Friday, September 20, 2013

Regarding my nemesis, Mr. Rochester ...

This year, ye olde second year of my master's degree program, I am going to be writing my thesis on Jane Eyre! I have therefore decided -- maybe a little erroneously, but shh! -- that it totally counts as schoolwork to just obsess over Jane Eyre all day all the time madly and constantly! That is how the serious academics roll, right?

I feel you, way-too-foxy Rochester. (p.s. Check out
if you want some period piece hilarity and snark in your life.)
As such, I've decided to get into the Jane Eyre state of mind by watching different screen adaptations. My favorite by a mile is the 2006 miniseries with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens, which, to me, captures an understanding of the novel and the characters of Jane and Rochester that no other adaptation that I've seen has. It seems like often, film adaptations get so bogged down in the Gothic doom-'n-gloom aspect of the story that it's forgotten that Jane and Rochester are both very quick-witted and snarky people. The Wilson/Stephens adaptation allows the story more of the humor and light of the novel than adaptations generally do. Also, I am just convinced that nobody (except for The Autobiography of Jane Eyre's freaking wonderful Alysson Hall) can match the absolute 100% Janeness of Ruth Wilson's portrayal.

But I am not here to discuss that adaptation! Nope, I want to talk about the one I just watched, which is the 1996 film directed by Franco Zeffirelli. It has some stuff going for it: the scenery's great, Rochester is -- true to book canon -- not a super hot hunky hunk, Adele's a wonderful gem and actually gets shown some affection by Jane and Rochester. But it also commits the e(y)r(e)ror of condensing, like, the last half of the novel into 20 minutes.

Yes, I just tried to make 'eyreror' happen. Let's all just move on gracefully past that. Unless you think it's witty, masterful, and hilarious. Then, sure, take a minute to laugh it out!

Anyway! What really got me grumpy about this adaptation is that it cut straight from the scene where Rochester and Jane profess their love to their wedding day. And all that stuff that happens in between is so important, and yet often glossed over by adaptations.

The impediment to Jane and Rochester's relationship isn't the fact that he has a secret wife up in the attic. The impediment is the fact that Rochester is the kind of person who would keep a secret wife up in the attic.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Oh yes. Now then. What is that phrase you use? Once upon a time ...

School is again upon me, and with it, lots of work I could always be doing! Which means procrastination has become extra important, and today I am going to procrastinate by talking about one of my very favorite movies: Ever After.

When it comes to my favorite genres, 'fairytale retelling' is way up there on the list. It's a genre I've spent a lot of time in myself writing-wise, and I hope to hang out there a lot more for years to come! And Ever After is one of those fairytale retellings where I dream, one day, of writing one as lovely and thoroughly good. It is basically the film equivalent of Ella Enchanted. (Perhaps even more so than the actual film adaptation of Ella Enchanted, which I have to confess I have never watched in full.)

Reading More's Utopia for my Utopian Studies literature class this semester seemed as good a reason as any for another Ever After rewatch! (Way to go, Thomas More. It's possible that at the part about society making thieves and then punishing them, I scribbled "omg Ever After!! <3" in my margin notes. As serious intellectuals do!) And it is just such a good film, lovely and thoughtful and clever and sweet, which is exactly my favorite kind of story.

I don't often see this movie discussed, so I figured I'd just devote a bit of time to explaining the things I love about it. Because having giddy feelings about fiction is what I do best!

I really admire how this movie takes the Cinderella archetypes -- the sweet girl and her relentlessly awful stepfamily -- and really gives careful time and consideration to their characterization. It's one of those qualities that kinda makes me feel like this movie is based on a book; there's such a sense of wholeness and nuance to the way it approaches its characters. Like, look at this film, and then look at, say, Snow White and The Huntsman (which I really enjoy as a film too, for different reasons, but OH MAN, my kingdom for a screenplay with actual depth to its characterization, rather than just tons of potential).

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Pop Culture Conundrum!

Good morrow, fair blog readers!

I have this problem where I love pop culture references, and as a result, my writing does too. One of my most painful edits of Know Not Why involved taking out the approximately two billion pop culture references that had already become obsolete since I'd originally written them. I know that I cut 40,000+ words out of the first draft; when I look back on that now, it's mind-boggling. 40,000 words is almost a whole novel in and of itself! I would LOVE to write 40k of something, anything in my current creative drought! And I can never really pinpoint what it was that got cut that somehow added up to that giant word count.

But it might have all been just, like, the characters having conversations about TV. I definitely remember a drawn out conversation involving Amber and Dennis discussing the love triangles in Lost and Buffy that (alas?) did not make it to the final edit. Also, Howie had a secret crush on Anderson Cooper all throughout the novel (I think at some point there was the line, re: Arthur, "He has a definite undeniable Anderson Cooperocity about him. Damn it! I was doomed from the start."). I cut that at the last minute just in case Anderson Cooper ever came across it and, you know, it made him giggle flusteredly in that way that usually only Kathy Griffin can do. Kathy Griffin has the right to make that happen, all snarky and ginger fabulous, but me? No way!

Mindy gets me.
(In retrospect, I may have been overthinking things in an irrationally panicked fashion toward the end of that edit there. WHAT IF ANDERSON COOPER READS IT AND I EMBARRASS HIM?!?!?!? I dunno. It could have happened!)

Anyway, I'm just saying: who knew that the Jonas Brothers wouldn't remain a part of our cultural consciousness for all of time? WHO KNEW? With that being said, they've been popping up on the radio again lately, so I feel like Kristy originally owning an embarrassing Jonas Brothers poster would have withstood the test of time in the end. Still, it got changed to kittens dressed like angels, which I guess has a certain timelessness re: its ability to charm or alarm people. (And yes, the Jonas Brothers poster was based on a REAL Jonas Brothers poster that currently resides in my roomie Dana's and my cleaning supply closet. I'm pretty sure I refuse to live in a house without that thing in it.)

And, okay, it's possible me and my buddies Justine & Renata recreated
aforementioned poster back when it lived in our kitchen.
2008-2009 was a lively year for us!

There are many reasons I would love to write half hour comedy TV shows -- mostly because basically my favorite thing to write is silly banter (fortunately, I hide this very well ... um) -- and at least twelve of those reasons are that TV glories in pop culture references. Unfortunately, they don't shine through quite the same way in books, since something about having it there in text makes old pop culture references feel especially glaring.

I totally understand why this is the general opinion, especially for people seeking out publication, but I'm starting to realize that I'm also not sure how I actually feel about it.

For example, going back to read the Princess Diaries books now (which is, in my opinion, always an EXCELLENT life decision and one I recommend), a huge part of their charm is the fact that it takes me right back to circa-2000 and all the pop culture stuff I loved in my pre-teen years. There's just something extra hilarious and wonderful and joyful in seeing Mia so submerged in what was popular at the time. I've found myself occasionally pondering how great a Princess Diaries half hour TV show would be (more in the vein of the original book series than the movie, although I love that too, 'cause who can't, it's Anne freakin' Hathaway and Julie freakin' Andrews). And I think you'd have to set it in 2000, right? Preserving that sense of a recently bygone era where Buffy was still on and cell phones weren't really a thing and we were all really, really invested in Justin and Britney dating and it was okay -- nay, encouraged -- to wear those shirts in pastel colors that showed your stomach ... it brings its own comedy and nostalgia that is just so charming and joy-inducing to me.

Pop culture is a huge part of my own life and how I connect with the people in it, so when I write, that tends to be a huge part of how my characters connect too. It's just part of how I perceive the world and the way people form bonds within it. (Just call me Abed Nadir!) We get to see that sense of characters' lives and connections being really informed by pop culture a lot between ensembles on TV shows (Community, The Office, Gilmore Girls, The Mindy Project, EVERY OTHER SHOW I LOVE, etc.) but it's hard to translate it to the page. Because for some reason, when you're writing in text, the goal is that it be TIMELESS, dun dun dun.

Someone has to write the romcom novel
that will eventually become the greatest
KStew & Charlize screenplay in the world, okay!
I am currently at the beginning of a new romantic comedy project (think The Nanny meets Anything Where Two People Have To Pretend To be A Couple meets my brain going: I am pretty sure Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart need to star in the movie version of this, but I am not picky, I will also accept the flawless goddesses that are Leslie Mann and Anna Kendrick; actually, I will accept just getting anything written at all! Like! At all! AT ALL!), and I can already feel the pop culture references sneaking in! And it's tricky to find that balance re: what to allow and what to cut. Honestly, at this point, I am kind of tempted to just slap a big ol' "This story takes place in 2013!" on there at the beginning, and then boom, it's historical fiction, and lo, in upcoming years, the accuracy will be stunning! "Think of all the painstaking research she did!" people will cry. "It's like actually being in 2013!"

Just to finish off this discussion of the magical force that is the pop culture reference, I will say that I often wonder how Howie, Arthur, and the whole Know Not Why crew would have reacted to pop culture things that happened after its time. Like:

+ Rebecca Black's "Friday" - namely, how the craft store crew even managed to survive Kristy's debilitating and inevitable obsession with it.
+ "Call Me Maybe" - Same. (This may be slightly autobiographical, as I genuinely do not know how the people in my life survived my obsessions with "Friday" and "Call Me Maybe". Or how they continue to survive, because damned if those songs aren't still THE BEST.)
+ Game of Thrones!!!
+ I think probably Kristy and Cora watch Once Upon A Time together regularly -- texting each other all throughout it if they're not actually in the same place -- and Kristy is sincerely enthusiastic about all of it (although less so after some of the malarkey that went down in season two; like, guys, she is optimistic, not brain dead), whereas Cora mostly just talks about wanting to do and/or become Evil Queen Regina Mills.
+ Sharknado, a.k.a. - let's all face it - the best thing that has ever happened to Howie and Mitch. (And me!) I am pretty sure there was a fancy viewing party.
+ Also I think Arthur probably really hates texting on iPhones, because he had just gotten really good at the number key pad texting and now it's all rendered obsolete!

Anyway, bringin' it back to the broader topic at hand! What do you all think? Pop culture references in books: yay or nay?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Lesser-Known Tales of ... Me?

So, as it turns out -- get ready for some shocking news -- it actually takes, like, a long time to finish a book!

Which is not to say that I haven't been working on any books. Truly, I have. (Even if often it's The Nick Miller Way. If you don't know what this means, it is my moral obligation to point you toward the New Girl episode "Eggs" as soon as possible. It is definitely one of the most consistently hilarious episodes of television I have ever known, and I have seen it ... too many times. MAYBE MY PROBLEM IS I'VE BEEN LIVING TOO CASUAL WITH YOU CLOWNS! I NEED REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE LIKE ERNEST HEMINGWAY! I WANT TO KILL A MAN AFTER MAKING SWEET LOVE TO HIM AND SLEEP IN THE BELLY OF HIS HORSE! I WANT TO EAT MY WAY OUT OF A SANDWICH HOUSE! I'M BECOMING ERNEST HEMINGWAY, YA IDIOTS. ... that was all from my imperfect memory, so, ya know. Take it for what it is. But God, doesn't it look good in caps lock? Also, Nick Miller is me, HE IS ME BUT THE MAN VERSION WHO LOOKS BETTER IN CASUAL FLANNEL, but that's another blog post for another time.)

Unfortunately, I write like I read, and also like I blog: which is to say, all over the place. I am usually reading about five books at the same time because I am both voracious and ambitious when it comes to my story consumption. I want them all! All at once!

Aaand usually it leads to me not reading anything because I just can't choose between them.

My writing impulse is very similar, in that I currently have like a handful -- or two handfuls -- of novel ideas battling each other for dominance. (Jolly dragon slaying adventure about a prince and his lady squire! No, feminist Gothic fairytale-deconstruction romp! No, Know Not Why sequel! No, fluffy lesbian Cinderella retelling where she falls in love with her wicked stepsister instead! No, angsty YA novel about Guinevere and Morgan le Fay being unlikely best pals! No, sequel to that fluffy fairytale novel I finished in 2010 and then left to gather dust! No, figure out how to do something with that fluffy fairytale novel I finished in 2010 and then left to gather dust! No, some kind of romcom that Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart could star in the movie adaptation of, because come on, THAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN, THAT CHEMISTRY IS NOT TO BE DENIED! No, it's time to finally finish the 750+ page romantic comedy magnum opus I co-authored with my dear dear friend also named Hannah in the halcyon days of 2007-2008! ... actually, that one is always the true priority, and I am super excited to one day get that out into the world. THIS IS HAPPENING, MY OTHER HANNAH!) Anyway, in short: I love all my novels-in-progress and want to spend time with all of them! It's the choosing that messes me about.

I am definitely trying to work on figuring out how to be more disciplined as a writer and focus on one project rather than bouncing from one to the other merrily and madly. But I'm not sure how much progress I'm going to make in terms of producing something e-publishable in the very near future. Just know that I am working, and more is on the way! And I promise I haven't just vanished, never to return. Your readership truly means the world to me. I love it even more than Nick's Hemingway monologue from the New Girl episode "Eggs." And that is how you know this love is very real and, frankly, a little freaky.

So in the meantime while I'm fighting my way through the writing process, I do have some other stories that are currently available as well! I don't think these have been quite as widespread as Know Not Why, so I figured I'd just talk a little bit to you about each of them in case anyone's curious to read more from me.

I took that picture of those flowers in Canada,
which makes sense, because Canada is
One day I'll live there! One ... day ...
1. The Beautiful Thing: Fairytales Retold is a trio of, well, fairytale retellings. (A shocking twist, I know!) The first story is based on The Princess and The Pea, but with more prostitutes. And I promise it's fluffier than that necessarily makes it sound. The second one is a sequel of sorts to the Keats poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci -- because you can't just mope over mysterious fairy succubi forever! Even weary knights need their "We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together" moments. The third story, still one of my very favorite things that I've ever written, is -- well, actually, I don't totally want to give that one away. It's about a young girl named Iris who becomes the apprentice to a rather charming witch. Let's leave it at that for now.

I wrote these when I was getting my undergraduate degree in English; it was the time right after I'd finished my general requirements and was really delving into upper level English classes for the first time. And oh heavens, y'all, I was just so happy. I was blessed (and continue to be!) with a really wonderful group of English professors who are entirely guilty for making me fall even more head-over-heels in love with literature than I was already when I showed up to college. With my own Intro to Composition students, I often tell them that we don't write into a void: writing is entering a conversation. With these -- and with a lot of the fantasy/fairytaley stuff I write -- I love "entering the conversation" of these old stories and examining them in a different way. (And, ya know, sometimes taking elements of the stories that really piss me off and making it go a new way instead. :D)

The Beautiful Thing @ Amazon Kindle Store / @ Smashwords

2. Fairish and the One-Eyed Goatherd

Sadly, I could not find an actual one-eyed
goatherd to pose for this cover art.
Ergo its vagueness.
This one is also in the fairytale vein, except it's about 75% more bonkers. Let's be real here: make that 90%. Here, I'll bust out the summary for you:

"Beauty(of 'and the Beast'-type fame)'s okay-looking older sister Fairish gets her own potential fairytale. It doesn't go too well. Featuring a heroine who really likes to say 'screw you,' a hero who knows how to rock an eyepatch, adventure, danger, random dragons, and all the goats you could possibly dream of. And then some. Seriously. There are just too many goats."

It's tremendously silly, and sometimes I like to daydream about expanding this one into a novel. Because it's not like my list of To-Write Novels is already astronomically long or anything!

Anyway, I like the love story in this one. They're just such weirdos! And as we all know, weirdo love is the best love. Just look at Nick and Jess! (Boom, New Girl reference #2! Can you possibly tell that my gentleman companion and I have been New Girl rewatching lately?)

Fairish and the One-Eyed Goatherd @ Smashwords
It also has a little sequel tale!

3. Fires I Would Like To Know

Ooh, get it? Red like FIRE! And trees like ... trees!
(Fire bad, tree pretty. -Buffy Anne Summers)
I wrote this while I was also writing my undergrad thesis, which was all about Jane Eyre and the awesomeness of Jane and Bertha and how Rochester is a frightful patriarchal tyrant. (Sorry, Rochester! I just don't get it, except in a way where I like to make fun of you SO MUCH. It is truly one of my life's great passions. And while we're on the subject, everyone go read Sarah Rees Brennan's crazy-fabulous recap of Jane Eyre. It understands my Rochester sentiments like nothing else. Except perhaps Kate Beaton's comics.)

One of my very favorite writers (and the other author I did my undergrad thesis on!), Sarah Waters, said that Jane Eyre was marred only by the fact that Charlotte Bronte liked Mr. Rochester too much. So I guess, in short, this story is asking: what if Jane didn't? What if it was something else about Thornfield that captivated her? (Hint: it's Bertha.)

I like this story. It was cathartic as hell to write as I slogged through Rochester's nonsense for month after month. Honestly, I can only put up with that guy for so long.

Unless he's played by Toby Stephens. That dude's winsome, what can I say?? He's so jaunty!

Fires I Would Like To Know @ Smashwords

4. When Flirting Met Zombies / Lifeless in Limbo

The cover art for this is legit RIDONKULOUS.
What was I thinking?? What am I ever thinking?
(Usually about food.)
Long ago, an online writing group of mine had the challenge to write a zombie apocalypse story. Because I am me, I wrote a zombie apocalypse romcom! In a world with Warm Bodies (which I still need to watch!) and Z Is For Zombies (I love you, Nick Miller!), this is no longer a fun and original idea, but I swear it was groundbreaking revolutionary stuff in 2007! ... well, I'm not totally sure about that. In any case, it was fun to write.

This is technically two short stories. It's like one of those movie two-packs you can get at Target, where suddenly you're the proud owner of What A Girl Wants and A Cinderella Story for $9.99! Plus, the titles are deeply nuanced (...) homages to When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless In Seattle!

Also, once upon a time I made cover art for them with Scarlett Johansson as Sarah and Justin Long (who was known in those days as The Mac Guy) as Benjamin. The tagline on it was, I believe, "Just because the end is nigh don't mean the sparks can't still fly."

I have always been slightly too quippy for my own good, or indeed the good of anyone around me.

In other words, maybe just imagine that Howie Jenkins wrote these two tales.

I apologize to Oasis for how much these stories make fun of them. Wonderwall really is a very lovely and powerful song. Like, damn: have you heard Ryan Adams and Cat Power cover that thing??

Although the original is obviously really excellent as well.

God I hope the members of Oasis don't read this. (They're a band, right? And not a Bat for Lashes situation?)


When Flirting Met Zombies / Lifeless In Limbo @ Smashwords

And that's all for now, folks! As always, thank you for devoting some of your time to my babble. :)

I remain ever yours in not writing in a timely fashion,

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Why hello there, blog! Fancy seeing you here!

As you can probably tell, random reader who wandered here probably by mistake, I'm not so great at this whole fidelity-to-blogging concept. But I'm going to try to improve! Even if it's just endless posts musing over why I thought it was a good idea to put "andromeda" in my blog title. (I was in search of that sweet alliteration high. I was not in my right mind. Alliteration does that to a person!) But that is an issue to tackle another time. When I'm, y'know. Emotionally prepared for such philosophizing.

Instead, I will talk about writing, because that seems to be the common theme here.

I actually started writing a sequel to Know Not Why about a month after I finished the first draft, back in ye olde days of 2010! It was right after -- like, possibly the day after -- I graduated from college, and I really needed something familiar and trustworthy to fall back on as my life hurtled into bleak time-to-move-back-home-with-the-'rents! uncertainty. At the time, it didn't really feel like a sequel as much as it did a seamless continuation of the same story. I had been hanging out with those characters for like a year already; they were there, bright and distinct in my brain! I made it about three chapters in and then got distracted, as is my way.

And now all of a sudden it's 2013 and it's been so long since I wrote these folks that they have all up and abandoned me. The nerve!

Sequel anxiety is totally a thing, right? Like, when you hope and hope and wish and wish for that long-dead canon to come back to you, and then it does, and it's all awkward and rusty around the edges and somehow just isn't the fairytale sequel you had dreamt of at all. X-Files: I Want To Believe. Was that really the best plot they could come up with after like ten years? (But Mulder and Scully cuddled in bed so, you know, movie existence justified.) And I know no one is ever going to forgive Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. (Except me, because it brought Marion Ravenwood back, finally. Now I just need my Jurassic Park IV where Dr. Grant and Dr. Satler fall in love anew while wrestling some raptors, because I'm sorry, I'm sorry, why would you even include that breakup unless you wanted to target my poor heart specifically, Steven Spielberg?? Watching Jurassic Park in 3D at the movie theatre only strengthened my ardent belief that there are some couples you just don't callously break up. YA JUST DO NOT.)

In case you can't tell, the worth of sequels to me tends to be based on how much -- or how little -- the right people are cuddling each other in them. It's just how I live.

Anyway, the point is, now I get it, o ye Want To Believes and Crystal Skulls of the world. SEQUEL ANXIETY. Your muse gets nervous. The story gets nervous right into its bones. This sequel could be good, or it could take everything that was ever good about the original story and do some jaunty Irish step dancing allll over it until nothing is left but dismay.

Basically, right now whenever I think about writing about these characters again, I love it in theory. In practice, it comes out something rather like this:

Howie: I am Howie! I do the banter things! It's either funny or you will hate me for it, based upon your aesthetic preferences! I say 'yo' sometimes, yo! The Violent Femmes are good! I hate being called Howard! Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuckity fuck. Fuck.
Arthur: I am Arthur. I wear ties. How do you do?
Kristy: Teehee!
Cora: Fuck you. (Not to Kristy, necessarily. Just to the world.)
Amber: Charlotte Bronte Charlotte Bronte disdainful truth bombs Victorians stop eating that Mitchell.
Mitch: [eating something enthusiastically]
Emily: Let me sail, let me sail, let the ORINOCO FLOW!
Dennis: I have a goatee.
Howie's Mom: I write romance novels! I'm a cool mom!
Rudy: [is probably naked] SUUUUUP.

In short, I certainly had visions of producing a sequel this summer; the reality hasn't been quite so fruitful so far. I'm also currently wrestling with a handful of other writing projects, at least one of which (but ideally all of which!) I would love to get done sometime this century. In addition to a Know Not Why sequel. If, indeed, it needs a sequel at all.

That brings us to the ultimate question: are requests for a sequel genuinely requests for a sequel, or just the highest form of praise? Is leaving your readers wanting more a mark of success and an 'all right, time to move onto something else now!' indicator? Or should a sequel really be A Thing That Happens? I definitely have more stories about these guys drifting somewhere around my brain and heart; I'm just wary about my ability to tell 'em satisfactorily.

Either way, I think the grimmest truth here is that my work ethic, writing-wise, best resembles that of New Girl's Nick Miller -- that is, before he got all driven ("I'M HEMINGWAY, YA IDIOTS!") and actually finished Z is for Zombie, leaving me in the dust.

And, well, I have whole bunches of half books for you! They usually involve ladies and magic and silly fairytale lands, if not quite arts 'n crafts stores. That's ... something, right?