Category Archives: the silver thorn chronicles

A Twilit Diatribe and Other Sordid Stories

Because it fits the time of year AND rather appropriately wraps up with the arrival of Breaking Dawn Part II, I thought I would share this post from last November. Feel free to sound off in the comments!

This post has been milling around in my brain like a school of directionless fish for the past several weeks. I thought about re-reading the entire series before writing it and then decided it wasn’t necessary. So here I am to tackle one of the literary phenomena of this decade:

Twilight.

Before I get started, I want to make plain and clear that I am in no way attempting to demean Stephenie Meyer or her work.

I’ve read all the books. I will begin with that. And I wanted to read them. I picked up Twilight in the hot, humid Tennessee of 2008, and after plowing through the first volume, went out and bought the second and third. And then I went to the midnight release of Breaking Dawn at the Nashville Borders where I used to have my writing group. I even went to a book discussion group about it. Through all of that, I wouldn’t call myself a Twi-hard. I read them again a little while later, and things started to bother me.

I had just gotten out of a bad relationship. Suffice it to say that this man wouldn’t take no for an answer. Re-reading Twilight, I started to ask how it was okay for a man (one ultimately decades older) to sit in a high school girl’s bedroom and watch her sleep. Any man. As their relationship progressed, I wondered why Bella put up with the fact that Edward seems to think any decision she makes is stupid, and that he knows better always.

Let me interject here that I do not think any of that was Stephenie Meyer’s conscious intention.

The fairy-tale lover inside my head at this cries, “But he loves her!”

The part of me who has dealt with abuse both first and second hand responds, “Controlling, boundary-crossing love is not love.”

I get the forbidden love thing. I do. It’s enticing and seductive. But there’s a lot of wisdom in throwing that kind of love out the window from the get-go. Because even though Edward and Bella got one, in the real world, happy endings don’t exist. I actually said this in my wedding vows: Anyone can get on a shiny horse and trot westward, but it takes a truer and more perfect love to be there when the sun comes up, or when the sun is obscured by clouds, or when life happens. True love is only found on the other side of the sunset.

As I re-read the books a couple times, I began to be a bit irked by the writing. Lots of passive voice, some inconsistencies (one moment Charlie’s eating one thing, the next something else entirely). From a literary standpoint, the books are far from perfect. This is something I blame a lot more on Meyer’s editor than on herself. The books also improve in quality as the series progresses, as well they would.

I stumbled across a blog once devoted to ripping Twilight to shreds. Line by line. Impressive endeavor — that’s a lot of lines to rip apart. At first, I felt like someone had torn scales away from my eyes. “Really?! That happened?” But after a while I began to feel pretty bad for Stephenie Meyer. If anyone took that much time out of their lives to put my book through a wood chipper, I would probably be a sobbing mass of snot and tears.

Which got me to thinking. Yes, there are some things wrong with the series. I don’t think that Edward and Bella have a very healthy relationship, and Jacob isn’t any better with his rape-y kisses. I’ve always hated romance novels that begin with a big strong man stealing a woman and raping her into loving him. It’s a big, sick exercise in Stockholm Syndrome, and it perpetuates some very, very nasty myths about women. All that said, for all you can pick apart Meyer’s books until Edward’s old and gray, there is one vital little fact that Twilight critics miss.

She did something right.

In spite of all the nit-picky (and some glaring) things, Stephenie Meyer accomplished something that just about every writer yearns for. She wrote four books that not only set her up for the rest of her life, but forged an intensely loyal and devoted fan base. She branded herself. Very few authors ever achieve that. Millions of fans around the world love her books, and I have a feeling that although the literary critics might hang themselves at the prospect, her books are going to stick around for a long time. More than the money, she has fans who adore her. Her pages grabbed hold of millions of people and dragged them through her story.

No matter what you think of Twilight, you have to admit that she did something very, very right. You can’t fabricate the kind of response she has gotten. Yes, she’s had some seriously good marketing and publicity, but face it: the response of her readers is genuine. And you can pour as much money into books as you want, but you can’t buy that. She found a bit of magic, and she communicated it to her readers in a way that keeps them coming back for more. Begging for more. Hysterically crying at the thought of having more. Twilight fans are so rabid that I can’t go see the movies in the theater unless I find a time all the kids are in school and I’m the only one there — I can’t stand all the screeching every time Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner shows his face.

Regected Riter is My Hero

While I don’t expect my books to take over the world like Stephenie Meyer or J.K. Rowling did, having even 10,000 readers like theirs would pretty much make my life. Having a readership that thinks of your characters as friends, who thinks about what they would do, who gets to know them and the story to the point that they have whole conversations about it — that is the dream, gentle viewers.

So as we trundle through NaNoWriMo and frantically try to achieve our word counts for the month, I’ll be thinking about a woman who has inspired both undying love and virulent vitriol. I’ll be pondering Stephenie Meyer and what she did right, trying to figure out what my magic is.

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Glass in a Minefield

Today is sort of my day off.

And yet the words seem to be stuck somewhere, jammed in my knuckles on the way to the keyboard. I could make a list of everything that needs to be done yesterday. (Cou-this blog-gh.) Somehow I have an inkling that it would be less than helpful.

My normally underwhelming life has taken a turn for the over, between finances and bills that line up with not-so-polite sniffs and a week without income during my job switch. Okay, so I made $24. That’s barely half a tank of gas. Hovering just behind my right ear is the rewrite of my novel. I’d like to think the last few maundering weeks have been ideas stewing in my head like a crock pot full of glory, ready to serve themselves up into bestseller history the second the timer goes off.

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland, Scottish castle

No, chances are a few more rewrites and a lot more tooth gnashing stands between me and any real changes in my finances, though this new job will help significantly. So what do I do? Buckle in and dig down? Mix up some metaphors? Nope.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins, Blueberry muffins, baking

I turn to the dark side.

I make muffins.

Sure, they’re really good muffins. Lemon curd and blueberry. They’re delicious. I already ate four. But unfortunately for them, they aren’t that inspirational. They sure don’t help my behemoth of a project. Now it’s already 1:20, and I have to go to work and take a test on beer and food that I feel 72% sure I will fail (the food part, not the beer part — four days isn’t much to memorize a menu).

So why am I spending my evenings watching Veronica Mars again instead of working on my rewrite? Maybe it’s because every time I sit down to write, every sentence ends up punctuated with, “Buffy! Easy!” as the puppy makes the cat squeak or “Willow, down!” as the kitten sticks her face in my breakfast. By the time they settle down, the puppy needs to go outside (or has gone inside), and I can’t remember for the life of all things fuzzy what I was doing.

Nah. I could blame them, but they’re just being babies.

It’s my own fault I’ve been so lazy lately. There’s a word for it, and that word is discouragement. If I were to scrunch my eyes shut and stick out a finger, that finger would land on an innocuous little sticky note with four lowercase letters written on it.

Yeah, that's the one.

I think I haven’t felt like working on my rewrite because of fear. I’m afraid of the mountain of debt under the carpet of our apartment. I’m afraid that this gamble I’m taking of working as a server while I try to get my writing off the ground will just make me into a 30-year-old with no real “experience” in a traditional field. I’m afraid I won’t be able to provide for my family. Those are harsh fears, sharp and cold and sterile fears. They’re fears I don’t much know how to address or conquer.

It’s  not just about the writing. It’s the other things that squeeze in on me. Each distraction, each new envelope that comes in the mail is a reminder that we’re just sprinting to catch up. Each batch of muffins seems to be made of lead. As much as I would like to believe that getting this rewrite done will change something, that belief is as fragile as looping blown glass in a minefield, and as I dance around it, I wonder which step will create the booming symphony of that glass crashing into shards.

I think I turn to baking and cooking because I have to believe that something I make with my hands can sustain us. There’s a power in that belief that can turn blown glass to diamond hardness, if I only knew how to harness it.

So for now, I’ll drink my Thai tea, eat my muffins, and fixate on the irony of the mug I chose quite by accident.

Big “Fuzzy” Bad

Me. Sometimes.

I’ve been writing through the third book for a couple weeks now. I’m about 30,000 words in, which is really exciting. So exciting I might start bouncing.

One of the key developments in this book is that we not only get to meet the mysterious redhead who has been flitting about everyone’s visions for two books and learn her back story, but we find out that her back story includes one of the series Big Bads…before he was a Big Bad. Back when he was just Kinda Naughty and didn’t know what to do with himself.

The Big Bads often have some sort of Traumatic Life Event that takes them from being Kinda Naughty and maybe even contemplating Being Good to becoming the Big Bad. They don’t seem to cope well with stress.

I made a little graphic for you to illustrate this transformation, but I am a computer genius technologically illiterate, and its glory would burn your eyes so you have to click this link instead.

Spectrum of Badness

Anyway. The point of all this is that my Big Bad has a couple of sympathetic moments, especially when you realize he’s the dude from the the flashback. I thought about making him super conflicted and broody for a while, and while he kicked and screamed and dragged his legs behind me like a tantrumming toddler, I came to the decision that he wouldn’t do that. This guy is nothing if not decisive. He knows what he wants from life and the choices he’s made.

So no tearing him up inside. Because he’s already dead inside. The parts of him that could store any sympathy or compassion pretty much rusted away years ago. Besides, their story is tragic. It’s supposed to be. And he’s not a part of her life anymore — he’s just not.

So my Big Bad is not a Big “Fuzzy” Baddie. He’s not going to get any less terrifying. I thought he might for a minute there, but what do Big, Traumatized Bads do when someone makes them feel weak?

Something really, really Nasty.

Even though I know what happens in my story, I know how it all plays out, and I’ve known for a while what the Ultimate Big Bad was up to, seeing it coming just over the horizon now is rather sobering. It’s going to put my protagonists through hell, along with a big chunk of the world.

When all is said and done, though, I think it’s shaping up to be pretty…epic.

If ONLY it could be this epic.

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