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Hell on Wheels was Hell on Me

I tried to watch AMC’s new show Hell on Wheels last night and I have to admit, I failed out.  I wanted to discuss why I didn’t like it here, to see what kind of discussion I could get going.

I have, in the past , enjoyed AMC shows.  Well, let me step that back.  I enjoyed (until the season finale) The Killing .  I haven’t really watched anything else beyond an episode or two, mostly because I didn’t care for any of the characters. 

I feel like AMC is trying to bring a premium cable (HBO, Showtime) sensibility to a wider audience.  However, I’m not sure how much I like that sensibility.  I was never the biggest Sopranos fan- I thought Tony was a violent, cheating jerk and I had no desire to watch him have gross sex with strippers at his desk.  I didn’t want to watch his guys put dead dudes through meat grinders and I certainly could have cared less about how it ended.

I have watched Dexter and I have enjoyed the show but I have no desire to get caught up on the multiple seasons between what I watched and what’s currently airing.

I don’t like Mad Men.  At all.  While I know that many people find the characters on that show to be fascinating, I have a hard time getting into the story.  Don Draper is an ASS.  In fact, one might go so far as to say that he’s an ASSHOLE and I have to be honest, there is almost nothing I find less sexy than adultery and misogyny. 

My time is limited, as is everyone’s, and while there may be stories that are different and exciting airing on premium cable and networks like AMC, I must confess that I don’t want to spend my time with characters that are unrepentant and just plain bad.

They make bad choices and continue to make bad choices.  Some folks I’ve spoken to have mentioned that what they like is watching bad people do bad things, with bad results.  I guess I’m just not like that.

Spoilers below for the premiere of Hell on Wheels.  There be dragons, ladies and gents.  Procede with caution.

Continued

The Promise of the Premise

I’ve been reading reaction posts and review of the season finale of AMC’s The Killing all morning and I’ve noticed one thing- none of the people complaining about the season finale seem to be X-Files fans.

There is all this shock, disappointment and complaining about the end of the episode “Orpheus Descending”, about how nothing was answered and only more questions were asked.

(There are vague spoilers below for The Killing.  Here be dragons, enter at your own risk.)

Continued

If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again. – Groucho Marx

Australian Aborigines say that the big stories—the stories worth telling and retelling, the ones in which you may find the meaning of your life—are forever stalking the right teller, sniffing and tracking like predators hunting their prey in the bush. —Robert Moss, Dreamgates

I had an editor request pages from me this weekend, after a pitch.  I am very excited at the prospect of submitting and getting a response, good or bad, from a professional.

I started off pitching my current WIP, First Lady and the Dead Presidents, but that project is not in the traditional mold of romance.  It’s more chick lit/women’s fiction, which wasn’t what the editor was looking for right now.  FLatDP is a first person story, which I don’t usually even like to read, much less write myself, but I’ve got a story that my brain is convinced that I need to write so I am.  And it isn’t this editor’s thing, at least right now, but it could be LATER.

So I threw out The Drake, a wild pitch that I hoped would connect and it totally did!  She was interested in the world, the fact that Jack is a shape shifter, and that it’s written as a traditional romance (third person, balance POV with hero and heroine, etc.).

The only problem here is that I haven’t looked at The Drake in over a year.  When I left the story, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end but there were a number of story points that I wasn’t thrilled with.  I’m hoping that I can figure out how to fix those bits so that I can get out a revised synopsis and the first three chapters that were requested, in a timely manner. 

She asked to have them in July, so I think I have a good stretch of time in which to polish and correct.  And all I really need is for her to want to read the whole thing, right? 

After the OCC meeting this weekend, I am under the impression that every book that gets purchased has editing done.  Nothing goes out on the shelf without at least a little nipping and tucking (or implants) here or there.  What they’re looking for is a solid voice and a story that shines, even if it needs a little buff and polish.

That’s not to say that I’m not planning to make this the best synopsis and three pages she’s ever seen.  No, I understand that.  What I really need to remind myself of here is that there is room to maneuver and that I shouldn’t worry myself sick over the whole thing.

My plan for the next week is to re-read the entire manuscript and try to spot the weakest points.  There is a “highlight and flag” method that my girl Christy Finn has used in the past that I need to get more info on, so I can determine where I’m strong, where I’m weak and where I need to shore up the walls to survive the hurricane.

Once I’ve got that done, I’m going to pull out Carol Hughes’ “Deep Story” class notes and really dive in there.  I think that could really help me re-lay the foundation of The Drake and make sure that I have a strong enough world and characters to support the kind of story that I’m telling.

I’ve really been thinking about my plot and I think some of the problems that I was having when I left the story before have been worked out in my head.  I was playing around with the idea of my hero and heroine as soul mates tied together through time, which is something that has come out in my fan fiction in the past as well.  I think its part of my story, so I’m not surprised to see it come up here.

When I say “my story”, I’m referring to the basic story that every storyteller tells.  Steven Spielberg’s stories are about fathers and sons.  JAWS, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, the Indiana Jones series, Schindler’s List, even Jurassic Park- they’re all about the relationships (or lack thereof) between fathers and their sons. 

Tom Cruise, if you break down his roles to their simplest form, tells the same story from movie to movie as well.  He plays the talented man who has to prove that he deserves his place in the world.  Top Gun, Far and Away, The Firm, even Magnolia has him fighting to prove to someone other than himself that he deserves what he has.  And maybe that’s a part of it- outwardly he’s trying to prove to others that he has earned his place but really, it’s all about him proving it to himself. 

It’s something about us, as individual people that comes out in the tales that we spin and weaves its way through everything we put down on the page.  We all have something that has shaped us as people and we try to work that out in our art/craft. 

I think the idea of soul mates, of being destined to be with someone, is something that comes out in my work.  I might be wrong- I’m a notoriously bad judge of my own work- but I think that’s at least part of my story.  The rest of my story, I think that’s better saved for a different post but I can already tell that The Drake has the potential to really get all of my stories out and on the page in one text.

I’m excited to see what this editor has to say and the prospect of selling to her and her publishing house is just an amazing opportunity.  Here’s to not screwing it up.

I’m not going to get into the ring with Tolstoy. – Hemingway

It’s been a while since I’ve updated about my own writing. Needs to change, so here we go.

The editing on The Drake is not going well. I had some luck with the first chapter but I’m just not feeling it. I’m trying to determine the cause.

Is it because I know the editing process is going to be hard? I mean, really, really hard? Knock down all the walls and just leave the basic foundation kind of hard?

Is it because I’m just not feeling the story itself? I’m asking myself some serious questions about my main characters and how I feel about spending 75-100K words on them. I have to admit that I’m ambivalent.

Am I just not understanding my characters? Do I need to do more background work so I can get a better handle on who they are?

Am I trying to do too much in this story or not enough?

Continued

The end is the beginning is the end is the beginning…

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!!

It’s been a few days since it happened but I was able to achieve my goal!  I finished the draft of my novel and was able to submit it for the EVA contest.

Am I happy with it?  Not completely.  I had to face the fact that there were a number of story lines that I wanted in the book that had to be cut so I could finish with a (somewhat) coherent storyline that had a beginning, middle and an end.

A lot of the layering that I was trying to achieve wasn’t finished to my liking.

I think the end is very abrupt.  That might just be me as the author being very picky and negative but that’s how I’m seeing it.

I keep thinking about my edits.  Where I’m going from here.  I wake up thinking about this book.  But I can’t seem to even open the file.

I’m terrified to see the mistakes in the manuscript that I sent to an editor.  TERRIFIED.

Let me be clear.  An editor is going to read my full manuscript.  She is an acquiring editor.  That is completely accurate.

I don’t have any expectation that she is going to be interested in picking up my book.  The only reason she’s even reading it is because a member of EVA knows this woman professionally and asked her to read it as a favor.

My expectation is to get back feedback and notes- what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong, etc.

That doesn’t mean that I want to send a mistake ridden document to someone who might look at my work as an acquiring editor in the future.

It’s completely my fault.  I overestimated my ability to fix my plot errors in such a short amount of time.  I failed to balance my writing with the rest of my life.  I made it so that I didn’t have a chance to do the polishing/editing that I needed because I had to send the doc to be printed so I could turn it in.  That’s all on me and I’m going to have to accept that, especially if the feedback is negative.

HOWEVER, I do feel like my characters are strong and interesting.  I love my sidekick, Roman, the GQ gay detective.  He’s funny, he’s suave and I love him.  Everyone who’s read his pages really liked him as well, so I know that at least ONE aspect of the novel connects with people.

I think that the writing itself flows.  I like the tone and have been told by others that they do as well.

So, I have a few positives and a few negatives battling it out in my brain right now.

And I still can’t open the document.  *sigh*

I’m gearing up for the OCC February online class, which is Candace Haven’s Fast Draft class.  The goal is to write a first draft in 14 days.  I think this class also has the Editing Hell section attached.  I BELIEVE that if you take the class and participate fully, you will have a completed first draft with edits by the end.

Anyone who is interested should go here and sign up!  You DO NOT have to be a member of OCC to take the class!  Join me and Finny and JUST GET IT DONE!

I’m trying to determine which project I’m going to work on in the Fast Draft class.  I just sent Finny a list of story ideas to get her opinion and I’m going to list them here as well, see what you all think.  Any that interest you?  Any that really, really don’t?

STORY IDEAS:

1)       First Lady and the Dead Presidents (working title)

  1. This is the one with the daughters all named after the President of the United States.  The father dies and leaves his daughters his business but they have to complete a few tasks and all four daughters have to do their part or none of them get the money.  Oldest daughter is forced to come home from CA and run the business for one year.  She wants to sell it to Carter, a guy who was trying to buy it before the old man croaked.  I haven’t decided if this is going to be a mystery or just a family drama/romance.

2)   Moving Bodies

  1. The story of three high school friends who are thrown back together because of murder.  They must dispose of the body of an abusive husband who was also working for the mob.  After mistakenly taking the mobs money, the ladies are on the run from both the law and the bad guys.  They need to get to Florida to dump the body in the Everglades, rebuild their friendships and avoid getting killed or arrested on their trip.  A hunky local Sheriff who wants to help thrown in to the mix might make this a romance but it feels more like a chic lit adventure story more than anything.

3)   Though the Heaven Should Fall

  1. The American Revolution romance.  I have the outline pounded out but I don’t have the research done and I don’t want to get stymied by lack of info and sit there, looking at a blank screen.  But I really like Jensen (yeah, I know.  I couldn’t help it!) and Emma and wouldn’t mind spending serious time with them.

4)   Wolves of Indiana

  1. The gay werewolf story.  I don’t even know.

5)   Red Slippers

  1. A murder mystery set in 1950’s Ohio.  A young girl is murder, her face beaten in.  No one knows who she is and no young women are missing in the tiny community where her body is found.  The local Sherriff, the youngest Sherriff in the country at the time, is on the case.  No CSI teams and no internet, the Sherriff and his merry band must determine who she is and who killed her before the Country Fair rolls out of town and any suspects roll out with it.  This is based on a true story and in reality, they discovered who she was AND found her killer all because of the shoes on her feet.