Friday, August 28, 2009

"Mad" Woman

I am new to the world of Sterling Cooper. I'd meant to watch the show from the outset, but I don't get AMC in HD, so I didn't try too hard. Then it came on demand and I watched a couple of episodes and I was hooked. The VOD quality was horrible so I bought the first two seasons on DVD and I've been watching it with the spouse.

What makes this show addicting? I think its the characters. They are all so complex. None of them are pure evil or pure good. I adore character driven dramas. I loved "thirtysomething" back when I was a twentysomething because I loved the characters. I couldn't tell you a single plot, but I sure remember the people. I think it is why I still watch "Desperate Housewives" although I don't think its very good. I like the characters. Or it could be because I'm waiting for a bus to come by and plow Susan Meyer over. I despise her. She hasn't evolved at all over the course of the shows run. Anyway, back to "Mad Men." I also love the setting, the early 60's certainly looks fun. Growing up, it was always the late 60's that got the press. Hip huggers and love beads seemed to fascinate the world more so than skinny ties and old fashions. And the show seems exotic because they smoke and drink constantly. This kind of behavior is, well, scandalous in our politically correct world. And how they speak to women and how they treat them is jaw-dropping to a post-ERA baby like myself.

Shouldn't this be off-putting? No, I find it enthralling. And most of the credit goes to the Don Draper, the scrumptious hero/anti-hero of the show. He has a home outside the city with a pretty blond wife and wonderful children, one of whom can mix a wicked bloody mary. In the city he is an unapologetic philanderer living with a dead man's identity. He is a brilliant ad man who must navigate through the treacherous shoals of the corporate world. He's good at what he does and tries to live by his own moral code. Okay, its nothing like mine or yours, but the audience gets to see his struggles with what he thinks is wrong and write. Fascinating stuff wrapped up in a suave and debonair package.

The rest of the ensemble is interesting as well. All of them have an angle they use to try and get ahead, all of them have personal anchors which threaten to drag them down. The great writing in the series really capitalizes on the power of these characters. As a writer, it draws me in. It makes me think about my own characters. I can tell you, my whole perspective on characterization changed profoundly after watching Alan Ball's "Six Feet Under." He never pulled punches with his characters. I remember one scene where two main characters are arguing and they are holding nothing back. It was raw and beautiful, making me cringe while being enraptured. It gave me courage to force my characters into emotional areas I would generally back away from. "Mad Men" isn't quite so intense but the dialog is crisp and the actors are wonderful at body language. I watch the show with a writer's eye, studying the complexities of these characters.

Do you have certain shows which influenced you as a writer?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And Now...the Deluge...

As I said in my last post I love Fall. Despite our non-chilly weather, I enjoy the activities and the food. I like the holidays and the fact the kids are in school. But it also means the return of obligations. I try to keep my summer free because of this. Soccer is in full swing and baseball starts next week. It wouldn't be so bad if we weren't involved. If it meant simply dropping the kids off or sitting in a chair reading while they practiced, it wouldn't be bad. But such is not the case.

For soccer my husband is the head coach of our older daughter's team and will be reffing. I am the temporary team mom. For our younger daughter's team, husband will be reffing and assitant coaching if they need it and I will be the team mom. For baseball, husband will be taking a winterball team and will be serving the organization in other capacities. I end up being the default team mom for this as well. And of course school starts and I try to keep myself involved there. November brings two birthdays, an anniversary and Thanksgiving. It also brings NaNoWriMo.

How can I think about writing with everything that is going on? Oddly enough, I tend to get more productive. It forces me to budget my time and make the best use of the free minutes I have. I think disorganization is a writer's worst enemy. It breeds procastination and excuses. We think we have no time, but really we haven't planned for it. Some people are naturally organized and don't have to work on it. I'm not in that group. It is a struggle for me. So being forced by other obligations works in my favor. Like a two year old, I need structure. Right now, I'm a leave in the breeze, writing because I'm at the computer anyway playing on the Internet. I've managed to accomplish some word counts, but I know its not going to last.

I'm going to get my organizer out and start planning my days, penciling in the "must do's" and scheduling my writing around it. I want to be good and motivated for NaNoWriMo. If I'm already in a pattern, I should be able to win this year.

Do you have any plans to do NaNoWriMo this year and do you have any strategies planned to accomplish it?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Anticipating Fall

There's a lot to be said for Fall. The color changes, the cooler tempratures, Halloween, Thanksgiving, the food, get the idea. Our Autumn really doesn't hit until November and sometimes December. Sometimes we go straight from summer into winter. But it doesn't mean I don't appreciate the accoutrements of the season. Yesterday I saw my pomagranite bushes covered with fruit. Fall decorations are filling the stores. Costco had Halloween decorations in stock and I saw a Halloween store open already. And of course there is that whole return to school thing.

Lots of books are coming out too. I think my most anticipated is Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I've wanted this book from the minute I finished Hunger Games . This woman can write and her dark YA is riveting. I've got another YA on my list and that is Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld . Its a steampunk fantasy with pictures. I love alternate histories and this looks interesting.

Keeping on the steampunk theme is Soulless by Gail Carriger. It looks like a fun book and a refreshing change from so many other books I've been reading. Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs are also represented in the fall. On The Edge by Andrews is a new series and Briggs' Hunting Grounds comes out tomorrow.

What about you? Any authors you love coming out with a new book this fall?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sharp Turns Ahead

I don't like riding on mountain roads. They make me queasy. I do, however, like driving mountain roads. When I'm in control of the car, I enjoy the feeling and the challenge of the twists and turns.

When I'm driving, I generally know where I'm going. I know approximately how long it is going to take me to get there. Most of us are pretty conscious of where we are going and how to get there. We know the routes, we know the short cuts, we know the detours. But when you drive a mountain road, things are different.

It's how I see my writing sometimes. Most of the time, the things I write follow a set path. I'm not saying they are stale and all the same, but I have a certain way of writing which guides me. I have certain themes I am comfortable with which direct my path. I can see the end of my story quite clearly, even with the turns in the road.

But the WIP I'm working on now is different. It is full of twists and turns I can't see. I know where I will end up, I have no concerns there. But I can't see it. There are too many bends in my road. It doesn't frighten me, I'm in control. When I'm driving on those roads, I enjoy the feel of pushing through a hard turn. The forces at work which allow me to maintain an certain speed and pull through the turn smoothly are exhilirating and I feel the same way when I write.

There's risk involved, of course, but I'm prepared. When I drive mountain roads I take the appropriate car. Instead of my SUV I take my Mustang. It is built low to the ground with a stiff suspension designed for handling. I'm the same way with writing. I use the tools and skills most appropriate for the story. The story I'm working on is full of adventure. Pacing is vital. It is moody in setting so I'm focusing a lot on description. It's dark, I've had to supress the one liners I tend to inject.

The idea is to always remain in control. Sharp curves are daunting and I certainly wouldn't recommend them to a new writer anymore than I would expect a newly licensed teenager to drive in the mountains. But if you pay attention and keep your focus on the road, it can be exciting. If you are confident you can find your way to the end of the journey, you can enjoy the adventure of the drive.

Monday, August 17, 2009

How Was Your Weekend?

I don't usually go into monologues about my weekend, but this one was crazy.

I had it planned, Saturday was going to be golden. I was going to write like the wind, crank up my word count and generally bury myself at my keyboard. My older daughter had soccer clinic in the morning and my husband had a car rally. My daughter wanted to go so I said I would go ahead and meet the rally at their first stopping point and drop her off. Saturday night was also my nephews' birthday party and their mom asked if my other two kids could come over early. Even better.

Soccer clinic coach said clinic would be over an hour earlier than planned so I went ahead and went to pick up my daughter an hour early. Nope, they weren't done. I could have writing for that hour. I didn't bother bringing anything to read so it was frustrating. But hey, I was going to have the afternoon. Got my daughter home and ready and told my other kids to get ready as well because after I dropped of their sister it would be close to time to drop them off.

Off we go in the convertible. Beautiful weather for a quick jaunt into the mountains. Of course there is an accident on the freeway so we were stuck for awhile. But it was okay, once we got passed the accident we had plenty of time. We get off the freeway and head up the mountain road. And we keep going...and going...and going.... I had thought the restaurant the car club was meeting at was about 14 miles in. But we were still climbing. Son asks "how much gas do we have?"

Oh, crap.

Yeah, I was at about an 1/8th of a tank and still hadn't reached our destination. Oh, and there was no cell service. I'm about to turn around when we spy a ranger station. I ask the ranger where this restaurant is and he tells me I could walk to it from where we are. Anyway, we head to the restaurant and of course beat the car club by a half hour. Finally they show. My kids are hungry, it is well past lunch but they are too irritated to stay. I hand over my kid to my husband we take off. And I find out we have gone 28 miles. We have to go back another 28 miles to reach the gas station. So with many prayers, we head back down the mountain. Luckily, it is down hill. My son is scared of mountain roads while his sister loves them so it was an interesting drive. I'm trying not to use gas so I'm using physics to keep this car going. Anyway, we did make with probably a lot more gas to spare, but I don't like that feeling. We fill up and I head back to my in laws' house with the kids. And of course we hit traffic.

By the way, did you know you can get sunburned in a convertible?

I got the kids dropped off, got home and it was after 4:30. I had to be back at my SIL's at 6. My golden day was toast. Don't you hate when that happens? Yesterday was a little easier and I got some writing done. My daughter had a planned sleepover with a friend. Another friend called and she got invited over as well, so I have three 5th grade girls over right now. I'm taking them to an amusement park, so I guess writing is on hold today.

So how was your weekend?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Joie De Vivre

I am shamelessly stealing this post topic from Melissa. I think about the concept a lot these days because I forget to look for the joy. While Melissa is focusing on the joy she receives from writing, I want to take it a step further.

Summer is a tough time for me. I'm a loner by nature and I enjoy peace and quiet, not only for writing but for everything else. But summer brings home the children and those days of quiet are gone. Instead, I am surrounded by the chaos three children can bring. Its grating, I will admit. But I get frustrated by my negativity. This is the reality of my life and it is up to me to see the good and find the joy.

Now I only have a month left but better late than never. Instead of harping on what I haven't done or how the kids' fighting is driving me crazy, I should have been focusing on how to find things to do with them which incorporates the joy in life. I should have been focusing on how to incorporate them into my world rather than how to keep them out.

I think as writers we tend to tunnelvision our world onto the computer screen. If our writing isn't going right, then nothing else is either. But I honestly think negativity breeds more negativity. If the writing isn't going write, maybe I need to stop and find something else to do, burn out that negative energy and find joy in something else. Sometimes its just a little thing like cooking dinner with my son or playing ball with my girls. Maybe its a book you found at the bookstore. Or it could be something big like a vacation. My point is, the joy in life doesn't just happen. It isn't some sparkly mist which floats upon us from above. Being happy is hard work. Being depressed is pretty easy.

So tell me one thing you are going to do this week to give yourself a little joy.

By the way...I posted over at Ainsley Park about the blend of historical and the paranormal.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Stumbling Blocks

August has proven to be a problem already. I feel like this hummingbird, beating my wings and flitting from feeder to feeder slurping down sugar water in humongous quantities. Well, actually, I drink Diet Coke. And not as much as these little birds. I'm going through 98 oz. of nectar every other day.

Dearest husband took on the responsibility of coaching Diva's soccer team. My problem is that when he coaches, I get dragged into it more than I like. Baseball took up so much of my time last season that I looked forward to soccer season because we aren't as participitory, at least I'm not. We both get to sit on the sidelines and cheer our daughter on together. But such is life, we'll get through it. However, things have changed thanks to a mishap with a gardening tool.

Dearest husband dropped a tool with spikes on his foot. It broke his foot and he will be out of action per se for six weeks. So who has been drafted to be special executive assistant soccer coach? Yeah, you guessed it. Yesterday I went to a coaches' clinic. Oh boy, I showed why I am a writer and not a professional athlete. I have the coordination of an inebriated three legged dog. Sigh.... I've coached soccer before on a lower level but not much was required of me. This time, however I have to try and teach these girls trick and drills without falling on my face.

We have one month before school starts and I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to it. But I also know it means a whole new wave of activity. Finding time to write is going to be harder and yet more essential than ever. Amid the fiascos that have occurred over the last couple of weeks, I've been pretty steady on the writing front. I've managed to crank out 8K words in the last week. Cheaper than therapy and less calories than margaritas I guess.

As I said in my last post, I'm working on something I haven't tried before. Perhaps this has made me focus harder when I write. Certainly the world I'm in with this WIP is completely foreign to me, an exotic locale my mind can wander it. No husbands with broken feet who need lots of attention. No children calling for me. No obligations really. Truly, I find it unbelievable I've been able to write so much in so little time. Particularly since I'm so unsure on this story. Ah well...I guess I should go with it.

Monday, August 03, 2009

To Conquer New Worlds

I've always thought of myself as a fearless writer. I enter a new project with a certain level of confidence. I definitely slide into a comfort level pretty quickly when it comes to a story. I have tried and true settings and worlds I work with whether it be modern day Los Angeles or 18th century England. I'm pretty well versed in both and what I don't know, I can google.

But the WIP I just started which has captivated me so much is in its own world. It won't fit in anything in this world. So I have to create my own. Oh, there plenty of elements to this world which others have created. But I still have to craft it into the image I need. I have created new worlds before, but they were only part of a bigger picture. This time around it all relies on how well I can make this world real to the reader.

In some respects it is quite exciting. Fantastic buildings, unusual modes of transportation, all the cool stuff you can think of. But they must have logic. While things can be incredible, I have to make it clear to my readers how they work and why. I like the fact that I am able to create a society which fits with my story instead of the other way around, but it is so much more work. And I find it intimidating.

I'm not easily intimidated and I know I am taking a huge gamble with this. But I think it is important to branch out and make writing a challenge. I firmly believe every piece of writing we do develops us as writers. Yes, this WIP could end up a giant flop. It could end up a space waster on my hard drive. But I also hope I will gain some new knowledge which will help me with my more conventional writing. If anything I hope it feeds my enthusiasm for writing.