Category Archives: Terror Tuesday

Try Not to Kill a Chicken

Since I’m returning to the Writer’s Digest Conference this week, I spent some time today thinking about my experience last year. It’s been a wonderful year. A wild year. A wish-granting year. Since the last conference in January of 2012, I shelved the manuscript I pitched there, penned an entire new one (or two and change…:) ), dived into the Query Trenches, and wound up with an agent who loved my book as much as I did. 

So this week I’ve been thinking about what launched all that. And as much as I did in the fall of 2011, nothing pushed me further onward than the Writer’s Digest Conference in January of last year. It gave me new perspective on the craft of writing, honed my expectations about my career, and showed me that agents are people — real, live people — instead of just gavel-slammers in the clouds. 😉 

As I embark on an entirely new stage of this journey, I’m heading back to the conference in a different place than I was last year. That said, one of the most important messages that came from last year’s conference still rings true. And as Carolyn Charron (@CarolynCharron) stumbled across the very blog post I’d spent some time milling over this week, written last year after I returned, I thought I would share it with you again. Even if you’re a reader, a carpenter, a singer, a basket-weaver, a businessperson, or anything else that is not writer, I hope you’ll take something away from this today.

 

 

I know a lot of my blog days have themes. Monday Man, Wednesday Woman, Thorsday, Friday Fellows, Saturday Salaciousness, Sunday My Prints Will Come…

Yes, gentle viewers. I do know there are seven days and not six in the average week.

Tuesday is conspicuous in its absence. Or inconspicuous if you happen to hold an anti-Tuesday bias. I had conceived the idea for Terror Tuesday a while back, but it never seemed to fit before today.

Conquer your fear.

The idea for today’s blog politely tapped me on the shoulder on Sunday, during the closing address for the Writer’s Digest Conference.

You might wonder what was so scary about that closing address. Yep. Keep wondering.

First, I’m going to tell you a story. It’s not my story, gentle viewers. It’s the story of someone quite important, though I rather think he doesn’t think of himself that way. Many, many people think he is. You might be one of them. By the end of this story, you most likely will be.

Once upon a time, in a faraway state (this statement is relative), a young man had an idea. It was an ambitious idea, full of zeal and plenty of sparks. He had an idea to write a novel in a month. And he bamboozled 20 other people to do it with him.

Sound crazy? It is. But it’s also a little bit magical.

They got together to write. They dragged their giant laptops around — he said they were the size of washing machines — and they wrote through week one. They wrote through week two. Somewhere in week three, someone found the cord dangling out of those novels and plugged it into a wall.

ZING!

When electricity starts coursing through a work of writing — it’s a feeling like no other.

Suddenly novels were happening. Characters started doing what characters do. They get up and move when you ask them to sit still. They might pick their noses in public. That one just slept with someone who is actually in love with his best friend. That one grouched at everyone for the first half of the book before unexpectedly rescuing a chihuahua puppy before it could be hit by a careening van.

The twenty people of doubtful sanity kept writing. And by the end of the month, they had novels. How did these twenty people do it? How did they manage to scribble or type out 50,000 words in a month? I don’t know how they did it. I wasn’t there. But the next year over 130 people were. And the next year more than that. And on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…and during that last “and on” there were over 300,000 people who wrote billions upon billions of words. Around the world, on every continent (maybe even Antarctica), novels were born. Some of them may have been nervous little novels at first. Shaky and trembling. Others may have started out with a bang so big that the rest felt like a fizzle. Some might have meandered around like one of Pooh Bear’s Pooh Sticks in a river — and perhaps not come out the other side of the bridge.

Who are these people? Are they the elusive novelists of the world?

Novels are not written by novelists — they’re written by every day people who give themselves permission to write a novel.

Millions of people have been touched by this phenomenon in some way or another. Whether they participated or just watched wide-eyed, full of sympathy or scorn or bewilderment — the fantastic, insane spark of an idea that kindled itself in one guy thirteen years ago has spread, leaving fire in its wake.

This is where the story caught up with my story. Because for most of that, I was oblivious. Then in 2008, I met a woman named Fly in Nashville who spent November glued to her keyboard. She’d show up to Borders with a handful of others, and they would go into a tunnel while I quirked an eyebrow.

In 2011, I decided to give it a go. I joined those 300,000-odd writers and try-ers and want-ers around the world, and I set out to write 50,000 words in a month. I blogged every day. If you’ve been around since then, you’ll know we had a wee challenge here in Emmieland, the NaNoRebel Challenge. We three, we happy three, plodded along and prodded ourselves, and we got our bar to turn purple together. I met with the Corridor Writers and spent many-a-day at Panera with our hourglasses named Sandy and Butch. Together the Corridor Writers passed 1,000,000 words together (and about 10% of that was Mollie…making the rest of us feel like slackers).

Including my blog, I wrote around 80,000 words that month. It began as an exercise in discipline and motivation. To teach myself that I could train to be a better writer, a more consistent writer. To convince myself to reach my arms out and take hold of what mattered to me. The end result was my second finished novel and a third begun with about 30,000 words.

During that month, I learned that the person responsible for this incredible journey, the one who inspired so many of us to just do it — this was his last year running the show.

I also discovered that he would be the closing speaker for the Writer’s Digest Conference. Yeah, that thing I attended over the weekend. That’s the one.

I walked out of my last planned session aiming to get some water and take a break before the closing address. Who happened to be standing right outside the door? The guy who founded NaNoWriMo. Chris Baty.

I walked past him and then turned on my heel and said, “Hey, so I did NaNo for the first time this year, and I won!” We started talking. I was struck immediately by the pure authenticity of this person. He shook my hand warmly. He made eye contact and asked about my book and what I had written — even reacted in a flattering way when I told him I’d done it “Rebel Style” and finished one book and started another. I told him that I thought his leaving NaNoWriMo was bittersweet — that he would surely be missed, but that I was (and am) so excited for him to be moving forward with his dreams.

He grinned and shifted his feet and said it was terrifying but exhilarating. I could relate to that — perhaps more than he knew. I told him that it feels good to be standing at the top of that hill, ready to just…kick the ball and get it rolling. See where it lands. Hope it doesn’t run over any chickens.

Soon all of us filed into the ballroom for Chris’s address. And what an address it was. I want to share it with you, gentle viewers, because I think it applies not only to writers, but to all of us. All of the strange containers of impulses that make up the human race.

Chris told us his story, about how NaNoWriMo began. That’s the story I’ve told you, of course. That’s why it’s not mine — it’s his. And then he said this:

I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I cleaned out my desk, turned in my keys, and I left. Monday — tomorrow — I start my new job: full-time writer.

Take a moment and let that sink in. Imagine for just a second that your dream — whatever that dream happens to be — suddenly must be fulfilled. Imagine cleaning out your desk or turning in your badge or uniform. Imagine walking out the doors of the familiar and safe, with only your dream in front of your face.

When he said those words, I teared up. I longed to do the same. Immediately my brain made a thousand excuses why I couldn’t do it too. But the next thing Chris said made something glaringly clear — it won’t be long before I must do it.  Chris quoted John Shed and said something very, very true.

A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is built for.

-John A. Shedd

It’s as true for you as it is for me, gentle viewers. Your ship may not be a writing ship. It could be any ship, bound for waters on the opposite side of the world, or an island no one has discovered. Maybe even Atlantis. But you’ll never get there if you don’t leave the harbor.

I’ll close this with one more bit of wisdom from a man who gave thirteen years of his life to a movement that has affected the world.

Get your dream in your mind’s eye. Think of it. Hold it there. The words “book” and “writing” are in this quote, but I’m still looking at you when I type it — all of you. Whoever you are and whatever dream floats in front of your face right now. Are you ready?

Listen up.

Your voice is important, and your stories matter. Someone has waited their entire life to read the book you are writing.

-Chris Baty

Now. Get to the top of your hill. I know it’s terrifying up there. It seems like you could fall and just roll down, possibly encountering some chickens. But there’s a ball that’s growing moss because it should be in motion. Kick the ball. Get it rolling. And try not to kill a chicken.

Bringing it Home: Season One of Supernatural

Supernatural

Supernatural (Photo credit: JMiu)

It’s Terror Tuesday, and though Supernatural isn’t a horror show, there are definitely some scary moments. At the behest of Kristin McFarland, I started watching the show a couple months ago, but it wasn’t until this week that I really dug in and marathoned most of the first season.

I finished the first season yesterday. I had a lot of thoughts, both while watching and since finishing (I also watched the season 2 premiere), and I thought I’d lay some of them out here.

First seasons of shows can be a little ishy, and in my opinion, the first season of Supernatural was no exception. Don’t get me wrong; there was a lot of good, and I certainly intend to keep watching, but there were some head-scratching moments that took me out of the story.

For those of you who have not watched the show, be warned that here be spoilers. Mmkay?

The premise of the show is that these two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, lost their mother to a demon at a young age. After this horrific incident, their father started hunting the things that go bump in the night and expecting his kids to do the same. When the show begins, their father has vanished, Sam is in pre-law ignoring the beasties and considering proposing to his girlfriend, and Dean shows up to drag him out of his safe life and back into the world they grew up in.

It’s a pretty solid premise. They start out with the goal of finding their dad, who left them a journal full of dirt on the less-appealing creatures that roam the earth.

At first, I didn’t see much of an arc. Most of the episodes were sort of one-offs with Dad’s whereabouts occasionally speculated about and the boys tackling various spirits, ghosts, and ghoulies. If that’s all there was, I don’t know that I would have kept watching.

Supernatural

Like this episode, with the killer scarecrow. Erm, excuse me. Norse god Vanir. Supernatural (Photo credit: JMiu)

There were even a couple of pretty blatant Buffy rip-off episodes that made me borderline amused. For instance, the episode “Something Wicked,” which bears erm, striking similarity to a season 2 episode of Buffy (“Killed by Death”) in which a monster attacks and steals the life force of children in a hospital. Buffy’s even mentioned a couple times (by a pair of Jonathan/Andrew-esque nerds who run a paranormal website). Aside from that stuff, the Winchester boys take on some well-known legends, like Bloody Mary.

All that’s cute, but what kept me watching first was the chemistry between Sam and Dean and the fact that they kept growing more layered as the season progressed. Dean goes from good ole boy to a big brother I think everyone wishes they’d had, a character with deep-seated emotions and an over-arching need to feel needed. Sam goes from a scared college boy in denial to someone who takes up the yoke given by his father with pride and learns just how much Dean sacrificed to preserve even a little of his innocence.

The dynamic between the brothers is striking, poignant, and often downright beautiful. Their dad, John Winchester, is sort of the weaker link in the family, because the writers didn’t seem to give him much consistency, which made his changing decisions seem foolhardy instead of touching. The brothers talked about him as a hard-ass, but it’s clear moving through the first season that he loves his boys, because even though he’s told them to stay away from him, John pulls an Angel and lurks in the vicinity, watching them.

He tells them they can’t help, then he changes his mind. He goes from singleminded demon-destruction plans to making a deal with one (okay, so that’s episode 1 of season 2), and his character gets a bit muddy because of it. Either way, the one constant in John Winchester’s character is that he loves his sons.

Supernatural

Supernatural (Photo credit: JMiu)

 

Though there are some odd moments, the occasional killer truck, and a finale that was less cliff-hanger and more “What on earth are you trying to do?” but overall I really enjoyed the first season of Supernatural.

Through the last eight or so episodes, they did a good job of raising the stakes and cultivating tension on the show. My only WTF moment at the end was the finale, which seemed to suffer from a severe lack of thought. Demon leaves them for dead and just goes on its way? No. If that demon wanted them that dead that much (which, hello, it did), I don’t think it would have just assumed they wouldn’t come after it again after smashing them with a Freightliner. That said, the premiere episode of season 2 would have made a much better wrap-up to the first season because it is what more definitively ended the arc of season 1.

So, Supernatural fans, I’ll leave you with the knowledge that I’ll continue on. I’ll also give you a chance to let me know which Winchester boy I ought to have a crush on, because I’m torn. Vote below!

When the Good Brother is Not

VampireDiaries_Bookmark_Stefan

VampireDiaries_Bookmark_Stefan (Photo credit: i heart him)

Earlier this week, I had a Twitter debate about the merits of Stefan Salvatore with my friend, her agent, and another friend who chimed in later. It took me a while to put my finger on what exactly my beef is with Stefan, because I’ve never liked his character much, and I certainly don’t like him with Elena.

Along the way, he’s been called the good brother.

And after a lot of pondering, I realized that my beef with Stefan is that he’s not that at all.

Here’s why I think that. This is of course, my subjective opinion.

He Betrayed His Brother

Before Damon got all murdery and rar, Stefan set a high standard of ugh. When the Mystic Falls council was closing in on the vampires in their midst back in 1864, Damon asked Stefan not to tell his father about Katherine. Stefan promised he wouldn’t.

Then he did. Not in as many words, but he gave it away, setting into motion his own transition and the events that would entomb twenty-seven vampires under the church for a century and a half.

Beyond that, the moment Stefan turns, the first thing he does is kill his own father. And that gets moving before he feeds. His next move is to force his brother to become a vampire against his will. I’ve always thought of that as a form of violation. Damon made a choice. Stefan violated that choice. That’s not to say that everything Damon did afterward was Stefan’s fault, but in a mythology where transitioning into a vampire magnifies whatever emotions you had pre-turn, Stefan magnified Damon’s hatred, his betrayal, and his loyalty to a vampire who had played them both.

Stefan’s Default Setting is Monstrous

When Stefan got turned into a vampire, he went all-binge, all the time. It took the Civil War and Lexi to drag his ass out of it. Every time he’s left to his own devices, he gets all super-murdery. He is almost incapable of maintaining his control. I don’t buy into the idea that he’s a good guy with a bad side, because I feel that absolves him from anything that happens when that bad side is in control of his actions.

He goes on a massive killing spree with Klaus. He murdered heaps and heaps and heaps of people before that. Ripped them apart. It’s not fine to kill a bunch of people just because he feels bad about it later once Lexi manages to force some feels down his throat again.

My point is that without external impetus (usually Lexi, later Elena), Stefan’s base nature is to be a mass-murdering fuckhead.

Sure, he survives on squirrels and bunnies when he’s in remission, but that never lasts long, and you never know what’s going to make him snap. There is a very big difference between compartmentalizing a bad part of yourself and controlling it. Stefan has never learned real control, and I do not trust people who have such disparate sides. It’s the same reason why I could never be a big fan of Angel — a person who could snap at virtually any moment and become a psycho killer does not make a good boyfriend. Period.

Stefan made a comment to Elena in Thursday’s episode where he said, “You don’t know what I look like when I’m not in love with you.” And he’s right. Here’s the kicker — show viewers don’t really know that either. Even with all the flashbacks to before he met her, we don’t know how he behaves in present-day Mystic Falls when he’s not in love with Elena. Even through all his running amok with Klaus, he was still in love with Elena.

He Makes Supremely Selfish Decisions

Stefan does what he wants when he wants to do it. He does tend to listen more to Elena’s choices (sometimes), but many of the decisions he’s made are only to create an end that he is okay with. Which is to say, he ignores the desires of others to do what he wants, and then he gets mad when they are upset by that.

This season, Stefan decided he needed to get the cure for Elena. First, he didn’t tell Elena about it. He decided what would be best for her without consulting her. Yes, he was acting on the knowledge that she’d never wanted to be a vampire. But that doesn’t make it right. He doesn’t seem to be able to grasp that people change, and once those changes occur, they don’t change back. Even if they do succeed in curing Elena of vampirism, she will be closer to the woman she was as a vampire than the woman who chose Stefan and went sailing into the river off Wickery Bridge last year.

In choosing that path, Stefan put everyone in danger by his reckless decision to force Jeremy to kill vampires. That scene is one of the most despicable things I’ve seen Stefan do. He knows how Elena feels about her brother. And yet he blatantly uses Jeremy to his own ends.

He Cannot Take Responsibility

Feeling guilt and taking responsibility are two completely different things. Stefan feels guilt for the people he killed under Klaus’s influence (and the body count he racked up before that), but he never really takes responsibility for those things. Instead he puts the blame on others by saying he went with Klaus for Damon. Damon never asked him to do that. That was Stefan’s choice. He also puts the breakup blame on Elena when he’s the one who went off on a murder spree, tortured her and her friends (both physically and emotionally), and all but told her to run into his brother’s arms. Then when she develops feelings for Damon, he throws a temper tantrum and displays probably the best example of middle school whinging I’ve seen in a long while.

Damon didn’t do this to him. Elena didn’t do this to him. Stefan might be heartbroken, but he has no one to blame but himself and his failure to reconcile the part of himself that he wants to be (the kind, gentle, not-a-murderer) with the part of himself he keeps giving into (the ripper who tears his victims apart and reconstructs them in fancy poses). Because he has never really learned how to be a whole person, his two halves have torn him apart. And instead of having the self-awareness to realize that, he blames his ex-lover and his brother. Who, by the way, spent a whole season trying to drag his ass back from where it fell over the cliff.

In Conclusion…

You can probably guess that I don’t like Stefan. I don’t think he deserves the title of the good brother. He acts abominably in many cases, and in deeper ways than does his brother quite often. Then instead of fixing it, of learning how to deal with the warring sides of his personality, he broods about it until he snaps again. I think what irritates me is that people label him as the good brother after being only introduced to the “good side” of him, and ignoring the rest of his history and personality does not make those things vanish. He can’t even keep that good side in control without outside intervention. Without Lexi and Elena and Damon, he’d probably be dead.

 

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