Monthly Archives: November 2013

Open wide !

I ate a frog today.  It was huge.  It was hairy, slimy, gross, and at the same time, it was magnificent.  But I took a deep breath and ate it.  Just stuffed it down.  Much to my surprise, it wasn’t that bad.

Colour plate from Ernst Haeckel's 1904 Kunstfo...

Colour plate from Ernst Haeckel’s 1904 Kunstformen der Natur, depicting frog species that include two examples of parental care. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t procrastinate perse.  I get stuck.  Bogged down by details and overwhelmed by the bigger picture.  I stall out.  I freak out.  I check out.  The end result is the same.  I’m not writing and losing sleep over it.  Believe me when I tell you, the last thing I need is to lose any of what little sleep I get.  I am a very, very light sleeper (the cat meandering from room to room will wake me up).  I’m also prone to insomnia.  It’s a bi-product of a creative mind with no “off” switch.

A few months ago, a friend loaned me his iPod, which is filled with audiobooks.  (I really must get that back to him)  I tried to listen to a murder mystery but it was far too graphic.  Pair that with my amazingly active imagination and my tendency to not sleep and I decided it was best that I skip it.  I’m sure it’s a great story, for someone else.  So, I instead listened to “Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my friend raved about it, said it helped him tremendously.  So I was willing to give it a shot and am glad that I did.

The concept itself is quite simple.  You make a list (mental or otherwise) of what you need to accomplish and then prioritize.  Start at the top and make your way down the list.  The biggest “frog” will be waiting there for you and as you move down, you get to the frogs that aren’t a big deal and that you can accept not getting done today.  The important thing is you do the things you’ve been procrastinating, putting off, or afraid to even start because you have no friggin’ idea how you are going to get them done.  Chances are, that big ol’ frog is not that big at all.  Some frogs are actually gumdrops and quite enjoyable once you get over the fear.  I was amazed by the amount of time wasted stressing over things when I could have done them 5 times over if I just ate the ding dang frog, already.  Grab some ketchup and go, girl!

As you probably know by now (mostly because I never shut up about it), I am working on a submission for The Dark Crystal Author Quest.  It has consumed my life for the last 5 months.  I spend nearly every waking moment working on it.  I have a binder full of research material and notes that’s getting larger and more detailed every day.  I have an endless stream of ideas coming forward, images flood my mind, and I have wished almost daily that I had the talent to draw because it would certainly make this process much easier, not to mention more amazing.

I recently realized that time was going to become a serious issue.  I froze.  I became convinced that there was no possible way I would be able to finish my submission in time.  So I took a couple weeks off and did my best not to think about it at all.  I failed, of course.  But no matter what I did, whenever I sat in front of my laptop I just couldn’t make it happen.  I had plenty of material and knew exactly where the story was going.  I just couldn’t manage to get started up again.  My ego kicked in, telling me that I was insane to think I could pull this off.  I had moments when I considered just walking away and writing something else.  I even had thoughts of… brace yourself… quitting altogether.  Not writing another word.  But after realizing that it had been more than a month since I slept through the night (we’re talking waking up every 2 hours, folks), I talked myself off the proverbial ledge. 

This project is so much more important to me than my ego (which can sit down and shut up, thanks so much).  So, I woke up this morning and gave myself a pep talk. 

A Australian Green Tree Frog

A Australian Green Tree Frog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“You can do this.  You know you can.  You do it every day.  All you have to do is get in that kitchen and EAT THAT FRIGGIN FROG!”

OK, I’ll just get myself some breakfast and…

“NO!  No breakfast for you!  Write, monkey, WRITE!”

So I did just that.  I went into the kitchen, turned on the laptop, and started writing.  I worked for 4 hours and managed another 2 thousand words.  That big, fat, hairy, smelly, beast of a frog that I have been avoiding for weeks was taken care of in just 4 hours.  I was elated, exhausted, in a creative fog, and hungry.  So to celebrate, I had an amazing grilled cheese sandwich and watched an episode of “Lost Girl”. 

Oh yeah!  I’m back baby!

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31 days and yes, I’m counting

I write commercials and deal with deadlines all the time.  That’s why I know better than to use the ACTUAL deadline for a project.  What I typically do is choose a deadline that I am more comfortable with.

The submission deadline for The Dark Crystal Author Quest is December 31st.  My personal deadline is December 21st.  It is also Yule.  I felt it was fitting because it would be my Yuletide gift to myself.  It also gives me a cushion of 10 additional days (which I have vowed are NOT an option). 

I started working on this the day it was announced.  June 23rd.  Although I haven’t been actually “writing” constantly, I have been working on it every day.  Some of that work meant stepping away from the laptop and just giving myself some space.  It gets overwhelming, with the whole thing threatening to cave in, leaving you trapped in some sort of creative limbo. 

At first, I was going to write the entire thing.  All 50 thousand words.  Then panic set in and I decided to write until I reached a point where I could submit my 10 thousand words and worry about the rest later.  What I didn’t bank on was the character outline they requested.  The problem is that at the 10 thousand word mark, I haven’t “met” all of the characters yet.  I don’t know who I was kidding.  As I pulled into my snowy driveway and plugged my car in for the night, I wondered aloud.  “Did you honestly feel that you would be OK with ‘worrying about the rest later’?  Since when has that been a gameplan you’re comfortable with?” 

The way I write is this.  I do a basic story outline (most of which is in my head), then do basic character development, then do whatever research needs doing which includes finding names for the people, places, and things that I will be introducing into the story.  They key word here is “basic”.  What typically happens is that characters present themselves as I write.  (Oh, hello there!  Who might you be?)

‘The Gathering’ in “Believe” was very much like that.  I knew that the event would take place and had a basic idea of what to expect, but only when I actually started writing did all of the characters start showing up.

In the last 24 hours, I realized that things weren’t going to work the way I thought.  I am going to have to at least do a rough draft of the rest of the story in order to flush out the characters and be able to have proper character outlines for my submission.  That means writing an additional… oh, 30 thousand words or so in the next 31 days.  Actually, with regard to time, it’s less than that because I want to do at least one… OK, make that three edits before submitting it.  Commence mental meltdown in 3… 2… 1…

Much like giving birth to a child, one day I am going to look back at all this and think “What a wonderful adventure”, all of the stress and sleepless nights long forgotten.  At least, I am hoping that’s the case.  Pot of Tea with a side of Skeksis

For now, I will brew myself another cup of tea and see where this story takes me.  On second thought, make that a pot.  Yes, a pot of tea with a side of Skeksis… or something like that.  

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“The truth is not what you know… it’s what you believe.”

Unless you are a hard-core Colin Farrell fan, you may have never heard of the film “Ondine”.  While an admirer of his work (let’s face it, he’s easy on the eyes), I have to admit this title was a surprise to me when I stumbled upon a copy for sale in a little video rental place a couple of blocks from my office. 

Ondine (film)

Ondine (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Ondine” is the story of a fisherman named Syracuse, who lives in a small Irish village.  His simple life suddenly becomes complicated when he catches a half-drowned woman in his nets.  She’s frightened and seems (for lack of a better term) like a fish out of water.  So he agrees to let her stay in his mother’s old cottage and to tell no one.

His nets suddenly fill with very little effort and it seems fortune is finally on his side.  His daughter is convinced that this beautiful stranger is a Selkie.  One of the seal-people emerging from the mists to bless their family and prove to everyone that they are not simply a myth, that wishes can come true, and that anything is possible if you believe.

But this isn’t a simple Faerie Tale.  Ondine has secrets of her own.  After falling in love with Syracuse and starting a new life, her past comes back to haunt her and threatens everything she now holds dear.

Much like the little girl in the film, I desperately wanted to believe.  The story took me on a journey I thought I was prepared for, but soon realized that it would not be anything like I expected.  I felt more than a bit betrayed, but then realized that for the first time in a long, long while I had no idea what was coming.  Not unlike Syracuse, who followed his heart only to realize it may end up broken and scattered like the sea glass that washes ashore after a storm. 

It left both Syracuse and I asking ourselves the same question.  “Are you willing to see it through, no matter what?”

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You remind me of the babe

The year was 1986.  I was in 11th grade and completely obsessed.  When other girls were swooning over Jon Bon Jovi and Michael J Fox, I only had eyes for David Bowie.

David Bowie, Ekeberghallen, Oslo, Norway

David Bowie, Ekeberghallen, Oslo, Norway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I celebrated his birthday every year by dressing in my version of a tux, minus the jacket.  Long before there was a satellite dish attached to the side of every home in the neighborhood, my parents had “First Choice” – one of only two “pay TV” channels.  I watched the “Serious Moonlight” concert every single time it was broadcast and knew every note by heart (still do).

I had a group of friends who LOVED Duran Duran.  So much so that each of them was nicknamed after one of the members of the band.  After they learned of my preoccupation with the “Thin White Duke”, they started calling me “David”.  I loved it!

Then, something happened that caused my brain to implode.  Worlds collided in the best way possible.  Jim Henson had teamed up with Brian Froud once again for a film called “Labyrinth”, starring… DAVID BOWIE!  Let the fawning and swooning commence!

David Bowie plays Jareth, the Goblin King.  He was apparently their first choice from the beginning and thankfully he also loved the idea, so the film was written with him in mind. 

It’s a magical, musical adventure, combining themes from Alice in Wonderland with The Wizard of Oz and yet completely stands out as an original creation.  The lead character, Sarah is also obsessed, but in her case it is with a book called “Labyrinth”.  She carries it with her and often acts out the story in the park. 

Labyrinth (film)

Labyrinth (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One night, after being “told” to babysit, she becomes frustrated with her baby brother and summons the Goblins.  They do as she asks, taking Toby to the center of the Labyrinth – the home of Jareth, the Goblin King.  Immediately regretting her actions, Sarah makes the journey into this world that is strange and at the same time familiar.  She is told she has but 13 hours to solve the Labyrinth and save her baby brother.  But when you’re in Jareth’s world, you play by Jareth’s rules and as Sarah is fond of saying, “It’s not fair!”.

Jim Henson spent more than two years developing the concept behind Labyrinth and put together a dream team to bring it to reality.  Conceptual artist – Brian Froud, screenwriter – Terry Jones, executive producer – George Lucas, and David Bowie, who not only starred as Jareth the Goblin King but wrote and performed the 5 original songs for the film.  

“Toby” was played by Brian and Wendy Froud’s son, also named Toby.  Another interesting tidbit is that Cheryl McFadden (best known for her role as Dr. Crusher in Star Trek, TNG) was hired to do choreography.  

No matter how many times I watch this, I still delight in the characters, the music, the world that Jim Henson and his team created.  Whenever anyone asks me to name my top 5 favorite films, this remains among them and I can’t imagine a list without it.

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We are all StoryTellers

What do Miranda Richardson, Sean Bean, John Hurt, and Jennifer Saunders have in common?  They are all part of an amazing 9 story anthology called “The StoryTeller”.

The Storyteller

The Storyteller (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently, it first aired in 1988 but I hadn’t heard of it until much later when I stumbled upon the DVD, which was released in 2006.  This amazing series (1 of 2) stars John Hurt as “The StoryTeller” and Brian Henson as the StoryTeller’s dog, along with a star-studded cast taking roles in each of the tales.  It is reminiscent of a time when stories were passed orally from person to person, village to village, generation to generation. 

Each of the 9 stories stems from folktales – 6 from Russia, 2 from Germany, and 1 from Celtic origin.  The amount of research devoted to this series and the amount of care given to the development of the stories is apparent.

The episodes begin by the fire, where the StoryTeller recalls the events as he remembers them.  Humor, intrique, and magic combine to offer you a glimpse into the world where they take place. 

I have always been drawn to “classic” Faerie Tales, where the writer weaved a fantastic tale in a magical realm and there was a moral to every story.  I also love the fact that there was always room for the listener (or the reader) to create a little bit of the story themselves.  Sitting by the fire, The storyteller was often interrupted with questions from wide-eyed children about the exact size of the dragon or the depth of the hole where the treasure was buried.  These questions are perhaps the source of the changes in the story, adding new information as the tale was forwarded to both answer the unasked and encourage further exploration.

If you are as in love with the art of storytelling as I am and a fan of Jim Henson’s work, this series is the perfect combination of the two.  Years ago, I started a series of original Faerie Tales and it is my dream to publish it as a large-format hardcover, complete with illustrations.  Something that people can share and enjoy together, just as they did long ago.  Perhaps along the way, my stories will bring forth questions and ideas about the characters and the worlds I’ve created that I hadn’t thought of before.

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Kelly isn’t here Mrs. Torrance

So it snowed here yesterday.

Snowy Sunday - Nov 3 004

I actually wouldn’t mind being “snowed in” if I didn’t have an office job that I needed to get to five days a week.  But I do, so I have to put on my big girl pants (as well as my boots) and trudge out there like everyone else.

I’ve written about people’s ideal when it comes to writing.  We all seem to have this perfect scenario where we are left to our own devices, without the drudgery of the everyday intruding upon our little sanctuary. 

On days like this, I envision myself in a cozy little cabin.  I stoke the fire and brew a pot of my favorite tea, then sit at my desk to continue work on my latest project.  It sounds so lovely.  Then my thoughts turn to Jack Torrance from Stephen King’s novel, “The Shining”.  The job as winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel sounds like the perfect situation for a writer who just needs a little peace and quiet.  Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out so well for the Torrance family.

Jack Nicholson in the famous “Here’s Johnny” scene

Jack Nicholson in the famous “Here’s Johnny” scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe a trip into the city and the office, surrounded by people who would definitely notice if I didn’t show up, is a good thing.  Now, to find the shovel…

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