Literary, or just likeable?

Sharon Ashwood
April 13, 2010  •  No Comments

I participated in the essay anthology Ardeur: 14 Writers on the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series, which was released by Smart Pop on April 6. I was flattered to be asked to participate, and it forced me to dust off critical skills I hadn’t used since university. Not that harkening back to my school days was always a help. The editor of the collection demanded not only an insightful, well-reasoned contribution, but also an entertaining one. In other words, she put me through my paces with just as much discipline (and, I sometimes imagined, unholy glee) as any of my profs. I polished that sucker until I was blue in the face.

Collections like this one are cropping up more and more frequently. I certainly see no reason not to apply the academic toolkit to movies, TV, and books on the mass market list. For one thing, some creators (J. Michael Straczynski comes to mind) write such excellent stuff that it begs for a closer look. The world of Buffy can, and has been, dissected without damaging the original one bit. But sometimes brain candy is just that, with no hidden profundities or depths to plumb. These stories and shows were never meant to be analyzed, and it wouldn’t be fair to do so.

But acknowledging that some popular entertainment is robust enough to support criticism and some is not raises some interesting questions—and I’ll say up front that I don’t pretend to have answers. One essay does not a theorist make.

As I said, this “literary criticism of the non-literary” seems to be increasingly popular. More and more of it is getting published, so someone’s buying it. What appetite is it filling? And what does it say about the shows and books these essays are about? Are popular genres developing their own sub-strata of smarter, meatier works, or is this just a belated recognition of the fact?


A watched pot never tweets?

Sharon Ashwood
April 11, 2010  •  No Comments

Idle surfing led me to this item about a newly invented tea kettle that not only tweets you when it starts to boil but also keeps stats on how much water you’ve boiled.

The obvious question is: why?

When my appliances start talking to me, I’ll know it’s time to get out more.


Resolve–or was that dissolve?

Sharon Ashwood
April 6, 2010  •  No Comments

I remember making resolutions. A lot of stuff about maintaining my personal blog, writing every day, flossing, exercise, and on and on.

pileofmanuscript
Resolutions are typically a sign of dissatisfaction. There’s something you want to improve. But, unless you fix the cause underlying the behaviour, chances of a resolution sticking are slim.

So, as one watches one’s self-improvement plan fall to pieces, there are two options:

1. Quit the day job so there’s more time to address the underlying reasons why there’s no time to, say, exercise, or
2. Make more attainable resolutions.

Sadly, my bank account strongly suggests the latter.

As deadlines begin to squeeze one into a smaller and smaller space (I always think of those rooms with moving walls, like in the old Get Smart TV shows), it’s time to prioritize. Focus on the stuff you really have to do. Get rid of extraneous ambitions until the crisis is past.

My 2010 resolutions (revised) are as follows:

1. I promise to get out of bed at least once a day.

sleepy_puppy

I like it. Short. Simple. The rest of my energy is going to be spent writing my book–since making my deadlines had better be a resolution I don’t break!

What’s your non-negotiable resolution?


It’s April 1

Sharon Ashwood
April 1, 2010  •  No Comments

jordan-kitchen My human is out of service. I am her cat, also known as the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness. I have no idea why she calls me that. Not one.

Today, I am blogging on her behalf, which means typing on the silly black box on her desk. I wasn’t very happy about it until I figured out that there are other things this black box does, too. I went to eBay and bought 5,000 pounds of fresh mackerel on my human’s credit card account. I hope she doesn’t mind. The fish should be lovely and smelly by the time it’s delivered—just right.

But I’m supposed to talk about her writing. What do I know about that? She comes home, throws food in a bowl for me, and sits at the black box. And sits. And sits. Sometimes she makes faces at the screen, or laughs hysterically. That’s really disturbing to watch.

Human plots are stupid.

“He’s a hero,” I say. “Make him pounce on something. He’s probably hungry by now.”

Instead, she makes her hero strut around in tight leather. No pouncing there, unless he does himself an injury. Like, get a fur suit. It’s comfortable and looks good in all seasons.

If that’s not bad enough, half the book is talk. No wonder it takes 400 pages to tell a story. It would be two sentences if a cat wrote it. Whack the villain on the head; jump on the girl. What’s left to do? They talk about beastly Alpha males, but a real beast would have the whole business wrapped up by the end of the prologue: Whack. Girl. Fish dinner. The end.

I guess that’s why cats aren’t writers.

The human will be back soon.


Sanctuary

Sharon Ashwood
March 30, 2010  •  No Comments

Anybody else out there a fan of the TV show Sanctuary? I’m shamelessly hooked. It airs here at dinnertime on Fridays, which is perfect for me. Kind of a treat for making it through the work week.

So I was devastated to realize that there won’t be any new episodes until fall. Grrr!

Well, at least there are more episodes. Whenever I publicly endorse a TV show, as that seems to be the kiss of death. The last one I cheered on was Primeval, and I think it was nearly eaten by a T-Rex … though the web site says the show was “thrown a lifeline.” I wonder what that means?


To purge or not to purge?

Sharon Ashwood
March 29, 2010  •  No Comments

Okay, so I succumbed and finally bought an electronic reader—a Sony touch-screen model. The first book I decided to read on it is Richelle Mead’s Succubus Blues. I like her Vampire Academy series a lot and was pleased to find this is fun, too.

My big motivation in getting an e-reader was space. I don’t want to stop reading books as they come out, but I’m drowning in them. Sadly, the library doesn’t have the budget to stay current on all my fave authors (much less new ones), so just borrowing the books isn’t an option.

There’s a charity book sale here once a year, and I’d like to thin out the shelves at home. More like: get everything on a shelf and not in heaps on the floor. I just wonder how many volumes will actually make it out the door once I start reading the back covers? Parting with books isn’t as easy for me as I like to pretend.


The weekend

Sharon Ashwood
March 28, 2010  •  No Comments

I’m bad about creating a monster to-do list that discourages me before I even start. I tried to keep it modest this weekend, but time has still outrun my chores.

Top of the pile was finishing up page proofs for UNCHAINED. I was pleased with the result. After a gazillion rewrites, the end product is nice and shiny and, best of all, it’s off to the book factory.

Other excitement included mailing all those darned things to mail, cleaning out my inbox, scoring a roommate for the Nashville conference, and lining up my thoughts about publicity for UNCHAINED. Any suggestions out there?


Ashwood on ebook

Sharon Ashwood
March 20, 2010  •  No Comments

Woo-hoo. For those who care about e-books, UNCHAINED with be available in both virtual and paper forms. Someday maybe the backlist will be available, but for now I’m happy to be catching up with technology. (No, it’s not me or my publisher who’s holding up the works, so please don’t ask Penguin about it.)

On a personal level, I’ve been a slow sell on electronic formats. I really do like physical books best, but experimenting with a Sony reader convinced me of the virtues of the zoom feature. After staring at a computer screen all day, the big print size is a blessing.


About those social networks …

Sharon Ashwood
March 18, 2010  •  No Comments

I’d just like to comment here about Facebook and MySpace activities. Some of you very kindly have sent me invitations to participate in various games etc on the social networks, and I really appreciate being included in your thoughts. I would like to apologize for not participating, and if I wasn’t at work all day I probably would. If I haven’t joined in or you don’t see me commenting on your posts all that often, don’t think it’s because I’m not interested. I really do enjoy sharing virtual time with you.

I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. I try and log in at least once a day, but I don’t always make it. I give my best at-home hours to actually writing and catch up with “fun stuff” after I’ve run out of words. How much I do depends on how late it is when I finish my pages for the day.


Judging

Sharon Ashwood
March 17, 2010  •  No Comments

I recently finished reading through a pile o’ books for the Romance Writers of America published author awards aka the Ritas. That makes the third contest I’ve judged this year—I also did my local chapter’s contest and the RWA unpublished author contest (aka Golden Heart). I somehow managed to sign up for that last one accidentally but I actually really enjoyed the entries I got, so it was all good. However, it does show you how much of a hazard I can be on-line when I’m not paying attention.

It’s always a strain on my schedule to do the judging—it always falls at the busiest time of year at my job—but it’s one of the ways I can give back to the writing community that has been very good to me. It also forces me to pick up books I wouldn’t otherwise consider, and I’ve found some great authors. It’s against the rules to comment on individual books, but I can say that this year I found one author I’ll be watching for on the shelves.