Romance, YA, Fiction and Fantasy Novel Reviews, Nonsensical Rants, and My Own Writing Adventures
Friday, March 23, 2007
Sent: "Golden Opportunity"
Anyhoo, "Golden Opportunity" is, I believe, the second of this year's Creative Writing Class stories I've submitted (the first being "Parasite: A Love Story" - and "Whiff" was written in last year's class). "Tear for a Rose" has potential, once I clean it up and find a title that doesn't sound so embarassingly florid (Gossamer Obsessions, anyone? The only reason I've kept that name is to remind me of how with every story I am trying to use less purple prose...). "House Hunting" still needs fixing, although it's taken an interesting turn in the rewrites (I've added a wedding!) that might require me to do a little more worldbuilding.
But now I have two stories "in the mail," as it were - and this time I paid attention to format! I went to the SFWA website and found out exactly how much I had been doing wrong. Urgh! My problem was that while I always followed the submission guidelines mentioned by the magazines themselves (double-spaced, once-sided, ragged right margin, etc.) I never considered that there might be standards that are apparently so standard that I never knew of them until I looked them up. Like underlining instead of italicising (no big deal - it's the same for MLA format), and putting my address on the first page of the manuscript (I figured the address on the coverletter and SASE to be enough - stupid me!) and putting the title of the story in the centre of the first page.
It's kind of a bummer, to tell the truth. I'd hate to think that some of the rejections I've received might have been partially due to bad formatting. I had the basics, right? Right? While it might not have been enough to merit the story's immediate banishment to the wastebasket, it certainly might have biased the reader against acceptance, and that kills me. I know, no use crying over spilt milk or improperly formated short stories. The best I can do know is to keep sending them out with the right format and hope my luck changes.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
As of Now, I am an Officially Published Author
Yup - the March/April 2007 issue is officially out in the States, in Japan, in countries all over the world, it seems - just not where I live, apparently. I have six issues coming to me, but they're taking sooo slow, and people are getting the chance to see my story in print with the lovely illustrations before I do. No fair.
It's pretty cool to think my magazine is getting sold in Japan - one of my mother's friends who lives there pointed it out, and that makes it even more exciting...NOW IF ONLY I COULD GET MY COPIES....Argh!
Anyhoo - I checked out Fantasy Magazine, and I'm seriously considering sending "Golden Opportunity" their way. Again, they take e-mail submissions, so that's great, but I'm a little nervous. I read online that there are standards for submission that I've never heard of - and I really hope that hasn't contributed to people rejecting my work out of hand. Did anyone else know you had to put your address on the first page, if you provided a cover letter? Anyone else know that italicised words had to be underlined in the submission? I sure didn't.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Another prompt rejection
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Worse, AnimeJune! WORSE WORSE!
Anyway, though, I queried the editors with a brief description of "Parasite," and instead of saying, "That's a dumb idea. Don't waste our time," they said, "Sure, send it along." So, points for me for being able to present myself properly. It'll definitely come in handy when I'm looking for agents.
Bad Animejune! Bad, bad!
This is YOUR FAULT, Mum and Dad. You should have NEVER taught me how to read! *lol*
Normally, I'd reply in the comments section, but since other people might very well have the same question, I might as well write a post about it. Melanie asked in the Comments section of last post whether "My Brother's Own Words" was based in any part upon real life. There is actually very little about this story that is based on real life, for me - my parents fight occasionally, but they've been happily married for over twenty years. I have two younger sisters, but they are far more socially developed than I am. I do not, nor have ever owned a parrot - and although my mother's best friend has an African grey, he's actually rather vicious in unfamiliar company.
No, I did not base this story on real life. A lot of my stories are - "Tears for a Rose" and "Golden Opportunity" both make use of my own personal feelings of social alienation, "Desert Muse" confronts the problem of writer's block, I wrote "Whiff" as a reaction to my newfound sensativity to smells after my mother quit smoking, and "Red Bird, Red Bird" was actually written to express my worries of writing after "My Brother's Own Words."
"My Brother's Own Words" is a special case - it was the first short story I wrote with the intention of trying to sell it. I'd tried novels for years, but I could never manage to finish them, or they were terribly derivative medieval stuff (something I'm struggling through presently while working on Reading 'The Willow King'). I wrote it during the summer of 2005. That year, I had to have my wisdom teeth removed, and while I quite a bit frightened (I'd never been anesthetized before, and I have a low pain threshold), the whole thing went fine and I recovered quickly enough.
During the three-day weekend of my recovery, I lay on the couch all day, did no work, and ate nothing but Tylenol 3 and Neapolitan ice cream while applying icepacks to my swollen jaw every 20 minutes. It might have been the painkillers and sugar talking, but during those three days my Idea-Filter turned off, and allowed "My Brother's Own Words" to be written.
My Idea-Filter, basically, is that little voice in my head that keeps me from attempting to write things that might by too overwhelming for my present abilities. I write fantasy stories, so the ideas that get jammed in the filter can be pretty weird (to the tune of "what if limes ran the government?" or "holy matrimony between a man and a bowl of chocolate pudding").
Well, one of those ideas was "what if there was a boy whose dad was a human, and whose mother was a parrot?" It managed to slip through the Idea-Filter, and since I had three days with absolutely nothing else to do, I wrote the whole thing right away. Although the idea was kind of weird, the rational (and not sugar-addled) part of my brain allowed me to apply rules to the bizarre plot so that as outlandish and magical as it was, it could still be, as Melanie put it, "realistic." It could still be a coherent story with a narrative and characters and a reasonable conflict and resolution.
Ultimately, the experience actually helped me to tone down my Idea-Filter. I used to be a little self-conscious about my writing talent, and was skittish about doing things that were too "out there," but with the way "My Brother's Own Words" turned out, it allowed me to try for crazier ideas, so long as I was able to put them into a story that said something real, that people could understand regardless of the species of their parents.
Of course, I was a little worried afterwards. So far, "My Brother's Own Words" has been the only story I've sold, and for a little while, I was nervous that maybe, just maybe, it had been because of the painkillers and sugar that people liked my story. An irrational fear, but still - as I kept getting more rejections for "Desert Muse" and "Parasite: A Love Story" and "Whiff," I wondered if I would ever be able to write as well again.
Now, of course, I know that's total hogwash - I realize how incredibly fortunate I was to sell "My Brother's Own Words" after so few submissions, and that even the best writers have to deal with mountains of "didn't work for me"s before they succeed. Getting rejected doesn't necessarily make me a bad writer - it just means I'm a writer. For every story I write, there will always been people who love it, and people who will think it's absolute garbage. My job, of course, is to find those particular editors, agents and publishers who make up the former category.
I'm so glad you liked my story, Melanie, and thank you so much for commenting! It made my day!
Monday, March 19, 2007
Not Down Yet
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Movie Review: Disney's Pocahontas (1995)
Crush Du Jour Rating:
Dax Needs a Hug ("Oh! It had so much potential! So much wasted potential!")
Yes, yes, I went out and rented Pocahontas. What was I thinking, you ask? Well, when I rented Hunchback of Notre Dame I was expecting it to be awful, and while I ended the movie in giggles, now I can't stop listening to the soundtrack on my iPod and several key scenes are still stuck in my head. Yes, I really liked The Hunchback of Notre Dame - I enjoyed it immensely, in fact. It's pretty close to buy-worthy. And because at the moment I cannot get enough Disney, I thought I'd give Pocahontas a try. Needless of the story, it was bound to be well-animated, and the same pair who did Hunchback's fabulous music worked on this one's soundtrack, and on top of it all - I expected Hunchback to be bad and it was anything but, so I had the same expectations for this one: that it might just be wonderful, history and source material be damned!
Yeah, well, it wasn't, sorry to say. Just like Hunchback served as a thematic restyling of the earlier Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas works as a second Little Mermaid - i.e. strong-willed, curious girl finds herself attracted to a man from another world, even though her big bad Daddy thinks he's a pale-faced savage and doesn't want her to have anything to do with him. Pocahontas loves Englishman John Smith, but her father the Chief wants to banish the white men from their shores (because his shaman's niftily predicted that the white men "are ravenous wolves who devour everything in their path"), and the Governor Ratcliffe, leader of the Virginia Company (and played by Disney stalwart David Ogden Stiers - who has voiced, so far as I know, five main Disney characters: The Narrator of Beauty and the Beast as well as Cogsworth, this film's Ratcliffe as well as his toady manservant Wiggins, and the Archdeacon from Hunchback of Notre Dame) wants to dig America up for its gold.
The plot reads fine on paper, even with the standard Disney additions like Animal Friends (a mischievous racoon and a protective hummingbird), Talking Inanimate Objects (Grandmother Willow - a talking tree), and Convenient Magical Plot Devices (listening to the wind, Pocahontas can speak the King's English! Hooray!), but really, the writing is crap. It really relies on the ridiculous "Noble Savage" idea of the American Native, which is just plain dumb. Pocahontas and her friend Nakoma seem to be the only American Indians who can speak in fluid, complex sentences - even the Chief is reduced to stilted language like "you make my heart soar," and "Kocoum will make a good husband, he will build a sturdy house."
Plus, the whole "noble savage" idea that the natives are "at one with nature" is pure romanticized phony baloney. Yes, it's Disney, but I couldn't help but notice it. Like during the "Paint with All the Colours of the Wind" number, when Pocahontas shows John Smith a mother bear and her cubs, going so far as to pick one up and hand it over to him. I don't think the mother bear would make a distinction between a Caucasion or a Native American - if you picked up her babies she would rip your face off. Plus, the ending was pat and anticlimactic. Most Disney movies end with a large battle (that conveniently kills and seriously wounds no one important), but Pocahontas merely leads up to one and then cuts it off.
I mean, you have the "Savages, Savages" reprise, with the Virginia men marching off against the Native Americans, guns and bows at the ready, both sides spouting superstitious B.S. about each other ("I wonder if [white men] even bleed?" "[Native Americans] are dirty little heathens," etc.) and the Chief is seconds away from clubbing John Smith's pretty blond head in when Pocahontas runs up just in time, throws herself in front of her man, and says, "I've chosen my path." This of course, changes the Chief's mind instantly, launching him into a speech about "ending violence and hatred." The battle's cancelled, although Ratcliffe manages to get off one good shot that hits John Smith by mistake. And that's the movie. Dull, dull, dull.
The animation's nice enough, but that's natural with Disney. A lot of work seems to go into Pocahontas' hair (which again calls to mind the cool animation in The Little Mermaid that made Ariel's locks so poofy and twisty in the water) and how it flaps, flag-like, in the wind. Really, though, other than a few magical clouds, Grandmother Willow's special effects, and the sparkly "Colours of the Wind" number, there wasn't a whole lot of occasion for truly spectacular visuals.
The music was also sub-par - true, I said something similar about The Hunchback, and now I'm re-listening to "Hellfire" and "Out There" a bajillion times more than "Be Our Guest" on my iPod right now, but here the music really is unpleasant. I might like to download the score, because Alan Menken's music hasn't failed to thrill me yet, but a lot of the songs just seemed tired - particularly the strangely anemic "Virginia Company" song, which sounded a bit like a jingle for a life insurance company. "Just Around the River Bend" had some spark, and "Savages, Savages" was worth a chuckle or two (not just because when my little sister sang along to it as a baby, she'd say "Sausages, Sausages," "Cabbages, Cabbages," or "Sandwiches, Sandwiches," - but also because of snort-inducing lyrics like "beneath their milky hide, there's emptiness inside!"). Part of this was because of the singing voices - Pocahontas' (Judy Kuhn) was dead-on, but the Chief was sung by Jim Cummings - a very prolific Disney voice actor (Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, a bunch of voices from Disney's Hercules, Razoul the Chief Guard from Aladdin) - whose voice was so instantly recognizable it jarred with the Chief Powhatan's actual voice (Russell Means). John Smith's voice was also a little off - admirably, Mel Gibson actually sings some of the songs (like "The Virginia Company"), but I didn't know that until after I looked it up - the John Smith singing voice for some of the later songs (like the added "If I Never Knew You") sound a lot like Mel Gibson, only just a little bit off (for instance - Mel gives John an English accent, but while singing he sounds jarringly American), which distracted from an already horrible song. Seriously - "If I Never Knew You" pushes the bounds of saccharine Disney ballads.
There were also a few A-list (or at least A-list now) actors in the cast in this movie, and part of that is what it jarrring. Sure, it was a pleasant surprise to discover reading the credits that Christian Bale played hapless colonist Thomas, but with Mel Gibson as the male protagonist - well, that sorta screwed things up. Part of it is the star's obvious star baggage, which corrupts the character he's playing no matter how hard he tries - and part it has to do with singing. If the voice actor's unknown (or unrecognizable) one doesn't notice difference between the Talking Voice and the Singing Voice so much, but if one is a Big Star, with a voice that people recognize from hundreds of movies, than if they have to use a different Singing Voice, it's pretty noticeable. Other examples of this would be with Cary Elwes in Quest for Camelot and Patrick Dempsey in Brother Bear II.
So yeah, when filling my DVD collection, I'm not going to be purchasing Pocahontas. I'd really like to just pretend it never existed - Hunchback was just so much better, and the musical team from that is going to be working on Enchanted, so there's plenty of upcoming Disney material to make up for past mistakes.
More bloggy changes
Strange Horizons e-mailed over the standard "didn't work for us" rejection for "Parasite: A Love Story," so I have to go and find another magazine to send it to.
Also - Enchanted news. Someone leaked five promotional poster designs for the movie, and while Disney removed them pretty quickly from the Ain't It Cool News page that broke the story, they couldn't do it fast enough to keep from people posting the five on blogs easily discoverable using the Google Blog search. Four were handdrawn and black and white, the last one in full colour with photographs. The handdrawn ones looked nice enough - one had the Princess Giselle character falling out of the sky into Patrick Dempsey's arms, one showed Princess Giselle looking coyly out of a magic mirror while the other film characters (Dempsey, his character's daughter, Susan Sarandon's Evil Witch, the Handsome Disney Prince character) looked on, one showed Dempsey holding Giselle, while a bunch of actual Disney characters (Dumbo, Timon and Pumbaa, Sebastian, etc.) looked on in adoration, and one where Dempsey was just holding Giselle, I think. The full colour one looked fantastic - Sarandon in full purple Evil-Witch regalia (at a glance, she's easily mistakable for Angelica Houston), with Giselle (Amy Adams) looking befuddled and sparkly in front of an evening New York skyline.
I seriously can't wait to see this movie - although it has a bit of the makings of Last Action Hero to it. Last Action Hero made a great deal of funny pokes at Arnold Swartzeneggar movies, and of course, Arnold Swartzeneggar spent the next decade still making those movies. Here, Disney's spoofing Disney, but if Frog Princess and the rumoured upcoming Rapunzel film are any indication, they're bound to return to the formula they're mocking soon enough. I couldn't care less - bring on the animated Disney!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
So, until The Greenstone Grail comes in at the library, I'm going to relax and read My First Official Romance Novel - Bet Me. I've read the blog Smart B---- Who Love Trashy Novels (I can't swear during Lent this year), and I've wanted to try romance ever since, but I never had the time because I usually had a huge stack of fantasy novels to read, than a huge stack of University books to read, and then another huge stack of fantasy novels that were given/bought for me during the school year that I hadn't read yet because of the aforementioned University novels. Well, now I'm going to read it - refresh my palate, I guess, with purely fun books before I start again on the Review Books. Either way, I'm going to try and mark it with my New Marking System, and give you guys an informal review of it when I'm done.
My New Marking System, you say? Whatever could that be? Again, reading the Smart B---- website, I learned one of the writers dog-eared the pages of the novels she reviewed - she dog-eared the tops of pages that had passages she loved, and dog-eared the bottoms of pages that confused her or had stuff in them that she didn't like. I'm kind of obsessive-compulsive about the state of my books (I'm overcome with disappointment if I crease the spine, even), so I'm using tiny post-its instead, but they should do the trick. A post-it on the top of a page means I liked it, and on the side means I hated it. It promises to be an interesting experiment, because oftentimes after I read a book I can be kind of "m'eh" and not know exactly what I thought of it. Comparing the bad parts to the good parts might help.
Chipping away at a mountain
And after that are the How-Can-I-Not-Buy-Them-When-They're-This-Cheap-at-$2.00-A-Hardcover books I bought on impulse at the University Bookstore. I'm particularly looking forward to Elizabeth Hand's Winterlong, Margo Lanagan's Black Juice, and Cecelia Ahern's If You Could See Me Now (set to become a Hugh Jackman film in the near future). And all three cost less than $10 combined.
Of course, I still have exams and essays to write, so I shouldn't let myself get carried away, but it is quite nice to be back to reading for fun. And hopefully, I'll be able to post some more personal book reviews later too.
In other news, I e-mailed the editor of CICADA (pronounced SIH-KAY-DAH - I'm glad I asked) to ask when the issue with my story is coming out. She promptly replied that I will be getting my contributor's copies in about two weeks. Not only that, but my novella's going to be illustrated! I can't wait to see how the artist interpreted my story! So two more weeks - two more weeks before I'm officially published!
Friday, March 09, 2007
Hurrah! Disney's (possible) triumphant return!
Well, over at Ain't It Cool News, they're reporting that John Lasseter met with shareholders to talk about Disney's upcoming projects, and one that they mentioned is The Frog Princess. Here are a few of the things that have me excited about it:
1. Apparently, it's going to be hand-drawn! Yeehaw! That's what I'm talking about - now that Disney and Pixar are together, it's better for everyone if Pixar sticks to the CGI films and Disney keeps with what it's done best for sixty years - fantastic, two-dimensional, hand-drawn feature films.
2. It's going to be a MUSICAL!
3. Obviously, there's going to be a princess in it, which makes it just so nice. Apparently, Disney's making a big deal about how the story's going to be set in New Orleans, and the protagonist will be Disney's first ever African American Princess. Um, well, I'm going to have to agree with some of AICN's Talkbackers and say: who cares? In the last ten years, we've had Jasmine, Mulan, Pocahontas, and Esmerelda - who were Arabic, Chinese, American Indian, and Eastern European (but a swarthy Eastern European!), respectively. Ah well.
Now normally, I'd be insanely excited about this, and in many ways I am. But not completely. There are a few sticking points in my brain that keep this from being the absolutely perfect return to form I hoped Disney would make:
1. They stole my idea. Well, no, not really. Not at all, actually. I've been daydreaming lately about making my own animation company to make musical fairy-tale movies, and I had a few ideas in mind for the films (one was an accurate retelling of The Little Mermaid, sad ending and all, only because of Disney's copyright it wouldn't be called The Little Mermaid, but something more vague like Hans Christian Anderson's Mermaid or something). One was a version of The Frog Prince. I like to imagine that Weird Al would voice the wisecracking amphibian and Sarah Silverman would tone down her humour a tad to play the spoiled beyotch princess...but anyway, getting a little ahead of myself - I was kinda wishing for a Frog Prince movie to be made. Sure, I love the Disney princesses, but there's nothing wrong with having a male protagonist in an animated film, is there? Heroes are outnumbered by heroines ten-to-one in the protagonist department, it seems to me. There's Quasimodo, and Aladdin, and Peter Pan, and Simba - and that seems about it. Maybe it's just me. Oh yeah, and Kenai from Brother Bear - I guess I'll count him, although the movie wasn't very good.
Anyway, realistically I know there is a next-to-nothing chance that I'll start my own animation company and do Disney-style stuff (or at least in the next five years)- I have more of a chance of actually working for Disney itself. Still, I can't help but feel a little disappointed that I wasn't able to implement my idea first.
2. Alan Menken isn't doing the music. Randy Newman is. Alan Menken, in my eyes, is the master of providing dynamic scores and excellent songs to help narrate a film. Randy Newman did Toy Story - and it was background music. Are they going to be, y'know, actual show-tunes that push the story further along and explain things, or are they just going to be (N'Awlins-Flavoured) soft-pop tunes whose drippy lyrics kinda sorta metaphorically refer to the movie itself (like Phil Collin's work for Brother Bear and Tarzan?) Again, I'll refer to an AICN Talkbacker who recalled a Family Guy bit where Randy Newman, sitting at a piano, can only make songs about what he sees, to the tune of "red-headed lady, gonna eat an apple, now she's not gotta eat it, now she's breathing on it, chew, chew, stop, chew..." etc.
Still, I'm really glad that Disney is going back to animated, fairy-tale musicals. I mean, The Little Mermaid came out 18 years ago (really? wow) and children are still buying the toys. That's a sign that those types of movies have longevity, if you ask me.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Another Story Finished
It's been a month, so pretty soon I should be hearing back from Strange Horizons on my story, and also from CICADA as, if all has gone well, "My Brother's Own Words" has made it into the March/April 2007 issue.
I've also been nominated for Lieutenant Commander of my university's Science Fiction club - er, I mean, Secretary/Treasurer. At first I was a little nervous and was going to turn down the nomination (because I really don't have a lot of free time left with my job on top of my school), but my friends in the club said the job could be as easy or hard as I wanted it to be. Besides, part of the reason nothing happens to me is because I don't take enough risks. Plus, I get the keys to the office and can have my own office hours! That is, if I'm elected.
Nothing much else has happened. I was actually forgiven quite quickly by The Gateway, because I got to see and review 300. Let's just say, it didn't live up to the hype. You can read the entirety of my review in next week's issue.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Books and Tour
Also, yesterday I officially signed the papers that say I'm going on tour with my Choir. I wasn't able to go on tour last year because I didn't have a steady job, and felt that I couldn't afford to take a week off in May if I wanted to snag full-time summer employment. Now that I have a steady job, I'm off to explore various small towns around Canada. All my choir friends say that tour is a hard, but really fun experience - there's Skit Night, and Pajama Night, and Hotel Night, etc. Along with signing release forms stating my allergies and emergency contacts, I also had to choose a billet partner, because we won't be sleeping in hotels for the majority of the trip (we'll be staying at people's houses, I think). Thankfully, I found someone I know and like who hadn't chosen her billet partner yet, so I'm all set.
The music's also progressing really well - we sound really good. Solo or no solo, I'm still getting this concert's CD when it comes out.