Week Four: Challenges and Illuminations

January 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

January 29, 2012

Read
“Begin your day by reading something nourishing.”—from Dani Shapiro’s 28-day writing habits challenge
That was easy enough with the second book of my Goodreads challenge, The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening. I had listened to it on Audiobook last year and was immediately hooked. It’s an addictive and fast read, so I actually have a little more than a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of finishing it before the month is over, thereby staying on schedule.

Write
“Wait until you’ve been at work for awhile before checking email or going online.”—from Dani Shapiro’s 28-day writing habits challenge
I kicked the habit of checking my Black(Crack)berry as soon as I get up, and because of this productivity boost I was able to post my book review and work on my novel and still get to bed on time. (I am trying this no checking email every ten minutes thing at my day job, too. It is a bit more problematic, though, since people, especially my boss, like to pop into my office and say, “Did you see that email?”) It turns out that beginning the day by reading also helps with writer’s block, which I experience frequently. My brain freezes when I sit down knowing that I only have twenty minutes left to write something before I get ready for work, but reading for a few minutes first really gets the brain working.

Bliss
Friday night I attended an Air Force awards ceremony for my friend, where I got to swim in a veritable sea of clean cut men in sharp uniform. Unfortunately, I had a wardrobe malfunction (note to self: always carry safety pins—always), so I spent most of the time trying to duck and cover, so to speak, and had to bail as soon as the dinner was over. No dancing and no flirting for me. I came home instead and stayed up way too late drinking vodka and reading. That helped me all but forget this latest episode in my trying-to-put-myself-out-there-and-meet-somebody comedy of errors.

Saturday morning was the Black History Month Kick-Off Brunch with guest speaker Donna Brazile, who quoted my literary hero Maya Angelou: it is through our defeats that we discover who we are and what we’re capable of rising above. When I heard that I immediately thought that this concept is the basis of all good stories, not to mention our life’s journey. It is because of the defeats that the hero grows stronger.

The weekend culminated in driving to Santa Fe with my homegirls to do a photo shoot for an upcoming web series. It was a beautiful Sunday New Mexico morning—sunny, blue skies, 32 degrees. We listened to Pink’s Funhouse CD and I sat in the backset with my notebook and my Blackberry, scribbling away.

Book Review: Club Dead by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse #3)

January 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

1 Down, 24 to Go on Goodreads Challenge

Cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse is forced to rethink her feelings for her vampire boyfriend Bill Compton. Sure, he’s hot, the sex is amazing, and telepathic Sookie can’t literally hear Bill’s thoughts, making him the only man she has ever been able to get close to romantically. Yet being in a vampire’s world has a downside: the blood, the beatings, the bodies, and, now, Bill’s betrayal. A betrayal with deadly repercussions.

Sookie is dismayed when Bill leaves town on a mysterious mission, giving her nothing but a vague explanation and instructions on what to do if anything happens to him. Then he goes missing in Mississippi, and Sookie sets off to find him. With the help of Eric, the tall, blond, dangerous vampire sheriff, she infiltrates the sinister underground hangout Club Dead, looking for information. What she finds out is not pleasant. Bill has been kidnapped, and the vampires who are holding him captive are now after Sookie. She must use all her wits to find and save Bill, before he winds up deader than he already is, and she winds up just plain dead.

Club Dead is the third in the Sookie Stackhouse series and my favorite book so far. Two reasons: Sookie and Eric. Sookie is tougher and more resourceful than ever, despite violent attempts on her life by supernatural beings and unhappy discoveries about her boyfriend’s loyalty.  She doesn’t know if Eric is a friend or a foe, yet her refusal to be cowed by him seems to increase his regard for her. In more ways than one.

Fans of the True Blood HBO show, which is based on the Sookie Stackhouse series, will appreciate the novels’ irreverent blend of horror, mystery, sex, and humor. In one way, I prefer the books, because the stories focus on Sookie, the grounded, spirited, working-class girl at the center of all the chaos. More often than not, she is the one rescuing herself as well as the powerful, superhuman men who are drawn to her.

Week Three: Strange Synchronicities

January 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

January 22, 2012
This weekend I returned to the cave. It has to be done now and again. Don’t go anywhere, don’t talk to anyone. It was heaven. That probably makes me sound a little anti-social. Good thing I write.

Read

1 Down, 24 to Go of Goodreads Challenge

Saturday I holed up and, along with tackling piles of laundry and catching up on paperwork, I finally finished Club Dead. (My book review will be posted this week.) The only problem is, in a reckless moment of over-confidence, I also signed up for the Goodreads challenge: read twenty-five books in the year 2012. I don’t know what possessed me to enter “twenty-five,” it just seemed like a good number at the time. That’s like, two books a month plus one. I am now one down, twenty-four to go. I need to read one more book in the next week or already be behind. Why do I do these things to myself?

Write
It is now officially a habit. Every day I wrote, and the only day I did not work on my book was to finish the Comic Con article. The strange thing is, I published my post about Comic Con that included a blurb about actor Daniel Gillies on the same day that his character, Elijah, made his surprise return to The Vampire Diaries. Gillies’ compelling villain had not been on the show since the end of Season 2, and how we had missed him.

Friday morning I was back to work on my book. I was thinking about what song my character would dedicate on the radio to the girl he likes, and “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James popped into my head. Out of nowhere. I haven’t heard that song in years. Later that day at work, while listening to a jazz show on the radio, I heard that Etta James had passed away that morning. Then one of my Facebook friends, a local DJ, posted a video of his favorite Etta James song. It’s “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

Bliss
Friday night, before heading into the cave of solitude, I went with a  group of friends to see Red Tails, the George Lucas movie about the Tuskegee Airmen. (Commentary to come later.)  I will say that between the broken projector and the armed security guard and the conspiracy theories and the paper airplanes and the hunt for food in Albuquerque at 11:30 on a Friday night and the drive in the dark through the Blair Witch Project parking lot from hell and the buffalo wings that were absolutely horrible, we had a total blast.

Good times ahead.

Albuquerque Comic Con, 1/14/12

January 19, 2012 § 7 Comments

Skipping barefoot across the lawn. Eating peanut butter by the spoonful out of the jar. Sitting cross-legged in a corner by the window with a comic book open in your lap. The simple, splendiferous joys of childhood.

Titans of Myth (comics)

Image via Wikipedia

When I was a little girl, many lonely weekends and lazy summer days were spent with friendly ghost Casper and his magical best friend Wendy. Tween growing pains were sweetened by the adventures of Josie and the Pussycats. The leap into adolescence was fueled by the excitement, romance, and tragedy of the young superhero gang The New Teen Titans. Then my family moved to another city and away from the neighborhood store where I would spend all my allowance on Betty and Veronica and Scooby Doo. Comic book prices rose as the content shrank and the supply dwindled. A possessed person pretending to be me sold a chunk of my comics (yep, don’t want to talk about it) and the rest of my collection got boxed up and stored out of sight. Years passed.

Last year, Albuquerque launched two inaugural comic book conventions, and I rediscovered my childhood, my bliss, a piece of my soul.

Inspiration
“I don’t know where I’d be without comics.” –Lou Ferrigno. Source: Albuquerque Journal, Venue, 1/13/12

As a kid, Lou Ferrigno was bullied because of the way he talked (he is partially deaf) and he would escape into comic books, imagining himself to be the big strong hero. He then grew up to became a world-class body building champion, winning Mr. Universe twice in a row. As the Incredible Hulk on the TV show that ran from 1978–1982, he embodied with his own flesh, blood, and muscle the rage-fueled character of enormous size and power. Since him, the Hulk has only been able to be recreated by CGI. The man just turned 60, yet looks 40. A testament to the transformative power comic stories have on real lives.

Imagination
Brent Spiner said that often times, when playing the emotionless android Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, his fans did the work for him. In the episode where Tasha Yar’s sister betrays the Enterprise, there is a scene where Data gazes at a memento she had given him, contemplating her betrayal. Spiner was supposed to be conveying hurt and confusion, but his mind was just blank. “I would get letters from people saying, ‘I could see what you were feeling in that scene,’ but I wasn’t feeling anything.” It was all about what the fans imagined he was feeling. “It was a very symbiotic relationship.”

Daniel Gillies at Albuquerque Comic Con, 1/14/12

The Battle of Art vs. Commerce
Daniel Gillies, who plays the supremely powerful Original vampire Elijah on The Vampire Diaries, took the part because “I needed a job. I was $120,000 in debt.” He wrote and directed a film titled Broken Kingdom (currently in post-production), a passion project, and one that he had difficulty financing—hence the debt. People that he approached for funding wanted him to cast his famous friends and make the story  —“about a poor black kid in the slums of Colombia”—more appealing. Potential financiers often pretended to be on board and would “dangle my dream in front me like a carrot on a donkey’s nose. I still get angry thinking about it.” The panel mediator commended Gillies for seeing his project through without getting bitter, and Gillies replied, “Oh, I got bitter. But I also got enlightened. I found out people are not as sweet as I thought they were.” He said that while he did not regret the experience at all, he would definitely make it easier on himself next time around, and try to make the project more commercially viable.

Fun Quotes
“Patrick was this serious British actor and the rest of us were just clowns. When we were filming the episode where Tasha Yar dies and we’re all on that hill saying our goodbyes, Patrick starts whirling around singing, ‘The hills are alive!’ That’s when he became one of us.” — Brent Spiner on Patrick Stewart

“Me, personally, I would be drawn to Katherine because I think she’s more interesting. Elijah would be drawn to Elena because he would value her purity and nobility, qualities she possesses at a young age that some people don’t achieve in a lifetime.” — Daniel Gillies on Katherine vs. Elena

Fantastic Links
Artist Jon Hughes is my hero. I bought two beautiful Wonder Woman prints and can’t wait to hang them on my home office wall. Check out the gallery on his website.
Check out Albuquerque Comic Con’s Facebook page for some awesome fan photos!

Week Two: Comics, Heros, and Leaders

January 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

January 15, 2012

Read
I almost failed big time on reading marks for this week except that I did spend one lunch hour finishing a chapter in “Club Dead.” I made another friend connection on Goodreads; we both added Stephen King’s 11/22/63 to our “To-Read” shelf.

Write
I worked on my book every day, usually in the wee hours of the morning, even while posting about the Finding Joe movie, making daily updates to the New Mexico Black History Month Facebook page, and deciding at the last minute to go to the Albuquerque Comic Con. I’m not sure how I did all that. Oh, wait, I know how. The house cleaning went to pot and I have a week’s worth of unwatched shows queued up on my DVR.

Bliss
Chucked the housecleaning and the book reading and the TV loafing to attend the Albuquerque Comic Con on Saturday. Three reasons:

1. Lou Ferrigno—Loved The Incredible Hulk TV show as a teenager and it was my first taste of a superhero show that explored the psychological battle of the man vs. his superhero alter ego.
2. Brent Spiner—Data, my favorite character (besides Captain Picard) on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the show that got me through my last year of college and is, of course, referenced by the heroine of my novel.
3. Daniel Gillies—I have a love/hate relationship with The Vampire Diaries TV show on the CW, but one thing is certain: Elijah is my favorite villain.

Last but not least, I walked in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March on Sunday. We walked, we talked, we laughed—what a time we had.

MLK March Albuquerque, NM 1-15-12

Finding Joe –The Hero’s Journey is in All of Us

January 13, 2012 § 4 Comments

Finding Joe—“an exploration of famed Mythologist Joseph Campbell’s studies and their continuing impact on our culture.” (from findingjoethemovie.com)

Separation: hero leaves warm comfy home to venture into the cold night.
Initiation: hero navigates unknown territory—where in Nob Hill will she park—and faces her dragons­—here she is, out on a Saturday night alone and surrounded by couples, again.
Return: hero gains wisdom and returns home to share newfound knowledge with others.

A stretch? Not according to the premise of Finding Joe, which is that the hero’s journey, the basis of every great myth, book, and movie all over the world, is also true in our own personal lives.

Cover of

I first heard of Joseph Campbell when Bill Moyers interviewed him for the PBS Power of Myth series (and I still adore the scene in a Gilmore Girls episode where Rory and Paris are on spring break in Florida and want to stay in their hotel room to watch Power of Myth instead of join the pool party outside their door).

I started utilizing Campbell’s mythical plot structure when I read an article in a Children’s Writer newsletter titled “Perfect Plots for Mere Mortals,” which offered a simplified breakdown of Campbell’s hero’s journey. I remember telling my boyfriend at the time the steps of the mythic plot and he said, “you just described Star Wars.” Then, last summer, propelled by having circled too long in the dreaded plot sinkhole of my novel, I hunted down a used copy of The Hero with a Thousand Faces and studied Campbell’s circle diagram and historical and psychological exploration of each step. Finally, I finished outlining a path of my heroine’s journey that will work. At least, I think it will.

English: This image outlines the basic path of...

Finding Joe, the movie, explains that the circle of separation, threshold crossing, dragon battle, tests, flight, and return, is a mechanism that we humans have devised and used to navigate our own life trials. The dragon is really an external projection of our own inner demons. That scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke goes into the cave to battle Darth Vader and cuts off Vader’s head, only to see the black mask peel back to reveal Luke’s own face, is a perfect illustration of this concept.

People interviewed in this movie described struggles of overcoming childhood assault, losing excessive weight, and quitting law school to coach sports for disadvantaged youth. So the hero’s quest can be conquering the evil empire or standing up to the paralyzing “what will they think of me?” anxiety. This is good news for me, since the heroine of my novel does not hunt serial killers or compete in to-the-death games or slay vampires. She fights with an overbearing father, copes with a broken heart, and tries to finish college while conflicted between duty and dream.

For you and me, the hero’s journey is what we do in our own life when things go wrong or we decide we just aren’t happy with our current state and do something crazy like start writing a book.

I’m just not quite ready to quit my day job. I think I have a few more dragons to slay.

“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”—Joseph Campbell.

2012 New Year’s Resolution: Finish That Novel!

January 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

This is the year I finish the novel. The one I’ve been working on for t—a very long time. I’ve said it before but this time it’s really happening. Really.

January 8, 2012
Read
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” –Stephen King, On Writing

I joined Goodreads, ranked some books I’ve already read, and added Club Dead to my “Currently Reading” shelf. Only problem is, I’m at the tense climactic scene at the end and I haven’t found that hour or two to devote to finishing it. I plowed through a stack of Rolling Stone magazines, and got in some bed time reading of A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man (which I have not added to my “Currently Reading” shelf, yet). Nothing like some fun sexy reading before heading off to dreamland.

Write
Write a little something every day” –L.J. Smith, author of The Vampire Diaries

Done– even on pedicure-while-catching-up-on-my-TV-shows night (love Parenthood, jury’s still out on Revenge): ten minutes before bedtime a quick peek at my planner reminded me that “Crap! I still have to write,” so I grabbed my notebook and leaned against the kitchen door jamb scribbling furiously while swishing fluoride. Over the week I transcribed pages of disjointed notes from the last crazy holiday-filled month and found a couple of entries that were obviously written while I was winding down after a Saturday night of revelry, sitting at the kitchen table with a drink in one hand and a pen to paper in the other. Sometimes, what comes out in the la-la space between consciousness and sleep is brilliant. Other times, it’s incoherent and illegible: “scribble scribble only one scribble from Dad scribble.” It was fun trying to figure out what I was really trying to say there.

Bliss
Finished the week by attending the final showing of Finding Joe at the Guild Cinema. The perfect conclusion for an aspiring writer, and for anyone embarking on the great journey of life. I will be adding a post about this movie in the next couple of days.

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