Come listen to Spokane Radio Theatre at the top of the hour (about five minutes from now) to hear my short play “Allergies!” I hope you tune in — and let me know what you think! 🙂
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As a writer, I love to pick apart my favorite books, films, and TV shows to see what makes them “tick.” How exactly did the writers make me laugh, gasp, or cry at the perfect moment? Sometimes I can figure it out. Sometimes I can’t. Almost always I learn something interesting about the story.
This is something I do almost every time I watch Doctor Who. If I had a regeneration for each time I felt powerful, lasting emotion from a Doctor Who episode… well, I’d be around for a long, long time.
Please note that when I say I pick apart a Doctor Who story, I mean I pick it apart afterward. During the episode, I’m involved. The story is real to me. As far as I know, I’m zooming through the time vortex in a blue box, hanging out with awesome people whose vacations consist of saving planets and risking death every day.
But then the credits roll, and I look around. I’m not on the TARDIS. Annoyingly, I realize that I’m on what the Doctor calls the “slow path” through life, and I might as well take some of that extra time to figure out what exactly happened on the TV just a moment ago.
Last night was the fall season finale of Doctor Who, which means we have to wait for Christmas to get another episode, and then we’ll have to wait again for more.
The slow path is so irritating sometimes.
“The Angels Take Manhattan” was the episode we had all been waiting for, anxiously speculating about what it meant that Amy Pond and her husband Rory would be leaving the show for good and that not everybody would make it out alive.
It was a great episode. We laughed and cried. We got to see the Ponds run around New York City with Matt Smith and River Song. We watched some good battles (such as they can be called) with the weeping angels. We…
We were also a little bit confused. There were a few timey wimey moments that, when I began to pick apart the episode to learn what made it tick, didn’t quite seem to make sense. For example —
Well, let me do this in spoilers. If you’re reading on a mobile device or in an email subscription, what comes below may not be hidden from your view. If you’re reading on a regular browser, just go ahead and highlight the space below to read on. Let me know if you agree!
1. First off, can I just say that the Statue of Liberty as a weeping angel was awesome? So super cool.
TIMEY WIMEY: I wasn’t really sure how Lady Liberty managed to get all eyes off of her so she could stomp over to the hotel… and why wasn’t there mass panic on the streets either because the statue was missing or because it was in the middle of the city, showing off horrific monster teeth?
2. Next, the double suicide. I loved this. It was perfect and sad and romantic and edgy and wonderful. I always marvel at how the writers of Doctor Who manage to make me feel for the companions and the Doctor in totally different ways.
TIMEY WIMEY: I’m sure there was something iffy about the paradox here, but, honestly, I was so wrapped up in the emotion that I wasn’t able to focus properly. Clue me in if you’ve found something.
2b. How wonderful was Rory’s, “When don’t I come back to life?” line? I actually laughed while crying. Well played, Moffat.
3. The real goodbye. This was an interesting decision. Steven Moffat actually did kill both companions. Here we are in 2012, and Amy and Rory are dead. In addition to that, we have poor Rory’s dad sitting back at home watering plants and hoping they return soon. Ugh. More Kleenex, please.
TIMEY WIMEY: Okay. Help me out, here. The Doctor explains that he can’t go back to get his friends because the timelines are all scrambled. He’d burn up New York. Here are my issues:
- He already risked burning up New York before, and everything turned out fine. Why is a second time worse than the first?
- When Amy asked whether she would go to the same place and time as Rory, the Doctor explained that there is no telling. So how does anyone know where or when Rory actually landed?
- What exactly is off-limits to the TARDIS now? All of 1938? All of Manhattan?
- Why can’t the Doctor simply zip over to New Jersey and drive in to collect them?
- Why can’t the Doctor arrive a year later and grab them then? I’m having a hard time understanding this, “I’ll never be able to see you again” thing.
4. The book thing. That was really cool. As soon as Rory left to get coffee, I guessed what would happen with the story, and that was fun. However…
TIMEY WIMEY: I have a couple of issues with this one:
- Is River Song able to visit her parents using her time travel bracelet, or not? Was the manuscript a hand delivery or a postal thing? If she can visit them, then why did the Doctor offer his condolences? If she can send them things, then why not deliver the bracelet and collect it from them when they show up in the right time?
- And this one is not my idea, but actually something I saw repeated in blog comments already: why didn’t Amy write a FOREWORD instead of an afterword? “Doctor, this is Amy. Read the book and enjoy, but DO NOT LET RORY CHECK THE TOMBSTONE. Thanks!” Yes, I see that’s a paradox in itself, but, honestly. 🙂
Well, sort of. 🙂
Come read the whole story over at Inveterate Media Junkies! It’s the tragic tale of my broken my D-Pad hand and how The Sims 3 got me through the worst of it. Have you ever broken a bone before? Come share your experience with me!
I’m thrilled to announce that I’m the newest columnist over at Inveterate Media Junkies, which is basically the ultimate hub of geek culture win. This is a big honor and a lot of fun. I hope you’ll come share in the excitement with me!
Happy Groundhog Day! This is the odd holiday when we all turn to an animal called Punxsutawney Phil (or other groundhogs in other areas) for his prediction about the weather. Phil’s method? He’ll come out in front of a crowd of people and either see his own shadow — or not. Yep, it’s as simple as that to understand the seasons, folks! 🙂
Here’s the forecast for 2011: Spring is apparently upon us, which I imagine is good news for my friends stuck in blizzards with the power out right now.
How accurate is Phil? Well, there’s a bit of debate about that. This news report puts his accuracy rate somewhere in the high 30-percentile. But he’s awfully cute, so surely that counts for something.
Groundhog Day, like many holidays, actually has much older origins that have more to do with sunlight and surviving the cold than with photographing a furry animal.
Still, I think it’s great to hang on to traditions that are purely fun, long after the practical importance of their origins has faded. Events like Phil seeking his shadow give us a break from reality and remind us that sometimes it’s worthwhile just to smile and have a good time — especially when everyone’s feeling cold and miserable. And when the groundhog brings us good news, even better.
So, thanks, Phil! 🙂 And happy early spring, everyone!
I didn’t win NaNoWriMo last year. I got a few chapters in before I decided the story needed to simmer a little in my brain to really get going. Instead, I spent November revising past works and preparing to graduate with my MFA. All in all, I’d say it was a productive month — and the story I let simmer is just about ready for the actual drawing board! 🙂
But that doesn’t mean I ignored NaNoWriMo altogether. The best part about this event is that there are few rules. There’s no pressure to “win.” If your novel requires more time for you to get it right, that’s no problem. Just showing up during November gets you the encouragement and community you need to explore the stories in your head — however far you get.
One of the great things NaNo brings to the writing world is its author pep talks. Every week during November, beloved authors from across the genres offer words of wisdom to anyone who is struggling with the writing process. If you’re signed up for NaNoWriMo, you get these in your email.
You’re bogged down with work, real life, and that annoying neighbor who likes to chat loudly on her cell phone while she walks her dog back and forth in front of your house. For the past several days, you’ve tried and failed to force yourself to write. You’ve wondered whether you’re the only writer who goes through this. The characters in your head are threatening to revolt, and you’re considering giving up and just focusing on keeping the dish washer from making that irritating thumping noise mid-cycle.
But before you dump your flashdrive of faltering fiction into the toilet, you check your email. And there’s a note from Piers Anthony, Neil Gaiman, Sue Grafton, Tamora Pierce, Philip Pullman, Tom Robbins, Lemony Snicket, or any of the other NaNoWriMo pep talkers, telling you to take a deep breath, calm down, and finish your novel. They remind you of the times when they’ve been through the same frustrations or worse. They ask you to give your unruly characters one more chance before you flush them down the toilet, because this time the characters just might listen to you. Then you read a list of the pep talk author’s awesome publications (as if you didn’t already know them and own most of them already), and you think…
Oh, fine. The dishwasher can wait for an hour. Let me give this another try.
And after a month of pep talks from different authors, you’re actually getting somewhere. Or maybe you’re even there. All you needed was a push!
NaNoWriMo encourages writers. And all throughout the year, as we continue to write and revise our work, we talk with the friends we’ve made during November, and we re-read the pep talks that have helped us stay on track.
Now the Office of Letters and Light is asking us for suggestions! Whose words of wisdom would you like to read while you’re struggling with your novel? The wishlist is long and keeps growing. What authors are missing?
Okay — back to writing for me. How many days until November, again? 🙂
I just graduated with my master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction — for the second time! 🙂
January, 2011 June, 2004
In 2002, I entered the Writing Popular Fiction distance-learning program at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. So began two years of pretty much constant writing, critiquing, writing, reading, and writing. I traveled to Greensburg twice a year for intensive residencies where I sat through classes on writing and fiction, and I participated in workshops on my and other classmates’ writing.
Then, in 2004, I taught at our June residency, defended my thesis (a middle grade fantasy novel), and walked down the graduation aisle to get my MA.
*wipes hands* All done.
Or was I?
In 2010, I went back. They’ve opened up the program to be an MFA, and they’re allowing those of us who missed out on a letter to return to get “F”ed, as we call it. 🙂 So that’s what I did!
This meant more intensive reading and writing — much more than the first time around. The new classes are meant to be spread out over the entire experience, not over one year as I did them, which means that 2010 was pretty insane for me. I was on a super fast track, tearing through literature faster than I can rip open a box of cookies. 🙂
It was fun — but exhausting.
Everything became worth it, though, when I defended yet another novel in front of my professors and peers, and I walked for a second time down the same graduation aisle.
In 2004, I graduated in June, when fireflies blink like little fairies around Seton Hill’s green trees. This time, I graduated in January, when snowflakes and ice cover the world outside the window.
For a Florida girl, it’s pretty exciting to visit Pennsylvania during the seasons. We don’t see snow or even many fireflies where I come from. The scenery was just another benefit of the whole thing.
Now, of course, I miss it. 🙂 I miss the classes, the structure, the people, and the beautiful place where we gathered to share stories.
Did you have a memorable college experience? What was it like?
*all photos stolen from my mother
~Today’s blog comes from MOIRA J. MOORE!~
This is a special response post to Natalie Duvall’s “Writers Hate Writing.”
Is the government being particularly annoying? Is there a part of history you want to explore and explain? Is there an archetype that you want to address in a different way? Is there an old trope you’d like to twist or stand on its head? Write a book.
Writing is fabulous. I started writing my first book (it was awful) when I was around thirteen, and I’ve been writing ever since, because I love it. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t have persisted in writing during the many years from the first book I wrote to the first book I published. I wouldn’t be as confident as I am that I would be writing still, even if I’d never gotten published. Seeing the books on the shelf is great, getting paid for writing is marvelous, but I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t enjoy it. It’s not my bread and butter. It’s what I do in my spare time, for fun.
The first draft of any of my books is written long hand. It’s exciting to put pen to paper for the first words. While I have the broad strokes of the plot and characters in mind when I start a new book, all the fine details are worked out as I write, and I love when ideas just pop into my mind. Sometimes I’ll let myself write a scene that appears to be nothing more than a tangent, only to realize later in the draft that I can draw that tangent back in and end up with what I consider an appealing subplot.
I love ironing out kinks in the story when I’m driving or walking. Sometimes I’ll run through lines of dialogue under my breath, and the people I pass on the street think I’m a crazy person. Sometimes I really struggle with plot holes or inconsistent characterization, and when the way to fix those comes to me, there’s a real sense of satisfaction and delight.
Of course, there are difficulties with writing. Putting together 100,000 words is hard work. Sometimes, I don’t know where to go next. Sometimes an editor provides a list of what she wants changed, and those changes can be hard to accommodate. And sometimes, upon rereading the published product, I wince and wish that I could grab all those copies back and fix the problems.
But the positives outweigh the negatives, by a long shot. I couldn’t imagine not writing. I love it too much.
Proofreading is a real pain in the ass, though.
I read a lot about the times of day when people prefer to write. Some authors rise early to catch the creative flow, while others stay up late at night with their characters. For me, the time of day fluctuates depending on the day itself; instead, it’s the location that makes all the difference.
For short stories I like to sit in a chair, often at my dining room table when it’s not mealtime. For novels I like to carry my laptop around and switch locations regularly (unless it’s November – then I’m most likely stationary, writing nonstop without remembering to breathe).
I don’t do very well in coffee shops or other public places, though I may need to try to push through that block – so many writers seem to love it.
Reading requires different locations, as well. I like to read myself to sleep, or I like to sit outside by the lake. When I was a kid, I used to get in trouble for reading at the dinner table. 😉 Rude!
To my writer friends, is there a place you prefer to go when you’re creating? Readers, do you have a favorite spot where you go to enjoy your stories?
Or does the magic just happen anywhere? 🙂
Because I’m doing a lot of school these days, that means I’m doing a lot of reading. Some of it I like, some of I could do without, and every now and then, I fall in love.
Titus Groan is a new love of mine. This novel by Mervyn Peake is simply fabulous. Has anyone else read it? (no spoilers, please — I haven’t gone to the second book yet)!
It is the first in the Gormenghast series, and though it moves slowly, it’s well worth the effort to read all 387 pages (depending on which version you have — I suppose the page lengths could change). In fact, its pace is part of what makes it so wonderful. Mervyn Peake takes things slowly and deeply so that you truly feel as though you live inside Gormenghast Castle, and you are learning to accept its horrible eccentricities every minute you lie enraptured with the book in your hands.
It’s really good. Let me just leave it at that.
Now, since I posted my response to Alice, I decided I might as well post (some of) my response to Titus. Please feel free to share your thoughts, too.
To me, Titus Groan is a story about age. The age that distances Fuchsia from her father, the years that separate Titus from Steerpike, and the generations that block ancient magic from Gormenghast. Just because the reader never witnesses any outright acts of magic in the novel does not mean that it isn’t there. In fact, Mervyn Peake shows us in current Gormenghast the shell of magic long ago, when the Castle itself was a youthful thing.
In Gormenghast, all thoughts of progress are squelched under the desperate and ritualistic obsession with a past that is already long dead. There is one important problem that perpetuates this: the people of the Groan household think old.
When I imagine the first few Groan Earls, I see a Gormenghast in which spells were cast, love was shared, animals spoke to their masters, and the Lords controlled the blossoms on the trees around the lake. All of this magic was honored, daily, through rituals and acts of reverence for the power of the Groans.
Over time, though, that reverence for magic warped and gave way to a reverence for ritual itself and unchangeable Law. By now the entire practice is utterly archaic and misunderstood, and, as a result, completely useless. The only hope for the dormant magic of Gormenghast lies in its youth, who are ignored or aged before their time.
Even the people of the Outer Dwellings suffer this curse. They have only the passionate years of childhood and young adulthood before the bright glow in their eyes and faces begins to fade and is replaced by something shadowed and twisted. In all of Gormenghast, people are either young, or they are very, very old.
Like a sweet fruit that was dropped behind a sofa and forgotten, there is a stench of rotting magic in Gormenghast to remind others that it was once there and still exists. Gertrude’s power over animals, Keda’s intuition, and the inexplicable hold that the Castle has over all who live in it or near it are the leftover bits of what I imagine was once a healthy and vibrant magic.
Steerpike, though he argues in favor of youth, is nothing more than a sociopath. He has no true interest in the beauty that is possible should new ideas be planted. Instead, he is the disease that grows from within when something so powerful is left to die.
The suggestion that Titus, as a child, is the only hope for the Groans is more than a subtle implication. He is the one who can bring back the magic of Gormenghast – though we must read the subsequent novels to find out whether he does.
C.S. Lewis wrote, in his letter to Mervyn Peake, “I would not for anything have missed Gormenghast. It has the hallmark of a true myth: i.e. you have seen nothing like it before you read the work, but after that you see things like it everywhere…”(Daniel, 23)
Daniel, Estelle. The Art of Gormenghast: The Making of a Television Fantasy. London: Harper Collins Entertainment, 2000.
This is something with which I totally agree. Gormenghast is a mythology of our own reality; in it I see things I had not noticed before but now recognize as if I’d known them my entire life. It is the dormant magic in all of us. And it’s the sadness, too.
I’ve tried to remove any spoilers from this paper before posting it, just in case someone happens upon this blog and hasn’t yet had the pleasure of reading Mervyn Peake’s beautiful work.
If you have read it (lucky you!), I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve noticed already in my class discussions that my view of the characters and Gormenghast is not universally accepted. Further conversation would be great so that I can get to know this text even better. 🙂