Monday, July 30, 2007

Reading Groups

Do you find it difficult to read an assigned book? This is my dilemma in my reading group. Usually I can blame it on the length of the book and the fact that the women tend to choose didactic books month after month. This seems to be true of most books groups. Examples: Snowflower and the Secret Fan, Nickel and Dimed, The Red Tent, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Arc of Justice. But even when I choose the book myself or even when someone chooses something I would probably like under other circumstances, I am resistant to reading it. Why? does it harken back to my misadventures as a student? Is this true for anyone else?
This month we are reading The Good German. I'm on page 72 in a 500 pages book with a few days go. Does anyone have crib notes I can use? And the movie supposedly stinks so I can't do a Leave to Beaver stunt like that.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hairspray and the Modern Zoo

Two issues here. First, I loved Hairspray. Yes, the film traded camp for sincerity, but I adored the naive optimism that every issue could be resolved by a realization that "isms" were ruining the world.
There were a few slow spots but damn, I was tapping my feet to the songs, even if they were unmemorable. What saved the film was the idea that we were worth saving, that the U.S. was, at heart, the Great Society.
When did it all go wrong?
Also did Amanda Byrnes (or whatever) have her skin tinted so as not to appear too white for a black man? She sure was a strange color.

And what is it with modern zoos? I love the naturalistic settings but where were the animals? All of them were submerged in protective coloring. My grandson was only arrested by the motion of butterflies. Everything else was invisible. Maybe we need to paint the rocks turquoise and pink.
So odd to hear the children asking, "Mommy, where are the lions, polar bear, etc? I'm glad to see the cages gone but still... You people with children: explain.

Tomorrow I get to see Tribe and Mrs. Tribe. I am excited!!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 27, 2007

This is what happens

when you go on a vacation. You begin to rethink aspects of your novel. And suddenly it occurs to you, you should have written it in the first person. How could you have made that mistake?

Or what were you thinking setting up that plot device where the explanation of what happened will be longer than what happened? Or the whole thing is really cheesy and you should stick with the shorts. Does this happen to you? Or is it just me?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Congrats to My Darling Daughter

Who is nominated for an Anthony Award for Best Short Story for "Policy" in Damn Near Dead. "Policy" became the PBO Queenpin in 2007. Duane's Damn Near Dead is the Little Engine That Could. He put together one swell book.
And congrats to all the other nominees as well. Love the number of women nominated this year. It will be darn near impossible to award Best Novel to a man with five women up there.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Tragedy Grows

I need to talk about this with someone. I guess it's you. The husband of the beautiful woman whose picture is a few entries below (who died last week) has now disappeared. His wallet, keys and clothes were found on a beach. He is 35 years old and was on his way to her Memorial Service in Michigan. He is also an artist and writer. How can their families bear this? Suicide is contageous, I've heard. After a long relationship, it's hard to contemplate life without a loved one.

Jeffrey Eugenides' book The Virgin Suicides (to my mind, his better book) was based on a rash of suicides in this community in the 1980s. So called motivational speakers were brought it. We begged our children not to look on suicide as either romantic or a solution. It finally ended but that was a dreadful year. This one is shaping up to be horrific too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Name your best trait.

My writing group had a picnic on Sunday and someone whipped out a game with all kinds of difficult questions to answer. We're not into answering personal questions. Especially my husband who still hasn't told me where he grew up (only kidding, sort of). The most difficult question for both of us was--"what is your best trait?" No one else seemed to find this difficult to answer and one fellow admitted it was his superior intellect, but my husband and I were caught up. Speechless. Maybe it's the age we grew up in where admitting you had any good qualities was verboten.

Tell me your best trait and I'll tell you mine. Or I'll tell you what I said eventually. My husband never did name one so we named it for his. "Focus"

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Private Fears

I saw this film last night and boy, this poster is sure misleading. There were a few comic moments but other than, pure misery. Nicely filmed though. It's from a play by Alan Ayckbourn and it feels English not French. The characters are too repressed to be French.

Speaking of private fears, do you ever worry that you are picking up the voice of a writer you are reading as you write? Or, if not the voice, the style. I think the voice is consistent in my so-called novel, but I have to say, reading Miami Purity the last few days, with Hendricks' riveting voice, was probably a mistake.

One thing is sure, her protagonist could take mine in any kind of contest you name. And I don't have the guts to name some of them.
Probably most of your guys too. Made me realize my girl isn't so dark after all.

I have 60,000 K and I guess I can begin to wind down. What do you think? Is 65 K enough?

Friday, July 13, 2007


What is your preference/thoughts on when a long conversation takes place in a novel. A conversation where necessary information is given. Like a police interview or the protagonist explaining the action to her boyfriend. Do you prefer almost no interruptions? By this I mean things like:
She got up and cleared the table as she listened. He cleared his throat and continued. The phone rang but she didn't bother to answer it. They both listened to the sink dripping in the other room.
Obviously in a long conversation, there needs to be some of this. But do you think it should be kept to a minimum or do you find long conversations tedious and need breaks.
Thanks for the help.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Do you ever mistrust

writing that comes too fast. If you're flying down that white space, do you wonder if it could be any good? Do you force yourselfl to step back from it? Maybe you go and scrub the toilet or call your mother. Later, can you tell the difference between what came easy and what came hard?
RIP, beautiful, beautiful girl. You were the most talented and lovely girl in the world. We are so sad you couldn't stay a little longer. We are weeping for your loss.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ken Bruen on the Craig Ferguson Show

I just watched Ken Bruen on the Craig Ferguson show. I find it utterly appalling that following two comedians, Ken Bruen was still expected to provide humor. He was charming, of course. But why wasn't he allowed to talk about his book or what it is to be a writer? Why did half the sequence center on a unzipped fly? Clearly Ken had been prompted to stick to humorous anecdotes.

British Television has shows that discuss books. Other than the Cspan show that deals mostly with political fare, we have nothing. Why does every American talk show have to be interchangeable in terms of guests and format? When cable came along, the promise was there would be outlets for serious talk about cultural fare? Bah!
Far superior was Ken's appearance on Sunday Morning last year. Maybe people watching TV early Sunday morning instead of very late on Monday night have more patience.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Fingers v. The Beat That My Heart Skipped

Sometimes there's a problem when you watch the original movie several years after you see the remake. In this case,
the problem was I couldn't remember the subplot with Jim Brown as being in The Beat That My Heart Skipped.
I also remember The Beat as being a lot more a straight-forward crime film and less about seventies angst. Am I wrong? I also don't remember laughing so much. I thought the original was hilarious at points. Harvey seemed like he had been overly influenced by Taxi Driver. And Tisa Farrow overly influenced by Mia's acting style..
Now I liked both versions, but the The Beat blew me away. Fingers didn't although it might have thirty years ago. Can any of the film buff reading this comment on it. How about it Todd?
Is it me or if The Flight of the Conchords the same episode every week? Oh, HBO, what have you done? John from Cincinnati and now this?
Does Jim Winter know this guy?

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Snakecharmer

was accepted at Pulppusher. I am thrilled. It never gets old, does it?

I do miss writing short stories even though I am at page 190 in the novel. Sandra Scoppettone's blog today pretty much sent me to the liquor cabinet. So I am going to keep my hand in with the shorts because success with a novel seems iffy at best.

My friend at Detroit Police Hdqts suggested I watch a show on A & E called First 48 Hours, where they follow police investigating crimes early on. It was utterly depressing and I don't know how they do it. The teenagers that committed one of the crimes seemed completely apathetic that they had shot a fifteen year old girl who had nothing to do with any of it. All of the people seemed catatonic for that matter. Funny how few of them asked for an attorney. Wouldn't you do that first thing? Apparently not according to my son, the ADA. Most people think bing questioned is not the same as being suspected.

I really, really recommend The Dead Girl. The acting is sublime. Brittany Murphy, Toni Collette, Giovanni Ribisi and lots of others. Nice to see Mary Beth Hurt after so long.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

There's Nobody to Like

is a criticism I'm seeing in critiques of noir lately. Well, isn't that essentially noir? Isn't it about the failure of everyman in society? Who did you like in Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice or in lots of the classic noir. The most we can/should feel is a fleeting sypathy for a chump or innocent caught up in it. But not really even them because they will also give in to it.
If the prose is crisp, if the style interesting, if the people behave in the way noir people should, isn't this enough? I'm not talking about hyper-violence here, just the conventions of noir.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Real Place Names

What are your theories on using real place names in your writing? I know the use of real products, stores, etc. became know as KMart realism back in the seventies, but doesn't a judicious use of real placenames give authenticity to the work. Probably anything with a negative spin should be ficticiously named but what about restuarants, stores, theaters which make the story a Detroit story. And what about now-dead public officials? Can I critique them without inviting a law suit? What do you think?