Switching Horses

People can have surprisingly strong reactions to the category of literary fiction. Some I understand, some I feel are the result of being locked in a dryer by a tv-level-masochistic older brother who first taped his gamey socks in one’s mouth. Misdirected hostility starts wars, people.

I can’t say I completely changed horses with Avrilis – actually more than anything I’m discovering that it is more entrenched in that category (albeit in others, as well) than I first imagined. But being as it’s also sci-fi and steampunk to its own respective degrees, I think I can make that claim (that horse-switching claim…stay with me) – and say that doing so has changed all of my writing. (Because of it, I’m inactively revising the White Whale – that’s not the title but…you get what I’m saying…)

Here let’s add a sub-title: Whycome Genre Fiction Is Difficult To Write

Let’s start (and possibly end) with a question one doesn’t so much encounter in literary with which one will – do not kid yourself – invariably be confronted in genre fiction: “But…why?”

Take a classic example – and one that has been proved and critically acclaimed so that no one has the inclination to say, but that didn’t work! (I’ll give you the test results right now: Yes, it did. Beautifully.)

Sethe becomes obsessed with Beloved to the exclusion and tacit rejection of Denver.

Literary reader: *gasp* Marvelous. Oh, the richness.

Genre reader: Why?

LR: Why what?

GR: Why would Sethe treat Denver that way?

LR: O_o Well, it’s not about Denver, precisely, it’s more about Sethe and her history.

GR: You’re doing that thing.

LR: What thing?

GR: That thing where you make excuses outside of the text for what wasn’t clear in the text.

LR: Oh, it was clear. .. And I am not.

GR: Then why?

LR: Because. Beloved is the only child Sethe successfully spared by slaughtering and is therefore Sethe’s “best thing”. Can you imagine what her presence is stirring within Sethe?!

GR: O_O

LR: O_O

GR: I saw Sethe and Denver together. I have been convinced that they are the only family they have had for a long time. Why would Sethe emotionally abandon her daughter?

LR: …I just told you.

GR: I don’t believe it.

LR: How are you not overwhelmed by the subtle and poetic way in which Sethe’s internal wounds –

GR: Her heart hurts. Got it. Why? What happened between her and Denver?

LR: No, it’s moreso –

GR: Then why.

LR: You’re looking for a tangible, present tense conflict when there’s clearly –

GR: Show me.

LR: You have to encounter the literature and decipher the clues that –

GR: Show me.

LR: x_x

GR: *opens mouth*

LR: Show you, I got it.

Right. That should be offensive pretty much to both camps, so I think I did that just right. Literary readers are pretentious philosophers and genre readers are demanding and tactile to the point of dismissing all emotional context. The world according to Bethany.

But seriously, this has slapped me in the face with The Audience. Writing Avrilis, I mean. There is an audience that I really want to reach who are not afraid of things that literally happen and motivations that can be mapped within and out of that action. This perspective has completely disassembled the White Whale (elsewhere, in a blog comment, I referred to this as having dismembered her and how it stinks in there now – wherever I do revision surgery, I suppose) because I suddenly want to make sure the inciting event is thoroughly exposed. Will it be as strong as I think it is? (Can anything truly be? This is why I have that plaque that reads: You Cure No Diseases. Well, I mean, why I’ll eventually have such a plaque made.) I don’t know. But only so many people are going to jump headlong into a character portrait when they have no idea where it’s going. Aaaand reading literary fiction did *not* teach me that. 🙂

So. Writing YA has thus saved my life.

You deserve this.

Enter Title Here

This blog is not all about television reviews.

But if it were, I’d tell you that (a) I officially watch pretty much whatever GlobalTV.ca offers, (b) Shattered is a show that’s much better than it’s hook (as in, it’d be a fine ensemble cop show without that whole gimmick that I still think is pretty dumb, despite the fact that I love Callum Keith Rennie – Canada! You did it! You made something I like!) …

aaaand, let’s see. (C) Outsourced is not a big pile of offensive (yet) as the trailer made me think it would be. Mild laughs, generally enjoyable.

And in untelevised news, I saw Wicked while in New York this past weekend and I can’t get the music out of my head. Mostly because Kate Rose Clarke was brilliant and Mandy Gonzalez has a great voice for the part. (I heard previous actresses in both roles and was like, thankyaJesus. Would NOT have enjoyed.) I’d post pictures but…(see below)

Speaking of New York, I will now force upon you graciously allow you to see a snippet of our loverly get-together! Do enjoy!

P.S. Thanks for your congrats on the pitch-to-query contest – my journey ended at finalist, but the queries are back up (aaaaagain…) for more feedback – to be honest I’m not sure why – so now’s your last chance (maybe?) to comment on any of them. (Link.)

They’ll Miss American TV

Please remind me to blog about watching the pilot episode of Lonestar with the actor whose Native American name must be “Acts with his face”. Knew by the quirkiness of said mouth and how he holds it that this show couldn’t possibly be on real tv (ie NBC). Joshua doubted me. We’re watching – they’re giving exposition like nobody’s business, literally placing tear stains on the guys’ face and expecting us to buy this ridiculous storyline…yeah. FOX strikes again. LAME. SO lame. Everybody overact now! *people on beach blankets start doing the monkey*

How hard did it try, you ask?

Too hard.

Also, Andykins sent me this song which totally reminds me of my Avrilis book and makes me wanna see a trailer (as in movie trailer) with it:

Please Do Not Encourage The Bear.

So, I was totally not going to blog today because I’m lazy and also because … no, wait, it’s just the lazy thing. I did mention something about this into the internetz and Cat (whose first and middle name are Just Write) asked me which movie I’d review. It’s between The Squid and the Whale and Steel Magnolias. Let me explain.

I live in Quebec. I guess – to some – that would be Canada. That’s another conversation for another blog post for a time that will more than likely never arrive. Anyway, the point is that I am cut off culturally. This is what America does to its patriotic expatriate children. It cuts us where it hurts the most. In the television. Or laptop, as the case may be. I’m like an HOUR outside my home country, people. GIVE IT. But anyway, they won’t and Canada has this thing that’s supposedly the equivalent called Globaltv.ca which – I’ll be honest – has at this point given me hours and hours of “entertainment” but let’s never forget that I make due under duress. [Aside: I feel like I have some sort of slow spreading tv cancer though because I have watched every episode of Rookie Blue. Do NOT ask me what that is. You will regret it. It’s not turning “good” by any means but after a year of not getting to watch Law and Order but those seasons I already own…*breaks down* it’s getting to me. I’m chuckling right along with them and I DID NOT CRY last time but if I did, it’s because I have a child and therefore anything about harm coming to one’s child even if said child is now grown will upset me and I DO NOT HAVE TO EXPLAIN MYSELF TO YOU.]

Wait. Wait. Where are we? OH! So the Canadian Hulu Alternative. They have these movies that they swap every week or so and they’re all ridiculously old. In the past two weeks I’ve watched Prince of Tides and Bad Boys. (And obviously now Steel Magnolias and The Squid and the Whale, which I shall have henceforth call SW because come on.) And you’re like, why don’t you just watch one of the movies you own? Funny story/true story. The husband and I used to go to the movies about three times a week before we had the child-god and after that we used to buy movies 4 or 5 at a time at Blockbuster. So the other day, in Cote-des-Neiges en route home from someplace, we decided to swing into Blockbuster (remember. it’s. not in the US.) to check out what was on sale. 5 for $20 when you have seen all your own movies a batrillion times was just not something we could pass up. So in we went. And down we tumbled. For you see, there were about seven movies to choose from (multiple copies of each, bien sur) and the movie I can remember was All About Steve which was apparently that super stupid looking Sandra Bullock/Bradley Cooper flick. So. I guess we coulda bought five copies of that?

I’m pretty sure I’ve never experienced clinical depression before the moment I had to sulk out the door with nothing.

SO. That explains why I have these two movies from which to choose, review wise. Can I just make a note about each and call it a day? I’m so far off the road right now…

S.W. – Okay, this movie immediately grabbed me. The immediacy of the characterization made me pause it and twitter that I was in love with it. So you know it’s good. #Twitterinducing

All wonderful performances. If anything, I’d ask Billy Baldwin why his thing was “brutha”. I love slice of life, particularly when it’s coherent. *cough*Sideways*cough* <– As in, you weren’t and you were pointless and you suck. But this isn’t about sucky movies. *cough*Sideways*cough*

I absolutely loved Jeff Daniels. For the same reason I thought the others were so good – it was never overdone. Somehow, without introduction, it never seemed like a caricature. I’ll definitely be watching this again soon. And the authenticity of Walt recognizing the flaws in his hero, particularly because of the way his reconciliation with the other parent doesn’t immediately follow but you see that longing – and yes, Cat, this is in regard to your wondering. 🙂 I just loved it. Even though I immediately and for the duration of the movie was thinking, “Hey, I was gonna watch The Royal Tenenbaums.” Which may be why I so quickly fell in love with SW. It filled the interest I had at that precise moment. And when I saw the producer credit at the end, I wasn’t exactly surprised.

Loved the cinematography, also. Clumsy, intrusive but not noticeably after the first few introductions. Just enough to make you feel a little self-conscious for watching these people so closely.

That. Was my one comment about that movie.

SM -> Why didn’t anyone tell me Julia Roberts was mediocre in that movie? And why did Shirley Maclaine have a thing for movies where a mother with a daughter with poor judgment in men loses said daughter to an organic disease after daughter’s had child with not-best-pick man and then mother had emotional tour-de-force breakdown which is absolutely the best part of the movie? To be fair, Terms of Endearment was a much more poignant movie for me. And I already loved the characters because I’d seen The Evening Star like seventeen times before I ever saw its predecessor. Steel Magnolias was okay, I guess. I loved Shirley, Olympia, Sally and Dolly. The guys were pretty one-dimensional, if that. Oh, but Dylan. Nomnomnom.

Again. This is Cat’s fault.

InfoTainment!!

There was once was a girl name Katie who lived across the hall from me in college and verily, I did love her. She introduced me to her bff, Joanna, who not surprisingly was just as adorable. And now, my little ones has blossomed into two, beautiful, infomercial success stories. *wipes tear* And I couldn’t be happier.

Katie is also happy!

And NOW (because I can’t find the other pictures I wanted….)

The thing de resistance.

*dies*

I Don’t Like To Be Touched

You guys are way too compassionate. I’ll never make a statement like that without explaining it again. (Yes, I will.)

Okay, so I’m not actually using Joshie’s query – to clarify – but I thought he was hero-worthy for stopping what he was doing to try his hand at something that was upsetting me. I’m still probably going to use the one I posted in some instances, because I refuse to think everyone is that easily confused – particularly because several people said they’re not.

I don’t advocate her website, but there’s a really bitter and angry person who blogs about how horrible life is (and all I can gather is that she’s not Paris Hilton as her reasoning) and how stupid and wrong everyone is. That’s. Not that part I’m relating to. Well, I’m not relating to any of it. But the basis (supposedly) of her angst is that she’s gotten entirely conflicting feedback from professionals. I don’t know how true her story is – sounds like she’s going through the standard query process to me – but I will say, I was pretty lame (DON’T. HUG ME. IT’S OKAY.) for expecting that in ANY setting, everyone would have something useful and sense-making to offer.

I think it goes to show you that there’s definitely a downside to being “in the know”. It becomes more a question of balance and taking the chance that you might do something in a less than perfect fashion (to someone on your list, if not all) – but seriously, if the writing is the most important thing, then the writing (not the query) should really be the most important thing. DON’T get all rubber-band-effect and not work on the query, just don’t do what I did yesterday and try to find something useful in every. single. suggestion. If it can make me feel overwhelmed (where literal query rejections don’t), I’m pretty sure that girl I mentioned is on the cusp of crazy.

So. Maybe I’ll use my pared down version on some, my short version on others. Honestly, I have no idea. But I’m really not worried about it.  Thankfully, it’s not entirely up to me to figure out. God gave me the talent (remember Bill Murray at the beginning of Groundhog Day…”did he just call himself the talent?” Yeah, not like that) – He’ll lead me where I need to go. Not everyone will “get” that last statement, but it’s the truest part of this sometimes facetious and all-the-time stream of consciousness blog. Which leads me to: the title is a joke. Don’t worry. (No, seriously, you guys. You’re sweethearts.)

Come on in for the real thing.

Moravia, You Slay Me

Josh found books yesterday.

Aside from a book in Polish, a few outdated commentaries that aren’t even interesting enough for a lark and a few that were simply too desperate to repair (a book by Martin Luther King and a Max Weber collection – EEEEEEEEEEEEE!), there were a couple that I just have to share with you before we give them a traditional viking funeral.

First up is “a brilliant gathering of a world-famous psychiatrist’s most important writings”. Which. Are entitled, Of Love and Lust. Because I want to know what a psychiatrist thinks of romantic emotions…wait, no I don’t. Particularly one who begins explaining himself through the use of words like “definitively”….

So, Dr. Something-or-other takes on Christ’s commandment to love thy neighbor. And for all of you who don’t have degrees in the field of psychiatry, he explains what that’s really all about. “The secret meaning of the injunction…is to love them to their shame, to their destruction…One can love them by humiliating oneself, by being humble and thus proving how superior one is.” He concludes that Christ was ingenious in deciding to degrade someone by loving them. O_O The saddest proof that man can’t be cured of his preoccupation with the God in whom he doesn’t want to believe. If only he weren’t so sure of himself.

Next – the thing de resistance – is a book by Alberto Moravia. It’s a collection of stories entitled The Wayward Wife. Of course, I was instantly intrigued. (No. I wasn’t.) But that was only before I read the list of his other books: The Two of Us, Paradise, Command and I Will Obey You, Roman Tales, The Lie, The Fetish, Conjugal Love (what?!), and The Time of Indifference. I can see he tried to sneak in a misleading title at the end. He was a clever minx.

After reading the rather uninspired back cover copy – below which there is a quote from The Observer boasting that Moravia is “One of the greatest literary craftsmen of our time” – I wasn’t horribly interested in even skimming the book. I checked the era, copyright 1952, and out of the corner of my eye saw the short story title, “The Negro and the Old Man with the Bill-Hook” (1948).

Should I? Darest I?!

So, the story is about a man taking a walk along the beach with a girl he prays will be easy. (Yep.) She’s Italian – perhaps they both are, since the hero’s name is Cosimo – and “every time Cora spoke, his desire faded away, giving place to contempt”, poor guy. Anyway, the best thing about her is her belly that swallows up her navel and her enormous, gargantuan hips. (Yep.) But then this Negro in military uniform (which I guess is more to the point than calling him an American soldier) appears, laying on Cora’s shoulder “a large black hand, with purple nails”. His voice was “urgent with desire” and he basically demands that she come away and walk with him. So the girl goes with the Negro (I’m desperately sorry but that’s all the name Moravia gave the fellow so I’ve nothing else to call him) and Cosimo follows them from a distance. After all, “He remembered having heard of the attraction that Negroes held for some white women, and he thought that Cora must be one of these”.

So Cora’s walking around with the Negro – who’s a giant, don’t ya know – and Cosimo, “frightened, indignant”, says, “The b*#$@… she won’t do that with me, but she will with the Negro.” He’s crying and cursing her as he watches them and then, upon passing a fisherman, Cora breaks away from the Negro and takes shelter behind the strange old fisherman who swipes at the Negro with the bill-hook until he wanders off and here’s ole Cosimo with egg on his face, for how will he explain his cowardice? And Cora, she knows just what to say: “What could you do? …He was a giant, that man….Oh, I was frightened…” for you see, “She had many more things to say of the danger of Negroes”. Then they get in the car and prepare to head home and finally, FINALLY she kisses Cosimo.

But in her kiss… “he was aware of something that had nothing at all to do with him, something that had been awakened by the yearning, sing-song voice of the Negro and by the fisherman’s bill-hook. And he felt, at the same time, both remorse and jealousy.”

Fin.

And I can hear some of you now – “You have to take into consideration the era in which PFFFFFFFFFFFFFT”. Yes, I do. I have to – no, I insist that we take into consideration just how low and ugly we allowed ourselves to be (using, of course, the editoral “we” ’cause I’m Black, y’all – HAH, shout out to CB4) and whether we’re far enough graduated beyond it.

What We Talk About When We Talk About What We Talk About

Take. ALL my loves, my love. YEA. Takethemall. (In my delirium, I am having to fight to stop reciting that sonnet in entirety. For you see – I am hot. And I like it not.)

I was going to write about feedback. But I really don’t want to now. All the world seems wrong when I’m overheated.

It's Too Darn Hot!

(Four hours later.)

No, I wasn’t kidding. And I’m now lounging in the empty bathtub, wondering why I didn’t think of this before.  So feedback. Blerg.

I know from wildly entertaining blogs, blog comments on agent blogs and real life eavesdropping that there are people who disregard the slightest criticism, seemingly based on the fact that the writer’s mother/husband/boyfriend told them they have talent. Well, we’ve all seen some measure of the American Idol try-outs (either on our own volition or by the evil of a family member – I’m looking at you, Anastasia) and we have seared into our memories how wrong loved ones can be. And how criminal it is to encourage certain people. O_O

Then of course there are people who don’t trust any feedback that isn’t negative. (Negative, of course, being synonymous with critical because who has ever truly investigated their feelings/responses to something only to find that they loved it? Apparently, no one.) These are the people who – if you say that you enjoyed something – insist that you “tell the truth”. That gets old. Huh, Josh?

This is just stating the obvious but what it comes down to, most often, is the source. Not whether or not the praise came from your mom, but who you know your mom to be. I’d still laugh if someone wrote it in a query – well, praise from anyone in a query seems useless…if they were important enough and impressed enough…the query would not be happening – but in my own life, I’ve realized that I’ve seemingly shrugged off praise from my inner circle based on them being my inner circle. Which is silly. Not to say a liberal arts education makes someone informed about the publishing industry – but then I’m not going to them to see if something will sell… that’s what psychics are for – but knowing their academic history certainly means something to me. My siamese twin, for instance, (who cannot be linked because she’s allergic to technology and social media) is a pantheon among my IB peers. Anyone who took IB English 4 with Mr. Roberts (only to find that we would spend the rest of our lives searching for an experience to rival it and likeminded individuals with whom to dissect literature) will respect her perfect exam score. When she tells me she likes something – and tells me exactly why (because hi, that’s the only way to validate such a claim) – my knee jerk reaction should not be to disregard it. Particularly considering the time I threw my head back and laughed and – in mixed company – she advised me never to make that face again…. Love that girl.

And then there’s the criticism. And I’m not talking about the writer-friend, loved one or critique partner who lets you know up front, I don’t even like this genre – I’m talking about the agent who actually gives feedback in a completely personalized rejection letter. (Shout out to Amanda.) Or any other professional, confidante, whomever whose experience or reputation or sensibilities led you to seek their opinion in the first place. (Because there’s nothing uglier than soliciting feedback only to flippantly and loudly reject it as though you never cared in the first place.) First, turn your entire body to shield your baby from the onslaught. Squeeze your eyes shut like the world is exploding around you (because it is.) And then – at least in this case – remember the time someone swooned over this project and you were nearly offended, wondering whether they thought it was the best you could do. Whoops. Reread the letter later and remember the times you journaled about whether or not this was an issue. (Thanks, confirmation.) People tell you never to query before you’re ready. That advice makes sense upfront. But then you consider the number of books that go out to editors on submission and need a good deal of work. The agent and the author obviously thought the book was ready. The point is sometimes you (and another set of eyes) didn’t know what you didn’t know. (Unless you had read that journal entry.)

Wow. So. I’m sure I’ve missed something I meant to say – always happens when I have a nice length entry and my brain is satisfied. It knows what I meant and it tells me it got it all and then I read it later and yeah, it didn’t. Way to go, brain.

And Into My Car

Dude. I had no less than five dreams last night, first of all. One was an “action/adventure” that thought it would work great in the book I’m working on. I’m not joking, my sleep brain was pitching to me while I was trying to sleep.

Myself, Jennifer and Jordan were attending our high school alma mater (but I feel like we were the ages we are now? and the a/b wing was classrooms on one side – you know, where Mr. Drew an’em were – and then the other side was all windows which sloped in an arch from the ceiling) and there was this female villian who. Was poisonous. Right. So we were at first in the band room (duh) and people in the instrument room kept fainting and then crumbling into clothes and dust. Whoever went to see what had happened would scream and scream and then suffer the same fate. So I quickly realized it was the dust that was infecting them when they started screaming. I told everyone – many of whom were crumbling in the chaotic running around. Anyway, so in a cafeteria (I say it that way because it wasn’t the ML cafeteria…nor would I frequent it, even in a dream) the girls were finally there and I saw this other young woman. Who looked like one of my friends here in Montreal (?!) and I knew – by her countenance because DUH that’s how you know bad guys – that she was responsible. As she walked by me, as closely as possible, I held my breath. Now we’re in the altered a/b wing and we’re trying to find one of the teachers but it appears all the rooms have been evacuated. Anyway, the teacher comes rushing out of the room and we’re explaining that there’s an actual person who is causing all this and that she’s poison incarnate and we have to defeat her.

So she knows we’re onto her and shows up in the wing and starts towards me, only now her mouth has widened to like a Venom-esque degree and she’s coming at me fast. I start spraying some purple foamy something or other from a tube as I’m backing away and it’s filling her mouth – whatever the stuff is, it doesn’t hurt her, it just keeps her airborne poison from getting to me. Only the tube is running out and I’m screaming for the girls to think of something. They come running up and grab the Venom-girl from behind, knocking her to the floor and as I pick myself up off the ground, I yell over my shoulder to Teacher for – I have no idea because I literally trailed off as the dream came to a close. O_O WHAT? How am I supposed to write about it, dream brain, if I don’t even know what happened?!

And also, that’s a horrible story, dream brain. I’m gonna pass.

Habberdashery

Thanks, Tor.com, now I have no reason to prattle on as I intended to about steampunk being scifi or fantasy. But I will anyway because I am me and we are here and I reign supreme. Also, let’s be nice (to me) and not bring up what agents/editors/authors/hillbillies have already “decided” elsewhere. Just kidding. But I’m not taking into account what’s been said before I speak.

I think most people would agree that steampunk fiction easily drifts into fantasy – look at Hellboy 2 for some steampunk influence wrapped in fantastical creatures. In my mind, the difference between science fiction and fantasy has largely been, the former could happen (implausibly, hypothetically, whatever) and the latter could not. Sooo, taken with that differentiation, a novel with steampunk influence (or flat-out sp aesthetic) could easily fall farther on the fantasy side than the science fiction side, right?

Okay, fishy guy's not wearing his goggles...boo.

Does it matter whether or not the novel goes into explanations of why/how the technology works or is the presence of that technology going to make something automatically science fiction? Can you operate on an assumption of “common sense” and still be scifi? I mean, recalling Ender’s Game, things were so vividly painted that I never wondered over how precisely Ender’s desk worked – it was a seamlessly integrated into the story and a lyrical backdrop to the story of Ender himself.

Anyway, in other quandaries – you can call a book a dystopian science fiction literary YA with fantasy elements, right?