Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dragon's Rook

The title may change--too many books with "dragon" in their titles--but the novel is rapidly approaching the end. Well, the end of the beginning.

Book One will be about 140,000 words, not as many as the original incarnation, but hopefully enough to envelope the reader in my world.

I'm on Part Four today, still tweaking a few things, re-incorporating old material that was too good to throw away but didn't quite fit in the original. I like to experiment, do things I'm told can't be done. (Just ornery that way, I guess.) I'm looking forward to getting some feedback on the updated manuscript, see if the experiment works.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Last Story

My short story, "At the End of Time, When the World Was New," has the distinction of being the last story published in Dragons, Knights & Angels before that magazine merges with another.

It's one of only two of my science fiction stories that I am not ashamed to be seen with in public, and I hope readers enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Small, Quiet, Amazing Things

This past Monday night, the renegade writers group met at a restaurant and shared Christmas stories and poems we'd written. We laughed so loud we drew attention from other diners, but that didn't stop us. Afterward, three of us went to the movies. After much debate--Beowulf, I Am Legend, or August Rush--we settled on young August.

Great movie. It is a tale of perseverance and hope. Beautiful photography, a touch of Oliver Twist, a lot of great music, and good acting. (Freddie Highmore has a fantastic future.)

For the too-literal thinkers, this movie may be too improbable--after all, would a homeless kid without a social security number and no records of any kind end up at Julliard?--but they miss the point. What if everyone believed when they were told something can't be done? Much of the power in this story comes from August's persistence, from the gift inside him that must be heard, and the belief that he can and must use that gift to do an amazing thing.

Not all of us are musical prodigies, but that does not mean we have no gift, no purpose, nothing amazing that we can do, even if those amazing things are small, quiet, everyday sorts of things. The photo below is from one of my favorite scenes in the film. It's full of parallels, music, and irony--all things I like--and it shows an adult sharing with a kid, encouraging him, taking the time. In other words, telling him he's important. A small, quiet, everyday sort of amazing thing.

It's also a meeting of two characters searching for other people, not knowing they're in the presence of one they seek.

In another scene, August is asked where he gets his music. What are his influences? Everywhere, he responds. He hears music all around him.

Where do we writers get our ideas? A partially correct answer is imagination, but even the most creative person in the world is limited in sources for that creativity if he uses only what resides in his own mind. Writers must be sponges, absorbing environment and experiences into imagination, transforming everything into the music we record on the page for our readers to hear.

What is it inside us humans as a whole that struggles to transcend our troubles or limitations?

What holds us back from achieving the big, important things? Is it because we see the difficult task as the impossible task?

But, if we never try, if we don't have that gift or want-to pushing us on, we never know what we can do.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tell Me a Story

I've said this before about miniseries and television shows available on DVD, and about thick novels: I like sinking into a long, intriguing, well-told story. I like not having to wait for weeks to watch a TV show storyline play out; I can just pop in the next DVD, hit "play", and keep going. The same goes for miniseries. Novels, especially those in a series, are a similar story (forgive the wordplay).

If the characters, writing, and premise of a series grabs me, I will read every book. For example, I own two diverse mystery series: one featuring a male protagonist, Inspector Ian Rutledge, a veteran of the First World War, and another series set at fictional Hawkenlye Abbey and featuring a set of protagonists, a monastery abbess and a French-English knight returned from the Crusades. I have read, reread, and re-reread every one of those books. I like having them available on the shelf. I dislike waiting for the next in the series to be published.

I've worn a "halo" around the center of my Lord of the Rings DVDs, they've been played so many times. The four paperback books (The Hobbit and The Lord of Rings) have all been well read, and no longer fit sleekly into their communal slipcase. The LOTR hardcover set still looks good, but that's only because the paperbacks exist.

Having viewed most of my movies several times, I do not always sit still to watch. I stand, I move around, I putter in the kitchen or sweep the floor, play a game of Scrabble against myself, fold laundry, work on my various writing projects, exercise in front of the television. However, there are always parts of the story that will grab my undivided attention, and I will stop whatever I'm doing and watch. The same with books: I may skip a page or two in familiar books, parts that after the first two or three readings fail to interest me, and I read the good parts (reminiscent of The Princess Bride, subtitled by author William Goldman as the 'good parts' version), the places where characters are in conflict, stress, change, action--the places where something happens.

And yet--and yet--there are moments of visual or written poetry that will get me every time: the sweeping cinematography and beautiful music that accompany the lighting of the beacons in The Return of the King, or the long opening paragraphs of If I Were King by Justin Huntly McCarthy.

Like most of the children to whom I read, I am an impatient and restless fan. Grab my attention with a well-crafted tale, however, and I'll sit still as long as it takes you to tell it.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Everything Old is New Again

I'm weaving together two manuscripts that I had previously unraveled.

The two books were once two plot lines of equal weight in one manuscript. The book became unwieldy--as did the timeline--so I moved one set of characters, setting them and their story a few months ahead of the other, and for a while worked on both manuscripts at once.

Again, too unwieldy. I set aside the original storyline, concentrated on the newer one (now set in spring instead of summer, because that way it flowed well into the other events). 

Now, the time has come to reunite these long-lost twins. The problem? They no longer resemble one another. Their characters and plot threads still interweave, but the writing is different. The original story feels clunky, amateurish. As I mentioned to a friend, that first chunk of writing feels as if it belongs to a totally different person; I seem to be grafting the words of a stranger onto my story.

Crap must go. Much of what I once thought was so important is redundant, heavy-handed, and downright boring. In the first manuscript are about 80,000 words of self-importance that I am amazed any reader ever thought were worth crafting into a story.

On the other hand, I have a wealth of material to manipulate. I can rearrange the puzzle pieces, put one character's dialogue into a different character's mouth, change the order of events, tighten the plot, ramp up the tension, increase the action.   

I will ditch 40,000 words and create a better story--but I needed all 80,000 first. Without them, I wouldn't know my characters, their cultures, their countries, et cetera.  I wouldn't know how they speak, what they value, what they've left behind and are striving to regain. I wouldn't know how to tell the story.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Uninvited Dragons

For about ten years, maybe twelve, I've been working on a sprawling fantasy that keeps growing like southern kudzu. No matter how much I chop, it still sprouts tendrils and vines and leaves. I can't walk away--though it does allow me to work on other stories, I am always pulled back to The Fantasy.

Might as well tell you its name: Dragon's Rook.

Yeah. There's the word "dragon" in the title. And I wasn't even going to write about dragons or any mythical critters. Then one day while I was innocently writing, sitting at my desk, minding my own business, one shouldered its way in and wouldn't leave.

Uninvited dragons are as hard to make leave one's home as, say, a bird that swoops inside when one opens the door (that happened to me), or a squirrel that wanders in through the chimney (that happened to a friend). It's a tricky business. Uninvited dragons are not afraid of sudden moves, loud noises, sharp objects, or flaming matches. Uninvited dragons lumber in, look around, turn a few times to make their nest, and then lay there, curving their long necks to look down at one: Make me.

So I allowed him to stay.

He didn't say much at first. In fact, he said nothing. In that sense, he made the perfect roomie. On the other hand, there were all those noxious fumes. (I'd open the windows, but then the neighbors complain.)

Then, while I was once again minding my own business, sending my characters on their way--some of whom were prisoners of other characters, and therefore had to go whichever way their captors went--the dragon spoke.

Turns out he has a beautiful voice for such a bad sort. He is intelligent and has a dark sense of humor. He doesn't take well to authority--go figure--and he could use some dental hygiene, but when he speaks he's the James Earl Jones of dragons.

He told me all about himself--his name, his history, what in the world he was doing in my house--and now his story is the backbone of mine. It makes sense. Because he is such a formidable antagonist, albeit a sympathetic one, the protagonists can become stronger, greater, more worthy of the tale.

And, for the sake of the story, I'll say nothing more.

Except this: I've noticed lately that the stray cat population in the neighborhood has decreased. When I mentioned as much to "James Earl Jones", he sucked on his teeth as if removing an obstruction and didn't say a word.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I may not reach the finish line for NaNoWriMo, but I've enjoyed the effort. Six days to go. That means I still several thousand words to cram into this remaining week.

The novel so far still reads like a pale Firefly knockoff, but I'm having fun! I might post an excerpt later on, either tonight or on Sunday, for anyone who's interested in just exactly how badly I can write!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Change of Plans

So, I posted the Basic Story Formula (see post below), thinking it would be the most recent post for a while, especially since this is National Novel Writing Month. Was I wrong.

A stray little Lhasa dog showed up at my door around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, and she's been occupying a good chunk of my time. An indoor dog, she's been outside for a long journey. Her once-groomed coat is a nest of matted hair (I've slowly been removing the snarls, as she allows me to do so), and her paws are still tender (they were bleeding when she arrived). What should be a luxuriant long tail is merely an awkward stub, as if she lost it in an accident or an attack. She's been sleeping a lot since she arrived, but two baths and a few meals later, she's perking up a little.

I feel like the main character in the sci-fi flick Avalon, who prepares hearty meals for her basset hound but eats junk food herself, because I've cooked more for the dog than for me. But she's not eating the regular dog food, only soft stuff. This morning, she had the puppy version of potato salad (mashed potatoes mixed with whole milk, hardboiled eggs, a smidge of salt).

I'm not able to keep her, but I have let local veterinary clinics and the Humane Society know she's here. There's little hope, though, that anyone will come forward. My dad and his wife are coming by this afternoon, and perhaps they have found someone at church who wants a dog. She's a perfect house guest, and a sweetheart.

Between all several trips out of town (another one is coming up this weekend), fighting off illness, and taking care of an unexpected visitor, I've fallen far behind in my NaNo writing. Thousands of words behind. Ah, well. I've been writing, though, and that's never a failure.

Photo taken at Little Portion Hermitage in the mountains of northern Arkansas, November 2007.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Basic Story Formula

As promised, here are some of the notes I took during the writing class for kids held at The Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow last Friday. The instructor, Marian Szczepanski, broke everything down quite well for eager young writers, and some of these concepts may be old news to those of us who have been writing for a while, but it never hurts to take a refresher course.

Basic Story Formula

The 3 Ps

Person - description, desires, friends/family, enemies/antagonists; as the story progresses, include "movie extras" as needed to flesh out the rest of the population

Place - affects person and problem, and can become a character of its own

Problem - what person wants but is prevented from or finds difficulty in obtaining

Essential Extras


Secrets - doled out sparingly, and thus keeping the suspense, rather than being dumped all at once


More later about the whole rollercoaster analogy, also a familiar concept with long-time writers, but a good reminder, especially in November while many of us around the world are typing away on our NaNo offerings!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More Pics from Dairy Hollow

Group shots with this bunch were a challenge; below is one of the better ones, with writer-in-residence Marian in the back on the right, writers' colony staffers Linda in the middle and Jane on the left. As you can see, my crew is precocious!

And here are miscellaneous shots of kids intent on creative pursuits.

I will always remember the time one of my junior high English teachers paved the way for me to attend a one-day writers conference for kids. It was one of the most encouraging days of my life, and one of the most exciting. It taught me that I was not alone in the fiction universe.

My hope is that the kids pictured above are similarly encouraged to pursue their creative passions. What I would give to read their names in print, or see their artwork on a gallery wall!

Kids in Dairy Hollow

The field trip was a fantastic success! Despite getting lost and having to turn around a few times to find our way, we had a great time, and the kids were well behaved (no "are we there yet" whines until just about lunch time). We hung out at the park, where we ate lunch, and then we trooped on over to the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow, where we spent the afternoon with our instructor, Marian Szczepanski, current writer in residence. (You can see a photo of her here.)

She teaches college courses, so she wasn't sure how elementary and junior high kids would respond. Marian and I were both surprised. Kids who were normally reserved became talkative and avidly involved; those who were often disruptive were quiet and attentive. They all took notes, asked questions, answered questions, jumped into activities without restraint. It was awesome! And all along the way, they learned the basics of good storytelling. (I might share a few of those notes in a future post.)

We stayed forty minutes past the scheduled time, because everyone was so into the final activity -- cutting out pictures from magazines and pasting them to pages for a visual directory of characters and settings.

As you can see, we had less attendance than expected (9, instead of 12), but that only meant more time with each kid, and more room for them all to spread out in the van, especially on the way home, when they were tired.

Even before the event was over, I had requests of "Can we do this again?" asked in eager voices.

Wow. What better gift?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fairy Tales and Dragons

"What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon," G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (1909).
A variation of the above quote closed "Seven Seconds," the most recent episode of Criminal Minds (the one about the 6-year-old girl who was abducted at a mall): " Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."

It caught my attention because 1) I work with kids and want them to expand their imaginations; 2) I was a kid who loved fairy tales (still do); and 3) I write stories about kids, dragons, and heroes, and characters who are sometimes all three.

Oh, and 4) G.K. Chesterton is cool.

He's the guy who wrote things like this:

The truth is that Tolstoy, with his immense genius, with his colossal faith, with his vast fearlessness and vast knowledge of life, is deficient in one faculty and one faculty alone. He is not a mystic; and therefore he has a tendency to go mad. Men talk of the extravagances and frenzies that have been produced by mysticism; they are a mere drop in the bucket. In the main, and from the beginning of time, mysticism has kept men sane. The thing that has driven them mad was logic. ...The only thing that has kept the race of men from the mad extremes of the convent and the pirate-galley, the night-club and the lethal chamber, has been mysticism — the belief that logic is misleading, and that things are not what they seem. --Tolstoy (1903)

and this:

If you'd take your head home and boil it for a turnip it might be useful. I can't say. But it might. --The Man Who was Thursday (1908)

Deep and funny.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

There is a power in fairy tales that goes beyond mere entertainment. A child will listen to a story when he will not listen to a lecture or a lesson plan. I "heard" the truth more clearly in a book than I ever could from my parents. And then life, of course, with all its realities and hard edges, taught me even more. Those experiences sent me deeper into the escape of fiction.

Borrowing once more from Chesterton, "Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity."

I am not saying teachers and parents and other adults are not necessary. By all means, we are necessary! We shape character, spur dreams, spawn heroes--and we can do so more effectively, if we will but learn to tell stories.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Just My Editorial Snobbery?

Okay, so I'm re-reading The Turn of the Screw (see previous post) for the first time in several years. The introduction was as I remembered it; Chapter One was a revelation.

Dare I say it? It is, after all, Henry James.

Yes, I shall say it.

The man needed a good editor.


The governess narrating the main body of the story has so rambling a way of communicating that the reader can rapidly lose the thread of her thoughts. It's as if James made sure she was as incomprehensible as possible so he could have a good joke on the audience.

There has been much debate and wasted wind about whether or not "Miss" was a reliable narrator, or whether the unnamed narrator in the introduction was entirely truthful, but since they are both products of the mind of Mr. James, one wonders about him.

The Turn of the Screw

I don't celebrate Halloween--personal preference--but I enjoy my share of ghost stories and tales of terror. I've tried writing those kinds of stories, but, well, they mainly turn out to be comedies.

In my reading, I'm revisiting a classic from Henry James. If you prefer psychological scares over gory ones, here's the complete e-text of his The Turn of the Screw, courtesy of's Literature: Classic newsletter.

You can also find out more about the short novel here, here, here, and here. (I feel a little like the Genii in Disney's Aladdin, when he is pointing out all the available seats on the magic carpet.)


Monday, October 22, 2007

Stories on Film

The last few entries haven't been about writing, but they have been about stories; on film or between the pages of a book, I love stories.

I enjoy the television series Bones and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, both current, but lately I've been scouting old series that are finally being put out on DVD:

Robin of Sherwood (despite its strong New Age-y overtones; 1980s)
Lonesome Dove (the original TV series and its follow-up, The Outlaw Years)
To the Manor Born
(late70s-early 80s)

Thanks to my brother and his wife, who upgraded their library with newer editions, I now own the entire Farscape series, along with the miniseries sequel, The Peacekeeper Wars.

Firefly is also a favorite, but I have to view one DVD (the second one, I think) in my computer's DVD drive rather than on the player. If you watch Firefly, you have to see the film Serenity, too. (I hear there's a rumor that there might even be a second follow-up film to the Firefly franchise, which would be more than awesome.)

Being able to view episodes back-to-back, I get a feel for the story arc, the journeys of the characters, and it helps me write my own stories.

Probably because I love fat novels, I'm a fan of miniseries, too: the longer, the more involved, the more I can wallow in it. (Have no fear! I won't list either fat novels or miniseries!)

I will mention one: a miniseries that I wish hadn't been edited down from its original television run is Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King (2006). I didn't get to see it in its entirety, so I purchased a used copy, and was disappointed to find that scenes I remembered from television were missing from the DVD. Anybody know why the series was chopped?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Two Film Reviews by a Tardy Critic

I'm probably the last person to watch Pan's Labyrinth, but at long last I rented the DVD and watched it Saturday night.

Talk about harsh beauty -- I turned my head away a couple times, something I never did even in the bloodiest, most wrenching moments of The Passion of the Christ, which is more violent than Pan's Labyrinth, but with redemption always in view as a result of the violence. The redemption in PL isn't visible until the very end; up until then, the sadistic captain's nonchalant, out-right murders, and his emotional brutality toward his wife and stepdaughter, present such a bleak picture that I wondered how the woman could ever have been induced to marry him, or how his men could display any loyalty other than that motivated by fear.

On the other hand, the subterranean "fairy land," though as dark in its own way as the world above, is mysterious and intriguing. I was an imaginative child, always creating my own universes, some of them scary, some of them comforting, almost all of them full of advenutre. Like Ofelia and her brother, as children I and my brother stood in the presence of those who wanted to kill us. I viewed this story with no expectations, and ended up identifying with it more than I could have anticipated.

In the end, Ofelia's sacrifice -- and it is a true sacrifice, because she makes a conscious decision to give up something for the good of another -- lifts the story from darkness. However, though it centers around a child, this film is not for children.

* * *

Another movie I'm behind the times in viewing is The Number 23.

I could have waited a little longer.

I won't bother with too much reportage of my opinion. Suffice to say that the film itself, as well as the comments (in the special features) by the actors, producer, and director are saddening, because they reveal people searching for structure and meaning in superstition and numerology, while in the movie prayer and belief in God are called "magical thinking," the resorts of humans too weak to find strength in themselves and in common sense.

How ironic.

It's the weak who feel compelled to talk big, act more confident than they are, never ask for help, exert power or control over others.

It's only the strong who can admit they are weak.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Tale of Dental Woes

Ah, the dentist.

The drills, the metal poky thingies, the little hooks, the gauze, the x-rays, the blood, the questions he asks that I can't answer because his hands are in my mouth...

Last month or the month before, while he was drilling to insert a filling, my tooth exploded.

Yep. Exploded. Into little bitty bits.

"First time in 24 years of practice," he declared.

Now there's a not-so-lovely gap that he thought should be bridged rather than filled by building up the tooth. Yesterday, he decided, "There looks like enough tooth left below the gum for us to work with," and so he re-drilled what had already begun to heal over, and completed a root canal. (I will not describe the gorier details.)

At 3 a.m. Tuesday, the temporary filling fell out.

Well, it was temporary, after all.

Immediate throbbing pain all the way down, and along my jawline to the ear. Very little sleep.

This morning, in the process of the dentist's examination of the cavernous hole, I just about slithered off the chair, I was in so much pain.

In addition to all this joyousness, there was another dental procedure done yesterday before the excavation of my jaw: the removal of a wisdom tooth that didn't belong. I seem to have an extra set of teeth that arrive on occasion when they are not wanted. This wisdom tooth grew between two others, and was sideways. The tooth poked out instead of down. It was infected, which is a whole other gory tale I will not describe.

So, I have eaten a little bit of mashed potatoes or yogurt, and have drunk only room-temperature liquids (doctor's orders), but even those things are painful to consume. I went work this morning then came home, due to little sleep, a lot of pain, some medication, low blood sugar, and some queasiness from the drainage of all the infection goop. Other people are having to fill in for me, and I have thanked them for stepping into the gap (no pun intended).

Who knew a little filling could leave a gaping hole?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Calmer Now - and Even Amused

If you read the previous post, you will know how angry and confused I was after a phone conversation with my boss yesterday.

I'm calmer now, but only after much ranting and imaginary conversations with him on my drive home from work, and continued sporadic imaginary conversations while at home both last night and this morning. And there were three short phone conversations with Mom, the first one involving prayer for wisdom and calm. (Yep. We grown-ups still need our parents.)

There is something about me that challenges people -- usually those who are in authority over me -- and makes them feel they have to push against me when I've never had a quarrel with them. I don't know what this mysterious force is, but it exists.

One director, who only lasted maybe six months, even sat down in my office and told me, "This Club isn't big enough for both of us."

I laughed. What else could I do? I felt like I'd fallen down the rabbit hole, but instead of joining Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I was in a Western gone bad.

There have been five directors in the same span of time that I have been the assistant director, and each time, I have never been offered the opportunity to rise above the position for which I was hired. Now, understand, I enjoy the work I already do; however, to not even be offered the chance to refuse the job?

I think that's one of the signs that it's time to find other employment.

If only I could finish my epic (tongue firmly planted in cheek) and make my mark on the publishing world....

Monday, October 8, 2007


I admit to having issues. We all do, even the most adjusted, balanced, mellow people among us have buttons someone, somewhere, somehow, can push and get a reaction from us. I am not the most mellow person in the world. I am intense. I can be mellow. I can be reasonable and occasionally even wise. However, there are some times when something rises up in me, and I just want to reach out and smack someone.

Today, the executive director at my job called to 1) ask a favor, then 2) deliver two complaints about me. In both cases, something small was overblown and/or misrepresented. When I attempted to give my version of events, he replied, "I don't want to get involved in he said/she said."


Then he had the audacity to tell me I was yelling and screaming at him, and that "you will not raise your voice to me, especially over the phone!"

(Uhmmm, who's raising their voice, boss?)

Contradiction, it would seem, even when presented in a reasoned and controlled tone of voice, is tantamount to screaming.

Everything was my fault, and I just needed to calm down, be quiet, and work on my communication skills.

(Uh, okay.)

I've stayed here because I like working with the kids and getting to do creative projects. However, I've often wondered where I would have ended up if I had acted on something that occurred during my first interview with the exec. About halfway through, I realized that he had no intention of recommending me for the job, that he hadn't liked me from the moment he set eyes on me, and that I could save both of us time if I just stood up, shook his hand, and walked out the door.

But I stayed for the entire interview -- I like to see things through to the end -- and the person who became my main supervisor eventually hired me anyway.

So here I am. A decade into this job, and I still don't know what it is that sets the exec's teeth on edge.

Whatever it is, it's sure to be my fault.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kids and Poetry

Since last week, I've been working on a chapbook for the winners of this year's annual poetry contest at the Boys & Girls Club where I work. The theme was Summer Sensations, and there were the requisite pool party, barbecue, and picnic entries, as well as various odes to the sun. Some are just lists of summer activities, with a smidge of description tossed in to satisfy the poetry requirement.

It's challenging to teach children to think like poets, not just to fill in the blanks in an existing poetic form. Their versions of free verse are often point-blank and clunky, but there are "Wow!" moments of unexpected beauty and even wisdom. An autistic child wrote, "I can feel the sun flat on my face/It's like a kiss/Just too good to waste."

That's it. A three-line poem. Ain't it great?

Another child wrote a trio of haiku, each describing a different aspect of summer.

Two young brothers who had never written poetry before dictated their poems about a favorite uncle who visits every summer--one brother won third place, and the other received an honorable mention--and another boy rhymed about his first time diving off the 10-foot board (first place).

First place in the teen group was a short free-verse embrace, a description of Mom, candles, and ice cream in a twilight backyard.

After this chapbook (which will be given to the sponsor, the judges, and to each winner at the awards ceremony on Saturday), I have grand plans for an anthology of kid literature, artwork, and photography. We have cartoonists, photographers, storytellers, poets, all in miniature and going to elementary school. I wonder who among them will grow up to produce newspapers, glossy magazine ads, absorbing fiction, National Geographic adventure articles.

It's cool to witness the future in action.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Werewolves and Stuff

So, I recently watched Blood and Chocolate, a pretty good werewolf flick based on a young adult novel by the same name. Teenage girls keep telling me I have to read the book; funny, few guys seem to even know it exists. I love to read--I'm a writer; how could I not?--but I'm not compelled, in this instance, to go get the book in order to compare it to the film.

The same goes for The 13th Warrior, any of the Harry Potter movies, or Ludlum's Bourne series. I'm probably one of the few in the world who actually likes The 13th Warrior, but would rather not read The Eaters of the Dead, on which it is based. And, because I enjoy the current films, I don't feel the push to read the Bourne books. There may be no logic in this, but I have no one to please but myself.

Although I own two sets of The Lord of the Rings books, I wasn't terribly bothered by Peter Jackson's changes to the story, and I bought the special extended editions of all three films (far superior to the theatrical releases, in my opinion). Yeah, there were a few things I wish he'd done differently, but I enjoy the trio as a whole.

However, as much as I liked the book Timeline by Michael Crichton, I was disappointed in the film version (though I do own the DVD). It was made during a relatively small gap in a larger schedule, so I can appreciate how much was accomplished in so short a time and on a modest budget. Still, I wish more of the story--as it appeared in the book--could have been presented, and with greater depth.

Anyway, back to werewolves: Blood and Chocolate got me thinking again about a short story that I wrote a couple of years ago, concerning wolves. It needs expanding, and greater depth to the characters, and better (though brief) explanation of the backstory that leads to the twist at the end. I like the characters, but I need to make the pair of villains even nastier. After all, how impressive or interesting is a hero/heroine if there's not much chance to be heroic?

Parting thought...
Vivian, Blood and Chocolate:
"What we are not is what we are taught to fear."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

After Effects

I'm a day late in posting a remembrance of September 11, 2001 (Patriot Day), because I was ill yesterday, and not able to focus on the screen, let alone fumble much with the keyboard. What I now present are my thoughts and strong opinions, in brief.

For those of you who, like me, refuse to forget what happened that day and how much we need true patriots--true heroes, true statesemen, true soldiers--as much now as we did when this country first came into being, here is an online anthology of poems, courtesy of Poems After the Attack.

Below is an excerpt from "911" by Ken Adams:

i run past the weeping, hands to wetted heads
as pillar two sinks to its death
extracting in its molt the last of morning sun

impaling forever yesterday's assurances
as i close my eyes and tumbleweed
down the sidewalks of Nagasaki
replaying newsreels shamelessly displayed

©2002, Ken Adams aka Dudley Appleton

This excerpt is from "An American Soldier" by Mary Hamrick:

I am a soldier, your sweet protector
(where old terrors mingle) creeping on until their
Sign of life,
as I carry the world piece by piece.

©2001, Mary Hamrick

I wrote pages and pages in my journal that day and for many days thereafter, my dreams seared by the sight of people falling and jumping to their deaths in order to escape death. I remember the heart-clutching helplessness of listening, watching, unable to do anything, being one person and so far away.

Since the fading of the first flush of altruism and American spirit, we've descended into political games, absurd conspiracy theories, and even outright treason (in WWII, such acts and such speech would have been tried in court; now, it's glossed over as Constitutionally protected free speech).

What seems to be reported over and over in the media are all the failures or missteps, all the goals that are so long in being achieved. What we the people rarely hear about are all the plots since then that have been foiled, all the enemies of our country who have been caught. We want special rights--AMERICAN RIGHTS--given to our enemies, to terrorists, to enemy combatants. I don't understand how we can invite them to do once more what their brothers did that day.

What their brothers did to ours.

There are times to turn the other cheek. 9/11 was not one of them.