Friday, January 20, 2017

The glass is half full of lemonade made from the lemons life gave you


The joke goes:

Did you hear that I got married?"
"Oh, that's good."
“No, that's bad! He’s ugly."
"Oh, that's bad."
"No, that's good! He’s rich enough that it doesn’t matter.”
"Oh, that's good."
"No, that's bad! Being rich made him lousy at sharing."
"Oh, that's bad."
"No, that's good! He’s saved so much, he bought me a mansion.”
"Oh, that's good."
"No, that's bad! The mansion burnt down."
"Oh, that's bad."
"No, that's good! He was in it.”

We can never know what bad will come from something good and what good will come from something bad.

Like after my mom died, my sister, my dad, and I all grew much closer.

But how do we embody this? When big things go wrong in our lives, they knock us down. Health problems, money problems, the death of someone we love. It’s natural to fall apart afterwards, for a long time, even.

If someone hurts me, I don’t immediately think, oh, GOOD, something amazing will come out of this.

Recently, my agent told me that the diverse characters in WIP might put me in the crossfire in the debate over cultural appropriation. Apparently, living in Hawai’i and working there for twelve years doesn’t count. Or having two children born there. In any case, after reading her email, I didn’t think, “Yay! What an opportunity!!!” But after wallowing for weeks, I picked myself off the floor.

First I talked to my friends that are also people of color to get their perspective.
Then I approached a couple writers of color that I know. I asked a lot of questions, to better understand the issue. They asked me questions back.
Why are you telling this story?
Is this your story to tell?

I talked and read and pondered a long time before deciding it was my story to tell.
Then I reached out to friends in Hawai’i, some writers, some civilians.

One friend introduced me to Puna Kalama Dawson, a great grandma. Over the phone, Puna told me stories about her family. She offered to read my book to make sure I got it right. She knew someone else who should read it, too.

After we talked, I read some articles about her and found this quote. “Let us build these bridges of friendship that will blanket the earth.”


And that is something good. Mahalo nui loa.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

That Which Does Not Kill Us, Can Only Make Us Better Writers (Alissa Grosso)

I am an inconstant journaler. Many a year, I resolve at the start of the year to write a journal entry every day, and we're hitting the point of the year (it's January 18th, for the record) where that resolution usually goes down the drain. One thing I've noticed from years of keeping these inconstant journals is that the shittiest days often produce the longest journal entries. (Hey, that's a clever saying I should put that on a shirt.)



I guess as a writer, my way of dealing with crap is to write about it. Some people throw things, some people scream and shout, some people meditate. I write. What this means is that if I go back and look at past journals what I end up seeing is that things have been pretty awful and miserable for me. This doesn't really give an accurate picture of my life. I've always found it easier to write a scathing book review than one that's full of praise. When you don't like a book, it's easier to enumerate all it's flaws, but with a good one you don't want to nitpick and go through all the things that make it good. You just want to savor it's goodness and say this is a good book and leave it at that. It's pretty much the same with good days.  We want to savor good days and relive them again, but often this doesn't involve writing out every detail of what made a day so good. That kind of sucks the joy out of it.

Shit happens. (Hey, that's another good t-shirt, but I think that one may be already taken.)


And the thing is that it happens to everyone. Even someone who seems like they lead a perfect, charmed life has faced down some ugly stuff at one time or another. All of us, everywhere have had things happen that we knew were the absolute worst things ever. Sometimes we wondered how we would ever survive, and yet somehow we did and left a whole mess of long, rambling journal entries in our wake. When I look back on those old journal entries sometimes I'm amazed at the stupid stuff I stressed about at one point or another, but other times I find myself transported back there for a few minutes, and I am grateful that I made it through alive.

I believe in the adage to "write what you know" up until a point. There's a lot of things that I think it's perfectly fine to make up. That said life experiences, even the bad ones can make our lives fuller and our writing more powerful. I often mine life experience for my own writing, and I think it's pretty safe to say that something like 99% of other writers do the same. To keep the stakes high in our fiction we have to put our characters through hell, so it helps if we've experienced some adversity in our lives.

Now, that said there's a notion that's been expressed (quite a bit of late) that suffering and misery produces great art, and I would like to call bullshit on that. (Sorry about all the "shit" in this blog post. It's got almost as much expletives as a journal entry written on a shitty day.) 



Misery doesn't produce art, artists produce art, and a miserable artist is not producing anything. They're just trying to survive. Misery produces journal entries, but journal entries are not art. Journal entries (at least the ones written on miserable days) are venting. Venting isn't art. Sure, maybe someday down the road you'll be able to mine your bad experiences for something that you can use in a work of art, but that's just like a little reward that you get for surviving. It's not your misery that has produced the art, it's you the artist who has produced it.

By the way, a note for those of you who do plan on culling your life experiences for creating works of fiction. If you include just one solitary detail that comes from your own life, your readers (particularly close family members who recognize said experience) will assume the entire work is autobiographical. Even if NOTHING else comes from your own life, even if the character doesn't look like you, or isn't even human, they're pretty much going to assume that you are writing straight-up autobiography. So, keep that in mind, if, say, you are writing a story about a deranged serial killer and you happen to give him a car that behaves in the same erratic manner as that piece of junk car you were driving ten years ago, there's going to be some people out there who assume that you are a deranged serial killer, or, at least, harbor murderous intentions.

So, maybe you're someone who is thinking if trial and tribulation can give us so much free material, shouldn't we voluntarily experience misery? For the sake of art, should we put ourselves in risky situations? No and no. Look, there's enough crap out there in the world, and you will experience your fair share of it. That's a promise. I'm sorry. Life is dangerous, life is ugly. It's your job to survive, and the easiest way to survive is to avoid as much bad stuff as you can. Like, I said, you aren't going to be able to avoid it all, but hopefully you survive. Vent to your journal, or throw things, or meditate. Then maybe someday a few years from now when you are at that point in your story where things are going a little too good for your character, hit them with a dose of misery straight from your own personal archives. Be prepared for the inevitable assumptions that you are writing a memoir and not a work of fiction, hell, vent about those assumptions to your journal if you need to, then move forward. That's all we can do when the worst happens, as it does from time to time.

So, if you are a writer I hope that the most dire situations you put your characters in, are ones that you've made up because you've never experienced anything that awful. And for those of you that are presently facing the worst, I hope that you can make it through and know that if you do, someday you might actually use your shitty experience for something good.

Okay, I have to go now because I have at least 3 days of journal entries to get caught up on. 



Besides rambling journal entries and blog posts, Alissa Grosso writes books. She's the author of the YA novels Shallow Pond, Ferocity Summer and Popular, and for those of you that have assumed otherwise, none of them are autobiographical. You can find out more about her at alissagrosso.com.

Monday, January 16, 2017

On Surviving Trauma by Jody Casella

The funny thing is you didn't know it was the worst.

That time you had a tantrum in the middle of the night and she hit you, screaming at you to shut up, hitting your so hard you couldn't breathe, screaming yourself, and then going quiet, going still

making yourself small, smaller, until suddenly you weren't even there.
A miracle, really, a great gift, when you think about it,
to be able go away like that, disappear.

The time when he came into your room at night because you were scared
of the dark and he could help you go to sleep, help you
feel better

that time, other times, you don't even remember how many times
because you were good at it by then, an expert
at going away, disappearing whenever you needed to.

The trick is learning that you're doing it, learning how to stop,
because listen:

You don't need to disappear anymore. You survived the worst.
Now is the time to stay here.

Make noise. Fight back.



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Surviving Levaquin Toxicity (Amy K. Nichols)

2016 was a difficult year for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons.

For me, it was easily one of the worst years of my life. Not because of politics or celebrities leaving this world too soon, but because of an adverse reaction to an antibiotic prescribed by my doctor.

The antibiotic is called Levaquin, and apparently hundreds of thousands of people have been adversely affected by it. Some have died. Some took a single pill and never walked again. After my fourth dose, I landed in the ER with difficulty breathing, extreme vertigo, racing heart and anxiety. Two days later I was slammed with joint pain, insomnia, neuropathy, muscle twitching, visual disturbances, tinnitus, cognitive dysfunction, memory loss, aphasia...  The list goes on. You can read about it more in this post at my blog. Long story short, this antibiotic was supposed to get me over a sinus infection but instead stole my body and my mind, and with it, my writing career.

Levaquin left me unable to read books, recall words, or even remember what I was saying from one moment to the next. My central nervous system was so fried I couldn't concentrate, couldn't process information, couldn't cope with loud noises or too much sensory input. I found it impossible to write, not only because of difficult with words, but because it was like the creativity switch in brain had been turned off. I was devastated and scared. At one point I went to the craft store with my mom, a place that usually sparks all kinds of ideas and inspiration in me. As I walked through the aisles numb, not a single spark of creativity in my mind, I realized I'd lost something essential about myself. About my identity. So I retreated, out of fear and sadness. I stopped going to book events. Stopped allowing myself to be around people who would ask when my next book would be coming out, or even how I was doing. I didn't want to either divulge the struggle I was in or make excuses or empty promises for my writing. I pulled back from my online interactions, too. I'll be honest: hearing about everyone's great publishing news and happenings when you can't think let alone write, and your biggest accomplishment of the day is that the muscle behind your knee stopped involuntarily twitching just plain sucks.

There is no single treatment for levaquin toxicity. Heck, it's not even really acknowledged to exist by doctors. My doctor didn't believe me, and made it clear he just really wanted me to quietly go away. So I turned to the internet and the stories of those who'd been through this and recovered. I poured myself into researching what helped them, and I turned myself into a guinea pig, trying one thing after another to discover what might help me. Vitamins, supplements, massage therapy, acupuncture, meditation, qigong, clean eating, lots and lots of prayer. Stuff not found or accepted in western medicine. Some of it helped. Then more of it helped. And slowly I started to get better.

Thank God.

I don't know if I'm entirely out of the woods yet. Some have reported side effects years after taking this drug, so only time will tell.

Now that I'm (hopefully) on the other side of surviving the worst of the Levaquin toxicity, I'm able to look back and see that the experience taught me a few things. Maybe they'll benefit you as well.

Gratitude
Facing the prospect of never writing again made me grateful for what I had accomplished in my short career, publishing two books with Random House. And gratitude is a powerful thing. It saved me from the bitterness that threatened to eat away at my spirit.

Self Care
Getting my life back meant getting my brain back, which meant learning as much as I could about how my brain works and how to support it. What I learned is that our brains are a-m-a-z-i-n-g. I knew this on some level of course, but now I have such a better appreciation for that organ between my ears. If you read nothing else I say in this post, please read this: Your brain does incredible things. Take care of it. There are things you can do to support neurogenesis. This podcast is a good place to start.

Strength
There were times in this journey when I just wanted to curl up in the corner and die. But I discovered there's a fight inside me that would never give in. I don't know where it came from. Maybe it's always been there. I know from experience that I have a righteous anger/mama bear instinct that can flare up in no time flat. Maybe the fight is related somehow. All I know is it's there inside me, and it gave me the determination necessary to get through this.

Faith
I knew I wasn't alone in this--you can read how I knew this in the story I wrote at my blog--and every day I had a chat with God that went something like this: "This isn't how I end. Whatever it takes, get me through this." Now, your mileage may vary, but I'm convinced having faith that I would get better, believing each day would bring me better health and celebrating each small improvement, made a huge difference. Perhaps all the difference.

Wisdom
Perhaps the most important thing I learned from this experience is that I have to be my own advocate when it comes to my health. My doctor failed me. The FDA failed me. And hundreds of thousands of other people. If I'd stuck around and waited for my doctor to help me, I would still be waiting. And hurting. And probably suffering permanent damage. It was only by taking matters into my own hands, doing my own research, experimenting on myself and listening to my body that I was able to see an improvement in my situation. If only I'd trusted myself more and my doctor less before I took that medication.

But I can't change that now. I can only look back and see the path this journey has taken. I can only continue forward, wiser and stronger for it.





Friday, January 13, 2017

SURVIVING ANOTHER BIRTHDAY (HOLLY SCHINDLER)

I had a birthday this week. There's something about having a birthday shortly after New Year's that makes you either especially determined to Make Great Changes or especially reflective...this year, I feel like I'm a mix of both.

I made a list shortly before my birthday of the biggest lessons learned in the past ten years. I wrote them down as quickly as I could, without second-guessing any of them (that includes the order I wrote them down). Here's what I came up with:

1.      No one else defines you but you. (Sydney also referred to this lesson in her recent post--this is by FAR the biggest lesson I've had to learn these past few years.)

2.      Love is either rare or plentiful depending on your outlook.

3.      Doors of opportunity aren’t opened so much as kicked down.

4.      Other people breaking promises (or telling lies) doesn’t give you an excuse to do the same.

5.      Success is relative.

6.      Screwing up is equally relative.

7.      No matter what hole you’ve dug for yourself, you’re still in control of your own life.

8.      While complaining might feel good (and occasionally be a necessary evil), it is not progress.

9.      Hard work and persistence are often the same thing.

10.    An open mind is the best cure for any ailment of the heart.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Probably Not The Worst by Sydney Salter

On my desk I keep quotes -

Mark Twain: I've had many troubles in my life, most of which never happened.

Truly terrible things do happen, but more often our seemingly "worst" troubles turn out to be opportunities to learn something.

Several times in my writing life, the thing that I've feared as the "worst" outcome has actually happened - things from Agent issues to ZZZZ interest in my new release. Here's a bit of what I've learned from my so-called worst experiences:

1. It's okay to retreat.

After one particularly low point in my writing life, I realized that I needed to find the fun in writing again. I joined a pen pal club, I spent time doing writing exercises, and I wrote a series of short stories just for me. My writing friends didn't understand me during this period. I felt awkward and weird. Secretive. Sometimes I felt sort of like a failure as others spoke about their more flourishing careers. Yet I pushed onward and found the joy in writing again.

Anais Nin: Then the time came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

2. Write what you want to write.

I have never regretted the time spent on a story that I really wanted (needed?) to write. But I have regretted those times I twisted my writing to please someone else - to chase the elusive market. No one really knows what the next big book will be about, so write the story that excites you! Otherwise, you'll keep thinking about the story you'd wished you'd written.

Erica Jong: Everyone has a talent; but rare is the courage to follow the talent to the place it leads.

3. Don't let others define you.

Critique partners, teachers, book reviewers, editors, agents, readers - all of them come to your work with their own issues, needs, prejudices, experiences, and personalities. The things they say reveal more about themselves than the writer. Only you know what you can do, what you want to do.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Others will underestimate us, for although we judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, others judge us by what we have already done.

4. Writers write.

I call myself a writer because that's the part I actually do. I write. The term author implies publication, and not all that I write gets published. Does that mean those works are failures? No! My unpublished work has still satisfied my curiosity, taught me things about myself and the world, and I don't regret any of it.

Dan Millman (an athlete): It all comes down to what you actually do.


Keep working toward your biggest dreams, even when you think the worst has happened to you or your career.

Happy 2017! 







Sunday, January 8, 2017

It Will Be Okay or Lies My Mother Told Me about Surviving The Worst- Joy Preble

“The worst” is a relative term. I have one friend for whom ‘the worst’ is basically anything for which she does not immediately get her way. Everything is a crisis, just in varying proportions. She is a generous –hearted human but always, always waiting for the other shoe to drop and always assuming that not only will it drop, but it will fall specifically to piss her off. In some ways, I think it’s a defense mechanism. An ‘ohmygod, ohmygod, it’s the worst! The absolute worst!’ demand to the world that it not mess with her. She can’t take it. She’s too fragile. She doesn’t deserve it. Just back off.

My mother’s philosophy for impending or ongoing crisis was to say, “It will be okay.” She had grown up poor, raised with her siblings (including her identical twin sister) by my grandmother after my grandfather left them and eventually took his own life somewhere outside Atlanta when my mother was in junior high. So I’m assuming—although we never talked about it, not ever—that my mom knew the truth of the universe. But for the longest time growing up, I believed her absolutely. It was a comforting lie, that philosophy, at least in the short term. Break ups, bad grades, spats with friends, betrayals, illnesses, crazy world events… I would tell myself, ‘okay. It will be okay.’ It got me through…Until it occurred to me that sometimes it –whatever ‘it’ was—was absolutely not going to turn out fine. At least not any time soon.

I find that phrase slips into my writing now and then and always with a touch of irony. Characters say, “I’m okay” while their interior voices shout, “No. No. I’m not okay. This is not okay.” The worst is something that fascinates me as a writer. I want to know what happens when I pull the rug out from under my characters, when I take things from them and leave them to figure it out. I write families that have cracked or fallen apart, missing parents and missing siblings; strange magical events that force characters into situations that will test them, with random alliances that may or may not be trustworthy. In one way or another, my stories are about confronting ‘the worst,’ trying to figure out if things will indeed be ‘okay,’ and persevering even when they’re not.

Because let’s face it. S--- happens, you know? Well, yeah, if you were around in 2016, you know that. And not just then, of course. It’s kind of the one constant of the universe, despite our frequent social media pretending that we are special and wonderful and our lives are a constant ball of amazing. (I wrote five books this week! I arranged fifty school visits and my books appeared on 25 'best of' lists! It's exhausting being me!) My job as writer is to poke at that idea, to see what people are made of when the going gets impossible, to explore inner lives and families and all those layers of experience and events that contribute to how one gets through the day and especially through the worst times. What makes a character implode? What gives her the fortitude to just muscle through? How does that fit into the universal patterns? What comes after the trauma? What happens when things are absolutely, positively not okay? What then?


In the long term, I suppose my mom was right. Eventually, it’s ‘okay,’ just rarely in ways we assume. For the writer in me, that’s where the juicy stuff lives.

There Is Nothing New In The Story--by Kimberly Sabatini

There Is Nothing New In The Story...

This month on the blog we are talking about surviving the worst. When I contemplated this topic, the first thing that came to mind--okay--the second thing that came to mind, was how the phrase surviving the worst means something very different to every single person in the world.

No two human experiences are alike.

Everyone struggles and most of us try to hide it. Everyone feels misunderstood. And each of us has a different bottom line based on our individual set of experiences and obligations. We each have our own stories and understanding them is complicated work. It takes time and awareness.

While fighting for what a person believes is a necessary and desirable component of surviving the worst, I've begun to wonder if listening and learning isn't also a trait that's just as vital. I sometimes wonder if our ability to learn from the past is a muscle we don't flex enough. Maybe our awareness of  those around us and our empathy towards their individual human experiences could be just as powerful a weapon as any other--a safer weapon in the fight against the worst.

“When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothing new in the story. It is as old as the sibylline books. It falls into that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong–these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”

Winston Churchill—House of Commons, 2 May 1935


I don't want to be unteachable. I don't want to be frozen by my failure to act because an earlier opportunity was more fortuitous and now I feel stupid for trying. 

When we are in the middle of surviving the worst, we tend to shake our baffled heads as we look around, declaring what we should have done while we had the chance. We decide it a missed opportunity. But I'm learning that every day is a new chance to learn from the story of our past and reinvent ourselves. There is no statue of limitations on becoming a wiser person. In the circle of life, you can never be at the end of your road without also being at your beginning. Just like fighting for right, empathy can start at any time.

There is nothing new in the story except our response to it.





Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Connected (Bill Cameron)

One. On an evening when I was in sixth grade, my then-single mom had a date. This was a not-uncommon occurrence, and not something I’d ordinarily remark upon. Previously, she’d been seeing a man named Danny, but they’d broken up. On this evening in particular, before they went out, she and her new fellow were in the living room talking, and I was somewhere else in the apartment doing whatever I was into in those days. Almost certainly reading.

At some point, I went into the kitchen because I hadn’t eaten in at least ten minutes (sixth grade, remember), and from there I could see into the living room—which featured a sliding glass door onto our little patio. We lived on the ground floor, and as I watched, Danny came charging onto the patio and threw himself against the door.

Good news: it was strong glass. Bad news: Danny figured that out pretty quick. In what seemed like an instant, he’d rounded the apartment building and kicked open our merely wooden front door. He saw me first, grabbed me by the neck and dragged me to my room and closed me in. He told me he’d kill me if I came out.

I knew Danny—I believed him.

Two. The day after the November election, a friend’s son who happens to be trans was bullied mercilessly at school by pro-Trump students who told him things like, “I can’t wait till they put you in a camp,” and “We’ll cremate you before you die so you get an advance taste of Hell.” There was more, but you get the idea. The bullying continued on Thursday, to the point his parents agreed to let him stay home on Friday, with plans to meet with the school administration the next week.

But we live in a connected world, and over the weekend the bullies found him on social media. His folks had urged him to stay offline for a while, but he’d gone on anyway. Twitter and Facebook and other social media platforms are now how we stay in touch with our friends and our communities, and he needed to make that connection. But those platforms are also run by soulless techno-libertarians who think mass threats of rape and murder are sacred free speech. By Saturday evening, it had all become too much for my friend’s son, and he tried to kill himself.

Three. Last Wednesday, I was at a weekly gathering of writers that started during NaNoWriMo. We talked about the loss of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and in general what a garbage fire 2016 had been. (In fairness I read a lot of great books last year, and the Cubs did finally break their curse, and I really loved Rogue One.)

A few bright spots notwithstanding, at our gathering the talk covered a lot of what we lost in 2016, and how much ugliness had risen to the surface. We went on to cover the need to prepare for the worst in the year to come. “I feel like I need to go full prepper,” one said. “Canned goods, bottled water, the works. Heaven knows we won’t be able to count on the police when everything goes to hell.” Another added, “I don’t have kids, and the way things stand, I don’t plan to.”

So 2016 was a dumpster fire, and I’m not alone in worrying that 2017 is going to be worse. But I guess we can be grateful the Grim Reaper can only take Alan Rickman, Prince, and Princess Leia once.

Four. We’re due, I think, for another handwringing thinkpiece about darkness in YA. These articles seem to hit at least once a season. “Why are all the parents drunks or abusive or dead? Why do the children swear so much? (My children never swear.) And, oh, I need my fainting couch, for the teen protagonist of a novel I heard about on the internet (but which I never actually read) drank beer and had sex.” These articles are tiresome in both their predictability and obliviousness to the actual world we live in. They seem to think if we don’t write about the ugly side of life, it won’t actually happen. “Children don’t need to know about that.”

Like children have a choice.

Five. In the movie version of the The Green Mile, Paul Edgecomb says to Percy Wetmore, “Percy, you go make a report to the warden for me. Start off by saying the situation is under control—it's not a story, he won't appreciate you drawing out the suspense.”

I did not follow Paul’s orders in this post; I stuck you with cliffhangers up above. So let me just say right here the situation is under control. I’m one of the lucky ones. Yes, as a kid I was beaten by adults in my life more times than I can count. I was also groomed for months and then sexually assaulted by one of my high school teachers—and spent years believing I’d brought it on myself. But I got through it. Sure, I’ll always have scars, but I’m fine.

And my friend’s son, the one who was bullied at school until he tried to take his own life, is fine—for now, at least. He survived his attempt, and he has parents who love him and will work very hard to help him. He may still live in a society that hates him, and which feels emboldened in its hate by the outcome of our last election. But there’s hope: because of his parents, and his friends.

And, I’d like to believe, because of us. We know that children live in the same world we do, and pretending that ugliness isn’t there won’t protect them from it, but will only make them feel more alone and desperate and hopeless when they don’t fit inside some tiny, arbitrary box declared “normal” or “acceptable.”

Books save. Books with swearing and sex and garbage adults save, because those books are always about so much more. Scolds may throw their thinkpiece hissy fits, but kids need to see themselves and their stories—no matter how ugly—because it helps them know they’re not alone. It helps them see a possible way through.

That evening when Danny closed me in my room, I did something terrifying—I climbed out my window and ran for help. I was sure if he caught me he really would kill me, but I found the courage, I think, at least partly because of books. Real life had been working overtime to teach me I was alone, but because of the stories I read, I knew that wasn’t true.

Things look bleak right now. If you feel hopeless, I understand. I feel hopeless, and I’m not even in one of the many groups in our society with big targets on their backs. I’m not going to tell you not to board up your windows and hide in a basement full of canned goods. I’m not going to tell you to go ahead and have kids.

But I will make a suggestion. Share your stories. Stay connected. Take whatever little steps you’re able. Protect yourself. And remember you’re not alone.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Bittersweet End -- Jen Doktorski


I’m a big fan of the bittersweet ending. Here is one of my all-time favorites.


But after a year marked by more “bitter” than “sweet” – Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, really 2016, really?! – I’ve decided that in real life, I much prefer the happy ending. The only problem is, while 2016 is most definitely ending, in my opinion, there's no “happy” on the horizon. No cowboys riding off into the sunset. No kiss in the rain.
What’s even more disturbing is that 2016 doesn’t feel like a standalone novel or film. It feels like it’s part of a series. A very long series. As I sat in the darkened movie theater two nights ago watching Rogue One, I couldn’t help but wonder, Where are we in the Star Wars timeline?

Are we at the end of Episode III when Anakin becomes Darth Vader?


Are we in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back?



Or maybe we’re in Tolkien territory. The Two Towers perhaps.
When the sun rises on 2017 tomorrow, I’ll be sipping my coffee and contemplating how many pages will need to be written before we find that happy ending. I’ll also be considering what my role is going to be in writing it.

Here’s to the power of hope, words, and new beginnings.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Worst Sequel Ever (Brian Katcher)

Image result for comic book guy


Occasionally, when I'm recovering from a trip to Europe or waiting for the driver to bring the Bentley around, I'll ask Jeeves to bring in a sampling of the day's fan mail. And while most of it is sadly repetitive (I'm afraid I cannot sign body parts; I'm sorry, Mr. Trump, but I have no desire to serve on your cabinet; Yes, I have been told I look like Zach Galifianakis), I'll frequently be asked if I plan to write a sequel to one of my novels, usually ALMOST PERFECT. 

Sadly, my books are usually standalone works, and neither I, nor my publisher, plan on extending the story. I'm sorry, Ms. Johansson. Loved you in THE AVENGERS.

Other creative types gladly take on the task of turning a single work into a series. I have nothing but admiration for the desire to make more money, but the results are generally underwhelming.

Here we go, the best and the worst:

Movies:

Best: Aliens

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Best space marine movie ever and we get to see Paul Reiser die a gruesome death. If you've never watched the extended version, then you've wasted your life.

Best: Terminator 2

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Arnold's best work ever. It was a slow decline from here, with flops like Last Action Hero, Jingle All the Way, and the governorship of California.

Worst: National Treasure 2

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Let's turn a great heist movie into a sitcom with bickering parents and a wacky sidekick.
Worst: Ocean's 12

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Any of that meta 'I just look like the actress who plays my character' crap and you've lost me.

Books:

Best: Garfield Gains Weight
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The orange feline really hits his stride here, with the introduction of Nermal, his hatred for Mondays, and his love for lasagna. Truly a sequel of Homeric proportions. Not unlike the size of Garfield's meals!

Worst: CLOSING TIME

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The original book, Catch-22, was such a seminal anti-war novel that it spawned a new phrase. The sequel came out when I was a college freshman and I spent some of my few dollars, just so I could find out what happened to Yossarian. Did he get out of the army? Did he escape from Europe?

We never find out. What we do get is 300 pages about aging, bizarre science fiction, and a bunch of jokes about former vice president Dan Quayle.

Television:

Best: Laverne and Shirley (Spin off of Happy Days)
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 We're gonna do it!

Worst: The Brady Bunch Hour (Spin off of Meet the Press)

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 The Bradys sing and dance. With Rip Taylor. 

Also, I'd totally write a sequel to anything if got paid for it.