Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Being Thankful

Source: Forgotten Love by Marcus Quigmire
Death affects me very deeply. I know, who is left without tears upon the death of someone close, right? It's human nature. You may shed tears, you may carry the scars on the inside, but we are all affected by the loss of life.

And then, there's me. . .

When I was in high school, a girl I disliked very much came to school crying. A friend of hers had died the previous night in an accident. I overheard her telling the story and I cried with her. We became close friends after that. That's the kind of person I am, I take death too hard. My family never shares those kinds of news with me unless they're right there to see me through. But just as I become depressed and saddened, I find a way to ease my pain. I like to pay some form of tribute to the deceased; then, with time, the sadness fades.

Death has twice changed me profoundly, affecting the way I live my life, but I won't go into details; at least not today. Today, I want to share with you a third occurrence that, in similar fashion to my high school story, has brought me a present.

About three years ago, I received news of the passing of a close uncle. He'd been sick for a very long time so it wasn't a surprise, maybe even a blessing. As always, I was left with a profound melancholy. As a way to work through the dark moments, and because I hadn't been able to say goodbye, I wrote a piece of flash fiction. Three paragraphs that acknowledged his suffering, a small token that said: I won't forget. When the pain went away, I worked on the piece. I edited and added details, some fictional, but always thinking of him. The story is called IN THE END. Today I signed a contract with Dark Moon Books; the story will be part of Dark Moon Digest, issue 14.

I am very happy, also thankful. I can't stop thinking this comes from him. My promise stands; I won't forget, his memory won't fade away. And now, he lives on in a piece of paper within the infinite confines of the written word.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Learning the Craft from the best: Ray Bradbury

All those who follow this blog know I'm an uneducated writer. By this I mean I majored in an unrelated area to Literature/Creative Writing/English. I do, however, believe in the power of education, and I do my best to learn from wherever I can. Hence my Creative Writing classes at my local college, and my stalking of writers that have the knowledge I crave. No body has complained so far. I guess we writers understand the need for an intensive study of personality...

Anyway, I've debated for a long time the pros and cons of going back to college and getting a Creative Writing Masters. On one side, I'm a mom of two and don't really have the kind of time I had at say, sixteen. I also don't know how much my career would benefit from it. I know I would be a better writer, but I don't think a diploma will get me any closer to a Big-Six-contract.

Anyhow, I know among you are those who belong to either side of this metaphorical fence. I would love to get your thoughts. Is it worth the time and effort? Or are the other ways (like informal classes and mentoring programs) to get the same knowledge just as effective?

Anywhoo, on a related note... A few days ago, Tim Waggoner (an excellent, successful speculative fiction writer, and Creative Writing teacher) shared on the internet the most fascinating story. It is a short story by the master Ray Bradbury, and it has no characters. At all. At least not in any way we are familiar.

THERE WILL COME SOFT RAIN is clearly Experimental Fiction, but unlike many other experimental pieces, it is logical, easy to follow, and it makes sense. Bradbury's rich vocabulary and expert weaving abilities conveys a complex story where there's no one left to tell it. A true delight for readers and writers alike.

Here, I share with you a version read by Burgess Meredith. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Hunger Games: Last Words

A long time ago I wrote a review of each book of the The Hunger Games saga. I also promised I would write a new post where everyone would be able to talk about every detail of the books openly. I know, I'm a slacker, but with the second movie about to open in theaters, I thought this to be as good time as ever.

So, readers beware: This is an open discussion about the saga, characters, and important plot points. All is fair here; we can talk spoilers all day long and enjoy getting out of our systems the nitty-gritty stuff about Katniss, Peeta, Collins, and The Hunger Games. If you are looking for a review of the saga without spoilers, click here, here, and here.

Now, let the Hunger Games discussion begin!

Out of the three books, the one I least enjoyed was the third. Not only we have Katniss hiding in closets for one third of the story (at least), but then Collins deals a terrible twist to Peeta that just ruins him. Prim dies--WTF! So all this for nothing!--and then there's the final chapter... But let's start slow.

How about your favorite character? From previous comments on my other posts, I gather Peeta is a fan favorite. He is the most likable of the whole, and the true hero of the story. Such a sweet boy that pays a high price for his closeness to Katniss. I could not stand to see him turned into a mutt. I confess I did not see that twist coming, him turned into a weapon against Katniss, and it broke my heart because I knew he could never recover from something like that. They damaged him for good and there's no turning back from it.

Prim's death is another horrible blow and makes the story go from sad to depressing. However, I got it. I may not have liked where the story was going, but I understood what Collins was doing. She was following the turn of events to their worst possible conclusion. She was also making a brave statement about war and violence without being preachy and I admired her for that. And then came the last chapter.

For me, that denouement was Collins attempt at bringing a peaceful and somewhat happy conclusion to the story. Through her treatment of the characters, it is clear that she feels bad for the damaged youths, but it is truly in that trying to fix things that she betrays the spirit of her own books. Like so many before her, Collins was unable to kill her darlings. She chose to write about an ugly reality without making it pretty, just to try and do just that with the ending. I mean, Katniss recovering from her crazy period to go on and have a family of her own. After killing the true head of the revolution. Really? In what messed up reality would such an act be pardoned 'due to reason of insanity'? Does Collins know the Che Guevara story?

Anyway, in my opinion the author was very conflicted about the kind of story she wanted and the story it turned out to be. But my biggest disagreement would be with all the fans out there who don't get tired of saying that Katniss is a strong leading role. Are you kidding me? She's manipulated throughout the whole story by anyone who knows a bit more than her. From Haymitch to Snow, passing through every other character in the books, even Peeta at some point. Everyone knows what they're doing and how to accomplish it except her. Sure, she knows how to shoot an arrow, but she lacks the confidence to take control of her life. And let's not even talk about how she does nothing but be the vulnerable, broken youngster incapable of taking care of herself for most of the third book. So annoying!

The quality of the books is not an issue at all. Collins is a good writer and the story--however annoying or incongruent--never fails to be interesting. She also managed to surprised me at least once per book, and I have to tell you: It doesn't happen that often. So, in case anyone reading this feels affronted by my comments, understand that this is simply my opinion. I'm not judging the writer herself, or her ability to write. I'm simply stating the plot points I feel missed the mark and let me down. We are all entitled to our own opinions and I'll be happy to receive all your comment as long as you are polite.

Now go ahead and shoot.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Coffin Hop Winners and IWSG

I want to start by thanking the amazing people who make possible the Coffin Hop: Axel Howerton and Julie Jansen. Their dedication to organizing and visiting everyone's blog shows in the success of the hop, year after year. To all of those who participated, reading your entries was a lot of fun, and the prizes were awesome. And finally, to all of you who kept coming back to read and comment, I owe you a debt of gratitude I cannot pay. I HAD A BLAST and hop you feel the same.

So, the winner of a digital copy of DEATH BY DRIVE-IN, the Coffin Hop anthology, is:


Please, leave your email in the comment section so we can get in contact to send you the file.

And like that October is gone and November is here. The year is coming to an end, can you believe it? For the penultimate Insecure Writers' Support meeting I don't have a sad story or a personal moment of self doubt. Instead I want to direct a message to all IWSGs participating in NaNoWriMo this year:

Source: Terrible Minds

Because I value my sanity and my marriage, I don't participate in NaNo. One day the girls will be grown up and I won't have PTO meetings, Girl Scouts duty, soccer, or swimming. Then I'll pound the heck off my computer keys and join you in the fun. But in the meantime, I'll live vicariously through you. 

Keep writing, guys. Don't worry about good writing, just write. You'll edit tomorrow. Go you!!