Saturday, December 25, 2010

In Which Christmas is... Postponed

My husband was sick last week, and my son and I are both sick this week. I've determined that it's one of the hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola or the Plague. (Yes, I'm one of the people that subscribe to the theory that the Black Death was a hemorrhagic fever.) Most likely, it's Ebola mixed with the common cold. ("Which never happened, because that would be wrong." Bonus points to the person that can name the TV show that quote is from.)

Given that fact, my extended family has decided to postpone Christmas until next week, when we'll hopefully be feeling better.

So, to keep a little Christmas spirit in my heart last night, I watched "Next of Kin", a movie about traditional family values. (hehehe) It has Liam Neeson in it, so it can't be all bad! If you've never seen it, it's about two hillbilly brothers (one of whom is now a cop in Chicago) who set out to avenge the mob killing of their brother. I actually love this movie for its use of... I can't think of the word right now (see the Ebola paragraph above), but it has these great little authentic feeling anthropological moments in it.

When the (now) city brother (Patrick Swayze) and his wife (Helen Hunt) take the body of his younger brother back to the hills, he sees his family waiting at the end of the train station. He asks her to wait for him, because "they don't take easily to strangers". "But I'm your wife!" she protests. "No honey, not you. Me." In those few words, he lets her know that he's been away long enough that he is now a stranger to these people.

When he walks to the end of the platform, he greets each person by name and relation. Uncle Billy, Cousin Henry, etc. In that moment, he establishes that he's still one of them. He remembers their names, and how he is related to each of them. In a culture that (in the movie, anyway) that values family above everything else, this is an important scene.

Later, during the wake, the women are in the kitchen doing food stuff. The city wife is feeling out of place and after knocking a bunch of silverware to the floor (and all the other women just silently watch her), she is about to leave. The country brother (Liam Neeson) walks in and in two steps, connects her to the family. First, he gives her his cup of coffee to refill. Second, he thanks her for being kind to his dead brother and taking care of him while he was in the city. After that, the other women are more accepting of her.

These two scenes really make the movie for me. There are a couple of other scenes about the culture clashes between the hill people and the city people, but these are my favorites because they are subtle and there is no exposition about it. It's the kind of thing that I want to do in my writing. It's the kind of thing that I try to use my anthropological training in, so it wasn't a total waste. Writing and watching Next of Kin :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

In Which Winter Solstice News Is Shared

Yay! Just in time for the new year (which for me, is tomorrow :)) Blogger has provided mobile templates for blog posts! If people aren't looking at your blog with smart phones yet, they soon will be. I'm so glad that now the content will be served up in a mobile friendly fashion. It was pretty easy to turn on. If you haven't turned it on yet, you might want to log into your dashboard and take a peek.

In other news, tonight there is a lunar eclipse. It's the first time there has been a lunar eclipse on the Winter Solstice since the 1600s. However, here in rain starved So Cal, we're finally getting rain. Which means the lunar eclipse probably won't be visible. Rats.

And, in keeping with the rain, we have our first roof leak. Sigh. I've contacted the HOA, but roofing repairs can't be done until the rain stops and the roof dries.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Over 100 Blogs

According to Google Reader, I'm currently following well over a hundred blogs. I read them all. Not everyone posts something new every day, so I'm not reading a hundred blogs a day, but still.

I'm thinking about breaking them down into two categories. The ones I follow on Google Reader. I follow and read, but for one reason or another I don't comment. The ones listed on my blog, which I read and make the odd comment or two.

We'll see how it works. I'll probably go back to listing all 120 blogs in that column on the right in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I Washed My Hair Today

I washed my hair today. Normally that would not be a blog worthy statement. In order to understand why it's blog worthy, I have get into the way back machine and go back to the early 1980's. I was in high school, I permed my hair, and a few months after it had faded away/grown out, my dad said it was the worst mistake I'd made in my life. (He then clarified, saying that it wasn't the worst and if it were the worst mistake I made in my life, I'd be doing ok.)

However, none of the kids in high school teased me about my hair (and they would have, trust me). Plus, my dad was a cop, not a member of the fashion police. And that was a long time ago. Things have changed. I know more about hair now than I did then. I'll be 47 in a few days, so I figured, "What do dads know, anyway?" and got my hair permed yesterday.

It turns out dads know quite a lot. Still probably not the worst mistake I've ever made in my life, but certainly not the best choice I've made either. You've undoubtedly seen pictures of Little Orphan Annie (the comic strip, not the actresses). I only wish I looked that good. So, taking a lesson from Legally Blond (where I get much of my fashion and beauty advice) I decided to wash my hair before the allotted 48 hours.

I'm beginning to think that Legally Blond may not have been an entirely accurate movie. Because the perm is still in here, in all it's Bride of Frankenstein glory. I'm now about to research "bad perm fixes" on Google. If anything works, I'll let you know.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Truth in Fiction (ranty rant)

I recently read Tanya Huff''s "The Enchantment Emporium", which I loved. I wanted to post a review about it, but every review I tried to write it my mind included this line "I think you would enjoy the story more, or at least get more out of it, if you are Wiccan, or Pagan, or at least familiar with mythologies of the Celtic Horned God." And then I realized I couldn't say that, because there is a lot of incest in this book. (The rulers of the family want to keep the power in the family, and the women of the family are attracted to men with power, so...) I was afraid that people might read "The Enchantment Emporium" and think that it was a representation of Witches or Wiccans. And it's not. But it is a very good book, with lots of good world building and doesn't suffer from over exposition :)

Anyway, so that got me to thinking how many accurate representations of Witches and/or Wiccans I've read in fiction. Keep in mind that we're talking about a religion where if 7 or more are in a group, an anthropologist shows up, and if you have more than 40 in a single place, a reporter shows up. So we're a fairly well documented group.

Two. I could think of two books. In fantasy, it would by "Wyrd Sisters" by Terry Pratchett, and in mysteries it's the Bast series by Rosemary Edghill. Now, keep in mind I haven't read everything out there, that's still a very small list.

Which leads me to wonder, if so many writers can't get Witches right, how in the world are they going to get Amish or Dine (Navajo) right? Because I really get my panties in a bunch when I hear that "Amish Romance" is the new hot genre. Research, people, research. No, watching "Witness" ten times doesn't count as Amish research. This is one time when imagination is not enough.

Anyway, I totally loved Tanya Huff's book.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Favorite Query Letter Ever

I've been reading lots of query letters over the past couple of years (no, not just my own!) and this one is my favorite. Right up to and including the author's bio.

There have been lots of letters that made me want to read the book, and there have been a couple where I bought the book based on the query letter. ("Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings" just today, for example.)

But the query letter for A Comedy of Terrors was wonderful. I still remember it three months later. When I'm trying to write a query letter, it's this one I think of. This one I judge my query letter on. No, I don't want to do the same thing, but I want to figure out why I love it (probably voice) and do that in my query letter. So when I'm saying "Not right yet", it's because of the query letter for A Comedy of Terrors. (And boy I hope this book gets published, because I really, really want to read it!)

Jane Yellowrock and Mercy Thompson

One of my favorite characters is Mercy Thompson. If you haven't read the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs, I highly recommend them. Mercy is strong, independent, loyal, and has trouble asking for help.

I read the first two Jane Yellowrock books this week (by Faith Hunter) and I'm quickly adding Jane to my "favorite characters" list. Jane is strong, independent, loyal and has trouble asking for help. Yeah, I see a trend here, too :) (And yes, I recommend these books, too.)

Mercy and Jane are alike in a number of ways. They're both:
Native American (they may both be Cherokee, I just can't remember which type of Native American Mercy is)
Shapeshifters (that they call 'skin walkers' while acknowledging the term is actually Navajo/Hopi and that a skin walker is evil, while they are not.)
Called upon to use their special abilities in killing evil vampires (as opposed to good vampires)
Trying to decide (early on, this doesn't go on forever) which of two guys they actually want to be with
Protective of children

Given the similarities, these are still very different characters in very different worlds. So, the next time you hear about a book that you think is too much like yours and now you'll never get published, think of Mercy and Jane. Your take on the story will be very different from someone else's. Thank goodness :)