Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Screen Capture 3

Okay, this kind of sort of maybe falls into the "classics" category, although this show turned out to be a lot cheesier than the creators intended.

So basically, the Television Gods took a classic detective figure, put him in his own television show during the 1970s, and within one season managed to throw it all down the tubes.

I will buy you a box of macaroni and cheese, if you can name the show, detective, and the actor who portrayed this famous detective. (hint: the son of this actor is a leading character in another television show featuring a classic detective. Although the son is not the title character. Name that actor, show, and the character's name, and I will buy you TWO boxes of mac and cheese).

Until Next Time...
Cheesely Yours,

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fan Fiction Earns Even More Respect

I'm not a fan of the supernatural romance genre.* I read the first Stephanie Meyers novel back when the series was still young because the industry buzz at the time said it was going to be the next Potter phenomenon. I barely made it through the horrid writing without vomiting, but to be fair, I am not the target audience. What I do find interesting though is the supernatural romance phenomenon and industry. Millions of woman and young girls devour these stories as quickly as the industry can produce them, and while I may not like the particular stories themselves, I appreciate the healthy economics it generates.

But since I don't follow it too closely, I was quite surprised to read the cover story on the Wall Street Journal Arena section: "A Vampire Writer Bites Back" (April 18, 2014). I had no idea that the initial author of "Vampire Diaries" was essentially fired from the series she wrote. Lost in the confusion of publishing contracts, buy-outs, etc., it turns out that the idea of the "Vampire Diaries" belonged to the publishing company and that L.J. Smith was a "work for hire" writer.

The author is slowly taking her creation back, though, through the use of fan fiction avenues, and the WSJ (being a business-oriented paper) article focuses on how fan fiction has (and is) changing the publishing industry. As everyone knows by now, the S&M porn of "50 Shades of Grey" was initially Bella and Edward fan fiction with name changes. Plus many other now-popular paranormal romance stories were born from the same Twilight DNA (which again, got its DNA from Buffy's romances with Angel and Spike, which can be traced back to Vlad and Nina).

The question is: How long will this sort of impact last? Will it bleed over into other genres?

I can remember writing Star Wars fan fiction when I was a young teenager, but that was pre-Internet days, before even "Return of the Jedi" had been released, and it was something I didn't feel comfortable sharing with friends. I do know there is some sci-fi fan fiction floating around out there, most of it centers around the gaming industry (Michael Stackpole has some interesting stories), so it'll be interesting as I delve into some research as to how much is out there, and if it is publishable.

One company that has the spare seed money to experiment is Amazon. As you'll read in the WSJ article, Amazon is taking a chance that fan fiction can be profitable and, at the very least, bring some attention to talented writers who would normally get lost in the publishing slush pile.

So don't be afraid, sit down at your keyboard with you favorite characters or universe, and tell a story or two. You never know, you may make a name for yourself.

Until Next Time...
Fictionally Yours,

*I am a huge fan of all things "Buffy", and while it can be credited with giving that category a huge boost, "Buffy" was not a supernatural romance.
** I included the above picture, because if I was writing Twilight fan fiction, that truly is how I would have ended the first book. No, I wouldn't have waited that long -- I would have had Blade show up before page 50. But that wouldn't have been very profitable, and I doubt the publisher would have ever printed my version.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Avoid cliches Like The Plague I

I used to believe that clichés were a sign of lazy writing. What am I saying... I still believe clichés are a sign of lazy writing. But recently, I was reading a wonderful short story, nearly perfectly crafted except for one cliché that slipped into the prose. Unfortunately, it was the one cliché I hate the most, and while it jolted me out of the story, I forgave this particular writer this one time because it was such a well done story, I figure it had to be that one slip that happened to make it past the writer and the editors (although I don't know how). So with that being said, here's a few clichés that just drive me insane...
  • "head over heels" - yep, this was the one that slipped through into the story I was reading. Unless you are lying down or hanging upside down, you are always head over heels. I bet you're head over heels at this very moment. In fact, if you fall, then you want to fall head over heels, because that means you haven't fallen at all.
  • "heart of hearts" - what the hell does that even mean? Seriously? Does the heart have a heart? Is one particular heart the personification of all hearts. I have no idea. But people who use that phrase should be kicked in the butt of butts.
  • "all of a sudden there was a gunshot/explosion/etc" - do I really have to explain this one? or can I simply say that if you're able to give me an example of a gunshot or explosion that is not sudden, then I will retract this statement.
  • "disappeared into thin air" -- so in other words, whatever disappeared, it happened at a high attitude, because the air is thick at sea level. Or maybe whatever it was, it wouldn't have disappeared if the air had been thinner.
So I give you those four for now. I know I will follow up with more at some later date because I hate clichés and could go on for hours about them. Until then unless you are a doctor, nurse, or missionary in some third-world country, you should avoid the above clichés, like....well.... avoid them like the plague.

Until Next Time...
Lazily Yours,

Sunday, April 13, 2014

National Library Week

Right smack in the middle of National Poetry Month, we find ourselves celebrating National Library Week.

When you walk into the library these days, they have all sorts of posters showing all sorts of celebrities holding books, usually with a simple tagline promoting reading. In its own right, this is probably one of the better approaches for kids of this generation, especially considering the more immediate media connections kids have to their favorite celebrities that didn't exist twenty years ago .

Back when I was growing up, though, the approach was different. Instead of trying to get kids to read by celebrity endorsement, libraries hung posters that promoted the magic that could be found in books. Many had quotes about the benefits of reading or of the doors of imagination the library and books could open. Sometimes they said nothing more elaborate than "Reading is Fun".

There's always been a part of me that would love to have a room or at least a wall dedicated to some of the posters of my time - a nostalgic display of my childhood when I used to leave the library with stacks of books, about to discover new worlds of fantasy or science fiction or just plain, simple stories that were fun to read.

The Boss and I not only use our local library, but we also donate time and money to the local library foundation to make sure this most magic of places continues to find relevance in this quickly changing, information-heavy society. You should find the time as well, you'll quickly discover that it's well worth your efforts.

"Amid the hectic pace of our lives, a library is like a comfy chair in front of a cozy fireplace on a wintry day, where people of every age and status can sit down and feel like they've come home... to a world without boundaries, to the world of books." - author C. J. Carr

Until Next Time...
Cozily Yours,

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Most Prolific Writer Ever?

A few posts ago, I discussed pulp magazine publications, and one of those I mentioned was The Ellery Queen mystery magazine. Coincidentally enough, The Boss discovered the early 70s Ellery Queen television series staring Jim Hutton on Hulu. This series only ran one season, and there was a lot wrong with it that explains why it only lasted one season, but the synchronicity of it all made me head to my local library and see what Ellery Queen books they have on their shelves. I found a 1979 reprint of the very first Ellery Queen novel, "The Roman Hat Mystery", published by Mysterious Press.

On the back of that book was a list of other books available for order, including a book of Sherlockian limericks by none other than Isaac Asimov.

Yeah! Who knew?

Well, apparently, some of his more ardent fans knew, but this particular little book slipped by me. I knew all about the history of the bible, and his various books of essays. I knew the man practically wrote from dawn to dusk and then would write some more. I also know the story of the time the interviewer asked him what he would do if he learned he had only six months to live ("Write faster!" was apparently his response).

The man wrote science fiction, fantasy, mysteries. He even wrote romance novels. I don't know if he wrote long-hand or with a typewriter, but remember, this was well before the days of word processing programs on computers. Plus, don't forget, he still worked in his academic field as both a professor and lecturer. He travelled to conventions, seminars, and founded a couple of pulp magazines as well. (All this from a man who taught himself to read at the meager age of three.) The guy kept himself busy. And basically, makes us all look like slackers.

If you'd like to know more, just look him up on Wikipedia, but be prepared for a lot reading. A lot.

Until Next Time...
Unprolificly Yours,

Thursday, April 3, 2014

National Poetry Month

Incase you hadn't heard by now, April is National Poetry Month.

So you haven't heard? No surprise. I'd be willing to guess only about one person in a thousand have heard of it.


Well, I blame your school. In fact, I blame your school and your teachers, because they're the ones who taught you that poetry and literature is inaccessible. In other words, you believe you can't enjoy poetry because you can't understand it.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Back when you were in school, the Powers That Be operated under the belief that you had to understand dusty old verse from people written generations upon generations ago - people most likely dead by now - in order to appreciate modern verse. That belief is, quite frankly, a load of bullshit.

Do you have to know the history of film to enjoy a good movie? Do you have to understand the evolution of the combustion engine and automobile to enjoy speeding down the road in a brand new Ford Mustang? Hell no.

So why is it that academia believe that you can't enjoy poetry (and literature) unless you are taught the classics first? Because that is what they were taught.

Don't get me wrong. There are good teachers out there, and many who do a wonderful job of introducing students to literature and poetry. I had a few growing up. It helped that I already loved reading, so it didn't take much for me to embrace what they taught. But I distinctly recall other students who looked forward to those literature classes where the instructor found ways to make the works we studied enjoyable.

If there were more of those teachers, then maybe more of the general public would enjoy poetry.

But you can change that trend. Go to your local library, check out poetry books by modern authors, or take a chance and buy one ("Good Poems" edited by Garrison Keillor or anything by Billy Collins), search YouTube for Taylor Mali for some poignant and funny spoken word poetry. I promise you will laugh at some, cry at others, but at the very least, you'll be moved, and you will become a lover of poetry and your life will be enriched.

Until Next Time...
Poetically Yours Again,