Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm still alive!

I'm coming back up for air now that NaNoWriMo 2008 is done. I managed to make my personal goal plus a couple of extra thousand for good measure, with a final NaNo-site-official word count of 77,090 words for the month of November. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

What's up next? Finishing the story, of course. I'm guessing I've got at least another 25,000 words left before the story is complete. I've also got a backlog of short stories wanting to be written. So, during the month of December, I'll be keeping with the prose and shooting for 35,000 words combined between the novel and the short fiction. That'll keep me at a still-productive pace while hopefully not driving me insane in the midst of holiday shopping and celebrating. Plus I've still got to fit in a couple more books to make my 24-books-per-year quota.

I'm also looking forward to being able to fit in a few more movies. And on that note, here's What I Watched for the past two weeks.
  • Twilight (3 stars): Having not read the books yet, I was able to go into the movie without preconceived notions. That being said, I was going in with fairly low expectations to be honest. My sister wanted my company at the midnight showing, and since I rarely say no to a movie invitation in general and since I enjoy the unique atmosphere of midnight openings, I said yes. The chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson was undeniable. The trailers make this out to be kind of an actiony pic, but it's actually very character-driven, which was a welcome surprise for me. Not a spectacular film by any means, but it's entertaining, and sometimes that's good enough.
  • Bolt (3½ stars): Cute animated film about a dog who, having grown up on a TV show set, believes he is, in fact, a superdog. Gets off to a slow start, but the supporting characters (the cat and the hamster) really make the movie. Especially touching if you're a pet-lover, I think.
  • He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (3 stars): This is an interesting little French dark thriller/dramedy. I don't want to give too much away, but the story is told from two vantage points, one following the other. If you're a fan of the genre or of Audrey Tatou, definitely worth a rental.
  • Australia (3½ stars): Baz Luhrmann's first movie since Moulin Rouge is basically two movies in one, and with a running time to show it. There are two complete story arcs here, and each is enjoyable, but they really could have been released as two separate films. That being said, it's as pretty as you would expect from Lurhmann (though not as lush as Moulin Rouge), and despite some cheesy moments, it's a welcome return.
  • Beowulf [Director's Cut)] (3 stars): If you go into this movie expecting a direct interpretation of the epic poem, you'll more than likely be disappointed. However, if you approach it as an action-adventure, slightly tongue-in-cheek epic variation on that theme, then there's a good chance you'll enjoy it. At least I did. Though, I couldn't help feeling that it would have been so much more impressive as live action rather than motion-capture CGI. The technology has yet to capture the life of the human eye.
  • Conversations with Other Women (3½ stars): Helena Bonham-Carter and Aaron Eckhart give excellent performances in this quasi-experimental drama. It's shown entirely in split-screen, and, while it took me a few minutes to acclimate, it actually worked really well for the story. The dialog was some of the best I've heard in smaller films like this.
That's all for now, folks. I've got approximately four hours 'til I'm supposed to be up, so I'm going to give this whole sleep thing another shot. Oh, and congrats to everyone who either won or attempted NaNoWriMo this year. Enjoy your accomplishment, whatever it may be. Cheers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Week 3 Update

I managed to cross that magical 50,000-word mark last night at my solitary write-in. This is the second year in a row I've hit 50k while writing solo in a coffee shop surrounded by strangers. It's an odd feeling: accomplishment mingled with melancholy.

This year, I was actually planning on having at least one writing friend with me, but dear Lee Horne somehow managed to smack her head against one of the flat-panel televisions bolted to the walls in the cafeteria where we work yesterday afternoon. Thus, her head injury precluded her from making it to the write-in. I'm still waiting for her explanation as to how exactly she managed to accomplish this feat, which left her with a sizeable lump, when the televisions are in decidedly hard-to-run-into locations. Alas, she has been rather vague on the details.

Nonetheless, I'm choosing to focus on the feelings of "Hey, I just wrote 50,000 words in 18 days!" instead of the wimpy, bemoaning, annoying thoughts of "Woe is me; being a writer is so lonely." After all, I've still got 30 percent of my novel to write after tonight to hit my personal goal of 75,000 words.

Anyway, just wanted to give a quick Week 3 update and to say to my friends who are still striving for that 50,000-mark (or even for the 25,000-mark), DO NOT LOSE HEART. Do not be afraid that you are writing drivel. You undoubtedly have indeed written some. That's OK. Because you've also written things that have much potential. The key here, especially during the month of November, is simply to write. The goal is not to change the world, or to write the next Great American Novel, or to land an agent or a book deal, or even to write a completely coherent story. The idea, once again, is to write.

If you are doing that, no matter what your word count is on Nov. 30, you win. You have thousands of words more than you did at the beginning of the month, and you can add thousands more if you simply allow yourself the freedom to write without boundaries or rules or expectations. Just write. One word after the other (even if the perfect word is elusive, just pick one--or several--that are close enough; perfection can come later). That's all it takes. Words, strung together, possibly with some punctuation thrown in (though I can think of a couple of authors who have had much success without even that). Just keep going. Be proud of what you've accomplished so far, and let it give you hope for what you still have left in you.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Recap: 16 November 2008

So, during NaNoWriMo, I'll often get to a point in my writing where I'm struggling a bit but I'm still slogging onward, writing mostly crap, but at least still writing. And then, on occasion, it's as if one of my characters finds a way to say something to another character when in reality they're talking to me. Such a thing happened today.

I was writing a scene between one of the main characters, Emmaline, and her best friend, Vanessa. Vanessa's trying to figure out what the hell's going on, and Emmaline is hedging. After going back and forth for several minutes, Emmaline says to Vanessa, "You don't understand." To which Vanessa responds: “Then enlighten me! For fuck’s sake, Emmaline. You’re talking in circles.” To which I responded, "Oh. Right. Sorry about that."

And then I decided perhaps I should step away from the computer and let my brain rest for a while. Which I did. It's a little disheartening when your characters start ribbing you about your writing, but since I've written more than 43,000 words in the past 15 days, I suppose I should cut myself a little slack. As soon as I finish this blog post, I'm going to get to the writing again, and hopefully my crap:salvageable ratio will improve slightly.

In the meantime, here's What I Watched:
  • Manhattan (2½ stars): I have trouble enjoying movies when there are no likable characters and/or there are no true character arcs. When every character starts and ends in the same place, I feel as if I've wasted two hours. Such was the case with this movie. The acting was fine, and the dialog was amusing. The whole thing was very Seinfeld-esque, really, but it was more like the series finale than, say, The Puffy Shirt or The Soup Nazi. This is apparently Woody Allen's least favorite (but most commercially successful) of his films, so I'm hoping I'll enjoy his other works more.
  • The Red Balloon (3 stars): This is the only short film ever to have won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. It's a sweet film about a boy who strikes up a friendship with a red balloon, who follows him around Paris. I wasn't blown away, but there are certainly worse ways to spend 35 minutes of your time.
  • Bridget Jones's Diary (3½ stars): I imagine it'd be rather hard to go wrong with both Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, and luckily Bridget Jones's Diary doesn't prove that theory wrong. This is standard-issue rom-com fair, but it's better than average thanks to the cast.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (3½ stars): A fairly faithful if superficial adaptation of Oscar Wilde's novel. It glosses over the darker themes and avoids perhaps the most disturbing ones altogether, but that's not surprising for a film made in 1945. While I enjoyed this version, it mostly just made me excited for the potential of the version coming out next year, as it looks to be tackling the glossed-over issues head on judging by the newly released promo posters.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NaNoWriMo 2008: Week Two

Well, I've survived to the middle of Week Two. Monday was little sketchy as my normally bionic immune system threatened to fail me, but it seems to have repaired itself (as bionic things are prone to do) for the time being. I very rarely get sick, but about once every four to five years, all the bugs I've managed to avoid band together and launch a full-scale attack, plunging me into a pit of sickly despair. I'm about due for another pants-kicking, but I'm just hoping my system can wait for the reboot until at least December.

That being said, once I broke through Sunday's bout of writer's apathy, the writing began to go fairly well. And by well, I don't mean I'm writing especially great material here, but the staring contests between myself and the blank page have become relatively short. I'm to the scenes which were the jumping off point for this entire story, so I've been riding the wave of joy at being able to write these bits that have been playing around in my brain for about a year now. If all goes well, I might just be able to break 50k by the end of the weekend, which would be a speed record for me. Of course, I'll still have another 25k to pound out after that landmark, but it's always nice crossing that 50k hurdle.

I will now break from this NaNoWriMo update to tell you a short parable.

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who lived with her two little dogs in a typical suburban neighborhood house. After spending the evening hours writing at a coffee shop, she came home parked her car in the garage, lugged her computer, her purse, two bags of write-in materials and her coat into the house.

She then poured herself a small glass of red wine and settled onto the couch to unwind by watching House, after which she put the dogs in their kennels and went to sleep. At 11 p.m., this was a bit late for her, since she would have to be up by 5 a.m., but such is life. The caffeine in her system made getting to sleep a bit difficult, but by the time the calendar flipped the page, she'd slipped into a light sleep.

Half an hour later, she was abruptly awoken by the barks of her two chihuahuas downstairs. Vaguely annoyed, she waited for them to stop, figuring they'd heard a noise outside and would quickly quiet down. But instead their barks grew louder and more ferocious. She started to grow concerned. She saw a flash of light through her blinds. Lightning? Was it storming? She peeked through the side of the blinds. She felt the rush of dread accompanied by adrenaline. There were two dark figures in her backyard. One was coming down the deck. They had high-powered flashlights.

The woman scrambled out of bed to her cell phone, which was on the floor a few paces away. Crouched in the middle of the room, she could see lights flashing under the door. Were they in the house? What if they'd seen the light from her phone from underneath the door? She couldn't hear them in the house, but what if they were and what if they heard her if she called the police? The stream of thoughts jetting through her brain was stopped by a loud rapping on the front door. Shaking, she pulled on a T-shirt over her tank top and walked down the hall, down the stairs and to the front door.

Through the window, she could see a police officer standing on the front stoop. She pulled open the door, stumbling a bit as it stuck and then released.

"Hi," she said, her voice unsteady.

"Hi, ma'am. Your garage door is open, and we just wanted to make sure everything was all right."


"Are you all right?" the officer asked, obviously not realizing the trauma he'd just put the woman through.

"Yeah, I'm OK. Just a little freaked out. My dogs were going nuts and the lights..."

"Oh, sorry about that. We didn't mean to scare you."

"No, it's OK. I appreciate it. I didn't know the garage door was open. Thank you."

"No problem, ma'am. Sorry to wake you."

"It's OK. Thank you."

The two officers left the stoop and walked to their car. The woman closed the door behind them and then walked, almost zombie-like, and opened the door into her garage. Sure enough, it had been open. She pressed the button and watched it close. "Holy shit," she muttered to herself, shaking her hands in an effort to get rid of the jitters. She spent the rest of the night tossing and turning, the combination of the adrenaline and remnants of caffeine combining forces to ward off sleep.

While I was obviously rather traumatized, I was pretty impressed by my two pint-sized dogs who rose to the occasion rather magnificently. Obviously, when you hear "long-haired chihuahua," you don't think "guard dog." But they did a great job of alerting me at least. And, while the officers' approach might have been a little gung-ho (they circled my house, checked all the doors, including the one on my rickety deck, and were about to try to find out how to phone the owner), I do appreciate their dedication to attempting to keep me safe. Anyway, I'm pretty sure I'll be checking at least twice to make sure my garage door actually get shut from now on. Oi.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Writer's Block Recipes: Vegan Pumpkin Cookies

So, after tapping out more than 25,000 words in the past 9 days, I found myself hit with a severe case of writer's apathy this afternoon. Instead of staring daggers at a blinking cursor, I gave myself a short break and decided to create something else from scratch: Vegan Pumpkin Cookies.

I'm pleased to report that the cookies were a success. They're more like mini-cakes, actually, but I certainly don't think that's a bad thing. Anyway, if you're suffering from writer's apathy/block but would like to feel productive by way of baking, here's the recipe (adapted from here).

1 cup brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
1 cup white sugar (mine happened to be organic)
2 t. vanilla
2 cups canned pumpkin
2 t. baking soda
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. ginger
1 cup currants (optional)
4 cup all-purpose flour (this also happened to be organic)

  1. Beat together pumpkin, sugars, oil and vanilla.
  2. Sift together remaining ingredients except for currants. Add to wet ingredients about a half a cup at a time until well-mixed.
  3. Fold in currants.
  4. Drop by heaping spoonful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. These don't expand outward too much (at least mine didn't), so you can put them pretty close together. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Transfer to a cooling rack and (duh) let cool. Then enjoy! These would also be fabulous with a bit of cream cheese frosting.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Box Office Predictions: 07 November 2008

New wide releases this week include animated sequel Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa; Soul Men, a comedy starring the late Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson; and Role Models, another comedy starring Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott.

Kind of a boring weekend. America wants silly escapism, though, so Madagascar's expecting a pretty big opening. Admittedly, I found the first one to be surprisingly fun. The voice cast is returning, which bodes well.

Official Predictions
1. Madagascar
2. Soul Men
3. High School Musical 3

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

NaNoWriMo 2008: In the Midst of Week One

So, Neil Gaiman has a knack for lifting my writing spirits. In his post today, he linked to this old post, which had the following question and answer.


I'm trying to find my place in writing, and I am leaning towards the Screenplay format. Since you write in almost every format, Which is easier?

1. writing a comic

2. wirting a movie

3. writing a novel

Signed,Bob Castle.

I think it depends on which one I'm not doing at the time. When you aren't doing it, the other ones are always easier, and the kind of thing that you're writing is much too hard.


Ah. That's my problem. It's funny how my brain seems to have forgotten the utter despair I felt sitting in my hotel room at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville a mere two weeks ago as tried to figure out a way to rewrite the last 30 pages of my screenplay.

So, with this realization (the epiphany being that I always go through pits of self- and story-loathing at varying locations during a project), I feel much better as the write-in approaches tonight. I imagine it also helps that I'm well-rested and highly caffeinated. With a little luck and a lot of effort, I'm hoping to hit 15,000 words tonight, which will put me at 20 percent of my total goal.

I shall leave you, faithful readers, with a picture of Mr. Gaiman himself, that stirs the writing fibers of my heart.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Recap: 3 November 2008

As predicted, HSM3, Zack & Miri, and Saw V took the Top 3 spots. Here's your Top 10.
  1. High School Musical 3: Senior Year ($15 million)
  2. Zack and Miri Make a Porno ($10.7 million)
  3. Saw V ($10.1 million)
  4. Changeling ($9.4 million)
  5. The Haunting of Molly Harvey ($6 million)
  6. Beverly Hills Chihuahua ($4.7 million)
  7. The Secret Life of Bees ($4 million)
  8. Max Payne ($3.7 million)
  9. Eagle Eye ($3.4 million)
  10. Pride and Glory ($3.3 million)
Everything Else

My movie-watching this past week was pretty dismal. The first half of my week was spent in a mad race to finish my script before sending it off to the BFSC. I managed to watch about half of Creepshow on Thursday before I got caught up in Thursday night television.

Friday I met up with a good friend to discuss The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I'd roped her into reading for the selfish reason of having someone with whom to discuss it. We had a good time being book nerds before she went off to a Halloween party and I went home to hand out candy to a whopping 12 trick-or-treaters. I spent most of the night prepping for the NaNoWriMo kick-off party/write-in on Saturday. (By the way, Sam, if you read this, the cupcake was marvelous.) At midnight, I kicked off the month by writing about 1100 words and went to bed.

Sunday was a pretty crazy day, and thank God for the extra hour of sleep. I got up and pushed to the 10 percent completion mark on the novel, and then I went to coach our last little kids' soccer game of the season. After that, I went straight to the Sunday write-in at which I ended up being the ONLY attendee. So, here's my plea: If you ask me to specifically schedule a write-in at a time and place you specifically request, PLEASE show up. I've got plenty of NaNo spirit, believe me. But I don't generally drag all my write-in crap, including a huge poster board declaring the writing goals and progress of my fellow WriMos, if I'm just going to be writing alone.

The upside is that I did manage to break 10,000 words at my solitary write-in. So, I went home and worked out (because an overworked brain sadly does not burn many calories), and then as a reward I settled down with some dinner, some leftover Halloween candy, and a nice big glass of wine to watch Love Actually. Which by the way has officially become my second-favorite Christmas movie after the untouchable The Muppet Christmas Carol.

This morning I'm feeling a little melancholy for the following reasons:
  • I miss screenwriting. I've fallen in love with the medium over the past year, and I'm bummed that I won't get back to it until December at the earliest.
  • I don't have a large chunk of hours I can allot to writing today because I've got my day job and then freelance editing job this afternoon/evening.
  • My spine feels like it's melting into my back, which is not pleasant. I've also been fighting a nasty headache-causing knot in my neck/shoulder for several days.
So, if anyone would like to contribute a little metta, prayers, or back/shoulder rubs to my cause, I'd much appreciate it. I think I just need to get into a groove, and then I'll probably be OK. And if not, Dec. 1 is only 27 days away!