July 28, 2010 • 1 Comment
Embarrassment is a matter of perspective; I would almost say it is the province of the young, who do not yet understand the value of being ridiculous. Once you’ve worn sparkly silver platform heels, there’s not much else that life can throw at you. You’re officially a survivor.
When I look back at what was cool in my high school years, I find, oddly, it’s back on TV. Ozzy Osborne and Gene Simmons are reprising their roles as cultural icons in ways I would never have anticipated at sixteen. I think even then I would have had a sneaking admiration for their tenacity.
What was the young Sharon Ashwood devoted to in her teens? Glam rock, the more glittery the better. Alice Cooper had already (apocryphally) bitten the heads off chickens and David Bowie had already fallen to earth, but a secondary wave of costumed curiosities was strutting into suburban living rooms. On vinyl, of course. This was the dark ages.
KISS and Queen were my obvious choices because I’d grown up on comic books and live theatre. The sheer, unapologetic in-your-face of it all blew me away. It was a synthesis of a lot of my fixations.
As far as the actual music went, it was interesting times. Punk was just losing its bleeding edge. New Wave was still, well, new and occupying one or two New York nightclubs. Bands toured with convoys of sets and personnel because gas was relatively cheap and the carbon footprint wasn’t an issue. Green was still the colour of your face the morning after the night before. News of one’s rock idol doings came monthly from Creem Magazine and the Rolling Stone. It would still be another ten or fifteen years before the music industry crashed beneath the Napster bulldozer. This was the era when you’d stay glued to a.m. radio all Saturday afternoon to find out if Your Song had made it to the pinnacle of the Top 40 Countdown.
Fun times, and it’s refreshing that some of the spandex gods of those days are still around and still going strong. As for the reality TV appearances, I largely ignore the whole thing. Glam rock was always tongue in cheek—this is just more of the same. Embarrassing? Only if you have a sense of shame.
Yup, we will rock you—as soon as we can lever ourselves out of the La-Z-Boy.
July 21, 2010 • No Comments
A lot of good TV shows have come and gone, but sometimes I wonder if I miss the show itself or the circumstances around watching it. I used to watch a TV show about the Vikings Sunday afternoons when I was in university. It was a great show on history and archaeology, but I think the real pleasure came out of the fact that by the time it came on, my weekend homework was usually finished. It was the signal to start my night off. I can say similar things about a lot of the British cop shows that were around in the 1980s, because I used to watch them with my Dad. I miss the shows, but I what I really miss is spending time with him.
All that being said, there are some shows I miss because of their pure genius. My two all-time favourites are Babylon 5 and Buffy/Angel. Both were clever and beautifully crafted. Bab 5 was more complex and sometimes struggled with all that creative brilliance (+/ the network execs who simply didn’t get it) but will remain on my keeper shelf always. There is something of a Shakespearean grandeur there. Plus, the Vorlons were just so cool.
I have to point to it as a real influence on how I think about story construction. The plot layering is without peer. If you watch it from the beginning, there isn’t a throw away scene in the entire series. (Watch out for Mr. Morden). Everything counts, even if it doesn’t become apparent until the next season–or even several seasons later.
Both B5 and Buffy ran their course. Angel ended in a rather spectacular, dystopian fashion I love or hate depending on my mood, but at least it ended. What bugs me far more are all the shows that died on vine before they had a chance to reach their full potential. Firefly (see Jessa’s post) is a great example—I will never understand why that one didn’t flourish.
Others committed the sin of stumbling at the starting gate, but given time could have grown into their promise. Moonlight was just starting to hit its groove after a somewhat wan beginning (Vampire Mick needed assertiveness training). Blood Ties started out well but the writing faltered, probably once they figured out they were destined for cancellation. Defying Gravity was definitely interesting, but I think the threads of the story needed to be pulled together sooner. I loved the Dollhouse, but it was too abstract for a lot of people. It took some time to understand what was going on.
Which leads me to think that, while it’s tough enough to get a book series off the ground, there is zero tolerance for any missteps while launching a new TV show. Viewers—or maybe it’s advertisers?—don’t wait around for slow but steady growth. It’s either an instant, or it’s gone.
It makes me cautious about becoming attached to a new series too soon. Does the high rate of cancellation make anyone else reluctant to try new shows?
July 18, 2010 • No Comments
From our local paper, an article by Peter Kenter of Postmedia News.
“A Colorado woman has blamed a recent car crash on an unwanted appearance by a member of the living dead.
“The driver told police she was travelling down a dirt road near the small town of Fruita when she was startled by a vampire caught in her headlights.
“The driver took quick evasive action, throwing the 2002 Chevy Blazer into reverse and crashing into a canal, with the vehicle rolling over on to its passenger side.
“Traditional vampires are incapable of crossing running water, though it isn’t clear whether the driver deliberately intended to test this theory….”
And it goes on. The real story question, however, is why did the vampire cross the road?
July 17, 2010 • No Comments
This is undoubtedly most relevant to Floridians and those attending the RWA National Conference, but here is the scoop on the big signing event–and I’ll be there! From the RWA web site:
“The 2010 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing takes place on Wednesday, July 28, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Walt Disney World® Dolphin Resort, Pacific Exhibit Hall, in Orlando, Florida. This event is open to the public; there is no admittance charge.”
The list of authors who will be there (and it’s huge) is here.
July 6, 2010 • 2 Comments
Unchained is out!
So the book is out from under my control, free to roam the universe. But am I unchained from Unchained? One of the hardest things about book releases is the knowledge that you can’t take anything back. You’ve done it. You’ve said that. No more access to the delete key.
I had someone ask recently if there was anything I’d do differently. At this point, it’s useless to look back over my shoulder, and even if I could I wouldn’t want to. Yes, every author would like a whole lot more pages to unfurl their fabulous ideas, and more time to hone the manuscript would always be welcome–but there comes a time when you have to declare your work perfect. It’s as much a living organism as a child, and it is what it is, unique and special.
And honestly, I’m pretty darned pleased with how Unchained turned out. It gets the Angst Award among the Dark Forgotten novels to date. There’s no rest for these two characters.
So, go forth, little book and be free. It’s not a separation, just the natural evolution of becoming a grown-up book.
I’m sure I’ll be hearing from Ashe and Reynard when they need someone to do their laundry.
July 5, 2010 • No Comments
One question that I am frequently asked is what favourite junk food I consume while writing. Okay, that’s harder to answer than one might think. An author has to be careful about how she presents herself. Anything that readers might find odd or distancing should be carefully avoided.
This applies in the general as well as the culinary sense. For instance, one should never admit to black magic blood rituals even for research purposes. Similarly, training poisonous spiders to do circus tricks might be seen as off-putting. While junk food is a more innocuous subject–barely on the scale of, say, raising zombies–people have strong loyalties to their fast food. One does not show the burger disrespect.
The truth of the matter is that I don’t eat while I’m working. For one thing, I’m too deep in concentration. For another, what I’m writing is often pretty out there: demon slime, severed limbs, and werewolves with the munchies. Yum yum.
Okay, so maybe that’s not what the well-meaning questioner wanted to hear, but what can I say? I could lie and claim that I have a bag-a-day cheese curl habit (yeah, man, I’m strung out on the orange dust!) but I prefer my junk food, when I let myself have it, without thoughts of mangled body parts.
Then there’s that whole nutrition angle. My books are about slayers and sword-swinging warriors. There’s something about having all that frequently-naked rippling muscle frolicking through one’s imagination. It makes one think fondly of vitamins and sit-ups. And carrot sticks. Graphically, and not just for the crispy crunch.
So how do I answer the junk food question? Honestly, I like slow food. Organic, locally grown, made from scratch using traditional methods. Cuisine is an art. Sure, that makes me sound a bit like one of those snobby, opera-loving, cat petting movie villains, but whatever. At least I’m telling the truth. Plus, I like cats and classical music. And I hate cola. So sue me.
Admitting that is far easier than trying to explain the demon slime and carrot sticks. And it’s never right to lie to one’s readers, even about the small things. I respect them too much.
For those who want to know all about the real Sharon Ashwood: it’s simplest to just read my books, because that’s where I live.
Unchained: the Dark Forgotten. Out July 6. Guaranteed action-adventure, monsters galore, good jokes and hot sex. After that, who cares what I eat?
July 1, 2010 • No Comments
Finally, a help message that I can understand.
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I was wandering around the web and found this:
Put the power of voodoo to work in the office–so you won’t have to! With a mini corporate voodoo doll and 32 page executive spellbook, you’re practically guaranteed to turn nasty colleagues into friendly allies. And if you’re looking for a raise or hoping for a promotion, you can hardly go wrong with this hilarious kit.
June 23, 2010 • No Comments
Now that many jurisdictions have banned the use of cell phones while driving, here comes yet another distraction for drivers. In an effort to raise revenue, California lawmakers are now considering Digital Electronic License Plate (DELP) technology that would allow rear license plates on vehicles to display l.e.d. advertising when the car is stopped.
The technology could also be used to show information such as Amber alerts and emergency traffic updates. But, for those drivers who want to use the space for their own messages, the DMV could charge for the privilege, just as they do for vanity plates.
The added economic bonus from the development and engineering of digital electronic license plate technology would be new jobs in tech and sales/marketing. In California, the bill promoting a study and trials of the program is being pushed by Smart Plate, a Bay-area company that is currently developing a digital license plate. A feasibility study should be completed by January 1, 2013, with research costs of about US$200,000 to be met by private vendors.
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The writing task I always put off is Chapter 3.
Chapter 1 is easy. It’s a fresh idea, a fresh start, a fling with some new characters. It’s like sneaking out of your bedroom window at night and creeping off for some unauthorized fun. It’s the attraction of the unknown, crammed with possibilities.
Chapter 2 is the counterpoint, a response, the chance to provide the answering viewpoint, the villain’s machinations, or the Big Thing that raises the stakes to a nerve-shattering pitch.
Chapter 3 is where the author has to get past the fanfare and start providing actual story. If the fireworks in the first two chapters were nothing but a lot of light and sound, this is where the shaky foundation becomes apparent. Cue sound of fizzling. Cue sound of author whistling as they stroll away, pretending they didn’t like that dumb story anyway.
I hate chapter 3. If we make it past that danger point, chapter 5 is nearly as bad, because that’s where the author has to have another trick in her bag to crank up the volume. It has to be something fresh that the reader hasn’t seen coming, yet not so outlandish that your editor suspects you’re using a plotting version of Mr. Potato Head.
I love chapter 10, because if I make it that far I know my book has a chance to survive infancy. Nevertheless, there are still dangerous waters ahead. I have a tendency to suddenly start hallucinating around chapter 13 that I have far too many pages to fill, and that I’d better drag in a third and fourth plot just to fill it up—which is how I have been known to exceed my allotted word count by, oh, 60,000 words. Sagging middles have never been my literary foe. Knowing when to back away from the keyboard is.
If I can avoid the “gee, I guess I’d better throw in a revolt by the trolls” trap, I finish in good order. The second half of the book will go twice as fast as the first, because all my lovely setup is unwinding just like it’s supposed to. Biff! Bam! Dragons! Holy batwings, Dracula!
The problem is that I have to get past chapter 3 to get there. All the decisions are yet to be made. All the slog up the hill of rising tension has yet to begin. Chapter 3 is what tests not just your inspiration, but your resolve, your toolkit, and your devious plan. It’s where the real authors come out to play, fully prepared to make their characters’ lives sheer hell. Hear us roar!
Or mew. Sometimes ideas aren’t quite ready for the world. After all, who doesn’t have a few started-but-never-got-traction projects stored away on hard drives, in closets, or in craft cupboards?