I Like Pop, I Like Rock…

I like pop music.

There. I said it.

Don’t judge me. Or do judge me. If I was worried about judgement, I wouldn’t be blogging.

It’s called pop music for a reason. Because it’s popular. Now, I realize that calling it “popular” opens me up to a lot of criticism. Labeling it “popular” isn’t fair because who decides what popular is? And why is it popular? And how come it all seems to sound the same? And most of the artists seem to look/act/think a certain way? I know all this. But, allow me to continue without getting drawn into a debate about what defines popular. Because that’s not what this is about.

I realize there are many who will judge me, deride me even about this choice. Because, really, listening to a certain type of music is a choice. Pop isn’t the only thing I listen, too. I listen to alternative, and classical, and rap and pretty much whatever. If it’s a good song, I’ll listen. And possibly like it. Much like a good book, I’ll read whatever genre as long as I like it.

However, I can’t help but notice that Pandora seems to put a lot of pop in rotation for me. Taylor Swift seems to be a favorite these days. And I’m OK with that. It’s fun music. Sure, songs about break-ups aren’t exactly uplifting happy songs. But the ones with the revenge themes can be. Even the heart break songs can have a snappy beat that I can dance to. And dance I do. Unless I’m at work because I think that’s pushing the “I’m enjoying this” boundary a bit.

I feel like I should explain why I like pop music. It’s not because I want to defend the genre. It’s because it serves a purpose.

It’s fun, it’s silly, it helps me forget

Helps me forget?

Yup. It helps me forget about all the awful in the world. In case you weren’t aware, there’s this Ebola thing happening. (Side note, the conspiracy theorist in me says this is the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, but I might be wrong, so don’t quote me on it.) There’s the ever widening income gap that makes me worry about the future. I could go on and on about the spiraling costs of healthcare, or the issues in the Middle East (pick one these days) or the upcoming midterm election or what the Supreme Court is or is not ruling on. But, I won’t. Instead, I blast the radio (or streaming music) and forget about this world.

Because when the music is on and I’m focused on writing, I’m living in a world I create. One where everything works out (mostly. I’m not all sunshine and roses but you’ve got to have some happy in there) and the bad guys get taken down. Even if the lines of right and wrong are blurry and don’t exactly make sense, the good guys, the one’s you are rooting for, win. Whatever winning is.

That doesn’t happen in the real world. Good guys loose. A lot. Evil wins. A lot. And evil doesn’t always look like a zombie. Often it looks like a guy in a suit. Or girl in a suit. I don’t discriminate.

Hence my desire to read and write thrillers and sci-fi and speculative stuff. To create a world where the little guy wins (even if he has to bend the rules a bit). Since we don’t win very often in this one, it’s nice to have that kind of alternative reality to escape to. It can be a lot better than this one. And I sometimes help create that listening to fun, silly, escapist music.

So, judge me if you will, but I’ll keep on reading and writing the “fun stuff, listening to the pop stuff and shaking it off. Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

Tuning In

I really need to delete the TV Guide app from my iPad. That thing sucks me in every time I look at it. Well, almost. Even with 140+ channels, some days there is just absolutely nothing to watch. Other days, there are way too many things to watch and I start with one and the next thing I know I’ve lost hours and hours to TV land.

Thank goodness I don’t have the DVR option enabled. I’d become the couch.

I was planning on writing Sunday night but I was tired (love those allergies and the Benadryl I take to combat it. My brain is constantly fried these days) and thought, “Well, I’ll just glance at what’s on TV tonight…”

Uh-huh.

One of the things that sucks me in most is classic movies. Turner Classic Movies is one of my favorite channels. I’m a sucker for that stuff. And Sunday night they were running the 1968 release of Planet of the Apes. The best movie out of all of them, in my opinion.

I’d be a liar if I told you I was always a fan. While I love sci-fi and speculative stuff, those monkeys scared the crap out of me as a kid. I did not like that make-up. As an adult, it’s a different story. I can appreciate the nuances and the technical skill it took to create those characters visually. No CGI. Just make-up, prosthetics and a lot of technique. But man, that was the stuff of many a bad dream in my youth.

I know I’ve seen the movie before. Mostly because I know how it ends (spoiler alert: it’s awesome!), and I’ve seen the “Get your paws off me” scene. And I remember the bits in between those two scenes and some of what comes before the paws scene. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the beginning. Yet, I know I’ve seen the movie. So, I decided to watch instead of write. Because I had a foggy brain and really wanted to see the beginning which I couldn’t remember.

The first hour was a complete mystery to me. It was kind of cool, in a sense. I was seeing it for the first time. And it’s good stuff. On the other hand, if I’m so sure I’ve seen it before, why didn’t the beginning stick with me?

Which got me thinking about writing and story telling in general. A really good story should stay with you from the beginning to end, shouldn’t it? While I couldn’t tell you exactly how the Harry Potter story opens, I can tell you the beginning. It’s about this kid who lives under the stairs at his Aunt and Uncle’s and they hate him and (again, spoiler alert), turns out he’s a wizard (among other things going on with this kid). See? I didn’t look that up at all (and the Internet’s right here) and I remember it. So, why the heck can’t I remember the beginning of Planet of the Apes.

I think the obvious answer is: I hadn’t really seen the whole thing beginning to end. Because it’s such a great movie and such a great story that I should have remembered it. Right? Good stories stick.

But, from a writer’s perspective, it was even better that I couldn’t remember (or hadn’t seen) the beginning. Given I knew the ending, it was fun to watch the beginning knowing what awaited in the last few frames. I could see the subtle clues (and the not so subtle ones) that were sprinkled in the dialogue. Here and there these little tidbits were dropped that kinda sorta let the viewer know what was going to happen. Not exactly, of course, but enough that if you were paying close attention, you wouldn’t be quite so shocked at the end. Impressed, but not shocked.

Ah. Good story telling at it’s best. A twist ending that you mostly saw coming because the writer let you in on the secret without giving it away. How I wish I possessed that ability without having to try so hard at it. But, those are the breaks I guess. Rod Serling I am not.

And, if you weren’t paying attention, the ending is still pretty cool. It’s a twist, but it totally fits. In so many ways. Also the mark of good story telling, I think. A twist ending that makes you say, “I did not see that coming,” but you don’t feel cheated or tricked. The Sixth Sense is an excellent example of this. A twist ending that makes you go “What?” in the first breath then “Oh, cool!” in the second. It’s the twists where you go “What?” in the first breath then “No way,” in the second but not in a good way, that make you think of bad story telling.

And with no way to end this post, twisting or otherwise, I’m off to critique and work on my Friday Phrases tweets for Friday.

The End (an absolutely classic ending)

 

Powering Through

I am utterly sleep deprived after this weekend and it’s making it hard to get anything done.

The weekend started with a huge storm. I was just about done with work when the power went out. I waited until it seemed like the storm was letting up enough to travel, then figured I’d take my chances with everyone else. I turn left out of the parking lot to find tree branches on cars and a flooded street. Turned around, and made it home the other way. Thankfully, we weren’t hit quite as hard at home. Plenty of power and no flooding.

The weekend ended with a split lip and the garage smelling like skunk. Don’t ask. But feel free to use it as a writing prompt.

As a result of the long weekend, I’m barely functioning. I’m sure that’s due in part to it being Monday and really, who likes Monday? And, it might have something to do with the fact that I took a bike ride this morning because the weather was perfect for it and after I refueled with two cups of coffee and an apple cider doughnut. Yep. That might have something to do with it.

So, in summary, I have no one to blame but myself for the Monday blues.

That’s OK. I’m excited about something I discovered on Twitter called Friday Phrases. Click through to check it out if you’re looking for a new way to exercise your writing muscles. I thought it would be really difficult at first but once I got going, it was a lot of fun and really got the creative side of me going. I’m going to try again this week, probably using whatever the optional theme is. That’s a good starting off point for me. And from there, who knows?

I found it to be a great way to think through things without having to try too hard. Not that it’s easy. It’s just that doing this doesn’t require as much plotting, planning, thinking and back story as, say, a full length novel. It’s also something I can whip out with paper and pen real quick when inspired, unlike the WIP. I don’t have to know the character(s) in depth and as completely as I do for the WIP (which I discovered over the weekend is one of my problems) or really know their motivations, or really anything. I mean, with only 140 characters there isn’t much room to wonder about their childhoods and how that affected their future choices.

And with that, it’s time for lunch. I’ll switch to water, I promise. And eat a healthy lunch with protein and veggies. No carbs. That should help.

Happy Monday and happy blogging!

What if I Really do Suck?

I’m switching it up a bit today and writing first, everything else. Except the laundry. That can never wait and it’s easy to do while writing unlike, say, a shower.

My first writing exercise was a review of my recent dentist visit (the one with the scheduled in advance “family emergency”).

This sounds a bit lame, but I actually liked it. Thinking of it as an exercise. It’s hard to give negative feedback in a positive way. To turn the feedback into a learning opportunity or whatever. So, this was a good chance for me to practice. As a writer, (and a reader) it’s important to be able to give and receive this sort of thing. It was nice to have a chance to practice. Also, I was able to do it anonymously, so that helps. I can hide behind the Internet in case the feedback was too harsh.

Which is kind of a funny thing to say. Shouldn’t I be willing to stand by my review? To sign my name proudly to it and to say, Yup, this is what I think? Especially since I was trying to be nice about it (mostly. I’ll admit to one or two snarky parts, but they were well earned on their part. Most stuff I can let slide, but every now and then…).

So, why do you care that I reviewed a dentist today?

It got me thinking about reviews in general and how people process them. I started reading a book that was widely praised and positively reviewed in a bunch of publications. Cool. I’ll read almost anything that gets decent reviews. I started it. I lost interest. I kept trying to get through it. Not so much because I cared about the character (I don’t) or I wanted to see how it ended (doesn’t matter) but because the writing is quiet good. It’s the literary writing that might be described as “beautiful prose with wonderful turns of phrase.” Or something equally flowery.

But I don’t really care for the book, the characters, the plot (which isn’t exactly a plot, per se. More like a series of vignettes about this character which also don’t have much of a plot), none of it. There’s no tension, no action, no nothing. I’m not saying all stories need to have guns and cars and murders and whatever, but there’s no tension in this story. Nothing interesting or scary or curious happens. It’s just the character, living her life, and here’s what happens. Happy reading!

Blech.

OK, fine, whatever, it’s not for me. But, then I got curious. Who else doesn’t like this book? Is it just me? Am I a philistine? An uncultured clod? (Both of these things are entirely possible.) So, I looked up reviews for these books on Amazon and Goodreads.

Discarding the reviews that were clearly biased (like the one star review on Amazon that tore apart the author’s character and personality and said nothing about the actual book), there were a fair amount of negative reviews. Both sites gave this highly recommended by professional reviewers, well blurbed book an average of 3 stars. Which is fine and nothing to sneeze at, but… Still…

Ignoring the fact that it sort of proves the point that just because a book is published by a well-respected big 5 (that’s what we’re down to now, right? Five?) publisher, doesn’t necessarily mean anything these days. A traditionally published book could be just as awesome or as sucky as a self-published indie book. I think that’s been the case for a while now.

I more wonder about the author. Here’s this book that she probably slaved away at for at least a year, if not more. And she achieved the dream! (My dream, at least.) An agent, a traditional publishing contract, probably a promotional budget (I hope), and validation! Someone else, probably a bunch of someone else’s, think your writing is worthy of print. And those blurbs that talk about how great your writing is and how great the book is. How amazing! It all reinforces the fact that you have arrived! You are not just a writer, but an author of books!

I’m not going to lie. I live this fantasy often.

But. But. But. And I hate saying this. It’s great that there’s all that validation, but what about the comments? I know they say, never read the comments. No good can come from it. But, what about all those Amazon and Goodreads people? Don’t their opinions count for anything? Aren’t they just as important and affirming and validating? Doesn’t the fact that they think you aren’t that great count for anything? Because, I mean, it wasn’t just one or two people. It was enough people that it brought your rating to 3 stars. Which is just average.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d probably take a 3 star rating, because at least I’d be getting rated. Which would mean my book is out there. Being read. By other people. Not just my mother. And that would be spectacular.

But, the reviews for this book… Much of what was written was exactly what I was thinking. Writing is good it’s just the story is blah. I suppose you could make the argument, it was her story to tell and she told it as she wanted to. Also, she doesn’t work for me, so what I think doesn’t matter. All though, it kind of does since I won’t buy another of her books, so, where does that leave her? What is she thinking? Is she ignoring the nay sayers? Changing her writing style? Crying?

And how would I handle something like that? After all that slaving and pouring my heart out on the page, and tearing my hair out and whatever else I do to motivate myself, how would I feel if it turns out my writing is only average? I mean, it probably is, but it’s one thing for me to say it. It’s another thing for everyone else to say it.

So, today, I throw this question out there. How do you (or would you) handle negative reviews of your writing? I mean, the nice ones, not the “You totally suck,” non-specific reviews. It could be Amazon or a professional reviewer or someone who’s opinion you trust/respect (but not your Mom’s). Do you ignore them? Say the reviewer doesn’t know what they’re talking about? Internalize it? Take it to heart and adjust your writing accordingly? Drink heavily?

A Writer’s Mind

Sometimes, I Google stalk people. I should probably be ashamed to admit that out loud, but, come on. We all do it sometimes. Right? A way to blow off work, pass the time, satisfy some curiosity, morbid or otherwise. It’s to find out the information about all the people we aren’t Facebook connected with (and don’t want to be) without anyone knowing about it.

In any event, I was doing it today and an image came up that was slightly bordering on porn. It wasn’t gross or anything, just very… revealing is the word I want. Which got me to think about another person I’ve been Google stalking from time to time. I can’t quite seem to find her, but, every time I Google a certain variation of her name, the Porn Star with the Same Name comes up first.

No over the line images, though. Thankfully. (Side note, if you ever mistype the web address for Google, you’re in for a shock. I won’t post it here, but I was at work when it happened and COULD NOT get it off the screen. I had to hit the power button to make it go away.)

I’m pretty sure the Porn Star with the Same Name isn’t her. The pictures don’t look remotely the same. Sure, there’s that whole possibility of plastic surgery thing, but that would have to be a hell of a lot of work to make her look that different.

So, I’m wondering if the Person I’m Google Stalking knows about the Porn Star with the Same Name? And, if she does, what does she think? And, does it work the other way? Does the Porn Star with the Same Name know about the Person I’m Google Stalking. Not that I’m Google stalking her, obviously, but that she exists? That would make a great plot twist, though. The Porn Star knows that I’m Google stalking the Old Friend, but Old Friend doesn’t know. Hmm.

Yup. This is how a writer’s mind works. We start one place and end up someplace related, but weird and twisted and, frankly, kind of messed up. But those messed up, meandering thoughts can lead to some pretty great stories. It’s what we do. Take our crazy, weird, twisted thoughts and make them entertaining.

I’m So Old School

I am freezing my butt of right now waiting for my car. In another second I will either have to drink the crappy (but free!) coffee or flip up the hood on my hoodie and look stupid. Maybe both. I don’t care. I’m freezing.

As I’m waiting, I’ve procrastinated working on the WIP as much as I can. I’ve checked Facebook and Twitter and my email. I read some articles and researched a few things and dealt with some other “pressing issues.” All that’s left is the WIP. And I can’t use the “my devices ran out of juice” excuse because A) I’m sitting next to a power outlet and have my chargers with me. Also, they have a free charging station here! And B) I do all of my plotting on paper.

I suppose that kind of dates me. The fact that I still do some of this stuff with paper and pen. Not the actual writing, that I type. But the plotting is still old school. I find I can’t outline on a blank screen or with a keyboard or whatever. Pen to paper. With music in the background. It sort of reminds me of college. This next part will absolutely date me. I went back in the time before iPad’s and laptops and all that nifty stuff. It was taking notes with a pen. If you went to class, that is.

And I still have to do it that way. Plotting and planning in a notebook with a pen. And, since I’m on the subject, so is editing. I have to print the thing out and get out my red pen and make notes and cross stuff out. Very old school. My brain doesn’t work otherwise. For the editing part, I really wish I could. I hate waisting all those trees. Because, of course, it’s not like I can’t do one draft. That would be cool, but, very unrealistic. So every time I have to edit, many, many trees die in my service.

I plant trees whenever I can to make up for it.

Old school or not, my hands are freezing. I think I’ll step outside for a few minutes to try and warm up before I get to it. That or brave the coffee.