Archive for the ‘Prescient observations’ Category
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing my best to keep hope alive. Life has been difficult and frustrating; it’s almost inconceivable to me, sometimes, that I’m still alive and my husband Michael has been dead for nearly ten years.
And I’m all that remains of what we’d hoped and dreamed for. I’m the only one who can finish his work, as well as my own. And as it’s difficult for me to figure out just what Michael had intended to do — writer Ursula Jones called this phenomenon “breaking into” someone else’s thinking (she was discussing finishing up her sister Diana Wynne Jones’ novel THE ISLANDS OF CHALDEA in the end-notes) — sometimes I wonder if I’m doing the right thing in carrying on Michael’s work.
Then again, I loved Michael, and I loved his stories, too. It makes me feel closer to him to do whatever I can to keep things going, even if what I write isn’t exactly the same as what he’d have written. Even if it’s taking me ten times as long to figure out this new novella set on Bubastis as it undoubtedly would’ve taken him, at least I’m trying to do it.
And that, in and of itself, is worthwhile. Michael would tell me so, if he were here . . . though of course, if he were, I’d not be doing this.
Mind you, I’m not the only writer who has ever wondered whether or not what I’m doing makes any sense. This blog from writersrelief.com about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and writing explains why writing and hope are so inextricably mixed:
As human beings and creative writers, we sometimes have a tumultuous relationship with hope. Hope keeps us going. We hope someone will understand what we’re trying to say with our writing. We hope the world will be a better place for our children. But when times get tough, hope can also feel like cold comfort.
Why have hope? we ask ourselves. What good will it do me if I know I can’t succeed? Sometimes when the task ahead seems truly impossible, hope seems futile.
But few people understand what it means to be hopeful as deeply as the man we honor every year at this time: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a pioneer of the civil rights movement. King’s dream was simple, but achieving it meant overcoming countless barriers and complexities. In many ways, hope was the driving force behind his remarkable achievements.
I missed this blog when it was first put up in January of 2014, but I find its words to be especially meaningful right now. (After all, studying the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., is never a bad thing.) I cannot imagine the odds against Dr. King when he first started agitating for civil rights and fair pay for laborers and equal rights for women and any number of other positive things — and he must’ve felt discouraged from time to time, too.
He didn’t show it very often, because Dr. King knew that people needed to believe that their lives, however meaningless they seemed, could indeed make a difference. So on bad days, he must’ve said, “I’m going to go out there and do the best I can,” and given whatever speech he had planned with whatever energy he had. And in so doing, he helped to lift people up with his words.
Words matter. Whether you’re an orator or a writer (or somewhere in between).
When I write a story, I want to make you think about something beyond yourself. Pondering something else can give you hope, because it means you can still think, still feel, still understand.
And I know that was Michael’s motivation for writing, also. He wanted to divert people, get them outside of themselves, and give them a few hours of entertainment that might actually make ‘em smile . . . maybe that’s why I’ve pushed so hard with my own novel AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, because as a comic fantasy, what else can it do but make people smile?
Before I go, let me share one quote (also cited in the Writer’s Relief article) I found especially meaningful from Dr. King: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
That, in a nutshell, is why I keep writing. Because I believe in hope. And that hope has to come from my own, hard work and effort — otherwise, why would it be worth anything?
Folks, a few years ago I wrote a blog about the TV show DROP DEAD DIVA. It was the end of season three, and I found the ending flatly unbelievable…and said so.
Ever since, I’ve had multiple hits on that post daily. It may be the most popular single blog post I’ve ever had. And I’ve had many people ask me over the years, “Barb, when will you talk about DROP DEAD DIVA again, hm?”
Well, today’s the day. But first, a brief explanation as to why I didn’t say anything for a while.
You see, I didn’t watch season four because I was taking a full year away from TV, in the hopes it would rejuvenate my creative impulses. (It did.) But I have watched seasons five and six.
Until now, while there have been some good episodes and some “what the Hell?” episodes, I hadn’t felt moved to blog.
Well, a few weeks ago on DROP DEAD DIVA, Jane Bingum’s long-term love-interest, Grayson Kent, died. It was not an expected death by any means, though he had been shot…anyway, Grayson died, and last week’s episode showed him in Heaven, talking to Fred the Guardian Angel from seasons 1-3 (and a few guest appearances since), who of course Grayson doesn’t really remember.
(It’s a tenet of the show that when a Guardian Angel is replaced on Earth, no one remembers him or her except for the person the Guardian Angel was looking after in the first place. In this case, that would be Jane.)
The very end of the episode showed Grayson waking up on Earth in someone else’s body, just as Jane did at the beginning of season one, episode one. But unlike Jane (formerly Deb Dobkins, a vapid blonde model; waking up in the body of a plus-sized lawyer was mostly a big step up for her), Grayson woke up in the body of a convict.
When Jane still thought of herself as Deb Dobkins, she was prevented from telling Grayson who she was by Fred. But Grayson doesn’t seem to have a Guardian Angel at all from the previews…he just woke up, and called Jane, and told her he’s back and in the body of this convict in cell block D — presumably in Los Angeles, California as that’s the official setting for DROP DEAD DIVA, last I checked.
I know from watching season five that every dead person who returns to Earth, whether in an expected fashion or not, has a Guardian Angel. (Britney, who before her death was the real Jane Bingum, came back and definitely had a Guardian Angel.) Yet Grayson does not seem to have one, and doesn’t realize the lack of one, either, even though Fred admitted he was Jane’s Guardian Angel years ago.
(Granted, I’m not sure how time passes in Heaven. But I digress.)
Fred told Grayson that Jane went back by “hitting the return button” on Fred’s computer. And that now, Heaven has removed all the return buttons, so no one can do it any longer. And Fred said at first that Grayson had to pick an afterlife.
But later, Fred said that he’d found a keyboard with a return button, and that Grayson should press it. Fred seemed both resigned and rueful over this, mind you. But unlike with our Jane (née Deb) or Britney (née Jane), who pressed those keys on their own without knowing what they’d do, Fred actually encouraged Grayson to press that return button, but of course warned Grayson that Grayson could wind up anywhere.
The oddest part was when Fred told Grayson that Fred will gladly suffer the consequences — because Fred suffered none when the real Jane went back to Earth a year ago and became Britney.
Anyway, Grayson presses the return button. And winds up inside that convict.
All of this is what I’ve seen on the last few episodes of DDD during season six. The remainder is pure speculation.
But hear me out anyway.
Sunday evening, Lifetime will be airing the latest DDD episode, “Afterlife.” That title seems quite wrong if Grayson really is alive again, albeit in the body of a convict.
So that got me to thinking . . . what if what we’re seeing happens to be Grayson’s afterlife?
Because really, Grayson wants to be with Jane. He is deeply in love with her, and was going to propose. (He was also in love with Deb, mind you, and it was real, too. But he loves Jane/Deb for other reasons; she’s much more of a mental equal.) His afterlife, if he had a choice, was to be with Jane forever — he told Fred that.
So what better way could there be for Grayson in the afterlife to be with Jane in this way?
I’m sure that the convict version of Grayson is in jail unnecessarily. Jane, as an exceptionally good lawyer, will find a way to get him out. And then, he and Jane will live happily ever after…seemingly in the real world.
But as DDD still has two or three episodes remaining, that does not feel right to me. It would wrap up the Jane/Grayson storyline too soon.
And considering that Fred the Angel had a relationship way back when with Stacey (Jane’s best friend), and Grayson told Fred that Stacey was getting married, could it be possible that Fred will show back up on Earth in order to court Stacey?
This would be an incredibly popular move, if so. Because Fred was well-loved among DDD fans, and was a major reason that DDD worked so well. (Brooke Elliot as Jane/Deb is wonderful. But without Fred, viewers might not have believed as much in Jane’s transformation.)
Anyway, I will be most interested to see what DDD actually does during the “Afterlife” episode. How about you?
Folks, I just finished reading two sample chapters from REBELS: CITY OF INDRA: The Story of Lex and Livia, a book purportedly written by Kendall and Kylie Jenner. (Yes, they’re the sisters of Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian.)
Here’s my capsule review: It’s dreadful. (Take a look at these one-star reviews if you don’t believe me.)
There’s no plot. There’s nothing in the way of characterization. And the Jenner sisters didn’t even write it.
The only good thing about REBELS: CITY OF INDRA: The Story of Lex and Livia (and yes, it has all of those colons) is this: Two ghostwriters actually got paid to write this garbage.
As a writer of YA fiction (you may have heard of my novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, if you’ve ever been to my blog before), I am appalled that this pitiful excuse for a book is currently sitting at #353 paid in the Amazon store.
And the only reason it appears to be there is this: The Jenner sisters are the young half-sisters of Kim Kardashian, reality starlet. So when they said, “Hey, we want to write a book,” they immediately got a book contract.
Then, apparently, after they realized how hard writing is, they quite sensibly hired ghost writers — which actually makes good business sense, but doesn’t show much on the creative side of the ledger for either of the Jenner sisters.
And now, they’re making money hand over fist despite the many negative reviews, merely because of name recognition.
It’s enough to make me, a barely known author, cry.
What can you do to combat this sort of nonsense? It’s blindingly simple: read something else.
“But Barb!” you yell. “I don’t know what to read! Help me!” (With or without exclamation points, granted.)
Look. I know many writers, and have reviewed many, many, many better books than this one. Here are just a few in the YA category that I recommend, and why:
Stephanie Osborn’s StarSong is a fable about a young, spoiled girl who realizes she needs to grow up and start doing things for herself before she finds the man of her dreams. This is an excellent novella about a spiritual awakening and a nifty coming-of-age tale, all in one. It was written for pre-teens, but anyone eight or above should enjoy this fun little story of loss, romance and redemption.
Chris Nuttall’s latest, LESSONS IN ETIQUETTE, is the second story about Emily, a teenage girl from our world who’s been transported to a quasi-medieval world where she can do magic and is important…but is important as much for the technical innovations she introduces into this new world (the printing press, Arabic numbers, double-entry bookkeeping, etc.) as she is for her own prodigious magical gifts. It’s a well-paced, well-written book that will keep you turning the pages, and is possibly Chris’s best book to date.
Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s NIGHT CALLS is the story of Alfreda Sorensson, who is a frontier girl with magic. Again, she does for herself, thank you, and spends her time productively by learning about herself and the world around her. This is one of the best books for teenage girls I’ve ever read.
Jason Cordova’s CORRUPTOR is about Tori, a teenager trapped in a virtual reality game environment. Tori’s ex-boyfriend causes trouble, while Tori’s widowed father tries to get her out of the simulation. It’s a fun, fast read with a lot of real-world implications.
Sarah A. Hoyt’s DARKSHIP THIEVES is about Athena, a girl on the cusp of adulthood who must find herself, fast. Her father is against her, so she flees as far away as she can and finds a whole different place than she’d ever imagined…she falls in love and marries, yes, but she does so on her terms and by showing how competent and intelligent she is at every turn.
Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill’s neo-Arthurian Shadow Grail series (LEGACIES, CONSPIRACIES, SACRIFICES and VICTORIES) features Spirit White, who loses her parents in an accident and only then finds out she has magic. But what type, and why? (And was it really an accident?) So she first has to find herself, learn her talents, and then save the world…
Folks, those are just a few of the many excellent books out there in the YA and/or pre-teen category. These are all writers who work hard at their craft, write excellent stories that make sense, with characters you will appreciate, and came up with plausible worlds in the bargain. I highly recommend all of these stories, and hope you will support these writers — real writers working really hard to give you really fine stories with real craftsmanship.
So, in short: Please do not support this newest effort by the Jenner sisters. They don’t need the money. They didn’t do the work. And they don’t deserve your patronage thereby.
But many other real writers do.
Edited to add: I’ve started a Twitter campaign called #SupportARealWriter to get the word out about real writers who use real craftsmanship to create good, solid, honest books — really. If you see #SupportARealWriter at the end of something, please support that writer and let people know their books are out, available, and are much, much better than the above book with the Jenner sisters’ name on it.
Folks, over the next three days (May 29-31, 2014), I will be attending Digicon 2014, a special event put on by SavvyAuthors.com. This is an important online writer’s convention, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
But I’m not just attending Digicon14. I am also presenting three workshops, which are:
- “When Your Crystal Ball Doesn’t Work — How to Fix Your Foreshadowing”
- “Procrastination Sedation — Or How to Quit Wasting Time on Social Media and Write”
- “Manuscripts Gone Wrong, or, How to Drive Your Editor Crazy Without Even Trying”
Now, why did I pick these particular topics?
Foreshadowing is one of the trickiest things for any writer to do. Even experienced writers can be confused by foreshadowing. So I tried to give some common-sense general tips. (I’m also hoping people will chime in with their own examples, so we can be a bit interactive.)
As for the second, time-management is essential for writers. Without it, we are doomed.
And as for the third? Well, I’m an editor. I’ve seen many mistakes time and time again. These mistakes can be overcome, but first, writers have to be made aware of them . . . it’s the same old adage as applies to anything else: You cannot fix a problem if you don’t first know it’s a problem.
If you, too, would like to be a part of Digicon14, it’s not too late for you to sign up here.
Hope to see you there.
Folks, I mentioned this in my recent blog about the “Four Questions for the Writer” blog-hop, but why not mention it again?
You see, my friend Jason Cordova has a new novella out with Eric Brown called KAIJU APOCALYPSE. (Yes, Jason is the second-billed writer; Mr. Brown is first. The story is still quite interesting.) And it’s been described by one of Jason’s other friends at Facebook (then reprinted on Jason’s blog) thusly:
Hey folks, does your life not have enough excitement? <wah wah music plays> Do you long for the days of being able to pick up a book and lose yourself in the heroic struggles of man against 300 ft. tall alien/dragon/dinosaur things? Was ‘Pacific Rim’ a religious experience?
Then what the hell are you waiting for? Click, don’t drag, over to your local Amazon website! You too can own your very own, extremely handy copy of Kaiju Apocalypse!
The friend’s comment is actually much longer than this, and it’s well worth reading, just for its sheer, joyous effervescence.
At any rate, walk, don’t run, to your computer and take a look at KAIJU APOCALYPSE. It may just intrigue you.
I know it definitely intrigued me.
For the past seventeen or eighteen days, depending on which side of the globe you’re on, it seems that every news person in the world has been covering the strange and sudden disappearance of Malaysian Airways flight 370, abbreviated as MH370 for short.
Every night, news organizations such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC America, and others have breathlessly reported on any available lead as to where this plane went. Various theories have been expounded, some having to do with Visual Flight Rules and how they might apply (if you’re flying low, you’re on VFR), some having to do with why the pilots might have simulators in their houses, various scenarios about how the cockpit might have had a catastrophic accident, and many, many more.
During all this time, the various families of the passengers who’d boarded MH370 expecting a safe and sedate flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing have been inundated with all of this. They’ve had to try to remain calm, even as the reputations of the pilots have been besmirched over and over again; they’ve been told all sorts of conflicting information, as no one can even seemingly figure out exactly where the flight may have gone down.
Worst of all, the Malaysian Prime Minister, a man by the name of Najib Razak, seemingly says something different every single day. He can’t confirm anything, because the information is constantly changing, and the satellite data coming in from other countries seems to directly contradict anything he says anyway.
So when Mr. Razak said earlier today (as reported by Wolf Blitzer on CNN) that there is now “conclusive evidence” that MH370 went down in the Indian Ocean and that all passengers and crew must be accounted dead, who can blame the families for not believing him?
See, the families are in between a rock and a hard place. They want information; they have to know that it would be an increasingly long shot for anyone to survive in the cold ocean in choppy seas without land, even with floatation devices and possibly some food and a bit of water, after seventeen-plus days. But the information must be impeccable, must be comprehensible, and must be logical.
More to the point, every available authority should agree on it.
Because after all this time, with all of the information that’s been thrown at them day after day after day, the families of the passengers and crew of lost MH370 have to be completely shellshocked.
That being said, the families have reacted with dismay, frustration, loss, and a whole lot of screaming to the recent revelations by Prime Minister Razak. All of this is completely understandable.
What isn’t understandable is why the media insists on showing these poor people being carried out on stretchers, screaming at the top of their lungs while gesticulating wildly, or other scenes of pain, loss, and outright suffering.
Where is the decency of the media? Why aren’t they treating these poor families the way they, themselves, would wish to be treated if for some reason their family members and loved ones had gone down on MH370 instead?
Granted, not every media outlet is showing the screaming. MSNBC seems to have restrained itself, for the most part, especially in recent days, for which I thank them. Fox News has not shown a lot of that, either, during the past four or five days. I don’t think BBC America has shown much in the past few days (though it showed a lot more earlier), and that’s a good thing as well.
But CNN definitely has.
Worse, it keeps doing it, and shows no sign of stopping any time soon.
My view is simple: The media needs to leave these poor families alone. (Yes, CNN, I’m looking squarely at you.) They have suffered enough as it is.
And unfortunately, they will continue to suffer for a very, very long time, even if the current information is absolutely accurate and even if the bodies of their loved ones are eventually found and recovered.
The only thing CNN and other media outlets like them are doing at this point is to prolong the agony of the suffering families.
And that, my friends, is just wrong.
Now, I am saddened to hear of their impending divorce.
Media reports thus far have said that Victor Voronov feels blindsided by what’s happened (the link I cited above from US Weekly had a headline of “shocked by the abrupt ending of his marriage, dealing with trauma endured”), which saddens me even further.
Look. Divorce is no picnic. (I should know; before I finally found Michael, I was divorced.) It can come out of the blue, or a lot of little things can lead up to a dissolution that at the time seems abrupt . . . but after a healing distance seems inevitable.
I don’t know what happened in Johnny Weir and Victor Voronov’s marriage, mind you. But I can tell you that historically, in some marriages between two people who are otherwise well-suited — such as English mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers and Scottish journalist Atherton Fleming — when one person succeeds more than the other, as Sayers did in a resounding fashion with her successful series of mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and his eventual wife, Harriet Vane, it can cause fissures that are nearly impossible to heal.
Granted, Ms. Sayers lived during a time where divorce for an observant Christian was not always the “done thing,” which is possibly why she did not divorce Mr. Fleming. (Divorce was possible, sure. But unless there were overpowering reasons for it, usually couples would suffer in silence.) But in most of the biographies I’ve read about Ms. Sayers, the reason for her marriage having enormous difficulty was given over and over again as one, simple thing: She was successful. And he wasn’t successful to the same degree.
Now, that doesn’t mean Atherton Fleming resented his wife or her success. But her overwhelming success still hurt the marriage, because he wanted to be equal to his wife, was a good writer in his own way, and just didn’t find the same success no matter what he did or how hard he tried.
Worse yet, it’s harder for a man sociologically in Western society when a male spouse in a partnership isn’t equal to his spouse. (Just because both spouses are male in the case of the Johnny Weir/Victor Voronov marriage doesn’t change that sociological fact.) It doesn’t seem to matter how much love there is, or how much empathy, or how much understanding if one spouse is more successful than the other — under those circumstances, unless both people are fully present in their marriage and are willing to see themselves as flawed people who need and love each other and see success as a relative thing as opposed to simply a status thing — and will throw one hundred percent of themselves into their marriage — their marriage ultimately has little chance of success.
Now, what do I mean by success being relative? Well, in this case, Victor Voronov is successful because he’s always fully supported his husband Johnny Weir. That isn’t always easy to do even for the most loving of spouses, especially when one person is in the public eye all the time and the other just isn’t.
Whereas Johnny Weir is successful for other reasons.
And both of them need to see each other as a success in his own way and on his own terms, or the marriage just hasn’t a prayer of working.
In this particular case, looking in from the outside, Johnny Weir has obviously been on an upswing in his professional life over the past year-plus. He’s just come off a well-received stint at the Sochi Olympics as a figure skating commentator, where he received largely favorable publicity. He and his figure skating commentator partner, Tara Lipinski, were both signed by Access Hollywood to provide coverage for all sorts of things, including the Oscars. And his own personal, rather flamboyant sense of style has been plastered across society pages from one end of the Internet to the other.
Whereas Victor Voronov has apparently been settling into a career as a lawyer. His job is full of stress and long hours for much lower pay than Weir has been receiving for Weir’s various duties. Voronov is trying to establish himself, which is incredibly stressful in its own right.
Having a globe-trotting husband who’s plastered across society pages is possibly not what Voronov had expected his marriage to look like, especially as he married an athlete, not a celebrity icon (though to be fair, Weir was already both things when he married Voronov in December of 2011).
This sets up a lot of inequality that would be tough for any couple to deal with. One member of the marriage — Weir — is often gone and away from the other. Even with all the love in the world and complete and utter fidelity to one another, that one thing has been the death of more marriages than almost anything else.
At any rate, Weir has announced his separation from Voronov on Twitter and apparently has filed for divorce. Weir will be talking with Access Hollywood (one of his employers) later today (Thursday, March 20, 2014) by most media accounts, so perhaps at that time more will come out about the dissolution of his marriage.
That being said, while I can see from the outside why there would be extra stress on the Weir-Voronov marriage, I still had hoped it would endure. Weir seemed to settle down quite a bit after his marriage, and had shown himself to be a more mature and sensible individual — perhaps he always was that way, granted, and the media just didn’t portray it overmuch because being colorful is always “good copy” — and by every account I’ve ever read, Voronov was deeply in love with Johnny and was an extremely supportive spouse.
That’s why I find this particular divorce between two men I have never met and don’t know to be incredibly sad.
* * * * *
Edited to add:
Since I first wrote about this, a number of particularly nasty things have come out regarding the split between Weir and Voronov, most particularly via the gossip magazines.
I feel badly for both of these men. Divorce is hard.
But divorcing in public in the age of Twitter and non-stop communication seems to be the height of insanity.
I don’t know what to make of some of the things that have come out, to be honest. But I still believe that people have the right to make their own choices, as well as their own mistakes; because of this, sometimes marriages don’t work no matter how much love there is between the two parties.
I wish both men well as they do their best to move forward from what all accounts have shown thus far to be an incredibly traumatic experience.