Meat for the Beast

SO my birthday weekend- complete with copius consumption of tasty beverages and a certain 18 ounce steak- was a landmark event, partially because it marked the end of the bacchanal begun in mid October when my mother visited and bought us a few gallons of hooch. Meat, cheese and copious drink (plus snacky treats and desserts) marked the time ‘twixt that visit and Pioneertown. No more! We cried. For my body hath grown unwieldy, distended and slow.

So I’ve been really watching my diet- specifically meat intake, booze intake, and portion control. These three, methinks, are my great weaknesses.

So far, I’m doing pretty well. Usually I eat some fruit and nuts for breakfast (a handful of peanuts, a banana, maybe some dried apricots) a salad for lunch, and a small serving of whatever Bettie or Boopsie are serving up at home- usually vegetarian, usually pretty healthy.

My body has reacted to the change faster than I thought, and any high sodium meal (like, sigh, french fries from Moe’s, or a pork & leek dumpling w/ soy sauce from HK Mart) makes me feel painfully dehydrated and a little head-achy. When I have binged a little on meat or cheese, I have FELT it, and my body has rebelled accordingly.

On the one hand, this is good. I crave the fresh veggies and fruit and nuts physically- and get no ill results from eating them. When I need a hot pick me up in the morning, I go for the oatmeal or if I do cave and grab pamcakes, I skip the bacon and sausage.

I don’t really miss the booze- though I do miss beer. And when I have a beer, I kinda miss having a shot to go with it. So mostly I drink the occasional glass of wine after dinner with the sisters. This has made my face (and torso) considerably less puffy.

But jesus fucking joker christ, psychologically I am craving steak frittes to the point of near madness.

gabba gabba hey

this week, the bear hath eaten of mine flesh.

I am so goddamned exhausted.

Sam is having some weird 3-4am wake up period where he’ll whimper himself awake, then ask to get in the big bed with us.

I don’t begrudge the kid his cuddles- in face I am a firm believer in cuddles to chase the frights off.

But the regularity, the consistency of the waking is a bit trying on my own sleep- especially since some mornings I have trouble getting back to sleep myself once I’ve tended to him. When I have, I have awoken in great pain and muscular discomfort from trying to fit my vast girth on the very edge of the bed while he takes up part of my space and Annika the rest (she having either migrated there to get away from the baby trying to sleep-nurse, or because she is a bed hog, evidence inconclusive at this time).

This morning, after 3 or 4 consecutive pre-dawn whimper-awakes, I tumbled from bed when he started quietly sobbing, comforted him to fully awake, then escorted him into the big bed, per the usual. I may or may not have whispered a few silent entreaties to Morpheus to BACK ME THE FUCK UP HERE, MAN, but soon enough Sam was snug in bed, cuddling his mama (snoring softly, as is her wont) and I- after downing 6 advil to cope with the horrible pain in my side from already sleeping in an awkward position- prepared to do the same again.

Only Sam was awake. Wide awake.

I drifted a little, was vaguely cognizent of him trying to wake up his mom. She passed the buck to me (think she used the baby as excuse, can’t be sure since I’m reeling from sleep dep: as I stumbled to bed last night I calculated around 10 hours sleep in a 48 hr period- so now we’re looking at 15 hours spread over the last 3 nights) and so I stumbled into the living room with Sam.

He was awake, and wanted me to make coffee. Ok, I did so. Then he wanted me to help him draw.

He has recently discovered that he loves drawing. This being Sam, the drawback tends to be that he really wants YOU (i.e. me, aunt K, Annika) to draw and he’ll add some yellow flourishes. Still, it is a great interest for a 4 year old to have. But at 4:49am, I’m not real focused on art.

Fortunately, Auntie K and he had started a sketch of The Incredible Hulk last night before he went to bed, so I filled in the purple pants and with Sam’s help added a touch of yellow to the Hulk’s green skin (seriously, the kid loves the yellow crayon).

Then Sam wanted to admire the rest of the Superheroes he and K have been drawing (Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman, and Hellboy) and I had to gently dissuade him from turning on all the lights, since his Aunt sleeps upstairs in the open loft and was probably gritting her teeth and praying for a cone of silence since she has to work today…

And then he wanted to go back to bed. And I have no idea if he is asleep or terrorizing his mother and sister and should probably go check on them but JESUS FUCKING CHRIST I need a break from sleep dep.

Thusly: I want cold beer and a cheeseburger. Yes, at 5:45 in the morning. It is my comfortiest comfort food, and believe you me: if I had the fixings for either I’d be all over that shit.

Oslowe vs. Twilight 3 & 4: lets just wrap this shit up, please

I mean, I read all 4 books in less than a month, over two months ago? I haven’t updated my blog because I have physically dreaded writing these article/rants.

So, anyways, there are these two kids. Emotionally stunted, physically beautiful kids. They are in love, even though he is some sort of mutant vampire and she is a clumsy dimwit. Her dad thinks she should spend more time with her “friend”, a formerly interesting character who turned into a shaggy dog of a joke and then became a horrible, boring, aggressive character.

There are a bunch of snobby Euro-trash vampires who want the Girl’s power, and some red-headed vampire that wants to kill her, and the Wolf-Boys of the Rez don’t like Vampires and the Good Vegan Vampires have golden fucking eyes because they are depleting protected animals like grizzly bears (not black bears or brown bears mind you, but Grizzly) and mountain lions.

So the third book is basically all posturing between the Wolf-Boys and the Veganpires and threats, but it turns out- oh noes- there is a growing army of young vampires (which I am going to call Younglings, because then I picture those cute, cute little jedi kids that Anakin kills, and I giggle) and the Veganpires are all: “Oh noes, the Venturi” or whatever the fuck the Italian court of preening rejects from someone’s junior high school pastiche of an Anne Rice story are called, “Oh noes, the Venturi are going to use this as an excuse to wipe us out! Because they are all Machiavellian and stuff” except they aren’t, because the fucking author doesn’t understand how Machiavelli’s philosophy’s actually work, so like all crappy writer she just assumes “scheming people”= Machiavellian.

And as the book gears up to the Big Battle between the Veganpires and the Younglings (hee!) the Wolf-Boys decide to throw in with the Veganpires, because common enemy blah-blah Bella cakes.

And then we DON’T GET TO SEE THE BATTLE, because Meyers has Bella and Jacob and Edvard go hide so that Bella can almost freeze to death so that Jacob has to cuddle with her because Edvrd is COLD COLD COLD, man, like a fucking BEAUTIFUL STONE CORPSE CHISELLED OUT OF MUSCLED DIAMOND or something.

This is possibly the most awesome scene I’ve ever read, because it reads like some creepy teen fantasy about being with the perfect guy who is a dangerous, really clean, brooding dude, but an even more rash and equally dangerous and considerably more sweaty leather wearing less-perfect guy has to fuck you or something. It is hilarious. ESPECIALLY when Bella falls asleep, so then she thinks she is “dreaming” the conversations that Jacob and ‘Dvrd have all night about her. OMG, she is like TOTES at her own funeral and she isn’t even dead yet! (Foreshadowing!)

Then there IS some fighting, but who fucking cares? Victoria was a non-entity in the 1st book, inflated to some sort of off-screen bogeyman in the 2nd book, and is now Magneto, assembling her army of Evil Mutants to attack the X-Me- I mean the Veganpires.

Because, really, that is ALL that TWILIGHT fucking reminds me of, an angst-driven comic book about outsiders quarreling amongst themselves and sometimes banding together to fight the meaner, less nice outsiders and then having some teenage crap happen. Like X-Men, amiright?

So we get to see about half a page of Victoria fighting Jacob and Eddie, and the good guys win, of course.

Oh, and Edz all like: “Pfft, if he makes you happy, why don’t you go with him, I’ll just leave-” like fucking de-balled Han Solo and shit, and Jacob is like: “yeah! Go with MEEEEEEE!”

And somewhere was the kiss-rape sequence, which- meh- or maybe that was in Book 2?

The end.

Book 4: Bella and Edward get married and fuck so hard that she passes the fuck out, all set on some enchanted island. Then she is pregnant with a Soap Opera Baby (rapid growth acceleration) and IT IS ALIVE and Larry Cohen prolly couldn’t sue Meyers for Intellectual Property rights, but he can totally bitch about it in a bar with David Cronenburg who- IF he even gave a shit about Meyers- would say: “That woman is really terrified of her body, of the fact that women have complex biological systems and urges, I would like to remake The Brood starring Stephenie Meyers and her death-womb”.

Oh and then suddenly HALF THE FUCKING BOOK is Jacob’s narration.

This is possibly because Bella is half-dead or half-unconscious or whatever, but after the magical dicking she gets from her dead husband and the following “Surprise!” Jacob narrates the entire pregnancy and the childbirth. Probably because Meyers was so goddamn scared of talking about a human body doing something natural that she kept fainting and freaking out her real-life husband, who has probably taken up smirking in order to score a little touch now and again.

And then the baby finally comes.

I’m skipping over the endless I DON’T GIVE A SHIT of what Jacob and his Wolf-Buddies telepathically communicate with each other, because see above about SHIT that I DON’T GIVE A of.

And yes, the baby is born and Jacob imprints on the baby and YES it is as fucking weird as you’d expect.

Meyers tries really, really hard to make it not be creepy, and honestly I didn’t find it creepy (because Meyers makes it very clear it is nonsexual and WTF, it is her universe she is writing in so why not?) so much as I found it a really cheap way out of the love triangle she’d been flogging for 3 fucking volumes.

So Edward has to turn Bella into a vampire, cuz otherwise she’ll be all crippled and dead and shit because the telepathic half-vampire baby is kinda fucking strong and shit. And all the Veganpires are like: “Oh noes, Bella can’t see the bebee because she will try to eat her because all vampire younglings are ferocious and shit and twice as strong as older vampires” which they’d set up in Book 3, but still had the Veganpires and the Wolf-Buddies defeat a massive army of Younglings so- hey, money and mouth, Meyers?

Anyhow, Bella though can control her ferocious youngling bloodlust.

OF COURSE SHE CAN. Mary Sue can do ANYTHING. She is special.

And like a “special” person, names her daughter Renesmee. After her mom, Rene, and after Edward’s “mom”, Esme. Because apparently, Bella was meant to be played by Jaime Pressley as Joy from My Name Is Earl.

Aaaaand now the Wolf-Pack is all allies with the Veganpires and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

OH, but WAIT! That ISN’T the END!

(it isn’t the End? CAN’T it BE the END?)

There was this minor vampire character who got kilt by the Wolf-Buddies in Book 2, and it turns out he was shacked up with these other Veganpires that live in Alaska, and that Veganpiress dead dead-guy was shacked up with comes to, I dunno, tell the Cullens that she really likes how quirky fucking Alice is or something, and she sees the half-babypire running around and is all: “AH, it’s ALIA from DUNE!”

Because all fantasy worlds have fears of abominations, so she runs off to tell the Ventura Avenues in Italy that it is time to reenact the Kirsten Dunst courtyard scene from INTERVIEW on the Veganpire clan.

Except, you know, that would just make a disco ball of sparkle. In the Meyerverse, vampires need to tear each other apart with their bare hands and I’m pretty sure it is described as sounding like rock being carved or something. Because they are STONE COLD GORGEOUS.

And the Cullens are like: Ah, shit. We need to make a stand (like the X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood did when Brett Ratner made Fox a lot of money)” and so they ask all of the other Veganpires, and quite a few non-vegan meat-eating Vampires to come and “bear witness” to the Italian inquisition of the Venture Bros.


Many of them have their own superpowers, including one who might be The Avatar, because he totally can earthbend and other shit. And we are supposed to care about all of these new mutants, but Meyers has barely been able to drum up my sympathy for anybody in three and a half books, so why start now?

And Alice, quirky spunky sparkly Alice, who has pre-cog abilities that the Vultures really want in their camp, takes a powder and splits, leaving the heroes going: “Oh noes, she saw something horrible coming… she let because we will LOSE” and I’m all “FUCK YEAH” because I am READY for an Alamo sequence.

Which doesn’t come.

But the characters basically write their death letters and give them to each other, and Jacob-wolf is SAD, and we know this because:
“A tear the size of a basketball rolled into the russet fur beneath his eye.”

I laughed so hard after that part that I had to put the book down for a few days.

Right, the not-Alamo happens and the Voltrons show up with all of their evil powers and face off against the Veganpires and their allies and the main Vulture is all “blabbity blahcakes, oooh, you have werewolves? Neat!” and Oh. My. God.

It is like if all the Orcs showed up outside Helm’s Deep and the heroes and refugees were all: “Oh shit, they gonna kill us dead,” and then they talked about reaching a consensus and avoiding bloodshed and then the Orcs tore Legolas apart for being a gay Elf, and then everyone went home.

Because that is what happens, and the Veganpire chick that dropped the dime on the Cullens gets killed and everyone is SO UPSET- except the reader, because who the fuck is this character and why should I care?

Oh, and then the GREATEST piece of writing in Meyers CAREER happens, because Alice comes back.

Are you prepared? Do you think you can handle it?

I am printing it below here, unaltered.

“Why don’t you join us, Alice?” Edward called loudly.
“Alice” Esme whispered in shock.
Alice, Alice, Alice!
“Alice!” “Alice!” other voices murmured around me.
“Alice,” Aro breathed.

(That last part was me, though it should have been one of the Transylvanian vampires that don’t like Aro and the Vogons)

And somehow Alice coming back is like the sun shining (because she is so QUIRKY!) and, whatever, the Visigoths leave and some of the free range vampires are interested in becoming Veganpires, and the wonderful beautiful Cullens and their Wolf-Buddies will live happily ever…

And THEN, it is over. And nothing has happened except the Happy Family is bigger now.

“In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Meyer responded to the negative response of many fans to the book and called it the “Rob Effect”; she said that the fans need time to accept the ending of Breaking Dawn, just as they needed time to accept Robert Pattinson playing the role of Edward in the Twilight movie.”

Yes. That is it, Steph. That is the problem; it is “The Rob Effect”. It has nothing to do with the fact that the Imprinting thing is all KINDS of fucked up, that NOTHING really HAPPENS in just under eight hundred pages…

You know what happened? I died a little, inside.

Oslowe vs. Twilight 2: The Renegade Edition

Before this, there was this

Book 2. Oh, Book 2. The writing definitely improved a bit, and gave the character of Jacob Black (a minor character saddled with some exposition in book 1) something to do, and Bella someone different to hang out with. There is this weird Team Jacob/Team Edward bullshit with some of the Twilight Fans. THEY BOTH SUCK, OK PEOPLE? As I’ve stated before and will again here: I am on Team Buffy, or Team Blade, whichever one kills these fucking characters faster.

Book 2 is almost interesting with the introduction of Werewolves (sorry, Courtney) who have this terrifyingly prison-rapey style draft sequence. After he has become one of The Pack, Jacob has trouble meeting Bella’s eyes and is all rageful and anxious and full of self-loathing, and then his four Bros come walking out of the forest, sans shirts. Mmmm, prison sex on the Rez. Very nice, Stephenie Meyers, classy, very nice.

Oh, and we meet the girl one of the Wolfboys is shacked up with, all scar-faced from “making him angry” because, you know, werewolves are hostile motherfuckers.

It is almost interesting- Meyers obviously understands what the monsters mean in classic literature/folklore. The werewolf as unrestrained id/rage/rape, the Vampire as- oh no wait, SHE MISSED THAT PART. Because her vampires just aren’t. They are the X-Men, each with a different power and a personality that matches it.

But on the werewolf front- she almost, kind of, gets it right. Promptly ruining the only character who seemed vaguely human (snerk), meaning that good-natured Jacob kid who becomes an entitled little beast- I think the semi-infamous Rape-Kiss sequence isn’t until Book 3, but he still turns into a dick the minute he becomes a werewolf. Also? Cocksure- much like Edward, Jacob is suddenly smirking at Bella all the time. Apparently, Men Feeling Superior to the Little Lady is how SM tries to relate attraction and romance.


Also the meta-plot villains of the series, the Vosomething vampires are introduced- they are your standard old fashioned nasty vampires- at least they aren’t the modern euro-trash-ran-through-exploding-latex-factory-hissing vamps. Though I think they do hiss. They don’t really do anything other than hiss, but Edward and his family all kind of resent them for being all evil and shit.

Well, they do massacre a busload of tourists- but c’mon, it isn’t like I can dredge up sympathy for tourists. Besides, they are fucking vampires doing evil shit like killing people and drinking their blood is kind of what they do!

Oh, way before that there is some more lovey crap that culminates in Edward wanting to commit suicide and- it’s just awful. All of the stuff with the vampires in this book is truly bad- the writing might be slightly better on a technical level in this book, but the plotting/story is EVEN WORSE.

So Edward thinks Bella isn’t safe because of his love- see, he is a threat to her or something. So he convinces his entire family to uproot and split, leaving Bella alone. Mind you- they are AWARE that there is at least one non-“vegetarian” (i.e. overpopulated human ignoring, endangered species murdering) vampire that KNOWS about Bella, and even has her scent- and that THE CULLENS are the only reason this vampire isn’t going to try and kill Bella. But they leave anyway, because Edward is so very fucking Emo.

Alice is apparently a huge fan-favorite character. She is supposed to be quirky and weird and funky- we can tell because she has spikey hair. Folks, that is called Lazy Writer’s Crutch #379: “Establish character archetype immediately by describing their hair” LWC #557 is also in evidence: “describe a character’s walk as being like dancing, this will show that they are eccentric!”

Oh, and the leader of the Voturasomethings comes across as a character created by a high school outcast who liked the movie INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE (especially dreeeaaamy Antonio Banderas) but didn’t read the book. Seriously. I can’t remember the characters name but I want to say it was Arlo, which already sounds like a dinner-theater rip-off of Armand.

Poor Meyers MUST bring to our attention how Bella and Edward are star-crossed lovers. Like a certain pair of… oh Christ, you know what I’m saying. Here is the thing: a lot of teenagers probably eat this shit up with a spoon. It is too be expected and acceptable. I remember all too well the incredibly heightened emotions of teenaged “love”- lust/attraction etc. With Bella, it is kind of relatable (kind of sort of maybe a little). She is a teenager.

But Edward is one of those goddamn literary vampires that stopped emotionally aging when he became a vampire- look, fanwank all you want, but unless a writer specifically makes that the fucking POINT, it is RETARDED- so he is nearly 90-some years old AND HE IS STILL AN IMMATURE LITTLE FUCKING PRICK.

Teenagers can flip out over how romantic Baz Lurhman’s Romeo + Juliet is- adults who still do are suspect. People who have lived an entire lifetime (and then some) in their prime- that is just fucking pathetic.

Likewise, anyone who buys into Twilight/Meyers views of romance- seriously buys into, not just enjoys as escapist fantasy- is suspect. Fiction is often escapist- I have no problem with that, romance, horror, sci-fi, what have you. It is the very loud insistence of many of the Twihards defending the series by saying “this is what women WANT, this is REAL romance”- THAT scares me.

When Bella is drawn to Jacob- is essentially using his attention as a way to overcome her grief at being dumped by that donkeyfucker Edward- there is some semi-believable emotion. I’m not saying Meyers has any gift, but she CAN sometimes worm into a realistic or at least understandable teenaged mindset. Her discovery that “taking great risks” makes Edward pull a Jedi Ghost and give her warnings is laughable- but I could almost tolerate it… if Meyers hadn’t been so in love with the Edward/Bella coupling.

Let me put it this way- as I was discussing with Nova- if at the end of the series Bella had matured enough to realize that Edward is controlling/smothering/stalkery, and Jacob was a sweet kid who hormones turned into a raging/brutal/douchebag and she dumped them BOTH and went out with boring Mike, the nice but not too bright human kid- well that would have actually been a pretty interesting commentary on young love.

See, young love is SUPPOSED to be all fucked up and dramatic- it was for ALL of us that experienced it in pretty much any form. All those emotions and hormones and sexual urges and romantic ideals? We were such goddamn messes! But eventually, we (mostly, obviously not SM) grew the fuck up and moved past our idiocy. Had the books ended with, as it were, childhood’s end- that could (in the hands of a better writer) been pretty powerful and kind of awesome.

As it is, the series just gets more batshit at it continues. 2 down, 2 to go.

…and THAT is one to grow on!

Today I was reminded that I once read part of a Dan Brown book. It wasn’t my first encounter with a best-selling novelist who held the #1 spot on the NY Times Bestseller list for an ungodly amount of time, it wouldn’t be my last.

As most of you know, I am still hacking my way through Stephenie Meyers’ magnum opus, The Twilight Series (Japanese translation: No Sexy Happy Fun Time Sparkle GO!). I’m pretty sure it has sold more copies than anything else I’ve read in the past two years other than JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

And today, I realized, I have LEARNED important and valuable LESSONS from best-selling authors!

Let me share some with you!

1. Keep your chapters SHORT, silly! Glenn Beck and Dan Brown agree on that one! This is because the average reader (the people whose buying of books enables an author to arrive on that magical NYT list) doesn’t really like to read. Reading is hard.

Also, don’t use big words for the same reason.

2. Did you put a lot of work into making your characters fully realized, living breathing personalities with feelings, hopes, dreams, and body odor? Well, you sure wasted a lot of your time!

All you need to do for characterization is tell the readers what they think of them! For example: “Kelly was a really sexy girl. I watched her sexily walk across the floor. My heart lept into my throat at how sexy she was.”

Now, the reader is going to be sure that Kelly is sexy! If you want to make it clear that a character ISN’T sexy, just tell the readers in plain English! There is no reason to look for the right balance of reaction and instinct in your characters, just say how they feel as bluntly as possible! “Dwayne was disgusted by how unattractive Misha was, especially when she stood next to sexy Kelly” can save you a lot of those pesky words!

And remember, just a few quick descriptive words (handsome & tall, or short & dull, or dreamy & sparkling) are all you need to make a character!

3. Why develop a plot “naturally” and have your character discover what is going on around them, when you can just have characters deliver all the information in (small, digestible) chunks of exposition? No reason! Exposition is so much faster! Tell, don’t show!

4. Use words however you want to! Your readers won’t care.

For example: “Joe Bob smirked at me when I told him his t-shirt was kind of cool.” Now, a lot of you reading this might think: “Wow, Joe Bob is a fucking tool!” And you would be right- but only in the real world. In the world of best-selling fiction, “Smirk” doesn’t match the definition of: ‘a smile expressing scorn, smugness, etc., rather than pleasure’.

If you can write like a best-selling author, ‘Smirk’ means that Joe Bob is beautiful and smart and handsome and so talented. And the t-shirt is probably from Ed Hardy.

5. Make lots of references to other, vastly superior, well-written works of literature! See: most of your audience will have only read the Cliff Notes, so they will assume that you are Smart and your characters Interesting.

Also: be sure to open your novel (if not each chapter) with a quote from some work of classic literature, poetry, or even the Bible (for symbolism). That will make a click in your readers head, and they will think: “Aha, that is a work of classic literature/poetry- the writer must be quite smart to be aware of this Shakespeare/Blake/Tennyson fellow, I’ve heard of them too! This book is high brow!”

6. Symbolism & Foreshadowing- when you can you should use really simple stuff that everyone gets. Like have your main character have dreams about being chased by people that they know are their enemies, and then later in the book have this actually happen! Wow! I’m getting chills just thinking of it!

I’m pretty sure that was Foreshadowing, whereas Symbolism would be if your character has a dream about their mother getting picked up by an angel and flown to heaven, and then later the mother is in a plane crash and dies. Woah, man! That is some “heavy” stuff!

7. Formula. Just imagine you are lucky enough to not only write ONE book and get it published, but the audience and publisher want you to do MORE! Wow! I get all tingly just thinking of it. But how do you make the follow-up books as good as the first? Simple, silly, rinse and repeat!

Let us say that, in your first book your main character stumbles through a lot of stuff without really having a clue about what is going on until the finale. Then, when they are about to die/be imprisoned/get expelled you have a mysterious gift/message/character that didn’t seem to have any real reason to be in the story save them/give them the info needed/grant them a fucking wish or some shit. Easy!

You can flog that crap for at least seven books!

Phew- I know this was a lot to digest, but between these Best Sellers I’ve been reading, and this trusty thesaurus I’m ignoring (Just like Stephenie Meyers!), I’m going to get to the bottom of Good Writing! Come back for more!

Total Eclipse of the Heart- The Perfect Storm

What is it about Wales that makes it such good fodder for horror? Is it the mountains, the cheese, the Welsh language? Bonnie Tyler, who performed A Total Eclipse of The Heart, is Welsh. Does that make her a degenerate offshoot of the Whateley family, capable of cursing small children in her native tongue?

I seem to recall reading an interview with JK Rowling- or it was possible just one of her fans- back when The Prisoner of Azkaban (book) came out, where it was suggested that the Dementors were not dissimilar to JRR Tolkien’s Ringwraiths, and the defense was that Rowling hadn’t read the Tolkien.

My wife and I began a house joke (like house rules, but funny, to us) that JK Rowling hasn’t read anything, or seen anything, and lived in a pop-less bubble. So if you can think of something in the Harry Potter books that reminds you of something earlier, just chime in with: “But JK Rowling had never seen Star Wars/Read or heard of Hamlet/The Bible”. Hours of chuckles guaranteed!

A caveat: we don’t actually believe that JK Rowling is unaware of classic literature (or pop-culture). We also don’t think the Welsh are a degenerate cult of demon-worshipers in thrall to some ancient eldritch creature. Except for Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Stephenie Meyer is actually functionally illiterate when it comes to classic literature. So she is unaware of any previous rules for Vampire or Werewolf mythology because she isn’t interested in those sorts of stories.

OK, says I, so she makes something her own- no harm in that, it is what writers SHOULD do. Sometimes releasing a well-known creature of myth or fantasy from it’s usual trappings is a very positive, free-thinking thing to do. Set it in a new world, play with it: make it your own.

But in order to DO this, you have to be AWARE of what came before. You can’t subvert without knowing what the expectation is.

You can, apparently, catch lightning in a bottle just by waving it around.

I don’t remember when the Twilight storm clouds first appeared. I wrote an article that was inspired by it’s fans, the so-called Twi-Hards (cute!) in October of ’08, (you can read it Here– but it isn’t a condemnation of Twilight, or its fans. It was my heartfelt confession that I just don’t get it. I don’t get taking “scary” and trying to make it sexy- I miss having monsters do what they are supposed to do: scare us.

At the time, all I was aware of about the Twilight series was the ways in which Meyers cast off the traditional aspects of Vampire and Werewolf lore and made it her own. While I don’t particularly like the whole “X-Men” aspect of the series (each vampire has a unique super power? Uh, ok) and find the “sparkles in sunlight” thing to be particularly risible (I briefly through Meyers was the female version of that Eragon kid, some 16 year old who wrote a novel and somehow got it published- and doesn’t sparkly vampires seem like something from the back of a Trapper-Keeper?)- but really, to each his or her own.

Since October 08, I have become more aware of the series, both the films and the novels. I have read excerpts from the novels, I have watched sequences from the first two movies. I have read essays both condemning and praising the series- and I find it fascinating that a lot of people who read and even like the books don’t have a lot of good things to say about them other than “I wanted to see how it ends” or “I couldn’t stop reading it”.

I’m reminded of Stellan Skarsgaard explaining that he read one of the Dan Brown novels in an airport and hated it, but couldn’t stop reading it. “It’s like having peanuts in the bar next to my beer while I’m waiting for a plane,” he said. “I keep eating the fucking peanuts, but I don’t want peanuts! I don’t even like peanuts! I’ll say this, that Dan Brown can make you turn the page even when you don’t want to.”

HOW is this possible? How are there writers who have this awesome power?

Regardless, I am no longer bemused and accepting (if personally disinterested) of Meyers’ Twilight series. I am now flabbergasted and horrified by it’s fans.

If you read my blog, you probably don’t move your lips while you read. At least much. So you are more than aware of the countless websites that offer page-by-page analytical breakdowns of Meyers’ books as scary misogyny, weird Mormon propaganda, and just plain bad.

The just plain bad thing is a moot point- quality has never meant anything for box office or sales. Four words: Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

The weird potentially cultish religious thing- how Jacob imprinting his love on Bella & Edwards baby girl is some sort of explanation/romanticizing of the whole “offshoot Polygamist Mormons marrying children”- I don’t have an opinion on. That the imprinting thing is fucked up- we either agree or you need to fuck off- I have no doubt, but I don’t know enough about weird fringe compound dwellers in Utah and Idaho to comment.

But the unpleasant male/female dichotomy crap, as half of a mostly healthy romantic relationship, that I HAVE a strong fucking opinion on.

Edward as Stalker is well documented: this is the guy who watches her sleep. Ok, for some adolescent girls (and women who haven’t psychologically aged since adolescence) this apparently constitutes romantic. I guess so does Edward’s idea of “what is best” as well: “I love you because I want to kill you”, literally. And let’s not forget: “You are in danger because of me and my vegetarian vampire family, so we’ll all leave, ignoring the fact that some angry free-range people-killing vampires are only not murdering you because we live here”. Well ok, that last is just really crappy plotting, but whatever. How about “you cut yourself and my brotherpire goes all blood lust so to save you I THROW YOU ACROSS THE ROOM INTO A WALL WHERE YOU GET EVEN MORE CUT UP”?

Or when Bella goes off with the wolf-boy to meet the other wolf-boys (who have inducted Jacob into their shirtless Brociety in a sequence that, in the movie at least, plays like the aftermath of an all male gang-rape, down to Jacob’s shame and rage) and is introduced to their Alpha Male’s girlfriend- her face is all scarred up. Why? Because she “made him mad,” and the wolf came out. OK, THAT IS SO FUCKING ROMANTIC- HE BEATS ME BECAUSE HE LOVES ME!

Thanks Stephenie Meyers- as the father of a daughter whose reading choices I will not be censoring (though I hope I will be vetting in order to discuss with her)- you’ve made it likely that I will get to discuss mental and physical abuse (“I love you so much I want to kill myself”) in tween fiction that is disguised as romance.

On an interesting side note- if the purpose of the books were to show Bella that Jacob and his brain-washing werebros were EVIL and WRONG in allowing their bestial side to control them- then this would not only be a clever use of the traditional werewolf (uncontrollable bestial killing instincts translated, ala Angela Carter, to spousal abuse) and- quite properly- condemning them. Instead Meyers doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with this.

What brings this all on? Last night my sister-in-law and I were discussing my Perfect Storm Theory- that some icons of pop culture come out of nowhere, through an unpredictable and (most importantly) unrepeatable series of events- they are the only one like it there will ever be.

There will never be another Elvis.

There will never be another James Dean or Marilyn Monroe.

There is only one Jenna Jameson.

Harry Potter was a one-time thing.

So was Liszt.

And The Beatles.

I don’t think Twilight is one of those Perfect Storms- I hope not. While Marilyn Monroe was a moderately talented actress and a number of Elvis’ songs are outright dull (and personally, I never got the Jenna Jameson thing), there is no denying star power. Elvis, Harry Potter and James Dean are all going to long outlive their expected shelf-lives- Dean already has, so has Elvis. Harry Potter will probably still be a huge zeitgeist after Rowling is dead and gone. Hopefully her daughter won’t collaborate with Kevin Anderson’s kid to put out “expanded universe” books.

I hope that Meyers books- a strange look into a permanently adolescent mindset, an unrealistic and dangerously uninformed view of “romance”- will be relegated to a footnote in history. I’ll probably be disappointed.

And therein is the real scary part- not that teenaged and pre-teen girls are enjoying these books- kids read crap (so do adults), they also- hopefully- outgrow it. It is the Twihards well into their 30s and 40s (and presumably beyond) who defend the books as “romantic” that terrify me. Is there some army of romantically frustrated Midwestern housewives who truly love these stories and embrace them for the distorted and unhealthy view of what “true love” should be?

Devin Faraci’s review of the most recent installment, over at Chud is pretty good. Actually, it isn’t good, it is scathing. What it is, is a well-written review. Sometimes Devin gets a little overly contemptuous, but that is how he writes.

I will close this entry with the defense that a commenter who goes by Helen Gynell posts there:

“The sad fact that you are “baffled” and feel that the romantic themes are “centuries outdated” is exactly why the books are popular. While old fashioned romance might baffle today’s guy and feel dead, for girls and women it’s very much alive and SO wanted and missing that this fantasy has been embraced by females of all ages. Too bad it takes a mating age werewolf and a scent-crazed vampire to make the female lead feel special, but throw in the fact that they’re incredibly good looking, totally hang on her every word, and both so madly in love they are ready to fight over her and who cares they’re not ‘normal’. Obviously normal guys just don’t understand women Crave Romance. The popularity of the books and films is undeniable proof that guys are woefully lacking in that department. I’m thinking that girls want to be loved for who they are-Bella’s not the cheerleader, not the most popular girl in school, but she’s got both of the two hottest guys in town literally at each others’ throats. Just be being herself. She didn’t have to turn herself into a male-fantasy-jiggling-video vixen to find love! As far as the films go, guys just don’t want to see that Lautner and Pattinson are THAT appealing to women-Think of it like young Elvis and James Dean together!”

Apparently, my astonishment at the romance shows how out of touch I am- and I am not refuting that this is possible. How did Stephenie Meyers catch lightning in the bottle? She wrote a central female character who, apparently, is a true “everywoman” in that she is a blank slate (literally a blank page in book 2, several times) that readers can imprint themselves upon.

My question is whether fans of the Twilight series are also fans of the hoary old bodice-ripping Westerns where virginal prairie girls are raped by tender Indians and come to love their captors? Is this the same sort of “take me away and make me special” need that some women never have grown out of, the need to be an Indian Princess, or in the middle of a love triangle between an emotionally distant Vampire who refuses to sexually satisfy her, and a testosterone addled Werewolf who actually says things like: “You’d better run, I’m getting angry!”?

Is what Stephenie Meyers writes all that horrible though, or is it just a really late (like many decades late) mirror to the Ian Fleming (and, yes, Robert E. Howard) books of escapist male fantasy where the Virile and Potent Man was often rough with the woman who grew to love him (and the implied kinky sex)? And if so, how terrifying is it that Meyers is essentially writing the exact same “subservient woman” stories, but from the girl’s point of view? Gynell posits that Bella doesn’t have to turn herself into a male-fantasy jiggling vixen to find love- no, but she does have to get thrown around, threatened, abandoned, and nearly killed- not just be enemies of her love interests, but by the love interests themselves.

If that is romance, I’m glad I’m unromantic. I feel like my feminist studies teacher in college might actually, finally, be proud of something I’ve said. Man, that crazy bitch hated me. She was probably Welsh.

Rats in the Hallway

Let this be a warning: blog entries CAN be boring, depressing, and not advance the story at all.(*)

I am a bad blogger. I’ve always known, deep down inside, that I wasn’t meant to be a blogger. Not me. Quick links or “man I had a weird dream last night” spurts on Livejournal were always my style- but when the ball would get rolling and I’d write something interesting or funny or well-written (the last the least likely) someone would usually say: “Livejournal sucks, you should write a blog”.

Mostly my wife.

I admit I’ve never understood the LJ/blog feud. People have tried to communicate it to me, but the truth is I don’t care. And I know that I could write a blog entry not unlike my old livejournal entries- but somehow the blog feels like it deserves more formality.

Lately I haven’t had any energy to devout to formality. I am tired, dear readers. All the damn time. And what little time I have had for writing has- I am happy to say- been spent writing books. And a screenplay. And some treatments. But, you know, mostly books. And a very slow going query letter for a book, and an even slower going synopsis for said book.

I don’t feel like I have a lot left to give, so the internet becomes the ignored child. Life keeps me busy, my writing keeps me (in)sane, and my job kind of almost pays the bills. My son makes me happy. My wife makes me happy too, but I know her well enough to know that she won’t begrudge me the almost miraculous level of joy that Sam can bring me. Seriously, hanging out with him is the best time ever.

I used to be able to blog from work, but I just don’t have the time anymore because it is the only time I have to write. Of course, I do have actual work that needs to be worked on while working. So I resent my job because it interferes with my writing- and it is also, frankly, a numbing, achingly dull job. So I resent it for not challenging me at all, while I resent it for making it harder for me to get any writing done.

When I’m home, my time is divided between playing with Sam (so bettie can get a break or, bless her, get some of her own writing done) or chores, and even some relaxing but I can almost never get any writing done at home. I have to get up insanely early to get any writing done- I don’t mind getting up early. In fact I like the rush of creative energy to deal with first thing in the morning. But it isn’t easy to get up easy consitently without the use of an alarm clock- using one would almost definitely wake Sam up too, and I cannot write when Sam is up. For one thing, he thinks my computer is his T.V.- we used to let him watch Bettie Boop and Flip the Frog cartoons on it in the morning while he ate breakfast, before we realized that he thinks that means anytime the computer is on, it is his.

It is hard for me to argue or convince someone who doesn’t speak a language I know that what Daddy is doing is important. So the computer stays off while Sam is awake. Once he goes to bed, between eight and nine at night, I’m only good for doing the dishes before rapidly following his lead and crawling into bed.

So I’m kind of resentful, because I feel like there is no time that is my own. Oh! But it gets funny, because in a couple of weeks Bettie & Sam will be housesitting for our dear friend Cassy down south- which means that for at least a week I’ll have my mornings and evenings to myself since I’ll be staying home to commute to work…

And while a small part of me rejoices at the thought of having uninterrupted time, the larger part says: “Jesus, what the hell am I gonna DO with myself without Sam around?”

To say that Bettie and my current writing schedules conflicts with our having much time together would be an understatement- or at least it feels that way.

Man. Next wife(**)? Not another writer. I think one writer is almost more than any marriage can take. Because it means we’re both so damn needy, and paranoid that we’re ignoring Sam to focus on our make-believe worlds, while ignoring our spouse because we’re obsessing over our own story.

*(because Nova doesn’t believe me)

**(no, we are not getting divorced or even squabbling more than is healthy for us. Keep your resumes to yourselves, ladies)

Ouroboros Is Broken

And some days the Novel eats you.

Writing the First Novel, DOGS, was easy. It was exhausting, but it was easy. Editing it has been a slow uphill slog. I blamed this, for the better part of a year, on two things. The first was that I am busy writing a Second and Better kind of Novel, for lack of a better title we’ll call it SINNER.

The second reason is that when I wrote DOGS I pounded out its ridiculous mass of words in just over 2 months. So it is a sloppy, messy manuscript with armfuls of tense problems, punctuation fuckups, and even some horrible pieces of writing- I was purging the story from myself, not crafting something to be proud of.

Now, a year and some change later, my dear friend CP insists that DOGS actually is something to be proud of; he feels it is an above-average mass market paperback sci-fi shooter… and that makes me happy, that I have a fan. And not just in a “aw, he’s yer buddy, of course he gives good feedback” kinda way, but in that he is actually a Fan of the Story and the Writing, not just of Me… you know what I mean?

Anyways, someday I hope to finish editing DOGS and throw together a synopsis and a logline and prepare to paper the bathroom with rejection slips or something.

Then there is SINNER. I finished the first draft of SINNER on February 6th of 2009. Not that long ago! Knowing full well that the SINNER’s story is barely even begun, I took a brief writing vacation (as in I didn’t write) and then dove into SINNER 2- the tales of adventure just kept bubbling along, why not fill some pages with them? The fact of the matter is, I could conceivably write about the world of SINNER and it’s inhabitants for the rest of my life. What is more, I think it’s actually a good book. I feel like I’ve tapped into something special with SINNER and it feels like a good something, something a little different- eh, maybe not, I don’t really know what is out there to compare it too- but something with a unique voice, definitely.

Regardless, this book too, needs to be edited. And therein lays the rub, the pain, and maybe even the source of this semi-crippling malaise that has been looming over me for the past I don’t know how long…

I hate editing. I just have the hardest damn time doing it! I resent all those writers who complain about the Writing but seem to adore the Editing, the “I love to have written,” people. WTF, y’all? It drives me nuts. I’m staring at the story that has been writ large, and I’m almost incapable of pulling myself OUT of the story to actually edit it!

It is very hard to get into the right mind space to edit a manuscript on a semi-busy loading dock. It is even harder in a hectic home. These are the two places I have in my life. I feel trapped by my own productivity or the lack thereof in this particular case. I resent my Words: they keep coming; the SINNERverse keeps expanding in my head. SINNER 2 is maybe a quarter done- if SINNER 2 will be approximately the same word count as SINNER 1. And the “Notes” file I have for the overarching series isn’t exactly small either.

Am I alienating you, dear fellow writers, by bitching about my productivity? If so, I am really sorry. But the fact of the matter is, I appear to be the literary equivalent of an untrained militia-man: I’m all Spray and Pray. I feel like I just empty the full clip on fully-automatic and hope a few rounds strike home, rather than someone who carefully crafts each sentence and paragraph; the literary equivalent of a veteran sharpshooter.

So maybe I’m just a chronic underachiever. If I never edit these manuscripts, I’ll never have to write synopses and send out query letters and deal with rejection or agent-hunting or… that is just fucking great, I can hide behind my hatred/fear of editing and fail by lack of trying.

Whatever it is, it’s fucking frustrating.

ow shit my ow

What a week it’s been. I just haven’t been able to get my speed up this week, with sleep, writing, or much of anything. I have no idea how I’ve been as a dad, partner, husband, or guy who cleans the dishes- let alone at work. It’s just been… a great big heaping bowl of “meh”. With low energy.

Today was supposed to be the New Start, the recharge day, and I kinda want to quit. After a Very Good night’s sleep (with Sam staying in his own bed until 6, nursing for five minutes and then coming off to find me) followed by a dash of writing this AM, so I was ready for a New Week.

Bettie had a thing to go to late morning, so after making her and Sam breakfast, I took Sam for a walk to our bank to get some cash- for various reasons, neither of us have a working ATM Card (and no, we aren’t the “Hipster Grifter”, for one thing we hate everybody too much to pretend to like them and get their $$$)- regardless…

It was a sweaty walk and Sam didn’t feel like doing it on his feet, but rather on Dad’s back. So Dad, being me, carries him- and wishes he’d brought the stroller. Some miles and gallons of sweat later we’re back at home, but my back has gone out- or is hovering on the verge of going out- Sam is exhausted, redfaced and sweaty and is asking to use the bathroom- and Bettie is out driving around, looking for us.

I know I am King Luddite and all, but fine, fine. I did not wish for a magical cell phone to harness my spouse in. I just hoped she’d find us and get to her Thing on time (I think she did, I hope she did).

Find us she does, just as I’m realizing that I’m developing blisters, and off she goes. Sam uses the john and the day continues on- everyone is where they should be.

Except for Sam, who very sweetly asks to play his video game a bit earlier than we usually let him… but, you know what? It’s Saturday. And I am having trouble bending over at the waist, so rather than try and entice him to play with me, I set him up with the wii controllers, Lego Batman, and his bowl of popcorn.

So he’s happily chilling up there, I lay down on my back and borrow my wife’s laptop to get some writing done.

I also do a few chores around the house that don’t involve bending at the waist- so all is good, AND I feel semi-accomplished.

Other than the back pain, all is well.

Then, while carrying my darling son a glass of water, I stub my toe. I stub my toes a lot. But this time I manage to (Nova, don’t read this part) shave a chunk of skin off my little toe (Nova, you can read again)

How, you may ask, did I manage to do this? On the edge of the goddamn laundry cart, which lives in our living room waiting for a time when we put clothes away. It hates me, and I being a gentleman return the favor.

Anyhow, there is some bellowing, some one-legged hopping, some Tim Roth impersonating (“Llaary? It hurts real bad Larry,”), and finally I manage to FIND the goddamn medical kit (hidden under a pile of swimming suits, Bettie’s sexy dress, and some diapers that we have no current use for)

Clean off and bandage the hideous wound…

As I finish, I say calmly and out loud: “Goddamnit Sam, this hurts a lot, and your dad could use a little sympathy…”

And what happens? I hear the Danny Elfman theme pause as Sam surely puts down the controller…. and then I hear him stuff a mouthful of popcorn in. He crunches down, the game un-pauses…

Yeah. I think I’d like a beer, please.

Ah well. At least I managed to get about a page written.

Sixty Seconds to What?

“Writing is a mug’s game”

I’m not sure who said it, but someone must have.

One of the great pains of writing- and I mean really writing, actively writing, not just contemplating writing- is other writers. Actually, I imagine they are a pain in the ass for non-active writer’s as well.

Sometimes we need other writers. I know I do. I need my writerly friends for support, for commiseration, and for feedback- without those three things, I’d just be that guy at the bar/party/bus stop who complains about how he’s writing but no one cares and anyhow publishing is just a mug’s game… (hmm).

We all need support sometimes. The knowledge that someone, somewhere, is rooting for us to strive, to push, to overcome and to just spill all those ideas onto the page.

Everyone loves to commiserate. Oh c’mon, everyone loves to talk about how crappy their day was or how hard they worked or how much pain they are in. Despite the common knowledge that we ALL have days where we can’t hit for shit, it’s hard to listen to a friend or peer bitch about their bad experience and not feel like gushing about ours as well- even if it’s been a while since we had it. That is human nature. The better human’s among us, the better friends and peers, manage to choke that urge down and not make something that is about US about THEM. And do we repay the favor? Probably not.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely need feedback. I’ve had friends who wrote that really seemed to be writing solely for themselves. One in particular comes to mind, a very, very talented screenwriter who wrote with Speed and Wit and Panache. And then wouldn’t take notes. He couldn’t take notes- I think he was mentally incapable of it. He’d ask for feedback, and when you gave it he would nitpick and argue each point you made, until finally my Wife (beautiful and wise, remember her?) threw up her hands and said to him: “Fine! Your work is perfect, it should be instantly purchased and fast-tracked for at least 7 figures. Happy now?”

“Yes,” he whined sadly; see, he knew he had this crippling disease. He isn’t a stupid guy, just hardwired a certain way. Well, somewhere out there I think he is still writing screenplays and teleplays- and man, I really hope he’s gotten over that.

I love feedback. Sure, I bridle at some notes- but I try to keep the ego in check and the notebook open. Even bad notes can be helpful sometime- and don’t think that some people don’t hand them out! Even your friends can mislead you. But the thing is, you HAVE to listen. You asked for it, after all. I mean, how many people get unsolicited advice on their manuscript/screenplay/poem? If you showed it to someone, it really isn’t unsolicited. Partially because everyone thinks they are a writer…

Oh NOES! There I goes again.

Everyone Thinks They Are A Writer.

Especially now. Especially in this age of the computer, of the internet, of the blog, of the twitter and the facebook and the whatnot.

Writing has become so much more public, it used to be something done in private. Now every writer (or person who doesn’t write but Thinks They Should/Could/Will) has a blog or a tweet or a livejournal (or all of the above, like me) and they- wait for it- they WRITE ABOUT WRITING. Can anything be more pedantic and navel-gazingly inane than to write about writing?

Yet we love it- I love it- and love to read it. I love to see what another writer’s creative process is, how they percolate or accumulate or dispense ideas and quips and phrases. I love the fact that of my closest friends (and I mean both on-line, long distance, and local) the majority of them are Writers- or at least struggling with it.

Sometimes it’s annoying- I mean look, we’re writers. Writers are historically known for being sodden, bitter, twisted old fruits. And some sober and twisted young vegetables as well. The bitterness seems to be mandatory though. If not bitter, than a certain world-weary malaise. Now, the important question: How much of that is Affected?

I’m actually a pretty good natured, optimistic guy- when you get past the weird Rage Episodes or the raving drunken vitriol spewing sessions… but I know that sometimes I come off as, and in fact am, a mean, bitter, resentful man who takes pleasure only in his own creativity. Well, and my son, he’s pretty damn awesome- except when he doesn’t let me write, like this morning.

Dear Son: daddy gets up extra early to get writing done. I know you have taken the computer over as your personal Home Entertainment System, but daddy needs to borrow it for an hour or so every morning. Okay?

Anyway, I’m trying to be less bitter. Less resentful. Less impatient. In general, as a person, a worker and a father and husband at any rate. As a writer too. I’m supportive! Mostly. Shit, I’m working on it.

What was I… oh yes, EVERYONE thinks they can write. This used to bother me (still does- Damnit, shutup, I’m working on it!). Any jackass with a computer is a “Writer” if they are trying to be creative.

But why should this threaten me? I’ve just talked about how happy I am to have dear friends who write? Why should I care if some bartender/dock worker/pencil pusher thinks he/she/it can/should write?

Shit, I WAS a bartender and a pencil pusher, and I work on a dock. What is my problem?

I know other writers who bridle in the same way against this… but really, we aren’t up in some fucking ivory tower strewn with ivy, driven slowly mad in our garrets by the serpentine writing of our muses… well, ok, some of us are, but really…

Everyone can play. It’s writing. All you need is the drive and the imagination. The words show up. That is the magic of it.

Am I writing for myself? Yes. But I’m also writing because these stories need to go someplace. If someone else is spilling over and feels like they are about to burst- I can’t begrudge them writing.

I’m cured!

Well, that one jackass who asked me once: “So, screenwriting, huh? I could do that. A lot of money in that,” he said nodding his head wisely. “Maybe I should get into that,” he said, stroking his chin. Guys like that? Yeah, Fuck You, chongo.

Okay, not cured. Sigh. Progress, not Perfection.