Monday, January 23, 2012

Bloody Munchkin Vs. The Book Contest

So you remember that book I talked about forever and a day ago? That one where I half-heartedly sent it into a literary agent? Yeah that one?

Well it was rejected by said literary agent in 0.37 seconds forever and a day ago. And said rejection, forever and a day ago, lead to one of my favorite conversations ever:

“Yeah, they sent me back a postcard sized rejection letter.”
“Dude, I realize that postage is expensive and stuff but would it kill them to send a full size letter when they  reject you?”
“I had to send a self-addressed stamped envelope with my query. They rejected me with my own postage.”

I think if I were ever to open up a Café Press store or to create my own t-shirt, ‘They rejected me with my own postage’ would be the t-shirt I’d make. Well that, and I have to make both my dad and my daughter shirts that say ‘I could eat.’ Because they can, often and in quantity.

But I didn’t come here to talk about random conversations I’ve had, or what witty t-shirts I’d make if I’d have the chance. Today I took a potentially big step and submitted my book into the 2012 Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. And I have to be honest, I’m freaking out. I have been for about a week straight. I’ve thought and over-thought about a million little things and then, while entering the contest, I realized that there were a million other things that I hadn’t thought about at all, which means I’m going to spend another week thinking and over-thinking those things until the contest officially closes and I’m not allowed to think of those things any more.

Did I mention I’m freaking out? To the point of distraction and also to the point that its not just me that I’m distracting. I’m calling my phone tree for help every few seconds, bouncing ideas off of them, peppering them with the smallest insignificant questions, dumping tons of emails on them so that they can review my stuff for grammar and content. But the person getting the brunt of it is my husband, my poor amazing husband who has always sort of realized that I’m a total co-dependent but the reality hit him hard this week. I was second guessing every decision I’d ever made, up to the point that I was considering rewriting the first two chapters, or cutting them out altogether. I think he had to talk me down off the metaphorical ledge about this sort of stuff like five times. And the number of times he had to tear me away from vigorous revising this weekend was astronomical. “Would you put that away for an hour, you have a child to feed.”


“If I don’t get this published soon, I’m going to be revising it until I’m eighty!”
“I knew that. And?”
(Ok, so maybe I did come here to talk about random conversations)

Finally, I let out my worries. “What if one sentence, or one decision is the difference between making it through a round and not making it through?”

“I don’t think one sentence or one paragraph is going to make a huge difference. There’s a million different reasons why you might not make it through. The person reading your entry could be pissed off at life, or in a really bad mood or could just not be into it that day when every other day this would have been something he or she was into. Try not to over-think it.”

Which, has my husband met me? That’s all I do, ever! But he’s right, there could be a thousand reasons why I won’t make it to the next round or the round after that and they may have nothing to do with my actual book, or they may have everything to do with my book. But at some point I just have to trust that I created a great story and hope that other people see that too.

I hope so. I hope that everything Ukiah taught me and that I put in that book gets out there into the world. I hope I can share my memories of him with other people and that they’d get to know what a tremendous spirit he was, because it is in there too. I hope.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review: The Sorceress

I finally slogged through the Third book of The Secrets ofthe Immortal Nicholas Flamel (and again can I just say how non-handy that series title is? It’s huge and it’s clunky and it’s like trying to un-stick carmel and peanut butter from the roof of your mouth, just saying it out loud. Dear Michael Scott: Great book series, lousy series title. Signed, The World).

Before I get started with the book review can I just say that sometimes the act of reading itself can just be a chore? (Which may or may not explain my big drought of not reading, but hey, whatever.) After having the stomach flu, then watching my husband suffer through the flu and then having a bunch of other stuff going on, I was just NOT in the mood. But I finally forced myself to be in the mood and ripped through the last half of the book. And it was worth it.

You already know what I’m going to say: Blah blah blah, great sense of history and place this, blah blah blah, interesting introduction of new characters from history and legend, this time namely Shakespeare, Billy The Kid, and Palamedes (who I’m going to have to read some back story on, because I wasn’t completely sure of the reference) that, blah blah blah, while still rounding out characters he’s already introduced (namely Scathach and Joan of Arc, both of whom I love by the way), Blah blah blah, it still drags when the narrative is centered around the twins, and we’re done here.

Not quite though. What I really love about this book and the series as a whole is the different layers of mystery that we unfold throughout the story just to have another heaped on. Just when our understanding was that there were Elders and Next Generation, another layer of intrigue is added when The Archon are introduced and are said to predate the Elders. It ratchets up the mystery and there is further intrigue when it is made clear that there isn’t a straight hierarchy between the three. Thanks to politics and who knows what else, the lines are blurred between the three.

The other thing I love about the book and the series as a whole that I haven’t mentioned up to this point are the author’s notes at the end of the book. Scott, who has clearly gone to great lengths to research the places that almost become characters in and of themselves in these books, gives the reader a small reward at the end of the book by telling you more about those places. The back stories are nearly as fascinating as the books themselves and are well worth the read. In the last book he talked about The Catacombs underneath Paris. In this book, he covers the history behind Stonehenge and discusses how its formation and its importance is just as much a mystery as the books he’s writing. I love that!

Because reading this book, whether it be related to what I had going on or otherwise, felt like more of a chore than usual, I’m dinging this book down a half a letter grade. But overall, still enjoyable and I’m dying to see where the series goes from here! B

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The All Star Problem

So I’m watching Project Runway All Stars the other night, and was pretty much underwhelmed by their line up of “All Stars” for a variety of reasons. One, it felt as if some of the contestants brought back on this season weren’t brought back based on the merits of their design skills or craftsmanship but on their infamy. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of talented designers that should’ve won their respective seasons or placed higher than they did (Mondo, Anthony, here’s looking at you!) But, and I’m sorry about this, there’s no way Sweet P, just based on the merits of her work on her season would’ve ever been picked as an all star, and Alyssa…. Good Lawd Child No! When Heidi Klum herself said you made a model look like she was pooping fabric, you’re aesthetic isn’t where it should be, no? She was picked pretty much on the basis of the fact that she was loopy and made for good trashy television. Now, I don’t know that for sure, and haven’t read any insider dirt to back that up, but writing’s on the wall, ain’t it?

But Project Runway isn’t the only one guilty of stunt-casting from previous seasons. Let’s take a minute to talk about America’s Next Top Model All Stars shall we? As a whole, the season was jam packed with stunt-casted past contestants that were … “very polarizing” is the polite term. Perhaps the better term is the bitchiest bitches to have ever bitched in Bitchville? Bianca, Alexandra, Angelea for crying out Freaking loud. Angelea(who if the internet is to be believed, maybe WON the season of the ANTM all stars but she couldn’t keep her big mouth closed, so they ended up re-taping the finale and giving it to Lisa. Like Really?!?! Allison deserved that title damn it! I’m not bitter. What?), based on her modeling skills in her season, was not an All Star, she was a loud mouth who made an impression, and they make for good trashy TV, but unfortunately, not compelling TV.

And I mean, I get why its casted like that. First of all, the ones who are more character than talent are a brand unto themselves. People, whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, are drawn into basket cases, the loud mouths, the wierdos, the bitches (that has been made plainly obvious by the myriad Real Housewives spin offs. Ha!), because they are easy to box up and digest for our viewing pleasure. We know we’re getting kooky when Alyssa comes on the screen and spits on fabric. We know we’re getting bitchy when Bianca waves her hand in the air and does her patented ‘Oh no you di’in’t’ look for the camera. We want our reality TV populated with the jerks, guidos, bitches, and weirdos also because of how easy it is to judge. My favorite thing on this season of ANTM was snarking on Shannon and Alexandra, because it was easy to be dismissive. The harder thing is to look at the characters for more than what gets shown to us. My husband, God bless him, actually liked Alexandra and rooted for her solely because of how vilified she was by the show and the audience, me included. It’s easy to type cast, and it’s easy to portray certain personality traits when you’re only given an hour of time each week to get to know these people.

I also get the allure of All-Star editions versus casting complete unknowns again. Each person you bring back is their own brand, has their own fan-base or has people eager to watch the season just to see a few familiar faces again. It reawakens a plodding series when it needs a new life. I get all that. But sometimes, it’s still not very compelling.

Yet, there’s still plenty of talent that has been on previous seasons that needs to be given a second chance, that if done correctly, could be very compelling. I encourage you to consider that these shows should do a “first-offs” or ‘rejects’ edition, of people who, either by circumstance, or perhaps they didn’t bring their best selves to the game that day, got kicked off too early before we ever got a chance to know them, really find out what they are about. The best example I have is from Project Runway. The first episode out of the gate was the redo of the grocery store challenge and this one guy made a deranged raincoat/dress out of a shower curtain and some picnic table clothes or some such and you could tell he just didn’t bring his all that day. I’d assume if given the chance, he’d love to redeem himself. I’d love to see him try.

I’m sure a lot of ‘first offs’ would be plenty hungry at another shot to prove themselves. Also, I’m pretty sure there would still be more than your fair share of kooks too. But ask yourselves this, what would you rather see, a bunch of hungry competitors, hoping, praying for another shot to prove themselves or a bunch of bloated ‘all-stars’ stretching out their fifteen minutes. Also, I love the underdog aspect of this idea. Imagine if somebody dumped at the beginning of Project Runway’s season came back to win an entire season? How good would that be? That’s some good redemptive arc right there. AmIright? You know I’m right.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Happy FREAKING New Year

It’s not like I expected 2012 to be soooo much better than 2011, and let’s face it, after the year we had in 2010, anything is better than what happened to us that year. But I just didn’t expect it to sour from the very beginning. New Year’s Eve certainly wasn’t a predictor of anything ominous, I can tell you that much. I had a spa day, then we went out for a lovely meal NYE night.

My mom was in town and the next day we had plans to see my good friend Mommy2. Things were looking up. And then things stared directly into the center of a toilet bowl, literally, on and off for hours. That’s right people, first day of the new year and I get what I’m convinced is food poisoning right out of the gate. It was miserable. The only time I got out of the bed was to run to the bathroom. It came out of both ends that day, literally. Not that you want to know this, but I ruined a bath mat in the process (I’ll spare you the details on what bodily fluid ended up doing it in). Sorry for the horrible visuals. Then 24 hours later, I was over it. Good, I thought, I can start off the New Year properly.

Then Fighting Nun caught whatever I had two days later. Which meant we were struggling with how to watch Boo Bear while he fought the bug, all the while hoping against all hope little Boo Bear wouldn’t get the same thing (so far so good. Fingers crossed).

Which brings us to yesterday. Fighting Nun’s dad, who lives with us, has a chronic breathing disorder, so that little cold that we all catch inevitably turns into something much worse. He’d been fighting off something for awhile, until it all came to a head. He’s back in the hospital again. Thankfully it had nothing to do with our stomach bug, or whatever, but it’s horrible just the same.

It’s not the worst day of our lives, or worst week. Like I said before, this doesn’t even make the top ten list, or top twenty for that matter, but it sucks just the same. I had all this hope for the New Year, all these plans and now, it feels like all the wind has been let out of my sails. My enthusiasm for reading has kind of lulled temporarily, and I’ve stalled on the third book in the The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flammel series (which can I just say how NON-handy the title of this series is. You couldn’t have named the series of the whole something short and sweet like I dunno, The Immortals, or The Elders, could you there Michael Scott? No? Ok Then.). And I’m having trouble working up the energy or finding the time to write something longer than a tweet that’s not work related. This is the first time in the new year where I finally feel like I can write something of substance without bailing.

I’m still sticking to my resolution to read and write more, but it would be nice not to have to be spread in fifteen million directions so I could get some of it done.

I shall stop bitching and moaning, just as soon as I get up off this toilet. Back to regularly scheduled programming.