Friday, November 20, 2009


"There are two types of people in this world. Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't. My ex-wife loves him."

- What About Bob

I have resisted. I have stood firm. I refused to jump on the bandwagon. When I learned friends of mine had succumbed to the saccharine music and squinty eyes of the evil one, I shook my head sadly and mentally crossed their name off of my future intellectual-only gatherings. I firmly believed, in my heart, that this was the great divide of our time:

Behold! Taylor Swift. Beware, my friends. I am one of you no longer, for I have succumbed. I now am forced to admit the truth: I kind of don't completely despise Taylor Swift. I would go so far as to say I no longer long to puncture my eardrums with my cuticle scraper when I hear her voice. In fact, you could even say that the thought of being on the same planet as her no longer fills my heart with a dread previously reserved for discovering a scorpion in my shoe.

She's not so bad.

Taylor Swift engaged in a stealthy, calculated strategy to bring me to her side:

1. She began writing songs and singing them and recording them and became famous. Initially, I was unimpressed with Taylor Swift because her voice sounds like she's singing through an oscillating fan and her songs are lame and predictable. (But she wrote them when she was 15, so it's okay for them to be lame and predictable.) But, hey...some of them are catchy. I found myself nodding involuntarily when I heard one once.

2. She made "country" music that was close enough to pop music to "cross over" to VH1, where I receive most of my current music education. Again, at one point during the video for "Love Story," I may have, without cognition, tapped a toe.

3. She was humiliated by Kanye West. As Katy Perry so aptly tweeted, "It's like u stepped on a kitten."

4. She hosted SNL. This was the final straw that broke the bull on the horns of the pot I was watching but it never boiled. I cannot resist an unexpectedly successful SNL host, no matter what. If Kim Kardashian hosted SNL and was hilarious, I would become her biggest fan. If Rush Limbaugh hosted SNL... no, I can't go there. But I will say that the only reason I ever FOR A MOMENT considered voting for John McCain was because he was an awesome SNL host.

This season of SNL has been dreadful. Really, really awful. Then, the magical talented young skinny rich probably fresh-smelling Taylor Swift shows up, and knocks it out of the park. There was not a single dud in the whole night. Some were better than others, but nearly every sketch got at least a chuckle out of me, and she was in just about everything. Check out her monlogue:

And then this one, a public service announcement:

But this is the one that was closest to my heart:

Resistance was futile.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I love to write. I love to read. I love to talk about books I have read. I love to talk about things I have written. Fascinating. To me.

I saw some of Stephenie Meyer's interview with Oprah the other day, and she made some statements about her writing that I found interesting.

When asked about possible sequels to the Twilight Series, or whether or not she would ever finish Midnight Sun, she responded, each time, by saying that, in order to write something, she needs to feel "alone" with it, as though no one else will ever read it, as if it will never be published.

I'm not going to criticize her process, though I will point out it seems self-defeating, but I'm not the one who is an international phenomenon, so I guess she's onto something.

It got me thinking, though, about my own process. My participation this month in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer's Month: 50,000 words in 30 days) has brought me into online contact with many amateur writers like myself. A a result, I am gaining awareness of my own process.

1. I do not plan anything. When I begin something, I have a vague main character, some very nebulous secondary characters, and some idea of what the central conflict or theme will be. That's it. I start it and go from there.

I don't outline, or do character sketches, or research anything in advance. I often actively avoid plots requiring me to do so; my awful NaNoWriMo novel (really, it's terrible) required me to craft a 6-generation genealogy that I constantly had to refer back to. (Why did I give that one character 10 daughters? Why?) The few times I have tried to plan, my characters quite unreasonably decided that wouldn't work and took off on their own anyway, meaning I had just wasted a couple of days on work that would be wasted.

The pro? It makes writing really just pure fun. As I'm writing, I have no idea what's going to happen next, either. The con? It makes it really hard to find a good ending. If you don't know from the beginning where the story will end, it can be hard to recognize an ending if you find it.

2. I tend to edit as I go. This is a terrible thing. Part of the reason I did NaNoWriMo was that the whole point is to just write like blazes, as quickly as you can, then go back and edit it later. I did it, but now I'm finished halfway through the month. Maybe I can do another one?

Anyway, when I was writing my vampire novel, I got stuck editing, re-writing, and re-imagining the first 20,000 words or so. I probably stalled out there for months. Then, when I finally moved on, I was somewhat obsessive about going back and making sure everything was working. Editing, by its very nature, isn't the creative exercise writing is, so it really puts the brakes on my imagination.

NaNoWriMo has really gotten me focused on writing, but even then I was jumping back and forth.

I've already begun a new one, that will not, to my current knowledge, be supernatural in any way. I've also got ideas for prequels and sequels to the vampire one, and I think this NaNoWriMo can be saved if I re-work it a bit, expand some of the plot.

If anyone knows of an extremely rich, possibly insane person who would like to sponsor an amateur writer so she can quit her job and write full-time with no guarantee of ever being published, I know you'll let me know.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why I Will Never Be in an Infomercial

This morning, I was watching an infomercial. It followed the well-loved and oft-used format of the following:

Avuncular smiling man, possibly bow-tied, holds product and talks about it 99% of the time.

Young and pretty woman follows him around, saying things like, "Wow!" and "That's amazing!"

Occasional young and pretty women demonstrate how they are completely incompetent at housekeeping because they use paper towels.

Yes, it was for one of those steam-cleaner things, the Steam Weasel or something like that. The big selling point here seemed to be that it used something containing microfiber, which made the steam even more steamy, or something.

Anyway, it occurred to me that I could never be in an infomercial. If I were playing the role of Adoring Female, it would go like this:

Avuncular Man: Deb, what would you say if I told you I could clean this filthy window faster with the Steam Weasel than you can with those chemical-based immoral Nazi-inspired household cleaners?

Deb: I would say you're huffing glue.

Avuncular Man: Okay...well, I'll prove it to you!

Deb: I don't need any proof that you're huffing glue.

Avuncular Man: No, I mean proof that my Steam Weasel is better than those ammonia-based free-loading communist-supporting earth-destroying chemicals.

Deb: You mean Windex?

Avuncular Man: Okay, are you ready? (Hands Deb a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Windex)

Deb: Whatever, I guess.

Avuncular Man: And...GO! (Wielding his Steam Weasel like a Ghostbuster's Proton Pack, he begins to scrub the window with something that looks like a giant piece of sponge cake.) Look at that! Look at the patented Microfiber Chambers just suck up that dirt! Isn't that amazing?

Deb: Okay. (Squirts on Windex and wipes it off with a paper towel.) I'm done.

Avuncular Man: But look, Deb! I finished faster than you, and my side is cleaner!

Deb: Well, first of all, you've had that monstrosity turned on and warmed up for the last six hours of filming, so it was all ready to go. If I was using that at home, it would have taken me 30 minutes to find the extension cord, then another 30 minutes before I remembered that the Microfiber Whatever was still in the washing machine from the last time I used it, then 10 minutes while I ate a bag of chips, then 5 minutes to put the darned thing away and just use the Windex.

Avuncular Man: Ha, ha! (Wipes sheen of sweat from his brow.) But you can't deny my side is cleaner! I've cleaned and sanitized, using Deep Steam Technology!

Deb: Okay, you win. When you have your annual French-Kiss the Window party, no one will get meningitis.

Avuncular Man: Okay, let's move to the kitchen!

Deb: Let's not. I think Law and Order is on another channel. I know I've seen it before, but I can never remember the verdicts. And since it's a Jerry Orbach, I know it's going to be good.

Avuncular Man: But wait! If you order today, the Steam Weasel can be yours for only 3 payments of $33!

Deb: Can't you just say it's $99?

Avuncular Man: And we'll throw in these two additional cleaning tools, the brush attachments, and a Cheryl Tiegs calendar from 1982! It's an additional $75 value, and you will get it for free!

Deb: Okay, who says it's a $75 value? It only works on your product, it's not like I can sell it for $75 on the street. And, seriously? Two giant sponges and a couple of industrial strength toothbrushes? $75? I will grant you the calendar is cool.

Avuncular Man: Please leave. Just go.

Deb: Was it something I said?


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Halloween 2009

Dexy was a pirate:

Princess was a fairy:

Together, they were Cap'n Blackheart and The Unnamed Sprite:

I was a vampire:

It was dark, so you can't see how much I sparkled.

Sven's costume requires some explanation; it also required him to speak a line. The following is a quote from "Writing is Easy!" by Steve Martin, included in his collection Pure Drivel, Hyperion Books, 1998. On page 8, we are treated to the following passage:

Creating Memorable Characters

Nothing will make your writing soar more than a memorable character. If there is a memorable character, the reader will keep going back to the book, picking it up, turning it over in his hands, hefting it, and tossing it into the air. Here is an example of the jazzy uplift that vivid characters can offer:

Some guys were standing around when in came this guy.

You are now on your way to creating a memorable character. You have set him up as being a guy, and with that come all of the reader's ideas of what a guy is. Soon you will liven your character by using an adjective:

But this guy was no ordinary guy; he was a red guy.

This character, the red guy, has now popped into the reader's imagination. He is a full-blown person, with hopes and dreams, just like the reader. Especially if the reader is a red guy. Now you might want to give the character a trait. You can inform the reader of the character trait in one of two ways. First, simply say what that trait is - for example, "but this red guy was different from most red guys, this red guy liked frappes." The other is rooted in action - have the red guy walk up to a bar and order a frappe, as in:

"What'll you have, red guy?"
"I'll have a frappe."

Here, then, is Sven's costume:

"I'll have a frappe."

A fun time was had by all.