Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dear Charlie:

It's amusing to me how often either research or mood-setting for a book puts me in touch with stuff I'd have never been interested in otherwise.

See, I was looking for stuff with the feel of The Secret Garden. Stuff with offbeat kids, imagination taking a front seat, adventure, self-discovery. That kind of thing. Fairies, maybe, like the Spiderwick Chronicles or Fairy Tale: A True Story. Even The Little Princess.

Heh, I'm sure the people at Family Video don't know what to make of me. One week, I'm renting horror stock. The next, anything with an explosion. The next, children's flicks. Heheh.

Anyway, as I was perusing the family movie section and bemoaning the dearth of quality children's fair -- for God's sake, does EVERY MOVIE have to star either the Olsen twins or Hannah Montana?? -- I stumbled upon Nim's Island. I recognized the title because... wait for it... Gerard Butler's in it.

Yes. I rented this flick because of an actor I like. Ugh. You'd think I'd have learned from that mistake in past, but oh well.

Turns out, this one's pretty cute. I don't usually like cute, but this is cute in that "spunky kid, build a village out of bamboo and coconuts, good God is Gerard Butler gorgeous" kind of way that I can stand. Nim is precious, but she's also smart, imaginative, inventive, and resourceful. She's a nice mix of precocious and fragile, having lost her mother but having a loving (if a bit absorbed) father.

Mr. Butler actually plays two parts in this flick. One is the loving father who has raised a gem of a daughter who can take care of herself but needs the security of a parent figure. The other is a character in a book. You read that right. Nim's favorite author is Alex Rover, supposedly a great adventurer. The real Alex Rover is not only not Gerard Butler in some seriously kickin adventurer boots... but not even a man. He's a woman, and the woman is an OCD agoraphobic who hasn't left her apartment in ages.

But that doesn't stop both Nim and the real Alex from conversing with him. Those conversations are the real gem of this flick. Nim talks to him to keep her father close while he's struggling for his life lost at sea. Alex talks to him first for inspiration for the latest story, and then to psyche herself up to help Nim, who she finds out is all alone and scared out of her mind for her missing father.

Good times.

But I gotta admit... if not for Gerard Butler, I totally wouldn't have watched this. From what little I'd read or seen of it, it looked a little... Disney. God, I'm so sick of Disney kid movies. With helpful animals. And cutesy plots.

However, I'm glad I was wrong. This is an entertaining flick. Maybe not one I'll rush out to buy, but one I'm glad I rented.

Um... not sure it helped with story inspiration, though. Heh. Oh, well.

Win some, lose some.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dear Charlie:

So, since I've been stuck home with my chest, head, and brain full of snot, I've been thinking about what I might want in a professionally done website. I know without even asking that, the better an idea I have of what I want and the more specific I can be about what I don't want, the happier I'll be with the results and the easier it'll be for whomever I choose to do it.

Like I said on my current site's news page, this means I have to think about my branding. Ugh. I hate that word. It rings synonymously in my mind with "pigeonholing". Similar context, and all that.

But if I want to do this whole publishing thing more than once, I need to step outside my little writer box for a minute and put on my Business Hat. It doesn't fit well, and it tends to chafe if I leave it on too long, but hey. Desperate times and desperate measures.

I need to make my author website powerful. It needs to be more than just someplace for folks to drop by when they're casually curious by my book's title. Right now, it's a placeholder without any pizazz. Sure, it has information, sketchy news updates, and some free reads. It has the bare necessities.

But it needs more.

So, the question becomes... how do I pigeonhole myself when I write across the board? My beloved sister, bless her amazing heart, has such an inspiring grasp of her scope that she can pack all of her incredible writing feats into a single phrase: "Dare to look beneath the mask". Sends a chill down your spine, doesn't it? Makes you want to look beneath that mask even while it tells you it won't be without risks and you might never be the same.

EXCELLENT branding there. It describes her skills perfectly without limiting what she can do with them.

Ugh. The only thing I can come up with is that hilarious line from the first Major League movie: "Juuuuuust a bit outside!"

Yes. My writing style is comparable to a wild pitch. This is what I'm dealing with.

Worse, how do I condense that down into something that could be made into an evocative image? Again using Joely as an example, she has several banners now that each effortlessly evoke the various moods and emotions of her stories. Admittedly, she didn't pick just one, but still. She knew what she wanted to get across and had the smarts to know the finished product when she saw it.

Not sure I can do that. The only thing I think of when I try to encapsulate my stories as a whole is that picture of all the whopperjawed staircases leading everywhere and nowhere. Part of that is because I love different genres and worse, I love adding a dash of this and a pinch of that to everything I write. If I'm writing a Regency, it has to have a touch of action. If I'm dabbling in contemporary romance, I want to throw in a splash of paranormal. I even have an urban fantasy in the works with traces of theology. Talk about your oil and water.

But I love it. I love to mix things up a bit and see what shakes out. I'm putting pirates in a steampunk. Dinosaurs in a space opera.

Staircases to everywhere and nowhere. Juuuuuust a bit outside.

So...I'm working on my options. If I'm gonna spend the money on something, I want to be thrilled with the finished product. My beloved sister's site is definitely good advertising for the people who did hers and they've won me as a future client. However, I'm not stepping into those waters without having a good idea of what I want to get out of it.

So, I'm brainstorming. Trying to figure myself out enough to pick one perfectly evocative image, one incredibly evocative phrase. These two things have to encapsulate my writing as a whole.

And I totally need to get more free reads up and running for the site! Yeesh, I've been meaning to do that forever!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Dear Charlie:

While I am loathe to displace that last post -- man, still feeling the effects of that one -- I have to muse for a moment on the new reality I've found, living in a disaster town.

See, a storm's moving in. But not the big dangerous kind of storm -- although any storm can be deadly, of course; not meaning to blow off the weather (which is kinda what I'm talking about, because I used to blow off the weather all the time) -- but just a make-a-little-noise-make-a-little-light-make-a-little-rain kind of storm. As normal as sunrise for Missouri.

But you can literally feel the tension in everyone currently in the city limits. The folks at work were edgy the last hour or so. On the way home, driving was way worse than usual (and that's saying something!). Even as I pulled into my apartment compex's parking lot, I noticed people walking with their heads cocked up toward the sky, watching that big, dark cloud roll in with its burden of rain and noise and strobe.

It's a healthy bluish-black cloud. A rain cloud. We really, really need some rain around here.

But people are acting like it's a mushroom cloud instead of a storm cloud.

I was kinda looking forward to the storm, but now I just feel bad for everyone. We're so twitchy now. Just one more sign we're living in a disaster town.

I could almost make one of those "You might live in a disaster town if..." lists, but it wouldn't be funny. I could definitely make it amusing, but... nah. It's too soon.

Catch me this time next year, and we'll see. Heh.