Friday, June 24, 2011

I Hate Moving

As if the stress of getting into an accident isn’t enough to make me want to hibernate for a month, I’m in the middle of that other life-changing event that adds unnecessary stress to one’s life: moving.

Yes, it’s time to move once again, to pack up everything I own and move from one home to another. When I was younger, this wasn’t such a big deal. Sure, the inconvenience of having everything I own packed up and largely unavailable to me as a kid was mildly irritating, but I didn’t have a lot of stuff that was really mine back then. Clothes, toys, video game consoles, and a few odds and ends were all that I claimed as my own. I also lived in apartments for most of my life. I’ve lived in 10 homes up to this point, and only 4 of those were houses. Living in an apartment meant you couldn’t have too much stuff, there’s no place to put it all. It also meant that non-essentials could be kept in that box until you needed it. That made moving again so much easier, if it was still in a box for ease of storage and transport.

Now that I think of it, I’ve never really lived in one residence for more than a handful of years. I do believe I set a record with this last apartment, having stayed there for over 7 years.

In preparing for this move, I promised myself that I’d toss anything that I hadn’t used or even looked at since the last move, and I did a fair amount of house cleaning in the past couple weeks. It gave me something to focus on other than dealing with insurance companies and car repair places, and helped me deal with shock from the accident. It’s been tricky getting this move going since my car is still being repaired, but I’m blessed with some wonderful friends who, for the most part, haven’t complained about me using them as substitute transportation. Miss Loki, especially, has been very helpful in getting me settled into my new place, but my beloved is always so wonderful to me.

So, it’s safe to say that this isn’t my first move, and it certainly won’t be the last. The difference between this move and so many others is that I’m the one doing all the legwork to make it go smoothly. There’s no one else to delegate to, no one else to make all the decisions for me. Nope, this is all me, and I’m happy to say that I’m doing a pretty good job of handling this, all things considered.

You’re maybe wondering how I’m going to link this into my writing. Well, it just so happens that this journey of moving from one place to another, of trying to find home, plays in perfectly with my trilogy, particularly Book Three. I can’t say much about it, but there are certain characters who have been moving for as long as I have, and my current ordeal is helping me remember what it was like to live that kind of life. Between this move and my accident, it’s been a very inspirational (if stressful) month for my writing, and I hope bringing that to bear in my writing will make it that much more engaging to readers.

Do you have thoughts, comments or rants about moving? Leave ‘em in the comments below!

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Don't Want To Read The Book! ...Yet

The last episode of Game of Thrones season one has aired, and damn was it good! I must confess, however, that worse than the cliffhanger final scene the show ends with is the response I get from everyone who has read the books when I bemoan the 9 month wait for season 2: "Read the books!"

I've had people trying to get me to read these books for years. In fact, name any popular book series adapted for TV or movies, and odds are good I've had at least one person trying to sell me on reading the books. (Except the Twilight series. Those who recommend books to me know I have good taste. Besides, I'm done with the whole vampires in the media thing now. Moving on...) And there's one thing I'd like to tell those of you who insist that I should read the books, that they're so much better than the show/movie, that I'm missing out on so much story by not reading them:

LAY OFF!!!

As an author (albeit unpublished, but that will change soon), I know full well the depth of storytelling that goes into a book, and how little of that actually makes it into any adaptation for stage and screen (both the big screen and the one at home). When I was younger, I read Jurassic Park before it was made into a movie and walked out of the theater wondering where 2/3 of the story went. I did the same more recently with The Dresden Files. Having read Harry Dresden's adventures and come to know the people around him in the story, I spent more time wondering why they changed things as arbitrarily as it seems they did, instead of enjoying the show for what it was.

Enjoying something for what it is. It needs to be said again, because some people let loose with both barrels when a movie or TV show doesn't include all of their favorite bits from a series. Comic book fandom is especially guilty of this whenever a big-budget movie comes out and liberties are taken with their continuity-laden comic book heroes and their sometimes cheesy, often rewritten backstory and adventures. The Harry Potter movies have taken their share of liberties with its literary source material, but each film is better than the last. Some movies leave out and/or change so much that it's almost an entirely different story (I'm looking at you, Percy Jackson and the Olympians), and that's OK, too.

Why? Because it's impossible for a movie to express everything that a book can. A book isn't limited by budget constraints, or available actors, or studio politics. A book is limited only by the talent of its writer and the imagination of its reader. OF COURSE a movie isn't going to be able to give you all the backstory and hidden thoughts that a book can. OF COURSE the big CGI effects aren't going to be as grand as what your imagination conjured. OF COURSE it's not going to be the same experience, because it's not meant to be. Unless you get out there and direct your own fan film imagining of your favorite book, you're never going to get the exact experience you'll expect from reading your favorite story. That's the wondrous power of books, and why I'll always love them over any blockbuster movie. Sometimes, though, the imagination needs a rest and wants to be spoonfed a good story.

I'll always want to explore the literary world of whatever awesome series ends up in movies or on TV. But personally, if I haven't read it already, I like to wait until after I see the adaptation before launching into the book series, especially if it has a definitive beginning, middle and end, and that end is in sight. That way, I feel like I'm getting a special behind-the-scenes look at the real story behind the story!

What are your thoughts on book adaptations for stage and screen? How do you tackle the "read the books" retort? Leave your comments below!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Paradigm Shift

"Seize the moment. 'Cause tommorow you might be dead."
—Buffy Summers, S1Ep1 Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy had amazing insight into how to live life for a teenage girl. And while this is wisdom from a fictional character, the quote stands as a very good way to live one's life.

A couple of days ago, I was in a car accident. Nothing too serious, I assure you. I'm fine, though my car is currently at the body shop having the damage assessed. The other guy was not nearly so lucky. For a motorcyclist, he was not practicing safe driving by hurling down a street in front of a school well in excess of the speed limit, and paid the price for his lapse in judgment. That didn't stop him from getting back on his bike, despite suffering heavy injury to the leg that got trapped under the motorcycle, and speeding off to put more lives in danger. Blood loss + reckless driving = another accident waiting to happen.

In the aftermath of the accident, I've been reflecting on how it could have been much, much worse for both me and the guy who hit me. Thankfully, none of the kids getting out of school at that time were injured. My car was damaged, but not nearly as much as it could have been. And, of course, my lack of physical injury could just as easily have gone the other way if the motorcycle's trajectory had been different, or if I'd been moving instead of stopped at a red light.

We go through life never really understanding that it can all change in one catastrophic moment, and not even through any consequence of our actions beyond being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I used to envision certain dangerous events that could happen in the course of stepping outside my front door for use in my writing, but it's something else entirely when one of those scenarios comes true. This is not the product of my overactive imagination. This is real catastrophe, with real consequences and a very real impact on my life.

I haven't really been in my right mind since that day, and I'm fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful people who love and care about me enough to look out for me and help me through this ordeal. I think part of that altered mindset is that I'm going through a paradigm shift, for lack of better phrasing, a change in my way of thinking in the face of a dramatic and life-changing moment. Old assumptions are being cast aside as a new reality asserts itself in my way of thinking, a reality that I'm still trying to come to terms with.

I'm not sure where my writing fits into this reality, but I know that I've come too far to simply declare it insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I want to revisit parts of my trilogy and write all new stories, now that I have a different vantage point on potentially life-threatening moments that might occur within the course of the narrative, but I don't know if I'm ready to tackle it so soon after the accident. Naturally, I'll keep you all posted here once things settle down and my life isn't in upheaval.

Have you had a brush with fate that changed your way of living, or been close to someone who has? Share your stories in the comments below.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Judging A Book By Its Page Count

I'm always highly resistant to starting a book that has more than 400 pages to it. I like to take my time with reading, so when I see a book with 900 pages between its covers, I automatically think "This book is a massive project that will keep me from enjoying other books for MONTHS." You see, I'm not one to jump between different books while reading. I commit myself to one and see it through to the end before starting up a new one. (If it's good, that is. If the writing doesn't grab me after the first couple chapters - or scares the crap out of me, like Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves did - I don't care if it has a great ending, I'm going to put it down and move on.) A long book, to me, is worse than a long movie. I can sit still for a long movie if it's good. I don't know if I can say the same for a long book.

My beloved, however, gave me this piece of literary wisdom: "Large books aren't a big deal. There's just that much more to read!" I had to sleep on that to wrap my brain around it, but she has a point. There are some books I've read that I wanted to be longer. Much longer. The last Harry Potter book, which is sizable already, could have been longer and I would have been perfectly fine with that. Same for most of my favorite writers. And the large book I'm presently faced with, Anathem, is written by one of those favorite writers of mine, Neal Stephenson. So why am I having such a hard time starting this up?

I could give a list of reasons, all of which would be a smokescreen for the fact that simply looking at the book makes me want to pick up my Highlander prop replica katana and cut it in half. That would not be nice to do to a borrowed book, though, especially since my beloved's father loaned it to me and I'd like to stay on her family's good side. The thing is, if my imagination is so vivid that I can imagine cutting that page count by half, why can't I simply alter my mode of thinking and pretend that each page is a unit of measurement that represents my enjoyment of the book?

So I did. And let me tell you, I have no problem picking up that weighty tome now.

What's your take on the page count issue? Is it something that you take into account when choosing a book to read, or is it a non-issue to you? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!