Saturday, September 30, 2006

I Hate Central Pennsylvania

Thank GOD for Netflix.

I watched the first disk of Supernatural last night. It was SO good. The actors have tremendous chemistry, and the writing is smart and funny and scary without going overboard on the cheap flinches and gore.

Today my kids are at the inlaws so my husband and I can celebrate our 14th anniversary. We're going out tonight, but in the meantime I have the afternoon free so I went to Blockbuster to get disks 2 and 3 of Supernatural. You know how it feels to crash when you're really excited about something and then find out you can't have it?

Yeah. That's how I feel right now, because the Blockbuster near my house doesn't have it. Neither does the library, though that doesn't surprise me. What does surprise me is that the Blockbusters in Dillsburg and Camp Hill and Lemoyne and the West Coast Video and Hollywood Video don't have it, either. I finally asked, at the last place I called, why not. She said the owner doesn't feel it will rent well.


I hope they're happy, because every one of those stores has just guaranteed that they will never get my business again. I'll just have to learn a little patience and stick with Netflix.

All Hail Netflix.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Beach Evidence

I was at the Cape (Cape Cod, for those outside of New England) this weekend for a wedding, and we spent some time on the beach. Storms had washed hundreds of horseshoe crabs and thousands of pounds of gushy seaweed onto the shore. Most of the seaweed was attached to shells and rocks that also had dozens of cetaceans also attached. Above, on the left, is my biggest find ever on a beach--part of a conch shell covered with barnacles and all manner of other creatures. Shell upon shell upon barnacle upon shell. Very complicated, just like me.

On the right is my husband's favorite find. A very simple, dark striated rock and a piece of shell with a bit of purple at the tip. Simple, clean. Just like him.

So I made him take the picture with me, and let me show the Internet how different we are. Amazing how he can put up with me, huh?

Especially since most of those shells contained non-dead animals that are now stinking up my carport.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's the Writing, Stupid

I'm sorry, I say that all the time, but it keeps manifesting in new ways. And I am a writer.

This time the context is new fall television. So far, I've seen Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The Class, Six Degrees, and Heroes. (minor spoilers ahead)

Six Degrees
This is a well-acted and nicely shot show. But it's dully written and as such, is likely to be my first Season Pass casualty. The characters are clichéd beyond belief:

  • A straightlaced public defender who goes "nuts" over a quirky, fun-loving girl
  • A gambling addict trying to live honestly, who gets sucked back into whatever by his criminal brother
  • A mother grieving her dead husband
  • A fast-track businesswoman ready for marriage who learns her fiancé is cheating on her
  • A guy who had everything and destroyed it, who's trying to get it back
I found nothing compelling about anyone's stories, except Erika Christensen's, and I don't think what's in her box is going to be enough to keep me watching. Which is a damned shame, because this is a JJ Abrams property and I still love the premise. I'll just have to get my connections fix from Lost.

In contrast, there's...

The Class
I posted on the pilot before, and have watched one additional episode since. The performances are still stiff, the production very "sound stage classic sitcom." And I can't say the writing has NO clichés, especially as regards characterization, but they do follow my acceptability clause when it comes to clichés: If you're going to go there, twist it up.

So there's the slacker who lives with his mother and longs for the girl he let go--but is smarter than he sounds and apparently good at his job in construction. There's a gay man who's happy and in a committed relationship and even a TEACHER! And another gay man who apparently doesn't know he's gay (in a totally different way than Jonas of Arrested Development). The dialogue is funny without trying too hard (okay, sometimes it tries too hard, but it still gets me to laugh). My favorite character is Richie, a guy who's miserable enough to commit suicide but keeps getting interrupted. He meets Lina, thinks maybe he has a chance to be happy, but runs her over with his car and breaks all the bones in her feet. When she wakes up in the hospital, the first thing she says is "I met the nicest guy."

So this show has a chance. It doesn't make me run to the TiVo, but I'm happy to use it to fill in the gaps.

This show is a surprise. It's darker, moodier, than I expected it or wanted it to be. I think the indestructable cheerleader tried to commit suicide, and that's how she found out she can't be killed. Her certainty that this has ruined her life is very annoying. I mean, come on! You can't be harmed. That seems pretty damned cool to me. Then there's a desperate mom with maybe a powerful second personality...a desperate geek who can teleport...a sweet, selfless guy who can maybe fly and loves his asshole older brother (and if it turns out only the brother can fly, I'll hate the show)...a hot Indian who's father was researching these genetic anomalies...a desperate painter who's predicting disasters (why, I asked my husband, do people with predictive powers ONLY predict bad things?)...and more desperation to come, from what I can tell.

It sounds like I don't like the show, which is weird, because I did like it. It was interesting and well done all around, even if I'm having a hard time connecting with any of the characters. I'm willing to give it a lot more time to grab me than I'm willing to give Six Degrees.

And finally, the pi
èce de résistance:

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Funny, dramatic, unpredictable, suspenseful. This show has the best chemistry between actors of all the new ones I've seen so far. Relationships are complex. Humor is paramount but not at the expense of the drama. The filming is...geez, I'm gonna sound like a geek...compelling. Yes, the FILMING. There's one scene in the second show that follows Matt and Harriet through the set, and you feel the presence of it just like you do the spaceship Serenity when you watch Firefly. It feels more real than any of the other shows, which is ironic since it's set IN Hollywood, often considered the most UNreal place on the planet. :)

How about the new episodes of old shows?

Prison Break
Not as good as last year, but still decent. The yummy factor is still huge, and the speed with which the FBI agent has gotten on the trail is fascinating. It feels like it doesn't have much further to go, however, which is worrisome.

Since this show started in the summer, I'm not sure how long it's going to go before its season ends. It's my first Sci-Fi Original Series. :) The gimmick still works for me. I like the "what if" element, and the characters are interesting enough to keep me watching. They seem to have dropped their overriding conspiracy, however, and that jars me whenever I see Beverly-the-shrink-who's-much-much-more.

Season premiere in two parts, so far as comfortably good as it was last year. It's a quiet show, not as explosive and rock-music-driven as its bigger compatriots. It drops and picks up characters and their plot threads seemingly at whim. And I really doubt a single FBI team would cover soooo many different kinds of crimes (but I could easily be wrong). I like the people, I like the stories...a definite keeper, though again, I'm not driven to the TV to watch it.

I can't wait for Lost next week. I guarantee it will top my list again. Ugly Betty and 30 Rock are well reviewed, though I'm not too excited about either one. I just want something to make me laugh. The Nine starts next week after Lost, and tomorrow I get Smallville (yay!) and Supernatural (which I still have yet to watch on DVD, season 1). Twenty Good Years is my final test show, and I have a feeling I'll keep that one and drop 30 Rock and/or Ugly Betty. When Lost goes on early haitus after far too few episodes, I'll check out Daybreak, which, like Six Degrees, has a high concept that might not be borne out in the execution.

So, how do you all rate the new fall season so far?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

FiOS Fantasy

I caved.

I called Verizon a few weeks ago to cancel our second line, originally installed when we moved in for Internet access and my fax machine. We've had cable Internet access for over three years now, and the one or two faxes I send and receive a year don't justify the second line, even at a cool six bucks a month.

So while I was on the phone, they very cheerily said, "we're now offering fiber optic Internet in your area!" I gave my usual response, "We're using cable," which never failed to shut them up because cable is faster than the DSL they used to try to get us to buy into.

"Oh, fiber optic is much faster!"

Hmmm. Turned out to be the same price as the cable, too, except we're also paying for basic cable we don't need (we've got DirecTV for the NFL Sunday Ticket), so it would be slightly cheaper. I told him I'd think about it.

They sent us a UPS priority mail envelope with the offer.

They sent direct mail postcards, and inserts in the phone bill.

THEN they got serious. Last week a sales rep came door to door, offering a $5 discount and 5/2 service that's $10 cheaper than our cable (plus the $9 extra for the cable we're not using). That's when I caved.

They're connecting the outside line now. Next Monday they'll come to hook up the house, replacing our copper wire and installing the box for the fiber optic telephone service and Internet.

Jim's nervous that it won't actually be faster than the cable. It's comparable, and Verizon says it will be faster because of cable's shared technology (i.e. the more people using it, the slower the speed). It's a simple upgrade to 15/2 if we don't like the 5/2, and the price will still be less.

What excites me most is that AOL is now offering free XDrive (5GB of storage)with automatic backup. It's now taking me several hours to back up 652MB of files. Since the REAL difference in speed between FiOS and cable is in the upload speed (2Mbps instead of about 724Kbps), I can't wait to see how fast it goes then.

So, any of you out there already have FiOS? Any advice, comments on the speed difference, thoughts on computer configuration? I'm having them configure Jim's computer, but I'm going to have to do mine on my own. Any tidbits are much appreciated.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


This week is going to be a tough one for me. Concentration is 95% elsewhere. I have a wedding to attend 8 hours away and tons of planning I haven't yet done. Plus a dozen everyday concerns. I apologize in advance (and after the fact, since it's been days... "Bastard's not gonna get days!"...ahem...sorry, Firefly flashback.) for not posting often enough here.

Sunday morning my husband and I woke up, and he cuddled me before we got up and told me he'd just had a horrible nightmare. The kids had died while we were away somewhere, and the gods had granted us a gift--we could see them for one more day, to say goodbye.

Horrible, horrible thing to dream about. But that's not the creepy part.

Guess what was on the cover of Parade, the magazine supplement in our Sunday newspaper?

If You Could Spend One Day With Someone Who's Gone, Who Would it Be? What Would You Do?

Yeah. Creepy.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I'm a Critic!

I got to view advance showings of two new TV shows! I feel so special.

Okay, I'm not that special. Anyone can join Entertainment Weekly's Front Row program. Usually, they just ask me to grade new movies I've seen (which haven't been many) and guess what the next cover of the magazine will be (Pirates of the Caribbean was a no-brainer. The rest, not so much.).

Tonight they asked me to view The Class and Shark, two new CBS TV shows premiering this fall. And because I like mouthing off, I'm gonna say what I think.

I was actually pleasantly surprised. I read about The Class (guy throws a third-grade reunion to surprise his fiancée) and thought it sounded really dorky. It was only partly dorky. The casting was interesting, with some familiar faces and some I never saw before. The acting was very stiff and blocky, like, "Now I walk over here, lift my hand like this, and state my next line." But it's a pilot, so it stands to reason that would relax out as the show goes on. But the thing that makes this show have a chance is...everyone say it now...the writing.

It was surprisingly funny. I BARKED with laughter. Yes, barked. Some dialogue was excellent, and there was a shocking development near the end. Not sure what will happen with it. The characters were refreshing, in that they were stereotypes that didn't fulfill their promise. The disdainful, says-what-she-means character has compassion, for example. I might TiVo this for a while and see if it holds my attention.

Shark is yet another legal drama, about a defense attorney who switches sides. I adore James Woods, but I wouldn't have watched this show without the advance video. Actually, I didn't finish it, because the feed locked up, three times, and I got sick of trying. Again, there are some refreshing elements. He's a divorced father with a good relationship with his daughter and ex-wife, a guy trying to do the right thing for them all. The process is kind of interesting. The acting was decent, though it looked like the production company got a 19-for-one Botox deal. The "team" assigned to Stark (Woods) seem like placeholders. They all seem to be the same age, like they're interns or something. But they're supposed to be full-fledged attorneys with varying levels of competence. It was interesting to see Clark Kent's psycho girlfriend playing a suck-up. Bottom line on this one was...I am so sick of legal dramas and I haven't watched one since LA Law...I recommend giving it a try, but I won't be watching it.

Next week starts the series of season premieres, so be warned, I'll probably be talking about them for a while. :)

When I Became a Writer

This is post 200 for me, a milestone of sorts, so it seems fitting that my topic today is based on Erica Orloff's post yesterday asking for the moment when you felt like a real writer.

I wrote stories as a child. I have one called "My Very First Book." I was about 5 or 6, and books were my life. (Well, books have been my life since I was 4. Ask anyone. :)

As an older child, my best friend and I constantly "made movies." We wrote short plot synopses and acted things out, "writing" them verbally as we went. I can still vividly remember what it felt like to be immersed in the worlds we created.

As a junior in high school, I got an "A"on a term paper about colonial food, from a teacher who was infamously stingy with her A's. I wrote the paper from the point of view of a tree.

In college (again, junior year!) I had two abstracts for term papers published in the Student Scholar. One was on deforestation, the other on the behavior of starlings. The one on deforestation won me $100 and the Ruth Davies Award for Excellence in Writing.

That same year I started a novel. It got erased and I waited years before trying again.

The summer between my junior and senior years, I had an article on fireflies published in the local paper, and a short piece published in a newsletter about Sarrett Nature Center, where I had an internship as a naturalist.

After graduation, I had an internship at National Geographic Society. I proofread field guides and edited 500+ geography abstracts, some written by native Mandarin speakers, for the 27th International Geographical Congress.

In 1993, I wrote 50,000 words on my first book before deciding it should be three shorter books and starting over. I took correspondence courses and attended workshops by Jennifer Crusie and Victoria Thompson. It was in the latter that I realized I could pinpoint the moment I REALLY became a writer.

I don't know exactly when it was, time-wise. But there is this very famous author who shall remain nameless. I'd been reading her books since high school, and sobbed over many of them. Somewhere along the line, I sobbed while thinking that I really didn't like the book, so why did it make me cry, anyway? A book or two after that, I stopped reading her. It was excruciating trying to, so I gave up.

In that workshop with VT, she said this particular famous author was a good storyteller, but not a very good writer.

I knew when she said that, that the moment I became a writer was the moment I recognized that and stopped reading the book.

For a lot of people, the difference between storytelling and writing is meaningless. It's why this famous author continues to sell books. It's why The Da Vinci Code was so big. It is even the secret to JK Rowling's success.

Storytelling wins over writing any day. Having both will serve you best, but storytelling will triumph more often than not.

Which scares me. Because unlike Famous Unnamed Author, I think I'm better at writing than storytelling. I'm working on it, but the writing is easier to learn. The storytelling is innate.

What about you? When was your moment?

And if you're a reader, do you notice the difference between writing and storytelling? Which do you prefer?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Doing the Circuit

I've been all over the place lately! Last weekend Cassie and the Silverettes joined Seth and the rest of Blue Silver to post on the Amber Quill Authors blog. Some very funny stuff over there!

Monday I launched The Gab Wagon with a post about the reality of romance.

This morning my analysis of romance in Pirates of the Caribbean popped up on Romancing the Reader, in addition to my frustration over choosing a hero, below.

If your weather is as dreary as mine, and your week had been as fatiguing, you're wanting to just veg for a while. Why not read blogs? :)

Difficult Choices

One thing I love about modern romance is that there is room for books that do not contain an obvious hero. The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich and the Pink series by Stephanie Feagan are the most popular examples. There's no obvious choice for Stephanie Plum between Ranger and Joe, or for Pink between Ed and Steve. And that is so much fun!

There's a new element of excitement in reading romance books, or books that contain romance, without knowing who the heroine will wind up with. It's even better in books that aren't part of a series because you get the gratification of her choice by the end of the book.

But boy, does it present a conundrum to the author! You see, as a reader, I can develop a preference and wait to be satisfied or surprised by the way the story pans out, or the choice the heroine makes (sometimes by the end it's no choice, if one of the heroes becomes less than heroic, or even villainous). A skilled author will make the reader agree with the resolution, even if it wasn't where she thought the story was going.

But when you're trying to be that skilled author, and you don't know who to pick, that can be a problem.

In my book Black Widow, which is currently homeless, the heroine has three potential heroes in the story. One is a police chief, and he's solid and good and unjudgmental. But she's been engaging in criminal activity, and when she finds the guy she's looking for, she's not sure if she'll do something that would be unforgivable to him. Then there's the agent. He gets her. He, too, can help her, and he won't care what she's done. But she has hopes for a normal life, and he would not fit into that. Finally, there's the PI she engaged when her husband's plane first crashed and she woke up alive but with a stunning power and the desire to find who had tried to kill them. He's been a partner, a guide, a friend. He doesn't deserve what she does to him, unintentionally, and might not have her even if she wanted him. In the end, she does what she has to do, finds a way to heal from it, and then makes her choice. In the end, there was only one choice for her to make.

But my current book...oy! Every time I think I know which guy she's choosing, the other one comes along and changes my mind. One is her mentor and her leader. His dedication to responsibility keeps him from letting her know how he feels, but when it gets too much, the result is explosive. The other is a new guy, one with an agenda he won't reveal. She's suspicious of him and drawn to him at the same time. Both men are worthy of her. Both are noble and heroic in the super sense as well as the literary sense (though only one has powers). I'm just under 3/4 of the way through the book and I'm going insane.

I'm dying to have someone read what I have so far and tell me who she should choose, but that would be cheating. The heroine has to make the choice. That's the only way it will work.

I just wish she'd give me a hint.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lessons From Hot Men

I know a few of you watch Prison Break. Last night's episode has been sticking in my head, because of two small but powerful scenes. I have been reading, for some reason, a ton of blog posts and industry articles about showing emotion in your books, and these two scenes are excellent examples of how to do it. Except they're also problematic in terms of visual versus narrative media.

The Backstory (for those who haven't seen the show):

Michael Scofield has broken his brother, Lincoln Burrows, out of prison. To do this, he used a lot of people and a lot of planning. One of the people who helped him was Nika, an immigrant he married in exchange for her assistance. She's fallen in love with Michael, and of course he's totally oblivious to this. Another person was Sara, the doctor in the prison, with whom he fell in love, and who is in very deep trouble for leaving the infirmary door unlocked.

The Setup:

Nika brought a car to Michael and Lincoln, and in doing so was followed by two asshole just-fired prison guards (COs) who take them hostage for money. Nika plays Bellick, the head CO, to get them free, but as she's doing it, we the viewers are unclear who she is really playing. Lincoln doesn't trust her; Michael does. Linc says anyone he trusted betrayed him, anyone he loved screwed him. But she does get them free.

The First Scene:

Bellick taunts Michael about Nika and Sara falling for him, and it earned Sara an overdose and a prison sentence, which Michael did not know. After he kicks Bellick in the face (YAY!), he calls Sara. You can hear the rawness in his voice as he whispers his regret to her, his assurance that they are real, and that he will protect her. You can see his despair in the way he's leaning against the wall, in the tilt of his head, the shadows that hide him. In the background is Nika, unseen by Michael, feeling her heart break.

The Second Scene:

When parting, Nika hugs the men goodbye and takes the gun from Lincoln's waistband. She wants to call the police and turn them in. She's gotten nothing for all she's done for Michael, she loves him, and for what? Linc says she's not going to shoot them, and pulls the gun's clip from his pocket.

See the dichotomy? One scene powerful in its intensity, pain and need laid bare. The other just as powerful in its absence of emotion: Lincoln's bitter cynicism upheld, Michael's belief in people cracked.

"Emotionally compelling" is my weakness as a writer. I want very much to make people feel the way I felt when I watched those scenes. I said "poor Linc!" as he walked away from Nika, and my husband said, "You'd love him." I said, "I love them both!" and he laughed, but it's true.

Now how can I put that on the page? I struggle with this daily in the book I'm writing. In Michael's scene, if you're in his POV, you can describe his pain, but that's telling. There are only so many ways to describe how it feels, and describing his posture is difficult without interrupting the pacing and distracting from the dialogue. If you're in Sara's POV, you can't see Michael at all. You can hear the rawness of his voice, the desperation, but you can't use light and shadow to enhance it, and you can't see his body language. The best way to show it is from Nika's POV--she can see him, hear him, and highlight his feelings by her own. But she's a very minor character and would not have POV in my book. It would be easier, but it would be cheating.

The second scene is less difficult. You pretty much have to write the action and dialogue by themselves, though if in Michael's POV, he can see that his brother's view of the world has been affirmed, and wonder if Linc is lost for good. But the eyes are the best portrayal of everything they are feeling, and you can only say "the expression on his face" so many times in a book. Preferably, zero. I don't use that phrase, but I refer to "expression" 9 times so far in 260 pages.

Anyone else struggle with this?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Remind You of Anyone?

Coming in October from Amber Quill Press

Who does this guy remind you of?

Hint: He (the inspiration, not the actual cover image) is a celebrity.

Second Hint: The story is about a superhero.

Friday, September 08, 2006

If something happens to me...

...just know I love you all.

I've been going with my middle schooler (6th grade) to the bus stop, partly because she lets me, partly because there are two older boys (either 8th grade or really, really big 7th graders) there, and the kids in her grade are not taking the bus. I don't know if she's uncomfortable or just likes me. I'm not asking. :)

So yesterday, we get to the bus stop, and this woman comes out of the house on the corner, points at us all, and growls, "just so you know, the police are on their way."


The boys said she came out screaming and cursing at them for being noisy and disturbing the peace. I have never seen that, but they get down there before I do. Still, it takes us a few minutes to get down the street, and I would hear/see them if they were loud enough to justify the police. They talked to the bus driver as they got on the bus, and that afternoon, she motioned me over (I don't generally go to the stop in the afternoon, but yesterday it was late and I was worried--forgot about the high school run once a cycle). She said she talked to the police, who she passed that morning, and let them know what was going on.

This morning was completely normal, but she motioned me over again, and asked me to tell her if anything happened.

Yeah, so now I'm an informant. And it's not like I'd be doing back alley informing. I'd be walking up to the bus, in plain sight of them, and trying to tell my tale with kids hanging over the front seat. Sounds cool! Sign me up!


I don't know anything about these boys, so I can't vouch for their character or anything. I can only report what I see. And so far, they're fine. They walk to the bus stop, they walk home. And they're never noisy on the way home, either. Still, they both outweigh me (hard as that may be to believe). So I'm just sayin'. You know, just in case.

From today through Monday, the characters from the five Blue Silver novellas will be blogging at the Amber Quill Authors blog. So far, we've got excerpts, 80s music quizzes, note-passing, and IMing. Come join the fun!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Gab Wagon

Four authors...four place.

We've got opinions, and we're not afraid to use them.

Join romance authors Cathy McDavid, Natalie Damschroder, Monica Burns, and Mackenzie McKade as they provoke the Internet into intelligent, respectful, yet raucous debate on everything to do with romance novels and the industry that births them.

The Gab Wagon

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Why Viral Marketing Fails

Recently, I participated in an experiment by Dear Author, which was meant to investigate the viability of "viral blogging," where one person blogs something, and it expands to 100 (or 152, in this case), other blogs. The experiment was deemed a success because more people knew about the book than before. The verdict is still out if it has any impact on sales (and may never actually be in, given the small scale and the inability to track direct results of any marketing effort).

A slight bit less recently, the movie Snakes on a Plane was a huge informal (I assume) viral marketing experiment. Everyone from geeks on the Internet to Entertainment Weekly were talking about the movie. It had HUGE buzz. It was also a huge failure (in case you ignore the link, it had a modest $33 million production budget and made $31 million domestically). It didn't matter that everyone was talking about it, because most didn't go see it.

A year ago, Serenity suffered a similar fate. A short-lived TV show, Firefly, was beloved by its fans and treated badly by its network so that there weren't enough of them. One of the fans was a producer for Universal, who gave the creator, Joss Whedon, the ability to make the movie Serenity out of his original idea for Firefly. Marketing was mostly done on the Internet, catering to the existing fan base. Which was great, except I believe it had the effect of making people say, "I never saw Firefly so there's no point in seeing the movie." A fabulous, smart, funny, suspenseful, intriguing movie didn't get the audience it deserved.

On the other side, we have My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The Da Vinci Code. Harry Potter. What makes those successes when the others were failures? What's the difference between word-of-mouth and viral marketing?

I think the difference is timing and intent.

Viral marketing generally happens BEFORE the product is available, and is done with motivation. Usually, it's started to try to make something sell bigger, and perpetuated on a large scale because there's a reward for those who perpetuate it.

Word of mouth happens AFTER the product is out there, and is done because people really liked it. The product itself is the selling point, and it sells because, in some way, it's done well.

I'm no marketing expert, and I have no education, training, or background in the topic. I'm just saying what I see.

And I have this book that was just released...

Fall TV Squeeeee!

TV hasn't played a huge role in my life. Saturday morning cartoons, Must-See TV with The Cosby Show, and Superbowls are significant more for the people I watched them with and the times of my life they highlighted than for the shows themselves. There was always something else to do--read books, study, play Chase, work...and then AOL chat rooms and Internet surfing and kids came along.

Since my marriage began, there have always been a few shows my husband and I watched together. Usually we taped them and watched on Friday night. Our schedule was never dictated by the idiot box. Which, in fact, became an apt name around the turn of the century. John Doe was pretty good. Firefly was awesome but a victim of network idiocy. Friends was a habit. I took pride in telling people if I'd asked show A or X that I never watched TV. I even skipped over the Must Watch pages in Entertainment Weekly.

Ah, but then came Lord of the Rings.

I know that was a book, but it was also a pretty f-in fantastic trilogy of movies, and it was my first full-blown obsession. I was following everyone involved--not just the cast, but even the effects people and costumers!--into their follow-up projects. Yes, now you know where I'm going. Dominic Monaghan, one of my five favorite hobbits, was going to be on this interesting new show about a plane crash. I thought I'd check it out. And of course, it was FAN. TASTIC.

Alias was on after Lost, and I'd had a mild interest in that show since I write heroines like Sydney Bristow. So I started watching that, too, with season 1 simultaneously on DVD.

And oooh, how wicked that DVD/Netflix thing is. Watching several episodes of a show in a row is addictive, so I've done a few other shows on DVD since then. Shows I didn't get on TV (Smallville, Entourage) and shows I refused to allow to carve into my writing time (Arrested Development, How I Married Your Mother). I managed to balance the TV thing with the writing thing last year, doing the writing first, then staying up too late to do the TV. But now, I write during the day. My evenings are my own.

I've struggled recently--and by recently, I mean my entire adult life and much of my childhood--with a lesson I was taught by example from the women in my family and from society: A woman, especially a mother, should not do something for herself unless it also benefits others.

I say struggle because if I ever hear a woman say she can't do something because her family won't allow it or because it's just for pleasure, I will fiercely defend her right to it. But I have trouble doing it myself. The guilt causes constant justification. Case in point: The only reason it's okay for me to take the time to exercise every morning is because being fat and out of shape is a bad example for my kids and harms my sex life. I can only justify reading for pleasure instead of doing chores if the others in the household are also reading or watching TV or whatever. It's a disease.

So this TV thing is difficult for me. My husband doesn't watch with me anymore. He plays City of Heroes almost every single night. The one night he doesn't, he's playing City of Villains. But he makes fun of me when I turn on the TV. And I get annoyed because that prods the guilt over which I'm always laying sawdust, in an attempt to absorb it and sweep it out forever.

Anyway. Since that first 2004 season of Lost, TV has gotten better. Comedy is still trying to find new footing, but drama and dramedy are flourishing, with good writing (justification! I'm studying the craft!) and good acting. I have created...*deep breath*...I admit it, I have created a spreadsheet of the shows I want to record in the fall season. Some of them will drop off pretty quickly, I'm sure. I won't watch something just to watch it. It has to really GRAB me. But here's my list:

Red shows are ones I already watch from previous seasons.
Green shows are new ones.
Underlined are shows I'm skeptical about, but have them on the list for a specific reason.

Prison Break
I started watching this because Dominic Purcell was so hot and smart on John Doe, Wentworth Miller is also hot and smart, and the show's premise was intriguing. The show turned out to be, as well. I never dreamed I'd root so hard for such horrible criminals. It's less good this season, but still watchable.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
I like all the cast members, and reports have been saying it's going to be a really good show. Aaron Sorkin did West Wing, which I never watched but would have enjoyed.

Six Degrees
One of my favorite things about Lost is the backstories, and how all the people on the island seem to be connected in both tenuous and solid ways. This show uses that premise, but I have no idea how well it will do it. It's a JJ Abrams show, though, and he rarely missteps.

I don't like cop dramas. But this show had MATH. And Rob Morrow. And though it stretches my suspension of disbelief that the same FBI unit would investigate such a wide range of crimes, the writing, acting, and suspense come together to keep me interested. It's a good end-of-the-week show. Now if Don would only get a girl...

I'm writing a book on superheroes. I love X-Men. That's enough to get me to watch the pilot. Varying reports on this show, though, so we'll see how it goes.

Ugly Betty
This wasn't on my list at the beginning, but it's getting enough good press that I'm gonna try the first show. There really aren't enough good comedies out there, and the loss of Arrested Development made me feel bad for not watching it.

Tom Welling and Allison Mack rock. So does the portrayal of Clark, which stays true enough to the core of the character that I don't mind all the messing with canon. In fact, I LOVE the messing with canon. It's fun! In previous seasons, Lex Luthor was the most complex, intriguing character on the show. He's less so now that he's more evil, but I have one request: Now that he's Zod, can he please kill off Lana Lang? Or at least scare her back to Paris and off the show? Pretty pretty please?

A friend's report and Jensen Ackles, who was delish on Smallville, are causing me to give this one a try.

The Nine
This had echoes of Lost, as well, though as time goes on I'm less intrigued by the story idea. I loved Tim Daly in Eyes, and was really mad that show didn't get a chance, so we'll see how this one goes.

I'll be with this one until the end. Which could be this season, actually. All the stupid whiners last season--"why do we have to many reeeee-peats?"--have caused the network to premiere the show late (Oct. 4), go for about 8 weeks, then go on a three-month hiatus and run it to May, non-stop. I hate stupid whiners. They're stupid because Lost had NO MORE reruns than any other show. And I don't want ANOTHER three-month gap just when I'm getting into it again. But we'll see how THIS goes, too. Maybe it will work, and I'll be the stupid whiner. :)

Twenty Good Years
I saw a preview. Jonathan Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor are both about as funny as you can get. If they get good material, this could be one of the rare comedies that makes it.

30 Rock
I want Tina Fey to make it. There are plenty of successful women in television, but still not nearly enough. And for some reason, the spotlight is on her big time. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't watch this.

This is one of those shows that has an intriguing premise that will probably fail in the execution, like Blind Justice. But reports so far are good, and Taye Diggs is hot. Djimon Hounsou is hotter, but he doesn't have a TV show right now. In fact, Djimon Hounsou is doing far too little. Two movies this year is barely enough to whet the appetite.

So there's my list. What are you looking forward to this season?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

No Melting Pot?

Hope everyone had a good holiday weekend. Mine was okay. I spent all day cleaning yesterday (gah) and we were supposed to go to Hersheypark on Friday, a weekday, but it rained horribly so we went Sunday, the middle day of a holiday weekend.

Have I ever mentioned how much I HATE crowds? And lines? And inconsiderate people? Yeah. Fun.

But it's worth it for the end of the day, when we're leaving the park. Why?

Fresh. Popped. Kettle corn. Sold directly out of the cast-iron kettle. God, I love that stuff.

I didn't get any. Because we'd miscommunicated and run out of cash, and they won't take credit cards.



TIME Magazine recently did an interview with Pat Buchanan, who is apparently violently opposed to immigration. He said:

The country I grew up in was culturally united, even if it was racially divided. We spoke the same language, had the same faith, laughed at the same comedians. We were one nationality. We're ceasing to be that when you have hundreds of thousands of people who want to retain their own culture, their own language, their own loyalty.

You all know the one subgenre of romance I don't write is historical, and it was never my interest. But what I do remember from my AP American History class tells me Pat Buchanan is completely delusional.

Maybe his tiny corner of the U.S. in the early 1950's was culturally united, but they laughed at the same comedians because they had one TV show a day. They were force-fed their so-called "national culture," and I bet there are millions of people his age who would dispute his sunny memories.

Shall we also discuss the fact that aside from Native Americans, we are all descended from immigrants? And there's even debate about whether their ancestors evolved here or migrated from elsewhere.

I may be completely wrong about this. I wasn't alive when he was growing up, never mind during the history of this country's growth, and shouldn't mouth off about stuff I didn't experience myself. But it just seems very easy to pick and choose the memories that support your beliefs and ignore everything else.

He also said:

What do we have in common that makes us fellow Americans?

Freedom, Pat. Freedom to embrace our OWN culture, or blend cultures of all our ancestors, or create a new culture. Freedom to let everyone else do the same, without judgment or insult or infringement. That's the commonality I see. It would be nice if certain people would stop trying to force their versions of the "right" culture on anyone else and just let us be what is celebrated in that great old Schoolhouse Rock song...

...The Great American Melting Pot

Friday, September 01, 2006

Wanna Be A Silverette?

The original members of the (fictional) 80s band Blue Silver fan club have
opened up membership in the Silverettes to ANYONE who wants to join!

Go here for details on how!

No idea what I'm talking about?

Start at for the whole story.