Friday, November 28, 2008

"Don't judge a book by its movie"

So says the marquee in front of a bookstore on the Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge. And it's true, so true.

I watched a bunch of movie trailers online yesterday and I can say with all certainty that I will not be going to see Coraline. Why do film makers think they have to exaggerate everything? If a scene is exciting and intense in a book why is it not possible to reproduce that intensity on screen without overblowing it? A battle scene does not have to be twenty minutes long and keep going until every item in the vicinity has been either smashed, blown up, or used as a weapon. Writers work really hard to create great scenes in their books. Some even succeed. ;-) And yet film makers don't seem to trust that what they've been given is better than something new. 

I liked a lot about the movie of Stardust. But the opening scene was dumb, and the big overblown neverending battle scene at the end wrecked the whole thing for me. Robert De Niro was hilarious, but why did Yvaine call Tristan (and he's Tristran in the book) him "a moron"? That did not work. So many parts of the book they could have followed but didn't. And though I liked a lot about it I was really disappointed with Stardust.

I was talking the other day about A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I was told a while ago that it had been made into a movie, too. When I told my daughter so she said immediately, "I don't want to see it!" I understand what she means, because I feel the same way. My imagination has created such a vivid picture of what that story looks and feels like that I don't want to wreck it by seeing someone else's interpretation. I was pretty cautious about Lord of the Rings, too, but Peter Jackson et al took such pains to maintain the integrity of the story and I loved it. (I had great difficulty with the changes to the Two Towers, with Frodo being taken to Gondor by Faramir and all, but when I watched the discussion about it in the extended version their reasoning made sense).

Now Coraline is a book I read out loud to my kids in a single afternoon. I had asked them several times if they'd like me to read it to them and they said, "No." So one day as they played on the livingroom floor with their trains and whatever else, I sat on the couch and just started reading to them. They kept playing. They were listening, though. Soon they stopped playing and kept listening. And not long after that they were up on the couch with me, listening and rapt. If I tried to stop they said, "Keep reading!"

It took several hours, but we read the entire book.

And now the movie is coming out. The trailer shows that it is computer generated animation, which is fine. [Upon further reading I have learned it is 3D stop motion. That's fine too] I think it would be better live action, but that's ok. No, the trouble I can see right away is that it's a lot more colourful than the way I see the story. Added to that it looks like they've taken the story completely away from its dark simplicity, that spine-tingling fear of all those things kids are afraid of. From the trailer, it looks like they've turned it into a big spectacular extravaganza. I don't know... I found the book downright eerie, and the movie does not look that way at all. I can just see them overblowing everything, the way filmmakers tend to do these days.

Henry Selick has an alternate vision of the story from mine. Oh well. Enjoy everyone. I will stay home and keep my vision of it to myself. 

Or maybe I'll watch it, but with only one eye...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Favourite books and favourite moments

One more thing... This evening I finished reading A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L'Engle, out loud to my daughter. MAN, I love that book. Reading out loud is so much more emotional than reading in my head. Maybe it's the actor in me, but I can't just read words when I read out loud. I have to put in all the emotion, too. So there I am reading out loud as Meg tells Charles Wallace that she loves him with all her heart, and begs him to come back to her, dear baby brother whom she loves... Tears are running down my cheeks at the same time as they're running down Meg's and Charles Wallace's....

And a number of years ago, I read Lord of the Rings out loud to my son, and by the end of it, when Sam says, "Well, I'm back." We both of us were bawling our eyes out.

Yeah, my kids are as old as they are, but damn right I still read out loud to them every night. I treasure that time. When they were wee I couldn't wait until they were old enough for me to read Word to Caesar, by Geoffrey Trease, to them. And The House in Cornwall, and Treasure Island, and all the Great Brain books and all the Madeleine L'Engle books. Now I'm reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, to The Boy, coz he's old enough for that, and the Girl and I have watched the tv series of Pride and Prejudice so I can't wait to read that to her.  So many books, so little time. There's a part of me that hopes they never move away from home, coz I'll miss this dreadfully.

In ten years' time, somebody remind me of this, ok?

Another day, a few more words written down...

"So how's the writing coming?" asks Tom today. 
"Not bad," I say. "I'm doing a lot of brainstorming and mulling these days. A bit of writing, jotting notes, playing with ideas, and all that."
See, book three is tricky. This whole story has been based on the Fantasy role playing game my friends and I used to play; that's where a lot of the ideas came from--stories that had already been created. Mind you, very little that happens in the story actually "happened" in the game. There are really only a few events that I've used, and of course I had to create the story to go round them, not to mention flesh out the characters and make them real (one of the funnest parts of all this, I must say). Book one stemmed from Kyer killing Simon at the Burnished Blade. The rest of Dark Elf's Warrior came from my brain. Book two stemmed from an event in the game, wherein Alon Maer (Kien Bartheylen's wife) is terribly ill, and pregnant, and will die if our heroes don't find a cure. The visit to the wizard Kayme "happened" in the game, as did Kyer's rather nasty fall, and of course... The Gate. But now that I think about it, that's about it. The story surrounding those events was all me: The fact that the theme is Trust, the whole relationship with the Guardian, the antagonist's motivation and his goal (look at me not giving away spoilers!), the Indyn Caves situation, a certain pair of twin assassins named Misty and Juggler...
So why is book three so tricky? Now, here's why blogging is a helpful tool: I hadn't truly put those thoughts down in tangible form. I was thinking all along that I had to make book three up completely, but that's not the case. Sure I'm still not sure if they'll take that journey by ship, and if not, then that negates Skimnoddle's need to pose as the merchant Flavius. But if I don't use that, then it also means I lose Skimnoddle forcing Derry to be his lackey which is such a delightful abuse of Derry's gallantry. The battle with the dragon Greok is there, as is the ultimate confrontation... Ah, but IS it the ultimate confrontation? I'm not so sure. See, the Guardian is still around and is most definitely up to no good. Maybe.
Oh, it's such fun! I do have lots of things to work with, now that I think of it, at least as much as I had when I began Book Two. I just have to remember back to the time when I started writing it, and how long did that take? Crikey, I started it at the same time as Book One, because I had no idea how many pages the first part of the story would take up. The Kayme scene was the second scene I wrote, and much later realised that it would have to go in the second book. Sheesh.
I guess the message I am getting from this is that I just have to keep writing and it will all fall into place the same way the first two did. I don't have to plan everything now.
But yes, Tom, I will continue to walk round and round through my living room and kitchen talking out loud to myself to work out ideas. Writers, I think, have to be just a little bit crazy. And please, Tom, chat with Jock and help me with some brainstorming, ok?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Grey Cup 2008

Another Grey Cup has come and gone... and my mighty Roughriders were not a part of it this year. But the fans sure were! I think the cameras could not show us a shot of the crowd without several spots of green in there. 

Congratulations to the Stamps, who haven't won the Grey Cup since 2001, and heck, the Alouettes have had lots of chances over the last few years. Much as I respect Anthony Calvillo, I am pleased for Henry Burris, who's been shut out for far too long for such a talented guy.

Just a quicky today. Gotta go. My mum will flip if I'm not ready when she arrives to pick me up! I don't want to face the wrath...

Friday, November 14, 2008

The guy just ticks me off

It's a little late to blog about the civic elections tomorrow, but I feel like mouthing off, so I will. 

Greg Moore (mayoral candidate) drives me crazy. All his talk about PoCo's reputation having been "tarnished" and PoCo residents feeling shame over our former Mayor's assault conviction is ridiculous. Ok, so what happened was regrettable, but you know what? The courts--the body whose job it is to deal with such things--dealt with it. It is now in the past. The witch hunt is over. 

There's a different name that comes to my mind: Does Greg Moore recall the name Robert Willy Pickton? Golly, I think that name will go down in history with a bit more infamy than our former mayor. If we can live THAT down, I think we'll be ok. Scott who? Anyhow, Scott's served his time, and sought help.

And why should the rules be different for him than they are for the Premier of our Province?

The point is that everyone I know is proud and happy to be a resident of Port Coquitlam, regardless of the personal issues of our former mayor, and even a PoCo resident's conviction on 26 counts of murder.

Also, this guy has done an awful lot of bad-mouthing of his fellow candidate. Not cool, Greg, buddy. Mike Bowen hasn't put out any flyers with negative comments about his opponent. Nope. Just Greg. I'm not impressed, nor are any of the other people I've spoken to. He seems to be trying too hard to turn this election into something bigger than it is. 

That's it. I have to go read to The Girl now, so I'm done. We're reading A Wrinkle in Time, one of my favourites, and soon to be one of hers.

Where would I be...?

I had a very nice phone call from Colleen last night. I was half an hour late for FAT Jazz rehearsal, but it's all right. She said some very nice things, with which I will not bore anyone, but I will say this:

I would have given up a LOOoooonnnnnnggggg time ago if not for all of these marvellous friends who critique and edit for me and keep saying, "Well done." I haven't even got where I want to be yet, but I know I wouldn't have come this far without all of you: Rob (who started this whole thing), Myst, Tom, Stuart, Kathy, Colleen and LOTS of others, not to mention my family who put up with me. See, here's the thing. I strongly believe that if I ever gave up and said, "I've had enough of this! I've had it with rejection, with hearing, 'this just doesn't do it for me,' or 'the writing is good, but...', I can't take it anymore!" If I ever said that? There would be so very many people who would KICK MY ASS.

So quitting isn't an option, coz that would hurt a lot.

And if I do take criticism well, it's because... well, a lot of things, really. 1) I learned years ago that being arrogant about my work (any kind of work) isn't good for anyone, least of all myself. 2) I want my work to be the best it can be, so I need to listen to others. 3) My friends want me to succeed as much as I do, and they wouldn't steer me wrong. 4) I'm tired of messing around with this, and I'm ready to do what I have to do! It's still not easy to take, and some days I don't do so well (such as last Sunday when Colleen managed to talk me down off the ledge... again), but I know in the end I have a better product than I had before.

I'm looking forward to having Tom and Myst, and some others as well, read Dark Elf's Warrior in its new incarnation because they're the ones who read the first version. They will see an enormous transformation!

I'll just keep plugging away til I get where I want to be, and thank you all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Told ya...

See? I did it. I just sent off a query to Michelle Grajkowski at 3 Seas Literary. I said I would and I did.

Man, I love places that accept e-queries.

Another day, another rejection

I feel that each day just isn't complete without a rejection, don't you? [My best week was last spring when I received seven rejections in seven days]

I received a very nice e-rejection yesterday from Brandi Bowles at Howard Morhaim. [not the agent I submitted to on Monday] She's the agent with whom I had an appointment at the PNWA conference in July. I'm disappointed, of course, but not terribly surprised, as it was a bit of a long shot: she's not hugely into fantasy, but gave it a good try. Actually her boss had told her to try fantasy, and she went into it willingly. In fact, I saw it as a good opportunity.

Why did I sign up to speak to her when she doesn't "do" fantasy? Well, here's the tricky thing. Her agency does represent fantasy, which is why I chose her. And I tried to get a meeting with Michelle Grajkowski but was unsuccessful. It's a bit of a gamble sometimes at these conferences, when you get to sign up for one appointment and just hope to get a chance to speak to someone else. There wasn't a lot of opportunity to run into agents at the PNWA con and chat in an offhand way. I don't know where they went to hang out in between workshop sessions, but it was rare to catch a glimpse of agents and editors, unless they were eating in the restaurant. And maybe it's just me, but I don't like to interrupt someone while she's eating.

Anyway, it's easy for me to look back and say, "I should have signed up with a different agent." But if another agent had been interested, and had ultimately rejected my MS, I'd be saying the same thing about them. I made as educated a choice as I could based on the agents' sales and all, and it didn't pan out this time. She said very nice things about my writing, and I take those seriously.

I can still query the others. And what's more, I will.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Success in spite of stress

What a week it has been. Proctor for the MCC last Thursday, the hot water hose on my washing machine split on Friday, spraying water all round my basement for about 20 minutes until I discovered what that hissing noise was (I wasn't even doing laundry!), working the PEBC exam on Saturday, tremendously foul mood from Friday to Tuesday, sent myself to my room, the rain keeps dumping down and the siding on my house is leaking somewhere, allowing water to seep in along the foundation and soak up the cloths and towels we lay there for that purpose. 

BUT! On Monday I mailed off my sample chapters and synopsis to Eddie Schneider at JABberwocky, who requested them a couple of weeks ago. That is something I'm very proud of. It's always scary to seal that envelope, and even scarier to slip it into that slot. So I celebrated with a Chocolate Extreme Blizzard at our local Dairy Queen. And now I just hope the guy takes his time reading, so I am able to finish revisions on the rest of the novel. Nothing like living on the edge.

AND! (golly, wouldn't an editor just hate my capitals and exclamation points??) I used my proctoring time productively. Yes, yes, I was still paying attention to the candidates in my section, signed them out to the bathroom as they needed, confiscated their drinks that weren't water [honestly, how ambiguous is "bottle water only"?] and cell phones. However, it was such a long, quiet day that I wrote a good three pages of book three. By hand. In my notebook. Which will likely translate into 6-8 pages of typed work. So this is book three of Dark Elf's Warrior. Ideas are just formulating and percolating, and some of them are even starting to make some sense in my brain. It's such fun!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nearly Ready

I have a big submission coming up and have been quite preoccupied with editing, revising and generally getting it as close to "perfect" as possible. Two weeks ago, Dark Elf's Warrior had about 122,000 words. Thanks to much hacking and slashing and harsh criticism from my writer friends (look out you guys when it's my turn to look at your work!) it is now under 118k. It's pretty hard to take at first, but I was ready for it. The words, "This scene doesn't accomplish enough," and "This really slows the pace," are, in a perverse way, music to my ears. (Thanks Colleen). If cutting these bits, no matter how fun they are, means picking up the pace of the story and adding to the tension... then I'm all for it.

The lovely amusing scene wherein Aidan, the overbearing proprietor of the inn in Paterak, feeds the party average food, pushes Kyer and Phennil together, and hopes for a sale of some of her ghastly paintings (to goofball Phennil, of course) is GONE. Who knows? Maybe I can bring it back at another time in a later book, but it truly is not necessary here. And how fascinating that to keep Kyer and Derry on horseback instead of stopping to rest elevates the tension? In spite of making virtually no changes to the dialogue, the scene is much more interesting all of a sudden. Kind of mind-blowing, really. I love this process!

Jonathan told me the discussion about the war between Valrayker, Kien and Governor Lyndon was too conversational. So yesterday I worked on stepping that up, giving each character a firmer motivation behind their words. Funny how a lot of the dialogue remained the same, but I switched them around so Kien says something that Val used to say...that sort of thing.

I read my submission to hubby over the last two nights. Now, he's been involved in the story since day one, naturally, so he noticed huge changes in the pace and all. He didn't think his comments on it were very helpful, but that's not true.

See, each reader who critiques for me has a different perspective, and therefore has a different type of comment. Colleen was big on the pacing, which was absolutely necessary at this point. Jonathan is very nit-picky about words, rearranging them, losing unnecessary dialogue tags, that sort of thing. Kathy is not a writer, but loves to read and is certainly an intelligent person... She pointed out where things felt awkward or confusing to her, and it is up to me to figure out why. Hubby's comments are similar. "I don't get that," works just as well. I've only just sent this chunk of chapters to Ron... I'm afraid!

I think my friends will be just as upset as I will be if this submission gets rejected. It's good to have friends.

It's not supposed to be a writing day. I'm supposed to be baking so the kids have things for snacks in their lunches. Better get back to it.