Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dollhouse: Echoes

Falling behind! In other words, I'm revising SHARDS in response to beta-reader feedback so I'm going to skip re-gushing over the mad glee of Topher not wearing any pants. Quite frankly internet, I'm disappointed a search for "Echoes" images didn't bring that screenshot up on the first page.

So much good in this episode, beyond just the Adele and Topher dialogue that I will be quoting with friends probably for a good few months.

Other thoughts:

• I liked Alice's outfit.

• I'm glad we're finally learning about Caroline, but I'm not certain the whole PETA activist free the puppies works for me just yet—mostly because I don't understand her motivation. It came across—as it is—that this was just a means to an end of getting her where she needed to be for Bad Things To Happen. Also, possibly planting the seeds of her as Rebellion leader.

• I don't like Mellie. My prosposal to resolve this: Imprint her as FBI Paul's assassin and make him kill her. Why? Because we are past the time that the juicy identity issues this tech raises should have been used for vicious emotional angst.

• I like Victor more and more.

• This is what my feelings of FBI Paul boil down to: why is he the secondary protagonist? All this withholding of motivation wants me to believe we are building to something BIG AND SURPRISING and not just that there's a lack of attention being paid to character development.

• Is it just me or did this episode seem to ship Topher and Adele? Even if it didn't, I'm going to start. Topher and Adele sitting in a tree, e-a-t-i-n-g crisps. (Go back and view the previous episodes through a Topher Loves Adele filter for added fun!)

• Awakening next week? Really? Because that's rather early if the Escape from The Dollhouse is the big endgame of the season. Which means... what are you really planning for us, Joss, that fuels the story beyond a 13 episode arc?

• Tangential from previous thought: I'm not wowed by this Massive Dynamic Rossum thing. I already watch Fringe, thanks.

Join me in the comments if you'd like to debate the obvious conclusion that Alfa is Caroline's ex-boyfriend and thus why he didn't cut Echo up into little doll pieces. That is, if you aren't suffering from a failing of the machines that go BING (when there's stuff) or raiding your drawer of inappropriate starches.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I'm a simple girl, really

It doesn't take a lot to keep me happy.

Learning that Jaime Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is sitting at #15 on the NYT Bestseller list, for example, makes me happy. Not as happy as it makes him, mind you, but close.

Other things that make me happy?

Trees in Oregon, whose blossoms coat their branches like a blanket of pink snow when across the parking lot twisted moss covered limbs reach for the sky.

It snowed that night in Yreka, California.

I suppose my point is when the world's so full of wonder, why not expect to see HOTEL break the NYT top ten?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dollhouse: Man on the Street

I'm really behind on posting—and it occurred to me it was already Thursday. So Dollhouse dish. I know you've probably blended and stewed (is that a mixed metaphor?) all you can over last week's amazing episode... but let's cook up some theories in the comments.

Today's kitchen-esque talk, by the way, is brought to you by the mind-blowingly well done fight between our Echo and FBI Paul through the Chinese Take Out kitchen and over a parked car. Yummy!

Good hair for Topher, and excellent call by Sarah K on Gyspy Skirt is an evil spy. Anyone else think it's suspicious that so many dolls are paying attention to FBI Paul? Clearly he is a considerable threat to the LA House.

No spoilers but the DVR guide synopsis for tomorrow's episode is exciting! Backstory! Plot! However, it's next week that has me biting my nails...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tuesday's book signing went well. We could have asked for nicer weather, as a brief snowstorm quieted down the store's through-traffic. It didn't really start getting busy again until it was time to leave.

However, I got to spend time with people I enjoy and talk to a few new people about the book. All in all, I say success. Thanks again to Chapters for hosting and to my friends, family, and co-workers—especially the manager—for being so incredibly supportive.

Second order of business, Neil Gaiman was on the Colbert Report Monday night. (I'm way behind on watching the Report and The Daily Show because we DVR them for later.) Bravo, Neil! I don't know if Stephen Colbert was afraid of Mr. Gaimen or what the deal was, but it was a rare interview where Colbert did not emerge the champion.

My mother remarked that Neil Gaiman is very intelligent. She feels contemporary and cool, because she's read The Graveyward Book. Hopefully, however, she'll read Neverwhere while I'm away. I guess it's time to bring home Fragile Things and my battered copy of Stardust.

Neverwhere isn't the only Gaiman thing I could lend her—I've also got Smoke and Mirrors, Good Omens and The Sandman here. I happen to think, though, that Neverwhere is the logical step up from The Graveyard Book as they're both about finding new worlds within our own. Plus, Lady Door is just awesome.

So what's your favorite Neil Gaiman work? Where would you direct someone to go after reading The Graveyard Book?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St Patrick's Day & Dollhouse 5: True Believer

Running a bit behind this week, so it's a combo post. I've got to get ready for the signing at Chapters this afternoon.

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Dollhouse news: yesterday, TST (Taffy Standard Time) was referenced two or three times at work, as there's three of us eagerly following this new Whedon venture. So victory for the 'house in that regard.

Now, for True Believer. I think this was a pretty good episode looking back on it more than I did while viewing. Not the fault of the episode—I'd just seen Watchmen and I was in a bit of a "I did 35 minutes ago" fog.

Anyway. It was a good episode. I laughed out loud at "man-reaction." Looks like those doll keepers are just really ill-prepared for things. Like they've trusted their tech completely and the core-brain/libido are out-witting them. Although the stone in the pond has shifted from Echo to Sierra, as it was her arrival at the house that created all these ripples.

Theory? Alpha's composite was set in motion with Echo's arrival. Probably doesn't hold up in the long run, unless there's been several composites before. (Could this be the purpose of "the Attic?")

Back to True Believer: the episode definitely works to push ahead the mythos and season arc. We appear to have seeded larger later events—perhaps the most intriguing of which is a meeting of FBI Paul and Echo.

Religious metaphors do not hide how the Garden was a lot like the Dollhouse. Except faith had been used instead of technology.

Topher had really good hair.

Gypsy Skirt neighbor across the hall bothers me. I don't trust her cooking...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy Friday the 13th!

How are we all on this fabulous, fantastic Friday the 13th? It could just be the caffeine talking, but I am having an amazing day.

When I wrote FRAGMENTS—particularly the interludes—I had the Viva La Vida album on heavy repeat. For a while, my facebook status claimed I was listening to unhealthy amounts of Coldplay. This was due to how the album musically—and in cases, lyrically—synced with what I was writing. The inside of Ethanael's head sort of sounds like a personal Coldplay best of playlist. I'm not certain what that says about either of us.

Anyway, I'm going to see Coldplay live at GM Place on June 20th! Got the tickets in the internet pre-sale this morning. Thanks Good Morning Kamloops.

Spent some time talking to Michelle (Or is it Mikelle?) from Kamloops This Week about the Tarot Cafe Novel event at Chapters next week. It was a lot of fun, and I'm happy she indulged my slight ramblings about the novel, the genre, the experience, and steampunk.

I take it as sign that two people I've spoken to today are excited about steampunk that it's time to stop hiding behind the "need" for research and get writing. Once I finish reading a manuscript for a friend, of course. (Motivation.)

Tonight, I'm finally getting around to seeing The Watchmen movie. A friend and I were discussing the graphic novel yesterday, as I finished reading it earlier this week.

Mostly we were talking about the ending and the impact that it has. How the book leaves you feeling. In a word: Dirty. Like you want to go scrub out your brain. As brilliant as The Watchmen is, it was not something I enjoyed having in my head. Why am I going to see the movie? A curiosity at Hollywood's take on something so immense. It is the kind of work that has so many layers and so much going on that it takes a while to digest it.

I've expressed feeling in a similar way about Code Geass, but the finale of that series left me feeling moved. Awed. Not like everything was pointless.

Maybe that isn't what The Watchmen intends for us to feel, but there is this concept in both works that to in order to effect great meaningful change, you have to become evil. The difference between the two is The Watchmen doesn't let you go inside the head of the person responsible, whereas Code Geass walks you down the path with Lelouche. For me, that's why Code Geass works better. Isn't as soul-crushing when you make that individual the protagonist.

In thinking about this, I'm reminded about the choices we have to make as storytellers regarding the mechanics of how we tell the story. Especially when you get multiple viewpoints. Let me cite Heroes as an example. The greatest fault of this show isn't that it's broken its own established rules, as one friend claims, because long before it did that... it suffered not knowing who it's main protagonist is. That's where Lost succeed, in that it knows Doctor Jack is the main character, regardless of the ensemble cast and their many intertwining stories.

You can argue Peter and Claire are the main characters of Heroes, but the show can't seem to make that final decision. It's jumping to whomever the fans want to see—and secondary characters that become fan favorites aren't meant to be the main protagonists. Those characters do well because we get them in small, measured doses.

I had a similar issue with THE TALE OF ARIAKE. There's a secondary protagonist named Calli Bennett, who is our viewpoint character. She's the human we can follow, but it's not her story. The story belongs to a character named Ken. We meet him first for a reason. That's a choice I made, even knowing that the book would sell better if it was Calli's story.

We consciously choose—or I hope you are—whose story we tell. We choose what kind of ending it gets—and once again I hope it's a conscious choice of the ending that the story needs.

So what I'm interested in hearing about from all of you is what you feel drawn to—do you want a "happy" ending, do you get upset when there's an "unhappy" ending? Or are you content so long as the ending suits the story? Do you think what kind of ending people prefer is a result of their attitude and general outlook?

WARNING: There is a spoiler for The Watchmen movie in the comment section. (I didn't enjoy it enough not to ruin for it you.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dear Libba Bray,

I am so, so sorry that it took me this long to get to reading A Great and Terrible Beauty. My friends—even my mother—told me I needed to read it, but I was all wrapped up in my post-post-apocalyptic future scribblings. Why would I be interested in a Victorian boarding school?

I'm an idiot. Please forgive me.

Chandra Rooney

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The intermission

The intermission is when the ideas pop and spill and you scoop them out into paperbags for people. Or maybe they flow into cups. My point is your brain is full of them and if you don't put them in something, they'll get all over the floor and make a mess.

I bring you more than an observation today, but another discussion point. Research. When do you do it? All of it ahead of time in a painstaking fashion? Enough to get you started and then more as you need it to flesh out the details? Or write the whole draft and try to put the details in later?

Currently I am treating "research" as a means to put off starting something. Oh, I can't... I need to do some research. I'm aware that's what I'm doing, and it's all right for the moment as I'm supposed to be reading something for a friend.

Which isn't to say don't research. I probably do a great deal more than I'm aware of, as I tend to seek out information as I need it rather than in one big pile. Amassing research before I start is sort of counterproductive, because—and yes, I realize how this is going to sound—the facts get in the way of the story. I trust when I go to history or whatever, that I will find what I need. I can paint those details in. The feel of something—its atmosphere—is sometimes better at creating a scene than paragraphs of highly detailed dry factoids.

The challenge is to combine the two without overwhelming the reader or burying the story.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Dollhouse: Grey Hour

It's Monday, and that means... another entry for Dollhouse discussion. Notes for this week:

1) I approve of Topher's color choices but not the execution. Two solid color shirts? He is the Boy God of All Things Neuro, not an extra from HSM2. (Can I start referring to Topher as a neuromancer?)

2) How badass would it be if they downloaded the same personality in two dolls... and had the dolls meet face to face? Would heads explode? (Not Echo's. She is not broken.)

3) Remote wipes!

4) Does Taffy Standard Time require us to switch-over to daylight savings time or is it like Japan? Because if the latter, I think we should all operate on TST.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Characters or Concepts?

I admit this week has been blog fail. A little bit with the content. A lotta bit with reading other blogs. Or reading anything actually that isn't SHARDS or comments on the Dollhouse entry I did. So clearly the Dollhouse entries will be continuing so Sarah and I can plot Joss Whedon's series for him—and because they're easy for content.

Something did come up during the discussion that's worth mentioning outside of the fandom. Characters versus concepts—what gets a reader/viewer and what keeps them?

Obviously with television there's an aspect that straight-prose can't share. Most people are visual creatures, attracted by shiny objects and pretty faces. I will absolutely pick up books with well-designed eye-grabbing covers. Like I'll watch TV series that have intriguing well-shot promo—or at least I'll go online to find out what the concept is.

I'll buy a book because I know the author who wrote it. I'll watch a show because I'm familiar with the actor or creator whose involved with it. Why else would we market things as "From the producer of..." or include the parathesis on synopsis after actor's names that tell you where you may have seen them before.

Where I'm going with this is that there are a lot of reasons you buy something or try it. (You're welcome for that information, says Empress Obvious.)

Once you've got me, however, you have to keep—and this series of tubes has ruined my attention span along with everyone else's. So what are you going to use to keep me reading/watching? Characters or concept?

In the ideal situation, I'll get both. That is why I love Reaper. I adore the characters. I'm amused by the concept. With Dollhouse, I like the concept but the main character is not someone I find likable. Echo's interesting, but it's curiosity and not concern for her well-being that keeps me watching. If she dies in episode four, my assumption is FBI Paul will continue his investigation and we'll see Echo's mystery solved.

Oh, mystery/conflict/plot by the way is the element that when well-done connects characters and concept. When poorly done, it bores or confuses the audience. Depending on who you are and what you need from a story, each of these elements may pull you through a work on their own, but most people won't love something that doesn't have all the elements working together.

If that wasn't challenging enough, there's the fact that different people respond to different combinations. Look at the chatter for Dollhouse. Some people love it. Some people don't get it. Most, hopefully, realize it just needs to figure out what the heck it wants to be. Not what genre—the go-anywhere with this style of the show is one of the things I find appealing. Thematically, I suppose, is what I'm inquiring about. What's our Big Picture—because it's Joss Whedon, he sees one.

It's an interesting thought exercise. Would you read a book with cliched, thin or heaven forbid boring characters because the concept was intriguing? Would you read a book with a concept that was painfully unoriginal because you loved the characters? If you had to choose between the two of them...?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Fragile Eternity trailer & Reaper

Sometimes mailing lists are really, really cool.

Cannot wait for this book!

Did we all enjoy the season premier of Reaper? I know I did. Of course, I have a few concerns. Being in Find The Plot Hole mode due to my revisions, I couldn't help but notice a Lack of Sam's Mother. You think after a road trip you'd check in. Get your laundry done. That sort of thing.


Also I can infer from what happened in the final scene that the vessel was returned to Hell. When you're covering a lot of ground in anything, you have to decide what to Tell and what to Show. This seemed a neither—more of an Implied.

Maybe it's just Dollhouse making me suspicious. In all fairness, it needs to find its feet and wow us... probably around episode six. I'm just letting you know, Dollhouse, that you're a nice little show but you're no Reaper.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Spiral Powers Gauge is filling

Tonight, 8 pm the CW... Reaper's back, baby! You better watch it, because there will be a quiz.

Well, a month later... I'm still working on the reader draft for SHARDS. Its villanious partnership with February to defeat me may have succeed, but March is on my side.

But a month? Really? I know the shortest month, barely a real month at all, but still even a psuedo-month spent on revisions?

Well, I can explain. You know that plot change I mentioned making about a month ago? Well, it was really only half the change it should have been. I am now making the other of the change. Largely because writing the interludes brought in something I hadn't anticipated, and the thematic element of the book will stronger this way.

It's an ongoing learning experience. You'd think it would get easier, and certain aspects do, but most of us just find new ways to challenge ourselves.

You see, the YA books have a dual narrative. A main narrative as voiced by Runa and a secondary narrative spaced throughout the main one. The first two books have used Ethanael's voice as pilot of the interludes/destroyer of my sanity. He has a very distinct voice, but it's that fun kind of challenging to write. He loves to talk, so once I'm in that headspace, the interludes just flow. Terminology is what tends to hold them up, as I'll know there's a technical term he would use that I'll have to go look up because I won't remember how to spell it. (Spellcheck does not like pianissmo, yet has no issue with cresendo.)

Interludes also have different sentence structure to them, so it's easiest for me to write the main narrative without the interludes. I revised the main narrative, and when it's "completed," I begin writing the interludes. Usually they get written in one week—the week after the week that's spent revising the main narrative.

While this perserves the voices, it means once the interludes are completed, changes echo through the main narrative. That's what the step I'm at right now.

All of this, however, happens before anyone else sees the manuscript. This is just to get the reader draft, or the first version that beta-readers will see. The reason that I don't just send it all off and see if the beta-readers agree with me is that I want to be happy with what I've written. I want it have my full support, because I know that's just the beginning of the process.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Dollhouse: Stage Fright

All right, since it aired on Friday, I expect you have all watched Dollhouse Ep 3 and we can begin discussing it in the comments.

1) I felt my new TV boyfriend, Topher Brink, was super stylish this episode. At first I questioned the plaid mixed with plaid, but great colors for him.

2) All episodes from hence forth must contain musical numbers.

3) Gasp! Did you see you that little FBI Paul plotline twist coming? I did not.