Thursday, December 27, 2007

My favorite movies of 2007

Some maybe actually 2006 movies. No special order and no real surprises. These were probably on everyone's lists. What were yours?

Painted Veil
Lives of Others
First Snow
51 Birch Street
Away From Her
3:10 to Yuma
Gone Baby Gone
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
Starting Out in the Evening
Sweeney Todd

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Christmas Gift (for me)

If anyone is willing to critique my query letter, which I must start sending out next week, please email me and I'll send it along. It's just one page.
Going to that agency conference in November completely spooked me about query letters. Let alone the damned synopsis. Thanks in advance.

Has Your Blog Changed over the Years

I notice changes in blogs: appearances, disappearances, subject matter, frequency, length of entries. I think as time goes on, it's harder to remain fresh. Also some people who use to discuss their family on their blogs, pulled back from that, perhaps wisely. It becomes an organ of publicity sometimes. How has your blog changed? What trends to you see in other blogs?

Sweeney Todd

Although I found the music in this utterly unmemorable I liked everything else about it. Even Sacha Baron Cohen, who I usually find annoying, did a good job with his role. Great atmosphere and the two leads had the courage to play their parts to the max, leaving us with no sympathy for them by the end. No overacting either. This movie continues the trend in strange hairstyles with Depp's styling. Surely a barber should sport a better coiffure. A-.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

There was much to like in this movie. Smart way of telling the story, witty dialogue, great scenes of Afghanistan (or its stand in, Morocco) but I have to say Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance, brilliant as usual, threw off the performances of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Theirs were the typical Hollywood portrayals, not bad, but a forties style acting; his was a riveting, burn down the house perfomance and the contrast was detrimental to the whole production. I also think the film skirts the final issue-- what happened after we stopped funding Afghanistan-- in an effort to not detract from Charlie Wilson's accomplishiment and much of the audience was puzzled by the cursory mention of funding a school and Congress's refusal to do so.
Tom and Julia like to leave on a high note, Hoffman might have be willing to skulk out. Also a continuation of the strange hair styles we've seen in other films this year. I'd give it a B.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Starting Out in the Evening

This was a terrific movie that beautifully evoked the life of a writer. Great performance by Frank Langella, too. Nuanced, interesting, persuasive. I'd give it a A-. But the movie raises a subject I think about a lot. Passion for a novel. It's been a long time since I have passionately loved a novel. Maybe it's a function of youth--to be able to throw yourself into a book that way. The books I have loved were all read in my teens and twenties--Revolutionary Road, Look Homeward Angel, the early novels of Anne Tyler. The novels of the Canadian Margaret Lawrence, The Great Gatsby and many more. The movie actually raises this issue: a young woman prefers the writer's early works which were about his characters; an older reader liked his later work, which was about issues.
Have you read a book recently you're passionate about? Has that sort of book disappeared or is it my youth that has? Do we reach an age when passion is harder to come by?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays

From the Abbott Family

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Year of the Dog

It's strange how a movie many people liked can just elude you. I'm not sure that when I reached the end I even got the point. That it's better to be crazy and impassioned than sane and passive? I guess that's it. I expected the movie to be humorous--it seldom was. It was grim, slow and overly fond of Molly Shannon's face. Truly this obsession with closeups is getting on my nerves, too. Why must everything be pitched at less than three feet? I'd give it a C.
What movie, generally well reviewed eluded you? Or what movie generally poorly reviewed did you like? I liked Across the Universe, which was pretty well panned.
Also, I find I am a lot harder on movies I see on DVD. Easier to walk out of the living room than a theater.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Am I crazy

to start writing a second book about the same character when I originally thought she was too dark to carry a first novel? Plus I have no idea if that novel will find an agent and publisher. Do people do that--write sequels before the first novel is a sure thing?
I keep trying to return to writing short stories but Violet's still in my head and noticing things through my eyes. Maybe this means by the end of the book she wasn't such a bad girl. Or do people write sequels about not-so-nice protagonists. Of course, I don't mean a Hannibal Lector or Dexter sort of protag. Just your ordinary grumpy, bitchy woman. What do you think?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In the Middle of a Big Snowstorm in Michigan

I'd like to thank some of the people in the crime fiction world who have enhanced my life over the last year. Thanks to the selfless editors who so tirelessly put out zines. Especially to the following editors who have published my stories this year: Sandra Ruttan, Bryon Quertermous, Todd Robinson, D.Z. Allen, Megan Powell, Gerald So and Kevin Burton Smith, Tony Black, Joede (MystericalE), Steven McDermott, Dave Zeltserman, B.J Bourg, Ed Gorman and John Helfers, Mystery Dawg. There may be more and I apologize if I've forgotten you. And thanks to Tribe whose friendship endures even if FITG is gone. I have had such a good experience with every one of these editors. You are truly amazing.
Thanks to Graham Powell Daniel Hatadi and Tom Piccirilli for running sites that allow us to communicate. Thanks also to bloggers who run blogs that are strictly non-self-promotional--like Rap Sheet, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, Mystery File and many others.
Thanks to the people who stop by this blog now and then to offer advice, solace, congratulations or just to weigh in. I can't tell you how you've brightened my days.
Thanks to my daughter, Megan, who continues to inspire me. She may have tiny feet but she leaves big tracks for me to follow. I am in awe that she spends 40 hours a week raising money for the people of East Harlem and still finds time to write.
It's been a difficult year in many ways, but this is my outlet and I am grateful to have one.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Return of the Uber Mother

And that was the kind of mother I was, I'm afraid. I threw myself into mothering so thoroughly that I had time for little else. This both advantaged and handicapped my kids. I won't go into how; you can guess.
And now my parents have come under the same regime. My 93 year old father moved in with us a few weeks ago able to care for himself in almost every way. Now he comes to me to blow his nose, get his meds, get something to drink. He coughs and I fly downstairs, confusing both of us.
Are you like this as a parent? Was your mother like this? Why do we feel the need to take too good a care of people even when we know it's not the right thing to do.
Anyway, this is what I'm doing nowadays. Being part of what Philip Wylie called "momism" half a century ago. And it ain't necessarily a good thing? I used to be a writer; now I'm just a Mom. My mother even called me that the other day and she isn't senile. Just overhandled.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Group Signing for A Hell of a Woman at Partners and Crime

Didn't my son-in-law Josh Gaylord do a great job? There's tons more but you get the idea.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I'm Not There

Okay, defend this movie. Perhaps I was influenced by the fact that I dragged my 93 year old father old out in the cold and snow to see this. Perhaps I was influenced by my need for linear plots that make sense. Perhaps I regretted that I was unable to see this with Tribe as we'd planned due to my family circumstances. Maybe it's that I saw the terrific Scorcese doc earlier this year. Or that a couple near us provided a running commentary that made even less sense than the movie. But I hated this movie. It was pretentious, arty. and full of banal speeches. It either idealized Dylan or made him ridiculous. And long, oh so long. Perhaps I got tired of sifting through what was real and what wasn't. Maybe it's that I dislike Richard Gere and even Kate Blanchett got tiresome too. Anyway, this is my biggest disappointment of the year. It felt like Lars Von Trier had directed it.
The only thing I liked was the music. So I shut my eyes after a while and pretended I was awake.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Where to Send It?

I just finished what I would call a "nice" crime story, maybe verging on lit fic, but centering on a small town sheriff. A crime takes place but it is not hard-boiled or noir. I could try EQMM but they tend to only take name writers. So where do I send this piece? It's about sadness and angst, not about violence and exploding heads. This is my dilemma. Where do I send stories that really center on the human element but take place in the world of crime? If I had the technical skills, I would start a zine that looked for this type of story. Megan does it and Bryon from time to time. But who else?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Not Good in Bed"

You hear this line all the time and from my sickbed today I heard Roz tell Daphne that about some date on Frasier-a go-to morning show if I'm sick.
How many ways can someone not be good in bed. I'll start a list

Too quick
Too slow
Overly imaginative
Too fastidious

Got any more? This is not for personal use, btw. Just for writing.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The requirements of the genre

Ed Gorman and others have recently discussed the "don'ts" in attempting a PI novel . The list is so extensive, I have almost always given it a pass. My one foray into it dealt with a retired PI so I could cheat. Having read hundreds of PI novels still doesn't make me an expert on avoiding cliches or employing tropes effectively.

I can more easily enter the arena of suspense where the requirements are less daunting. The thought of trying to pull off a SF novel or SF story is even more challenging. How long would it take to learn the vocabulary alone?

Do you stay away from attempting certain sorts of stories because of the pitfalls in trying to get it right? What is the hardest kind of story for you? Which subgenre is most butchered by amateurs?