January 19, 2015

Setting is Important for a Smooth Read: My "Everybody Loves Raymond" Problem

We're always working toward that 'smooth read' -- writing that flows for its reader without a stumble.  Editing works to ferret out those bumps in content, and I admit that I write many things with my editor's voice in my head.  ("Stop using the word "that"!!!")

My Ray Barone House Photo vs. Interior Set Puzzle

Which brings me to "Everybody Loves Raymond," the classic television show that I can watch anytime I wish via my ROKU streaming TV device.

Here's the thing:  the exterior of the home that this series pops into view periodically in every episode for the Barone family home does not jive with the interior sets.  Just try and figure out how that garage in the show where Ray eavesdrops on his in-laws from the garage fits into the photo of that house.  Or consider how the back door fits into the kitchen set in the episode where Frank Paints the House.

These things bug me.  They cause me to break from watching the show to puzzling over why the setting isn't working in my head.  Sure, even if I'm watching these re-runs while I'm folding the laundry, it's enough to make me stop and ponder.

What I Learned: The Details of Setting are Important

What I'm learning, and wanting to share with you  Dear Reader, is this:  setting details can cause just as much of a problem in accomplishing a smooth read as misspelling or bad grammar or forgetting that a minor character had red hair or the villain is left-handed.  Something I had not considered much before now.

I didn't appreciate the importance of setting.  I thought I did.  I didn't.

It came to me last night as I was re-reading D is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton.  Once again, she demonstrated to me why she's one of my favorite authors as I read details about Kinsey Millhone's small garage apartment (the first one, pre-explosion).  Not only could I visualize it in my mind's eye, down to its 15 x 15 square foot dimension,  it jived with other descriptions of Kinsey's place (and her landlord's house with its connecting walkway) in other books in the series.

Not only is this a comfort to me as a reader, it is a relief.  I can depend upon Grafton to provide a stable setting, allowing me to move forward in the plot without stumbling over bumps in my head where something in the description is nagging at me to figure out what's wrong.

So, setting.  I get now why I need to map out my locations, scene of the crime, etc. in great detail.  It's smart to do, and plus, it sounds like fun.  

November 10, 2014

Getting There with NaNoWriMo: Day 10 Check-In

Well, it's the tenth day of NaNoWriMo and I'm way off the mark, word-count wise.  However, I'm happy with my progress so far, in another way.

I discovered as I delved into my project that I was trying to stick too much stuff into one book, and that things would work better -- especially for the reader -- if I were to reorganize things into two or more books.

These are non-fiction works which I plan on uploading as eBooks on Amazon, etc., when I'm done.  Breaking the project into smaller bits, targeting to specific issues, may be welcomed by a reader who's not interested in more than specifics in one area.  A smaller word count will probably work better here when setting a price point, too.

So, am I where I need to be numbers-wise?  Nope.

I'm satisfied with how things are progressing though, and that's important.  Success for me this month will be to discipline myself to work steadily on my own projects and get them finalized (as opposed to working on work for other folk).  With this, I hope to have a new routine established that gives me a block of time each day dedicated to my own publications.

So, here I am evaluating things on Day 10.  I can catch up on the word count, and I think the change in perspective towards this project is a real breakthrough.

So, when I look at my NaNoWriMo progress, I'm succeeding.

November 1, 2014

Ready, Set, Go: I Signed Up for NaNoWriMo

 After debating for the past couple of weeks, I signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month 2014.

I signed up on the last possible day to do it — on Halloween.  I tried not to ponder the implications.

Shortly before noon yesterday, I went to the NaNoWriMo site and entered my username and password.  It was easy enough.

And, yes, it was pretty spooky, too.  I've made a commitment now.  Gulp.

Thing is I'm not interested in publishing what I write into their website so I can obtain "Winner’s Badge."

What I'm doing is using the pressure of the daily word count from NaNoWriMo to help me discipline myself to write 50,000 words. In one month.

This month.

I'm not writing a fiction work, so it doesn't really fit into the "novel writing" which by definition is the goal of NaNoWriMo.

I hope this isn't cheating.

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

January 2, 2014

Free EBooks: Kindle First Offers a Free New Release Every Month (Pick One out of 4 Choices)

Here's a great freebie if you have a Kindle:  Amazon has a program called "Kindle First" which offers you a choice of four different new releases for the price of $1.99 if you are not a member of Amazon Prime, and gives you the ebook for free if you have paid for an Amazon Prime membership.

This month, out of the four choices, I chose a romance novel -- surprising myself because I'm really a big mystery fan, but the description here regarding how the town really became a character in the novel intrigued me enough that I opted for the romance selection.  Actually, it appears to be more romantic suspense so I'm not far off the mystery mark anyway.

Image above:  I chose Nancy Naigle's new release, Mint Juleps and Justice, for my monthly freebie this month from Kindle First.

October 8, 2013

Evil Mothers in Movies or Books - My Ongoing Character List (Narcisstic Mothers, Sociopath Mothers)

This is interesting -- someone (actually, a woman named Kimberly Turner) has published an article entitled "Literature's Ten Most Disturbing Sociopaths."  The Top 10 of Villains, in a way, I guess.

Got me to thinking -- specifically about mothers.  Evil mothers.  On film, in books.  Maybe they are sociopaths (like Turner's inclusion of Cathy from East of Eden) or maybe they're narcissists.  Ask a daughter who served as narcisstic supply to her mother and she's probably not going to debate that her parent might have a bit of evil ribboning through her soul.

So, I thought I would start my own list of Evil Mothers - be they narcisstic or something else.

Here goes.  I'll come back and update this post as I think of more entries, and I welcome any suggestions you may have in the comments.

In no particular order:

The Grifters by Jim Thompson
book and movie (screenplay by Donald E. Westlake)
mother = Lilly Dillon

White Oleander by Janet Fitch
book and movie
mother = Ingrid Magnussen

Now, Voyager by Olive Higgins Prouty
book and movie
mother = Mrs. Windle Vale

Ordinary People by Judith Guest
book and movie
mother = Beth Jarrett

Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford
book and movie
mother = Joan Crawford

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
play and movies
mother =Queen Gertrude

Suddenly, Last Summer by Tennessee Williams
play and movie
mother = Violet Venable

September 30, 2013

The Emerald Cat Killer by Richard A. Lupoff - A Great Find (Book Review)

The Emerald Cat Killer, author Richard A. Lupoff, detective stories, best sellers
 The Emerald Cat Killer (2010) was a really good read for me, but not for the usual mystery / detective series reasons. Not that it’s bad as a detective story: no! Far from it!

This is a solid work by a seasoned writer — there’s just more to this book than a caper and this is why I like it so much. Well, that and the fact that I love discoveries like this one.

First things first, I have to tell you that I stumbled upon this author at Dollar Tree, yes: Dollar Tree. The Emerald Cat Killer, as a hardback mind you, was there on the shelf along with some other hardback NYT bestsellers, all being sold for a buck. 

That’s right: one dollar for this sweet find last week here in San Antonio. (For more on that bargain buy, check out my post on recent book finds at the dollar store, here).

I grabbed it up on whim. One dollar, right? (Richard Lupoff was unknown to me; I’ll be reading more of his stuff.)

Here’s the thing that really caught my interest about The Emerald Cat Killer — aside from its intriguing hook of film noir references (which gave me a list of some movies I want to see on Netflix): Lupoff understood the dynamic between a narcissistic parent, her child, and her spouse very well. Very well.

Rebi is a great character, because she provides a wonderful example of what can happen to the offspring of narcissistic mothers when things all go the wrong way. The bad way. The dark and evil road that is always an option for these kids.  Her mother, her father — if you have dealt with narcissistic parent psychologies, then you’ll recognize the expertise of these characterizations.

As for the mystery itself, it was enough to keep me up late reading so I could finish it. The plot moves fast. The detective team of Hobart Lindsey and Marvia Plum is sweet and endearing, and I’ll be catching up on their love story by going back and reading the series starting with The Comic Book Killer.

Sometimes you get lotsa plot and shallow characters. Sometimes you get characters with depth and little if any plot. Here, The Emerald Cat Killer gives you both, with subtle humor ribboned all through everything.

The Emerald Cat Killer is worth your time to read IMHO.

January 5, 2013

Watching Different Versions of Movies for Lessons in Plots: The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side

Yesterday had a cold, wet, dismal night and all the new fuzzy throws we got for Christmas came in handy, as did the marvelous ROKU streaming TV gizmo (which actually hit the door in November, when I decided to cut the cable).

We watched two film versions of the book I just finished re-reading: Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side.  It was fascinating to watch the changes made in the Angela Lansbury version as opposed to the later version with Joan Hickson.

Hickson's my favorite actress to play Miss Marple, by a long shot - but I'm a huge fan of Angela Lansbury and I have no complaints about her take on the character.

Here's the thing: this isn't a movie review.  Goodness knows there are more than enough Agatha Christie books made into films if I wanted to go that route.  Nope.

I wanted to share here something that I discovered by watching how the directors and screenwriters took Agatha Christie's work and adapted it for their own purposes.  The Hickson version is pretty close to the book itself; the Lansbury version makes changes.

Writing lessons are here to be learned, I think.  I find myself pondering the omission of Gladys - was this wise?  I consider the opening of the Lansbury version, where the black and white film is being played for St. Mary Mead's vicarage as a regular weekly event, and I like this addition for various reasons.

It's as if the story is clay and the two movie versions have molded it in different ways.  As I hold that same clay in my hands, having read the book, what would I do with it - if I had to write the screenplay with Big Name Stars needing screen time and limitations of settings and the like?

It's fun to think about and it's helping me with plotting.  Characterization, too.  

There's another version on Netflix, too -- one with Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple.  We're watching it tonight with homemade pizza.  Can't wait!