Posts Tagged ‘story’

That’s the stuff!

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

51e08v4g18l_ss500_.pngSince I am officially in Writing/Editing Mode and thus have taken off reading prose, I hijacked Josh’s The Best American Comics 2006 (thanks @kownacki). I read the first piece, Joel Priddy’s “The Amazing Life of Onion Jack”. Freakin’ amazing stuff.

I found Onion Jack to be absolutely charming and wonderful. This single, ten page story made me want to devour the rest of his work. Check out his work and blog… I know I will.

I look forward to reading more of this collection. Check it out!

The Problem with Fantasy

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

p-p-z.jpgI’m not a voracious reader, by any means. I usually have a magazine (design! science!) or some kind of fantasy novel in my Bag Lady bags. I’m trying to read more, however, with a focus in the genre I’d like to be published in one day.

I just finished up two classic fantasy novels and found them both underwhelming. Granted, one was published in 1970 and the other was translated from German, but one was also a Newbery Medal winner, and both were made into movies. The writing is fine, the stories are interesting, the lands fantastic. The characters? Generally Meh.

Which is a shame. The cool thing about Fantasy is you get to make everything up. The possible pitfall is that you have to make everything up. You have to set the ground rules of a world, a society, whatever.

Those bonus perimeters include the characters, and can allow for some great added drama — for instance, Pride and Prejudice would have been a different book if Elizabeth were a vampire or fairy or… zombie?

But while the unique aspect of a SF/F setting can be a roller-coaster ride, it shouldn’t be the only engaging aspect of a story, with the characters you’re supposed to care about simply being shuffled around. I’ve never connected emotionally with a mountain, coastline or swamp; but give me a character I can love or hate or root for and I’m yours. Speaking as someone who’s created some different environments, I know it’s challenging to keep that world from becoming it’s own entity, and perhaps in some cases that is appropriate, but after seeing it crash in spectacular fashion (or am I the only one who thinks so?) I have a hearty interest in making sure I did not, will not, make the same mistake.

The difference between going back and going home

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

It’s funny.

So much time and effort goes into writing a novel. I will go through the cycle of loving and hating the process over the next two years as I finish up the David trilogy. Writing affects my social life, my wallet, and I’m not published, so what’s the incentive? I’m not always sure.

A couple weeks ago, I was looking forward to the break, and possibly The End of me writing long format stories. I was just plain out of ideas and that felt… strangely okay.

So that’s it, right?

Apparently not. A little seed of a story was born Saturday morning. It’ll stew in the brain for the next 24 months until it’s ripe.  I’ll store little notes in that mental drawer and then I’ll probably do this all over again. A tiny part of me is disappointed.

“Let’s take a break!” it shouts.

“Let’s enjoy the world and not spend our life in a freakin’ cafe!” it cries.

“At least not in the summer, so we can maybe go to the pool? Please?” it begs.

It’s genuinely bummed, the poor thing. But most of me? Absolutely elated.


Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I’d do the obligatory apology for not blogging more, but after a stint several years ago of blogging every itty-bitty detail of my life, I resolved only to update when I had something other people might like to read. Otherwise, I’d be apologizing for stupid filler content. So: no sorrys*. Instead, here’s a general update on things.

The Sum of David (1): I’ve been having problems getting myself to write the necessary query letters needed to find an agent for this series. After an exhausting week of personal drama, I find myself with a renewed fire in my belly to get this done. We’ll see how long those embers burn.

The Sum of David’s currently untitled sequel: The third draft is now with it’s first editor (aka “Mom”). This year said editor has a full-time job, however, so she can’t go through it with her usual speed. I jeeringly requested sometime in 2009, but now I’m beginning to wonder how seriously she took that. The good thing about it being out of my hands is that I can concentrate on those query letters. Well, except for…

The Sum of David’s third and FINAL installment: I made my first notes for this series-ender last weekend after a lot of time on the road. Since then, I have post-its in my jacket pocket, doodled napkins in my purse and scribbles on my notepad at work. I think it might be time to start carrying the D3 Notebook around full-time. Considering I was feeling lost and uninspired about this not long ago, I am very excited about this change in motivation. I had feared the spark/gestation period I usually experience wasn’t going to happen. It turns out David’s story won’t be determined by whether I get picked up or not. I’ll write as long as it takes to tell his tale. It’s more honest that way anyway. And hot dang, there’ll even be romance.

Illustration: The long road trip last weekend also solidified the idea that I would like to do at least as much work for myself as for other people in the near future. There’s a screen printing play-date scheduled — what I hope to be one of many this year — and I’ve undertaken a personal growth project I will probably hate myself for once we hit, oh, about May. More on that later.

*Yes, that’s right: my “A” game. I’m giving you guys my best stuff. ..I know. It’s sad.


Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

I think a lot of people have some subject they just love no matter what. Maybe it’s shoes or time travel or Shakespeare. For me, there are several: Hellboy, Mucha, Batman… but the one that outshines them all is DINOSAURS.

It could even be an intelligent passion if I could get past that wall of child-like glee I encounter when I see/think about/hear a dinosaur. Maybe if I learned some of the more exotic, lesser-known species I could at least sound smart about it. But alas: my brain regresses (back to… let’s say 6?) and I just go ga-ga. There’s a glazed look in the eyes, a dumb smile on my face, and most likely some very high-pitched squeals. So when I heard that Walking with Dinosaurs was coming to Pittsburgh? Hoo boy.

Walking with Dinosaurs is a live action production based on the popular BBC series. A paleontologist walks you through the world during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, while 20 life-sized dinosaurs interact with one another in a grand joining of animatronics and puppeteering.


Granted, you could dress some chickens up in little dino suits and I would pay good money to watch them run around for a couple hours; but this was legitimately AMAZING. The smaller species like Liliensternus and Utahraptor (think Velociraptor) were dudes in suits — you could see their grey legs, but you eventually forgot they were there because the creatures moved so naturally and the fog helped distract you from the part that wasn’t dinosaur.


The bigger species — Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Torosaurus (think Triceratops, but bigger), Mama T-Rex and the massive Brachiosaurus — were “driven” by a man inside a tiny car-like mechanism at their base, while the more delicate actions were controlled remotely from backstage. Even if you didn’t care much for dinosaurs, the puppeteering aspect could have fascinated anyone. Their movements were natural, fluid, kinetic… they were very convincing.


The set was simple. There was a giant rock continent in the middle that split and migrated according the Earth’s continents of each period. When plants became more prevalant, the perimeters of the ring and the continents sprouted giant inflatable foliage, which was a superb way to translate the arrival of this new predominant lifeform — it looked like they bloomed when they appeared, and they wilted convincingly when volcanic shifts occured. The music was dramatic, fun and appropriate. Also, a surprising amount of detail came in the lighting. Whoever directed the lights for this show did a phenomenal job — it conveyed large-scale geological shifts and general weather with ease and beauty. It could have easily been corny, and it wasn’t.


The most impressive part was definitely the realism of movement, however. I only took still photos — you can check out some footage of the show here. It was darned impressive.


I could go on and on and on. A coworker asked me about the show on Monday because I’d been so excited about it — he didn’t know what he was in for. I proceeded to give him a detailed breakdown of what happened, which species were involved, and how freakin’ cool it was. If it comes to your town and you have any interest in dinos or puppets, I highly recommend it.

And this is an Ankylosaurus:


I want to hug him and squeeze him and take him home.

The Sum of David 2.2

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

I met half of my goal. My intention to edit through The Sum of David’s sequel twice before Sept. 1st didn’t go quite as planned, but I made it through once.

And I rewrote the ending, and it was a toughie. I kind of cried a little.

So there. I want a cookie.

Now I have a binder full of my efforts (all 215 pages of it) and a big, nasty red pen that can’t wait to *slash! slice! boom!* through it. Let the slaughtering of words begin!

Also: I really need to hash out a title for this manuscript. I can’t keep calling it The Sum of David 2, that’s just silly.

Also also: I’ve been working on some illustrations that I can’t wait to show off. It’s pretty much the best stuff I’ve done in a long time. Maybe ever.

And I bought a suitcase. I’m going to paint it. You can’t stop me.

The Dark Knight

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008


May launched a very anticipated summer movie season for me: Iron Man, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, and finally, The Dark Knight. Let’s face it: the summer is usually a season of heavily hyped disappointers with a couple gold nuggets that slip through. I have to say on the whole I felt this summer was largely satisfactory, and went out on a very, very good note.

After the series of Batman films wound painfully down in the 90’s, I’d really written off hope for one of my favorite comic book heroes. Batman wasn’t the dark, brooding, troubled vigilante that delivered justice via brain, brawn and ingenious technology that he should have been; he’d become a James Bond full of corny one-liners that battled silly, bumbling bad guys in funny costumes. It was embarrassing.

Then Batman Begins came out in 2005. I went with expectations carefully in check, but excited at the appropriate darkness I’d seen in the previews. Was it perfect? No, but it hit all the right notes with me. I loved it. Its sequel, The Dark Knight, came out Thursday at midnight. I didn’t see it until Sunday afternoon, but everyone I heard in the interim — friends, family, fellow bus riders and strangers in cafes — had very positive things to say. I would say them, too, except the movie left me largely speechless.

I LOVED IT. It’s long (152 minutes), but it’s really two movies. Right when the story seems to resolve and your internal story-clock is thinking “ah, here’s the end”, they twist it around and give you another 45 minutes of movie. Heath Ledger’s Joker is deliciously unpredictable. Aaron Eckhart is an ambitious, well-intentioned and valiant Harvey Dent, which makes his fall from grace all the more painful. Christian Bale is… well, he’s a dark, brooding, troubled vigilante.  And you have to love a supporting cast that consists of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman.

The mood is dark, gritty, dangerous, and beautiful. There’s a layer of wonderful anxiety over the whole movie. People died, which was refreshing; I like a movie that isn’t afraid to kill important people off. Characters are believable and artfully crafted. The costumes and technology are modern and realistic. Some of the plot was predictable, but they threw enough curve balls that I stopped guessing and just let them take me for a ride. They cover a lot of ground. The end is… poetically bittersweet and wonderful. It was a perfect movie experience as far as I’m concerned, with magic that won’t strike again, especially in light of the rumors that Bale and Nolan will not return for the third installment.

It’s rare that you see a movie that legitimizes the hype. This totally lived up to my expectations.

BONUS: They showed a preview for the film adaption of Alan Moore’s Watchmen. The Billy Corgan music pseudo-slow-mo thing was a little over the top for me, but I’m still looking forward to it. Can they pull it off? I don’t know. It’s a seriously dense piece of fiction. Here’s hopin’ they can.

This should conclude the movie reviews for a while. Probably. Maybe.

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008


I lurve Hellboy. I just want to hug him and squeeze him and tell him he doesn’t have to be the apocalyptic destruction of the universe if he doesn’t want to, I don’t care what that nasty baba yaga says. Josh, Keli and I headed out to Southside Works to check out the second movie yesterday. I have to say I went into this one with some reservations because of the trailer and, well… I’ll get there in a second.

To start out, we’re introduced to a legend via a 1940’s era Professor Bruttenholm bedtime story to a young Hellboy: long ago there was a war between humans and magical creatures (fairies, trolls, etc). The humans were winning by a landslide. In an effort to change the outcome of the war, the Elf King Balor has the trolls construct the Golden Army, 4,900 strong and indestructible. This new army annihilates the humans, without remorse or mercy. The King, horrified at what he has allowed, forges a truce with the humans — they will keep to their cities, and the magic creatures shall have the forests. The Golden Army is hidden away, and the crown that controls it is broken apart.

Fast forward a few hundred years. Hellboy and the rest of the BPRD (that’s the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) are called to the scene of an artifact auction gone horribly wrong — the place is nearly destroyed and there’s no sign of the 70-some guests that signed in. After a few devoured agents, toasted tooth-fairies and general mayhem, things get interesting. Word on the street is that Nuada, King Balor’s son from way-back-when is still miffed about daddy’s truce and has decided to reassemble the crown, track down the hidden Golden Army and destroy all of humanity with it.

But don’t worry. The BPRD’s on the job.

The movie is definitely worth seeing. Casting is perfect, save Abe’s voicing. Effects are excellent. The writing’s good — Mike Mignola, Hellboy’s creator, and Guillermo del Toro, the director, did a nice job. Costumes, choreography, animation, all that good stuff: great. Nuada does a bunch of crazy fighting stuff, even if he does back flips to do the job two steps backwards would do; and it’s weighted well enough (I hate obvious wire work). The creatures were righteous. The tooth-fairies were in classic Mignola fashion, and I enjoyed the Elemental and the tumor-baby. And this dude? Awesome.

And here’s the part where I become the picky, snobby fangirl.

It was too fantasy for me.

What’s that, Rachel? Don’t you write fantasy novels? That’s kind of hypocritical, don’t you think?

Okay, okay, but here’s the thing. Hellboy is horror. Horror. True, the stories are often based in various world mythologies and folklore; but this was too Lord of the Rings in present day New York starring Hellboy for my tastes. Blet. Even subtracting the heavy fantasy element, the dialog didn’t have the punch of the first one. I should have pooped my pants in awe when the Ruins Rock Dude sat up, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t have wished for another fight with Sammael, but the first movie had a gritty urban aspect that made me forgive it for its minor shortcomings. This one… there’s not as much of a buffer.

And to round out my griping: the young Hellboy? I commend the kid for trying through the prosthetics, but c’mon. And I’ll reiterate how much I missed David Hyde Pierce as Abe. Doug Jones did a fine job, but ever since hearing Pierce, his is the only voice I can attach to Abe… when I read the comics, it’s him I hear in my head.

Now. All that being said, I did enjoy it. Really. I promise. It just fell a little short of my hopes and dreams, which were probably too stupid super high to start out with. Usually when I see book-to-movie translations, I can separate the two stories, but I think I was too close to the source material on this one. Ultimately, it was still written by Mignola and had the guy’s creative force all over, so it definitely gets a thumbs up. This means yes, I will buy the extended DVD box-set of the movie… and I’ll worship it because that’s what fangirls DO.

“You’re in love. Have a beer.”

“Oh no. My body is a temple.”

“Yeah? Well, now it’s an amusement park.”


Thursday, July 10th, 2008


With the exception of Ratatouille, I have been able to see every Pixar movie in the theater. A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo rank in my top five movies of all time, and are part of the feel-good arsenal* of entertainment I reach for when I need any sort of pick-me-up.

Once upon a time, I would see the trailer for the next Pixar film and say, “Really? A fish movie? How can you tell a story about fish?” Or “Really? A movie about cars? That won’t hold my interest.” And then they slap me right in the face with some really good stuff a few months later. There was none of this doubt regarding Wall-e, however.

Robots? Oh goodness, yes.

I believe Josh’s words to me upon seeing the original trailer were, “Seriously, you’re going to cry the whole time.

Wall-e opens on a desolated Earth, overrun by garbage and abandoned by its human inhabitants. Wall-e (that’s a Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth class) is the lone operating robot on the planet and he goes about his daily duties of collecting, compressing and organizing the trash that surrounds him. In the 700 hundred years since people left the ruined Earth behind, Wall-e has grown increasingly lonely. He explores as he collects, gathering interesting human elements from the mountains of trash, and watching and re-watching the 1969 version of Hello, Dolly. Daily life is interrupted when a rocket lands in Wall-e’s city and launches a exploratory probe. The probe is a zooming robot named Eve (or Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), and Wall-e takes an intense fascination with her, following her around as she scans every inch of the city. Once she finally recognizes he is not a threat and stops trying to blow him up, he introduces her to his home, Hello, Dolly, and his collection of people stuff… including his latest curious find. It’s this last discovery that gets things really rolling, eventually taking Wall-e up into space and to the humans’ present home, the Axiom.

It’s the artiest film Pixar’s produced, and contains the most globally-applicable social commentary — but not in a preachy, oh-come-on kind of way. The story is an even, sometimes melancholy ride, but never boring. And it’s interspersed with a warmth and cuteness that will make your heart ache.

Pixar is just good. They tickle every creative part of me. The technical execution (animation, lighting, color) is perfect; the character and set designs, flawless. The story they tell is always distilled into the most concise, dramatic, meaningful chunk of yum it can be. Dialog is never wasted — indeed, there’s only three words of it in the first fifteen minutes of Wall-e and it works. Some robots only say one thing, and they are extremely effective in that capacity. Motivations are on for each character.

There isn’t any fluff. Everything leads to something else, something that has to be there to make the whole thing work. Pixar recognizes storytelling as the art form it can be.

The only complaint I have with the movie was the introduction of a live-action element. I understood why it was there, but it did put a bit of a crack in the style and its suspension of belief. But it’s totally forgivable, and I still enjoyed the movie immensely. I would see it again in a heartbeat, and it will absolutely become a part of the home collection when it comes out on DVD.

Go see it in the theater if you can. It’s worth every penny.

*The Feel Good Arsenal reads as follows: Muppet Treasure Island, Lilo & Stitch, A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo… and Jurassic Park.

And we’re back…

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

39.jpgTaking the month of May off of writing was the best thing I could have done. This time two years ago, when I’d finished first installment of The Sum of David on May 1st, I was chomping at the bit to get back into it two weeks later. I enjoyed the full four weeks off this round, taking care of some general life things while my brain recuperated from my writing binge in April.

I feel recovered, and my mind’s inner storyteller is ready to rock again. I’m getting random little jolts of inspiration throughout the day — when I sleep, on the bus, during work, when I’m reading. My brain is sucking up every day observations like a sponge takes water, playing out little daydreams on how I could use them on my characters and then tucking the scenarios away. That means it’s time.

I went to the coffee shop last night feeling nervous. I’ve been excited about getting back down to business since last week, but there are times when you just can’t get it right, despite the best intentions. I was afraid I’d sit down and dig my heels in only to find myself feeling lost and overwhelmed. Fortunately, after the caffeine was flowing and the music got loud, things happened.

There’s certainly no dressing it up, though. This one’s going to be tough. There’s so many little parts and pieces that have to fit together by the end. The first draft was hard, but I’ve got several parts that are missing that need to be filled in, and revelations I made a week ago that have to be put into place. This is by far the most complicated story I’ve tried to wrangle so far.

It also has the potential to be the best piece of fiction I’ve ever created.

I think I’ve got it in me. Time will only tell.