as they react to the Civil Rights Movement with either fear, hope, or anger.
I'm going to break down the review by setting, character costume, script, and overall acting ability of the cast.
The setting was as authentic as the director could get. It was shot in Greenwood, Mississippi as well as some principal shots in Jackson. The buildings and locations ranging from old heirloom mansions, to grocery stores and soda fountain shops stayed true to the era of the early sixties. The movie definitely gets a 5/5 there.
The character costumes were as equally well done. The formal dresses of the white employers were fabulous well-designed A-line dresses well in keeping with the conservative dress of the day. But the costume designers really shine when the actors wore the more laid back every day wear that seemed comfortable. I was really impressed by Skeeter's mother's little turban that she used to cover up her thinning hair. And the maid uniforms that were clean, and yet frighteningly well-worn. Yet another 5/5 is in order for this layer of the film.
The script on the other hand, I felt could use some work. I think the script relied too much on the body language of the actors to get some points across. Even though there was a lot of conflict going on behind the scenes, I didn't feel like the danger to the maids, and to Skeeter, was "in your face" enough. Sure there's television footage of Medgar Evers being shot, but nothing is really seen. No one is physically abused, unless you count Yule May who is clubbed over the head while in police custody, and Abileen by her husband. Unfortunatley, all this action takes place off-camera. I'm not saying there should be a level of violence such as that seen in Malcolm X, but the danger didn't seem to be very real to me. Just a lot of cruel rich white people playing tricks. There seemed to be a sort of disconnect between the Civil Rights movement, which was supposed to be galvanizing the area at that time, and the action that is actually going on the movie. The ending scene, which takes place between Abileen and Hilly, I felt wasn't powerful enough to warrant the emotionally shocking response that Hilly gives. I think with a little adjustment, here and there, it could have been a little more apropriate to the characters. For these reasons, I give the script a 3/5.
The acting is slightly marred a little by the script, but was well-done overall. Viola Davis, who played Abileen, and Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote, really shined here. Viola Davis had the hard task of appearing weary and strong at the same time, which I think she pulled off very well. Jessica Chastain was sweet and naive while not coming across as stupid and slutty, which would have been a hard task for many other actresses given her role. Emma Stone also did well in her role as the head-strong, well-meaning Skeeter. Cicely Tyson as Skeeter's childhood maid was a pleasant surprise as the shaky-handed elderly woman getting along in years. Allison Janney as Skeeter's mother, was a little uneven in her performance in the scene with Constantine(not surprising given the mixed emotions taking place in her character), but was overall decent. Octavia Spencer as Minnie, was a bit of a disappointment to me. She didn't seem to embody the rough-woundedness of a battered woman. I couldn't really get into her character at all. Hily Holbrook played a mean bitch very well, but I kind of expected her to come across as more evil. A 4/5 is the cast's reward.
While I can't call this movie a classic that warrants preservation in the American Film Institute, or even realistic protrayal of the Civil Rights Movement in the lives of every day black and white folk of the south, it's a decent movie for what it is: nostalgic fantasy. If this movie could be graded, it would get an 80, or a low-level B. I liked it. And I'm pretty sure you will too.
|For the record, I'm not trying to turn this blog into a ranty-rant list of everything wrong in my life, so I've decided to get back to what I love to do: Movie reviews! Yay!
I read the book "The Help" a few months ago for a book club, and I liked it, so I'm seeing the movie sometime this weekend. I'll have to juggle it between a birthday party and seeing an old friend who's in town this weekend, but I'll make it work.