Friday, October 31, 2008

What is it About Trees?

It's Friday again. Last week, I blogged about how much I liked Fridays. Then I had a car wreck on Saturday and the promise and freedom of my weekend lost its charm somewhat. So, I don't think I'm going to blog about how much I like Friday's today....just in case.

Instead, I'm just going to blog about nice things because it's the end of the week. For example, yesterday, I actually got to go outside during the day time which doesn't always happen. It was a beautiful day. The sky was that cornflower blue that makes you want to lie down and just stare up at it. There were clouds but they were the white and fluffy wisps that were so high up, it was almost as if they were deciding whether they wanted to stay. It was a quite chilly but it not as cold as it has been. I was outside to meet the insurance man from the company of the lady that hit me. While he was inspecting my car, I looked around and I saw a tree that I've seen every day since I started working here. Yet this time I really noticed it. It was still that light green that you expect to see in the spring, almost a newborn-leaf green. There was a slight yellow tint to the leaves that was the only indication that the tree had recognized the autumn until yesterday. Yet the leaves were falling off, steadily, as if the tree had just realized it was supposed to be dropping its leaves. The leaves fell in shifts. One batch would fall, gently floating to the ground, gracefully landing and as soon as they landed, the next batch would fall. I watched the tree for several minutes and it continued. It was almost like watching a carefully choreographed ballet and it was hard to turn away and give my attention back to the insurance man.

This morning, I made a point to notice the tree and it is now just like all the other trees, the remaining leaves are scarce and now there's a carpet of yellow-edged green beneath it that will, I'm sure, turn brown and melt back into the ground. It was another of those things that make me happy to have moved back to the midwest.

I'm also determined to try to make this a good Halloween. I had planned to go back to stay with my parents this weekend. I love doing that anyway but after my rather stressful weekend, I really wanted to go; sort of a way to soothe my ruffled feathers and relax for a couple of days. Also, it means I can do my laundry or, since I have a wonderful mother, get my laundry done for me (thanks, again, mum...I really do know how to do laundry but you're lovely to do it for me :)). I actually don't mind doing the's the folding I hate. Apparently, I'm a horrible folder. I never thought much of it; ok, so it was wrinkled a bit but...isn't that normal? However, having watched several expert t-shirt folders in action, I've realized that...folding isn't my forte. I tend to fold one shirt nicely and then get bored and it becomes an attempt to fold the rest into tiny little packages with no regard for how that happens.

I'm digressing. Anyway, so I'm not going to be able to go to my parents this weekend because I can't get my car fixed until next week and I'm a bit reluctant to drive 100 miles each way, just in case something falls off. The rear bumper is hanging off and there's a lot of hills on the way. I'm a bit worried about going down a hill and leaving my bumper behind. It's probably safer to wait until next week. This means that I won't be able to see my nephews and nieces dress up for Halloween. It also means I have no plans. I always feel like I should do something for Halloween but somehow I never get around to it. Well, actually, that's not entirely true. A couple of years ago, I did win tickets from KROQ and got to go to the Black Parade party in which My Chemical Romance played at a really small venue. That was pretty cool.

But that's pretty much the extent of my Halloween celebrations. I'm not sure what I should do. Maybe I should rent horror films. It's hard to find good ones though. Nowadays, most horror films are just....silly. I like ones in which the horrific situation is actually realistic, the movie begins to creep under your skin slowly, enveloping you so that you feel jumpy when a strange noise in your own house occurs. I don't like those silly teenage movies where they have a lot of sex and then die in some horrific manner. Some of them start out with an interesting idea like "Final Destination". That one was pretty decent, actually. Except...then there were sequels. How final can a Final Destination be when there are sequels? I mean, shouldn't they then rename the earlier films to things like and "Not quite Final but Almost There Destination" and "Finaler Destination?"

I think one of my favourite creepy films is "The Sixth Sense". I know the plot twist now, of course, but I still get a bit of a start when Haley Joel Osment is at his school and turns to see those people just hanging there. Or when he's in his home-made tent and he's suddenly cold and you know something's going to jump out but it still makes your heart jump when it does.

Of course, that's when M. Night Shyamalan should have stopped making movies. I mean, did you see "The Happening?" It has to be one of the most deliciously awful films I saw this year. Mark Wahlberg is in it and he's bad. Granted, he's not, exactly, uh Robert DeNiro in the best of films but...he can be entertaining. Not in "The Happening". In that one, he delivers speeches very earnestly, as if convincing himself that choosing to be in this movie was a good idea. The female lead, Zoey Deschanel who is usually quite decent is...awful. She has to constantly tell people she can't show emotion. It's probably not her fault but...well....she's bad. The movie is bad. It seems to be a way for Mr. Shyamalan to let out some steam; there are so many gratuitiously violent deaths that by the time the man lies down in front of his lawnmower, I was groaning. I am happy to spoil the movie for you. It's about trees. Trees that are angry because humans suck. So they start letting out a toxin that causes people to kill themselves in lots of disgusting, violent ways. But in the end, the love of two people makes the trees calm down and stop killing least that's what I think happened. Except then the trees start killing people in Paris. Which I thought was called "The City of Love". Which means that maybe the trees are fed up with people being in love by that point.

Just take my word for it; it was a horrible film. Yet it's also one of those that I think is going to become a cult classic because it seems almost deliberately awful. Unfortunately, I don't think Mr. Shyamalan made it to be that way. He's slowly been increasing in awfulness since...well...."The Sixth Sense". He seems to have lost himself in his own brilliance which, by now, sadly seems to be a fluke. Ever since the aliens were destroyed by a glass of water in "Signs", I've seen his movies merely because I knew they were going to be bad. Sometimes, it's just good to have guilty pleasures.

So, maybe I will rent scary movies tonight in honour of it being Halloween. I think I'll be avoiding the M. Night Shyamalan ones though. Maybe I'll rent "Poltergeist". That has a killer tree in it. Now that tree was scary. I used to have one outside my bedroom window when I was a kid and after I saw "Poltergeist", I was terrified of it. I kept expecting it to reach through my window and grab me, suck me in and eat me alive. I think I prefer that method to "The Happening"'s though. At least that tree was did the killing; it didn't just make people kill themselves. M. Night Shyamalan made trees seem lazy.

Anyway, obviously, I didn't know what to blog about when I sat down. It apparently is a blog about trees. The pretty ones that are outside the window and the Killer Trees that Hate Us. I prefer my trees to be like the one outside my window, gently giving in to the change of the seasons and letting me appreciate it's beauty. I'd hate to think that tree is secretly plotting ways to kill seems so...calm.

Ok, on that note, I could digress and talk about other trees like the ones in Lord of the Rings that could talk and move and stuff but then that would make me seem like a giant nerd and we can't have that. So, I shall bid you adieu for the week and hope you have a more exciting Halloween than mine is likely to be. Just watch out for the trees....

Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Carving Pumpkins...

So, I carved my annual pumpkin last night. It's a Halloween tradition for me. Growing up in the UK, Halloween wasn't much of a holiday. In fact, aside from making paper witches out of construction paper, lolly sticks and glue, we really didn't do very much. Trick or treating wasn't allowed and so, at most, there would be halloween parties in which games like bobbing for apples was the main focus. I know, in recent years, the UK has become very influenced by the U.S. in regards to Halloween and nowadays, the traditions are similar between both the U.S. and the U.K. But, back when I was a young 'un (not too many years ago), we used to emphasis the spooky rather than the sweet taste of a bucketful of candy.

I think the reason we never cared is that on November 5th, we'd have Guy Fawkes night, a deliciously pagan holiday that I'll blog about on November 5th.

But I do remember when I was really young that I believed in Halloween. I truly believed there were witches and wizards flying around at night, that the dark, chilly night was full of ghosts and demons, all celebrating the fact that this was their night, a night in which they were allowed to be scary and crawl out of the shadows. I had an overactive imagination which, naturally, led to a lot of nightmares and having my parents leave the light on while I slept. Yet it seemed right, for Halloween. It made sense. As I got older, I stopped being quite so literal but I still let myself imagine those covens of witches, celebrating their night, Macbeth style.

So, when my siblings and I moved to the U.S., our first Halloween was a bit of an awakening. It was freezing, for a start, and so even though the kids had dressed up, they had to wear big coats over their costumes which took away from the effect, somewhat. Then they'd go beg for candy. No one ever really thought about the trick part or trick or treat. I always thought that was a shame. It was such an accepted thing that people would willingly give out candy that there was no opportunity to concentrate on the darker side of the trick or treat ritual. Ok, so there were a few kids who would toilet paper (t.p. for short) people's houses but since they did that year round, it didn't mean much. I think I saw eggs on someone's car once or twice but, again, there were quite a few mean kids in the town where I grew up and so that wasn't limited to Halloween either.

Not that I'm endorsing property damage. I don't. For the record. It's just one of those things...trick OR treat. I did trick or treat exactly once in my life and had enough of those revolting peanut butter kisses and Tootsie Rolls (which, in my opinion are nothing but Imposter Chocolate and will never, ever be real chocolate and thus they are worthless) to last me a lifetime. Everyone gave out treats, there was no need to trick. It seemed odd. It still does, a little.

So, I started my own traditions now that I'm older. I never get trick or treaters because I live in flat that has a locked entrance door. So, on Halloween or a day or two prior, depending on my schedule, I carve my pumpkin.

Last night was that night. For the first time, I actually splurged and bought a carving kit. Normally it's me, some knives and spoons and my own creativity. By the time I'm normally done carving, I have a spoon that is bent at a 90 degree angle from scooping, assorted cuts where I got a bit too enthuastic in my carving that haven't quite stopped bleeding yet and a lopsided yet well-meaning pumpkin with face of some sort. This year, armed with my kit, I was ready to go.

Before I could begin, there were other things I had to do. I always make a baked sweet potato for dinner with sausages and a vegetable on carving night. Last night, it was baked asparagus with garlic and parmesan (I'm trying to be better about cooking). After I'm done eating, I pop in "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone" and begin carving.

I had lit my pumpkin spice candle. I drink pumpkin ale. Yes, I'm a bit into this pumpkin thing. Ironically enough, I don't like pumpkin pie. I do, however, like the flavour of pumpkin pie stuff. I still have yet to get my hands on the Dreyer's Pumpkin Pie ice-cream but the Baskin Robbins stuff is fantastic. Pumpkin ale is awesome.

And I carved. I used a pattern this year. I've never really done that before. I'm not sure I'd do it again. The kit supposedly had an ingenious little tool you'd roll on top of the pattern to transfer it to the pumpkin. The tool is, literally, miniscule. It's made for really, really little people, maybe the size of a smurf. My hand cramped up. I was going to carve some howling wolves but the pattern transfer thingy didn't work and I knew it'd never turn outs. I know my limits of carving skill. So I went for this weird owl-ghoul-thingy. It came out ok. It looked like the pattern. It just...lacks personality.

I should probably tell you that normally, my pumpkins represent what I'm into at the time. For three years running, I carved pumpkins that looked like Frank the Bunny from the movie Donnie Darko. Another year, it was a pumpkin that blazed the Harry Potter logo on one side, Green Day on the other. Another year, i did an evil pirate. Another year a skull and crossbones. All done, relatively, free-hand. They might have been a bit lopsided but they meant well.

This year, my pumpkin is...boring. It was almost too easy. And when it turned out, instead of what I thought was an owl, it was some weird monster with folded arms. It looked like an owl until I put the candle in the pumpkin. I'd paste a picture but due to the fact my camera has no batteries and that my cell phone camera takes pictures the size of a postage stamp, you'll have to take my word for it.

On the plus side, I did roast the seeds. I like to catch some of the flesh between the seeds, salt that and roast it. Delicious. Along with the beer and the softly scented candle, it was still a lovely, tranquil evening.

I just wish my pumpkin was less...generic. I'm debating doing another one. After all, it's Halloween tomorrow and there's still some time.

But this time, I'm not using a pattern. There's a lot to be said for the enthuiasm of creativity, even if it doesn't turn out perfectly. Using a pattern is simple but it's much for fun to go outside the lines and start carving away. Maybe I'll stick to using the tools that came with the kit though. There's a lot less blood that way.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Temptation of Captain Monkeypants...

So, as I've mentioned many times, I'm a struggling writer. Well, actually, I hate that phrasing because it implies that I'm struggling with writing and I'm not. Writing is the easy part; it's doing something with the writing that's hard. In a couple of my previous posts, I've grumbled about how hard it is to get published. It's a catch-22, no agent means no publisher and no publisher means no agent is truly interested. There are exceptions, naturally. In some writer's cases, they get their foot in the door by knowing someone who can get their work to someone who'll actually read it. Other times, they're in the right place at the right time. Of course, there are exceptions and some writers do get published on their own merits. But it's hard.

I read an article in Entertainment Weekly a few months ago regarding memoirs and why there are so many cases in which people like James Frey and Margaret Seltzer who have written best selling memoirs are exposed as frauds and what was supposed to have been an honest portrayal of their less-than-perfect lives turns out to be pure fiction. What it came down to is that the books couldn't find a publisher when they were submitted as fiction and so, a few tweaks later, voila! Fiction became a gritty literary portrayal of a brave writer's life.

This is one of the reasons I could never join Oprah's public flogging of James Frey. Ok, so he lied. And, ok, he lied a lot and made a lot of money off his lies. I don't deny that's wrong. I do, however, understand to some degree. Trying to find a publisher when you're a new writer who hasn't gone the academic route and done some networking is extremely difficult. I, personally, have chosen not to pursue a degree in writing. Lately, I've rethought it just because it would be a way to maybe make some connections. Yet there's still a voice in my head that says why? I don't want to be a literary writer, each word carefully phrased for meaning and symbolism. As I've said before, I want to tell stories and I don't think any of the writers I truly admire have gone for a Masters in Writing. I'm a big fan of the movie Wonder Boys. To me, that's what life as part of a prestigious writing program would be like, well the part that actually focuses on the writing, that is. Not that I'd mind if Robert Downey Jr. would come and hang out at my school (in which case it might be worth going for a Masters in Writing) but I don't think that'd be likely to happen. Sadly.

So, because it's such a hard field to break into, I've recently been toying with the idea of writing a romance novel. I've had the idea before; Harlequin, as a publisher, is rather accepting of new writers and there are always divisions of their romance novels that are accepting submissions. I had the idea before but, the last time, I had the (rather) foolish notion that I could be a romance writer who actually wrote well. I got rejected. Story of my life.

But, recently, they're started an eBook service in which they're looking for shorter pieces- novellas that are only 15,000 words. If you haven't figured out from these blogs, I'm rather prolific. I use a lot of words. Thus, 15,000 words won't take too long.

This time, however, I'm doing my homework. I've been reading a couple of these novellas in the series for which I'd like to try writing. It's called Silhouette Nocturne and the focus is any supernatural, psychic, mythical creature type story that also has a strong and sensual romance. So that's what I've been reading. I don't think there's any way to not sound like a condescending snob here but, wow, they are BAD. I've read three now and the formula is pretty simple. Beautiful, strong (yet vulnerable) woman with some supernatural ability must save some child/animal/person/victim from some crime or horrible happening. In the process, she meets a strong and handsome man who instantly is attracted to her vulnerability and beauty. Together they save the day. The sex which, in these books, never goes into the full description that other erotica does, merely lingers at the descriptive, sexy and incredible love making that, inevitably occurs. In the end, the heroine and the hero wind up engaged.

Here's what else I've learned:

  • When in a situation in which her vulnerability is exposed, the hero will refer to the heroine as "baby". A lot. In fact, in happened six times on one page. The page is not that long.

  • The heroine must not like to receive help, she likes to be independant. The hero will see this and give her space. Yet, eventually, she will realize that she doesn't want space from him and that she needs him. Then they have sex.

  • The heroine must always be the one to save the day. The hero can merely assist. This allows the heroine to remain strong and independent. She will, however, end up at the hospital because she is hurt (but never too badly). This allows the hero to call her "baby" and take care of her. Then they will have sex.

  • When describing sex, it must happen gradually and very slowly at first and the pace of the scene will grow hotter.....and hotter....closer...and closer...and then they reach towards each other, lost in each other's bodies and then WOOOW! It's magic.

There is plenty more that I have observed but that gives you an idea of what I'm up against. I get the feeling that the writing is secondary to the story and the sex because it's, um, not good. For example, in one of the books, the heroine goes to bed and closes her eyes to sleep. And then she shuts her eyes and begins to dream. It left me wondering how many pairs of eyes she had. Then again, given that this is the 'fantasy, myth and sci-fi' division, maybe she did have more than one pair of eyes.

But you get the idea. Yet, these novels sell. These writers make some money from their efforts. Ok, so it's not enough to quit work and take up writing full time unless you're really good but it's definitely more than I'm making now on my other work. Part of me is wanting to run away screaming, salvage my pride and remind myself that it's just a matter of time before an agent/publisher/magazine realizes I'm brilliant.

Then there's the other part of me that wants to write and get paid. I'd write crap if they'd pay me for it. Seriously. At this point, I just want to do something with my writing. And I'd publish under a psuedonym. Probably not Captain Monkeypants because that doesn't, uh, scream romance but maybe something like Lavinia Lovejoy (thanks mum, for that suggestion). Ok, so it would be a little akin to being a writing whore but then, it is Harlequin and...well, wouldn't that fit? I just have to get them to want to publish my stuff...always a challenge. But it's SO tempting to try. It would be fun, if nothing else.

So, I'll keep debating and doing my...research. I'll move on from the psychics and try to find some romance about werewolves and vampires. They're out there, buried between the Scottish Highland Lords and the Pirate romance....oh, wait...pirate romance...that may have given me an idea....

I'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Snowless Days...

It was supposed to snow last night. I was very excited about that. I've been in Los Angeles for seven years. It doesn't snow much there. It does snow in the mountains, sometimes out towards the desert. Yet, it never snows in L.A. It's propably for the best; even when it's supposed to just rain, it turns into STORM WATCH 2000-and-whatever. The newscasters on the local news talk of nothing but rain. When it does, indeed, rain, they interview people on the streets to ask them what they think about the rain. Most of the time, the people on the streets' reaction is pretty classic..."It's wet." Sometimes people have stories about the rain, how they were going to work and didn't realize it was raining and their car was all wet or how they walked their dog and they weren't wearing boots....the news isn't terribly thrilling when it rains in L.A. I suppose it'd be interesting to see what they'd be like if it snowed but since this would probably indicate some freakish global warming phenomenom that was all our fault because of all the Aqua Net hairspray that was used in the '80's, it probably wouldn't be good for it to snow in L.A.

Then again, it'd finally make sense for all those college students to walk around in their tank-tops, mini skirts, scarves and massive fur or sheepskin boots. Then again, will that ever make sense?

I can't say that I haven't seen snow in seven years. After all, I've been home to the Midwest for Christmas and Thanksgiving every year since I moved out west and it did snow when I was home. Yet, to me, it's not the same. I want to embrace the snow completely and not wave hello politely, enjoying it for a day or so and then hop on a plane to seventy degree weather. And yes, I just realized that by saying that, it probably truly labels me as being abnormal because most people would LOVE that to be the case. What can I say? I like weather.

So, anyway, I was looking forward to snow. I mean, I know it's October but that means I could have had a nice snowfall that probably wouldn't stick around. That's the best kind of snow. Except at Christmas when it's SUPPOSED to snow because that is just how it is supposed to be. I'm an old fashioned Monkeypants. I like Christmas with the snow-dusted holly and pine trees in the garden, the smell of sausage-rolls and mince-pies in the air (yes, I am hopelessly British) and the silent, muffling snow falling outside.

I can't say I inherited my love of snow. My mother despises winter. I think she'd hibernate if she could. When the weather forecast says snow, I can hear my mother groan, even from 100 miles away. I once bought her a snowman kit in hopes of enticing her outside to see the beauty and fun of snow. I ended up using it to build a snowman when I was home for the holidays and it snowed. My dad views snow as something to clear from the driveway though it does give him an excuse to get out his tractor and turn it into a snow plow. I don't think men ever grow out of the wanting to ride tractors and trains phase. They're Iron Cowboys, those snowplow drivers. At least while it's snowing.

So, back to my original point. It was supposed to snow. Maybe it did while I was sleeping and I missed it. When I got up this morning, there was not a flake on my poor, dented car. I am very disappointed by the failure of the weather to follow-through on it's promise of snow. I'm big on follow-through. I like people and weather to deliver on a promise that is made unless there's some unforseeable circumstance that means the promise can't be delivered. Maybe that's why it didn't snow. I can't pretend to know these things. I'm trying to be ok with the lack of snow-follow-through.

It didn't help that I woke up in a foul mood. I didn't sleep well. My neighbour has a noisy dog that was barking at 2 a.m. I also had the strangest dreams about the Heroes TV show. That's what I get for cramming six episodes into three days. So, when my alarm went off and those insipid "Two Angry Guys" popped on, I slammed my alarm off. My snowless drive to work made me irritable because a tractor-like thing pulled out in front of me and then proceeded to go, literally, 15 mph in a 35 mph zone. (Captain Monkeypants isn't on a first name basis with farm equipment; it looked a bit like a tractor and thus it is a tractor-like thing.) I know he's just doing his job but part of me was silently shouting at him for driving during rush hour. I mean, ok, fine, rush hour in my tiny town in Ohio isn't exactly on a scale with, say, L.A. but it's still the heaviest traffic time. Driving farm equipment during this time is frowned upon, at least by me. It's a traffic faux pas.

So, I'm hoping my mood passes. I put my iPod on and it seems to be in sync with me; Marilyn Manson is playing as we speak. Mr. Manson is perfect for bad moods. He's always WAY more angry and miserable than me. I'm already feeling better. I know in the grand scheme of things, I have nothing to complain about. But there are just some days on which it's hard to be perky and chipper even when there's nothing actual wrong. They're the days on which burrowing down at home and not venturing into society are probably best. I think all humans need that once in the while, days away from the world in which we get to recharge. Unfortunately, they're not always possible. So, I'll just sit quietly in my cubicle, drink my coffee and let the day wash over me. . I know if I read the news, I'll know, once again, that my complaining is insignificant and petty. The sun is peaking through the window already and I suppose the right thing to do is embrace it and be glad that it's trying to penetrate the gloom of my mood.

I think I may let it take a while though. I'm not quite ready to be chipper just yet.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Trying to See Positive on a Monday Morning's Monday again. As much as I'd like to start off by being a beam of radiant sunshine on a cloudy day, that is so not likely to happen. For a start, it's Monday and to quote the Boomtown Rats, "I Don't Like Mondays". I should add the word "much" to that though- I'm not adverse to Mondays. They just tend not to be my favourite day of the week.

I did say in Monday that the day may bring the promise and hope for the new week. I'm really hoping that's true. I had intended to start the week in a nice and chipper mood. Really, I did.

The only problem is that my weekend did not go according to plan and though I like to delude myself that I enjoy a bit of spontenaity, when it really comes down to it, Captain Monkeypants is a bit of a planner. I like to know what I'm going to do with my time. It helps me figure out how much time I can spend doing things like writing, watching television and whatever other procrastination methods I can employ before I actually HAVE to do something.

My weekend was going to be fairly quiet. My original plan was to go to Target on Saturday to buy a new coffemaker and blender with a gift card that two of my favourite people in the world had given me as a housewarming gift for my new place. I suppose I shouldn't say that didn't go as planned because I now am in position of a rather nice Mr. Coffee coffeemaker and a nice, basic blender. The only bad thing was that, on the way to Target, I got rear-ended. And I don't mean in the "That's what SHE said" way...I mean in the my-car-has-its-bumper-hanging-off-and-I-can't-open-my-trunk way.

The worst part is that it wasn't one of those accidents for which you get a chance to brace yourself. There are times when, if you slam your brakes on suddenly, you almost expect the car behind you to slam into you, you expect an impact. Not this time. I was sitting in traffic, much like I did for seven years in L.A. without an accident, waiting for traffic to move. And then BAM!

No one was hurt, which, obviously, is the most important thing. I have a few bruises and stiffness. The lady who hit me kept saying it was her fault and that she wasn't paying attention. What do you say to that? It was an accident and accidents happen.

I can't even be angry at her. Honestly speaking, who hasn't had moments when driving in which we lose focus, in which we run on autopilot? They happen to us all. And it sucks because it's just one of those things in life that they call bumps in the road (or, in my case, smashes in the road). She was insured, I was insured. It'll be a hassle to get the estimates and figure out where to get my car fixed. I'll also have to have a rental while it's in the shop. In a year, I'll probably look back and be glad it wasn't worse than it was. For now though, my poor car...I've only had her for two years and she was my first brand new car. I'm really, really hoping she can be fixed. The damage is pretty bad but she still runs and so I'm hoping a few days in the body shop will fix her up.

On the plus side, in the shock that inevitably follows a big, body-shaking smash like that, I wasn't sure what to do. I was shaken to the core and feeling rather out-of-it and so...I went to Target. And now I have a coffeemaker and blender. I even remembered to buy coffee filters.

I didn't get to follow through with the rest of my weekend plans. I wasn't feeling great and I was rather sore so I had to skip the Halloween Party on my agenda. It was a Seven Deadly Sins party. I was going to be the Grapes of Wrath. Instead, i got to enjoy my new sofa and watch absolutely horrendous crap like "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull".

(*Side Note: Really, Stephen Spielburg and George Lucas? What, you don't have enough freaking aliens in the rest of your movies?- and yes, George, I am looking at you and your crappy Star Wars prequels and you, Stephen, with "A.I", the movie that never ends. Seriously, Indiana Jones is an architect. He's supposed to run through temples and ruins and swing from ropes and, yes, maybe he did do that in this one but, really, ALIENS????????? The franchise is dead. Why couldn't you just leave it alone and try for another Oscar with a movie that makes us feel guilty about...something? Though I do feel guilty for watching this piece of crap. Ok, side note over).

I also watched "Heroes". I've been meaning to catch up on that all season. It usually takes me a couple of episodes to get into it. Not this season; so far, I'm really close to breaking up with "Heroes". It's awful and I miss the "Heroes" of Season 1. I may blog about that later but I think Entertainment Weekly does a good job in summing up why it's no longer good TV in this week's issue. (Summary: STOP FLASHING FORWARD TO THE FUTURE. AND LOSE SOME OF THE DAMN HEROES!)

So, the weekend wasn't what I planned. Who knows, maybe it was life's way of saying slow down. It was definitely the first time since I moved that I've had chance to sit down and do absolutely nothing. And it was nice, even if my body did feel like it had been hit with a hammer a few times.

(Another side note: Speaking of hammers, an anonoymous reader left a comment on Friday stating tips on using a hammer correctly and that holding it six inches from my face is not a good idea. That was very helpful but I should probably point out that I was exaggerating a little and that I don't really hit a nail that close to my face. I was just making a point about the fact that I'm not great with tools. But thank you, all the same. I will definitely try backing up when I hammer nails in future. Side note over).

Anyway, the long and the short of it is...things could be worse. The driver who hit me was handed accident reports for my car as well as two other cars in front of her. When all is said and done, I suppose I am the lucky one. I got out of it mostly unscathed. My car can be fixed and I got to do nothing this weekend. I got to slow down and be spontenously lazy. That doesn't happen very often.

So, when all is said and done, maybe this is a good start to a Monday morning. Maybe I am more chipper than expected. And maybe, just maybe, the week is starting with promise and hope. I mean, the insurance company promised they'd help me get my car fixed and I'm hoping they do so...maybe life does turn out the way you plan it, just not in the way you expect. I suppose it makes it more interesting though, doesn't it?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday, Food and Random Thoughts....

So, it's Friday and it's raining. I love that. I got to lie in bed this morning and listen to the rain. Granted, when I first woke up and hear it, it actually didn't sound like rain against my window; it sounded like someone was in my flat. As you can imagine, I was a little alarmed. I thought about reaching for my hammer. I keep a hammer by my bed as a weapon. It's probably not effective as a gun or even a baseball bat but it makes me feel better to have it so close by. The only slight problem with that is that I can't actually hit a nail when it's 6 inches from my face without missing so there might be a slight flaw in my self-defense mechanism.

However, that digression aside, it's Friday. I like Fridays. My favourite time is Friday evenings; they're my favourite day of the weekend because the entire weekend is in front of me and it's two whole days before I have to go back to work. I'm usually a bit of a lump on Friday nights. I watch a movie or TV, read and enjoy the fact that there's no work the next day. Sometimes I do go out but, mostly, I try not to do things on Friday nights except for a happy hour or something.

When I was younger, Friday nights were our family "Eating Out" night. The six of us would cram in my dad's car and go eat out. I used to love wondering where we'd eat. We had just moved from the UK and eating out was a novelty that we didn't have in England- it was WAY more expensive to have McDonalds or pizza there and, actually, was harder to come by. Nowadays, there is as much fast food there as here but back then, you actually had to hunt to find a McDonalds, if you can imagine. And I'm not even that old. So, when we moved to the U.S. and we got to eat out, it was a very awesome thing. I hadn't yet developed my affinity for more exotic foods like Mexican, Chinese, sushi or Italian (and when you had the palette that I did as a teen, Italian was exotic. Let's just say I was a picky eater). Most of the time, we ended up at Pizza Hut. My dad liked it. We'd order a big pizza, usually with pepperoni, maybe breadsticks and salad bar.

Then again, now that I'm thinking about it, when I do eat out with my parents, we still go to Pizza Hut the majority of the time and we order pepperoni pizza. dad is definitely a creature of habit...

It's funny how things change when you get older. Back in high school, I loved eating out. Now, I consider it a treat to get to eat my mum's cooking. She's a fantastic cook. Her roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes is the best. Ever. My dad cooks too but he watches the Food Network a bit too much and has a tendency to think he's Maria Batali or Emeril. This is quite nice when he makes something from scratch but often, he likes to open a bag of pre-made something and fry it up. Then he watches you eat , eagerly waiting for feedback. It's hard to give good feedback on a bag of frozen Jimmy Dean breakfast skillet mix that is a bit revolting to begin with. Not to say that he can't cook because he can. He bakes the best bread. I'm hoping his affinity for breadmaking comes back around because that was my favourite of his cooking phases. But, when he does cook from scratch, it is usually delicious. So, in all my teasing, I have to say, I love eating at my parents'. Between my mum and dad, I always get fed nicely before I head home.

So, back to my original topic: my love of Friday evenings goes back many years. Which is why I'm happy it's a Friday evening tonight. It hasn't been a fantastic week. It hasn't been bad per se but it's been long and a little stressful. I'm still the New Monkeypants in town since I've only been in my new place/job for a few weeks. It can get a little lonely but I am lucky enough to have a good family and friends who are there for me. So, I'm hoping that it keeps raining for when I head home tonight. Then I can sit on my new sofa (which I love), turn on my fake-fireplace-heater thing (which I love) and watch a movie or two or read. I'm reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at the moment. It's the second time. Harry Potter is my security blanket; the movies and books are the best escape when life becomes too much of a reality. I'm enjoying the book. It's everything that Breaking Dawn isn't. J.K. Rowling lives in a world in which bad things happen, a world in which there is consequences for our actions. Her werewolves kill and maim and when a normal, good human becomes a werewolf, he hates the brutality within; he doesn't fall in love with a baby and live happily ever. I'd rather have the reality, thank you. Fairy tales are nice but even the Grimm brothers didn't always believe in a happy ending.

Uh, so...about that digression thing I do...If you can't tell, I didn't really have a topic for this blog. So it's random musing. Which is why the title is "Random Musings from Captain Monkeypants". And it's Friday. And my iPod has just reminded me that I have something way more embarrassing than Kelly Clarkson on it. I have the Jonas Brothers. And yes, they are the teen band du Jour, gracing the cover of Teen Beat as we speak. In my defense, it's a cover of "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, It's a Pirate's Life for Me" which I downloaded for a pirate-themed party and liked before I realized it was the Jonas Brothers. I forgot I had it. My iPod clearly didn't.

So, on this rainy Friday, I shall settle in to begin working, my cup of vile office coffee in my hand because I didn't get chance to make tea, my iPod selecting whatever it wants and be happy that in a few short hours, I can go home and relax. Because the other nice thing about Fridays it that they're the end of the week which means Monday will be a whole new week full of promise and hope.

I hope I see it that way on Monday.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Revenge of the iPod

So, it's morning again but it's a Thursday. I like Thursdays. They're almost as good as Fridays. Mostly because a Thursday evening means I get to watch "Grey's Anatomy" and "The Office". The problem with Thursdays, though, is that I usually stay up way too late because I tell myself, "It's ok, you've only got one more day before you can sleep in." Which, inevitably, results in me being exhausted on Friday night and just wanting to hibernate for the evening. Yet I do it almost every week. It's a vicious cycle.

I was going to make this a more writer-y blog today. Then I put my iPod on and I realized that I didn't want to be deep. Instead, I think my iPod deserves its own blog.

My iPod is an iPod mini. In the world of new technology, my iPod is a senior citizen. I bought it off my sister back about four, maybe five, years ago. She wanted to upgrade to a full sized iPod and I just wanted to listen to music so it worked out nicely. Well, for a couple of months anyway. My first iPod mini would freeze as it booted up. I couldn't play music. I still had a warranty so I sent it to Apple who sent me a new iPod mini in its place.

Until recently, my iPod was one of the possessions I had that I couldn't do without. i wore it at work to cut out the background chatter and focus. I wore it when I went places to write. I wore it when I walked. You get the picture. It was like a pet...except it made less mess and only required its battery to be charged when it was running low on energy.

Lately, however, my iPod has been showing signs of dementia. I think its age is showing. I think in iPod years that my iPod is about 100 years old. Probably older. (One year of human life = 25 iPod years. Yes, that's a very scientific number that I just made up, thank you very much).

It's stopped letting me take control of its playlist. Instead, it controls me. We used to be in sync; if I was having a bad day and I'd put iPod on "shuffle', it always managed to find the angriest songs on my iPod, heavy on the Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson and REM ("Bad Day" is an excellent song for when you're having....a bad day). When i was feeling hyper and energetic, my iPod would shuffle into the punk stuff on my iPod, the Ramones, Stiff Little Fingers and, of course, Green Day. When I was melancholy, it was heavy on the Beethoven, Linkin Park again, Coldplay...whatever suited my mood. You get the point. My iPod got me, it understood me.

And, well, these days...I have no say. For a start, my touch wheel doesn't work. I can get it to work but I have to "mash" it. Mashing it means I put the iPod on 'hold' (you iPod owners know what I mean by that) and then just mash the scroll wheel for a moment or two. I push it a lot. Most of the time, I get control of the scroll wheel after this. Well, at least for a few minutes, anyway. So, I usually manage to get enough control to hit 'shuffle' so at least I have some music playing; it just means I'm at the mercy of my iPod.

I knew it was over yesterday though. I mashed the wheel because my iPod had decided to play all of the embarrassing songs in its files. And by "embarrassing" songs, I mean the stuff that you don't tell people you actually have on there, the stuff you hide until someone grabs your iPod and starts being nosy. Yes, I have some Kelly Clarkson on my iPod, ok? Yes, I know she was an American Idol but...she's catchy. And, uh, yes, I did have a moment of dementia of my own and I downloaded some of last years American Idol songs on iTunes. So Jason on my iPod.It was a moment of weakness. But I stopped before I downloaded Chikeze, I promise! But that's most of my 'embarrassing stuff' except, maybe, Bon Jovi's "New Jersey" album which I downloaded because I was in the mood. But that's not's retro...right?

Anyway, I'm digressing. Again. Or I'm confessing. One or the other. I got excited when iPod decided to play "Calling You," by Blue October. I like that song. My iPod usually doesn't shuffle to it and though I've put it on a playlist so I can hear it when I want, I no longer have enough control of my scroll wheel to try using a playlist. My 'mashing' only lasts long enough for me to select one option. If I try mashing again to continue to my playlist, iPod stops responding. So...when it shuffles to a song I really want to hear, I get excited. When "Calling You" stopped playing, it shuffled to "Starlight" by Muse. I like Muse a lot but I'm a bit burned out on them so I hit the 'back' key to replay "Calling You."

Except iPod didn't go back when I hit the 'back' key. It went forward. I thought that, maybe, I'd hit 'forward' by accident. I hit it again. It went backwards. Again. So, I hit the 'forward' key and, naturally, it started going backwards. So, I sighed and realized iPod was just being tempermental, decided to go along with it and attempted to get back to Blue October. Except then BOTH keys decided to start going backwards, WAY past Blue October and all the way back to the Kelly Clarkson stack of songs it had played earlier. I couldn't get my iPod to skip the songs. Clearly, it really wanted to hear Kelly Clarkson. I was its active audience.

I'm trying not to believe it's punishing me for the fact that I tend to be a little obsessive. If I like a song, I repeat it, over and over. Recently, it's been Coldplay's "Viva la Vida". iPod rarely shuffles to that song anymore. I also do have the entire Green Day catalogue on it, including a Japanese import. It doesn't like Green Day much and when it does shuffle, it's always to the Green Day songs I like least. I know I've abused it a little, forcing it to play the same playlist of five songs for five hours straight. I've apologised but, alas, it no longer seems to hear me.

I tried again this morning, realizing the the scroll wheel was not working at all. With the aid of a paperclip, I have managed to get some functionality back. So far, I can move forward and backwards. I still can't adjust the volume but I rarely get to do that anymore and since I managed to get it at a nice soft yet audible level, I will NOT complain. I am afraid to complain; sometimes, I actually have to plug it into its power cord just to get it to boot up, even when it's still got a full battery. I'd hate to think what it would do if I complained about something so minor as my not having control over the volume.

iPod seems to be in an Oldies mood today. So far, it's shuffled to the Beatles at least five times as well as my "Across the Universe" soundtrack, also Beatles songs but with the actors from the movie singing. I'm not complaining about that- I love that soundtrack. It's also playing a lot from "Juno". I guess it's feeling very free and quirky today.

The thing is, I'm not feeling so quirky today. Maybe I will later. It's too early to tell.

Then again, my iPod just started playing Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You." Maybe it's time to get a new iPod.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Deer, Dexter, and the Darkness within...

So it was another frosty morning today, seriously frosty. However, because it's Wednesday and not Monday, I had enough mental faculties to actually leave the lovely warmth of my flat and go downstairs to start my car. I also managed to put the kettle on so I could make a cup of tea. I don't know why I dind't think about doing that before. I love tea. I even have a tea drawer. It's a drawer. Filled with tea. I have a lot of flavours. My favourite though is still good old PG Tips with milk and sugar. What can I say? I'm British, genetically wired to drink tea and loathe the French.

So I'm drinking the tea. I can't say I truly loathe the French though. As a group, I have a healthy bias towards them, especially when I read the history between Britain and France. Now, granted, Britain wasn't exactly, um, nice to France either. I mean, face it, we were a pretty ruthless lot. And yes, we did try to take their country over more than a couple of times. We even succeeded once or twice (Go, Henry VIII!). I like Henry the VIII...well, except when he started going mad and chopping off his wife's heads. He fascinates me. Awful man and yet...intriguing. . He was always trying to take over France. And I'm sure he liked tea too. See, I can't help it? My roots are deep.

Anyway, I digress. If you haven't noticed, I'm really good at digressing. It's a speciality of mine. So, while I was making my tea, I took a look outside my patio doors. It was finally light enough to see outside. I have a lovely view of some woods. This morning, there were three deer, loping through the field that overlaps the apartment property line. They were the first deer I've seen since I've moved. They were big deer. I took a moment to admire them and be excited that I was seeing deer in the field and then my brain said, "I hope no one shoots them."

Now, this disturbed me. I mean, here I was, looking at nature's creations in their natural habitat. They were just out for a morning stroll, I'm sure. I was fortunate enough to see them. The ground was silver with its frozen top layer, there were fingers of glittery ice frosted on my window and now there were deer. It was a beautiful thing. And yet, my brain didn't stop to think about all that. It just wanted to make sure that there wasn't going to be a Bambi's mother-type-tragedy.

I suppose it's not that abnormal. I mean, I do watch "Dexter." It's a show about a sociopathic serial-killer. Dexter only kills bad people though; his targets are criminals who would strike again and again because they slip through the legal system and are relased back onto the streets. Dexter stops them, stalking his prey until it's time to strike. When he strikes, it's precise and clean, almost always planned and plotted. He usually slices their throats. It's quick and slightly messy, a contradiction to the way he captured his victims. And, week after week, I root for Dexter to kill someone. When he doesn't, it's disappointing and I feel cheated. Michael C. Hall does such an awesome job of playing Dexter; there are nuances to his character that are perfect. He's likeable and brilliant. Yet he's a murderer, a serial killer.

I think the reason I love Dexter is because almost all of us have a bit of a dark streak in us. We let it lay dormant though it might express itself in fights with loved ones, bad days at work, playing those shoot-em-up video games a bit too enthusiastically. I let it come out when I write; I let all the darkness inside of me flow into a scene or a character and the darkness is no longer inside me, I've fed the beast, so to speak. Other people have other ways of feeding their beasts. You can read the innuendo into that, if you like. It's all tied together. Just ask Freud. But, regardless, everyone has their ways. Dexter acts on his darkness, which, coincidentally, he calls his "Dark Passenger."

I tried reading the "Dexter" books but the character felt flat, over-the-top. I pictured him looking like the Dexter on TV and the characters didn't quite mesh. The Dexter on my TV has a grace to him, a balletic way of letting the Dark Passenger take over. The Dexter in the book lacked that, I think. As a writer, I shouldn't be endorsing that you watch TV instead of reading but, in this case, I don't think there's any harm. After all, the books were the reason the TV show came into being so yay, Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter series.

The reason I like Dexter is that he allows us to live vicariously through him. He's a sociopath so killing doesn't bother him. It would bother us. Even in our darkest periods, few of us really want to see the blood on our hands and reap the consequences of what we sew. For Dexter, always eluding discovery or detection of his bad habit of murding people, it's just something he has to do to quiet that the dark tide that washes over him and blinds him to everything but his need to satisfy the urge to kill. I don't want to kill and I don't have urges so dark I'd even imagine it. But Dexter is a fantasy show, one that lets me escape into a world that sneakily and bemusedly presents him as a hero, doing away with the scum of the earth so that it's safer for the good

So, back to the deer in the field...I think the reason my brain was worried about them getting shot is because it's likely they could be. Hunters are everywhere, Dexter-like in their stalking of their prey, fulfilling a need within to capture and conquer their victims. Those deer aren't guilty though, like Dexter's victims. At least, I don't think so though their could be a whole secret subsociety of deer living in the woods in which Killer Deer could be lurking. Oh, deer. (ok, that was bad...I couldn't resist).

I don't want those deer to get shot or killed. I like to see them ambling across the field. I like to watch them, unobserved, as the simplicity of their life infects mine, just for a moment or two.

So maybe my brain was right to hope they didn't get shot. It definitely gave me something to digress about. I never did like made me sad. Funny how my morals feel guilty about a dead deer but allow me to enjoy the craft of a fictional serial killer.

Then again, I do come from a place that produced Henry VIII, a man who solved marital difficulties by decapitation. Rule Brittania!

Monday, October 20, 2008

To self-publish or not to self-publish...

It's Tuesday. It feels better than a Monday, at least. My car wasn't frozen over this morning. Also a good thing. Always look on the bright side of life...That Monty Python, so full of wisdom...

So, I'm debating the question that faces many writers who don't achieve immediate success: Should I self-publish? I've gone over it in my head. And over it some more. And then even more. The thing is, I know that self-publishing is regarded almost with pity by people in the publishing world as well as by other authors. The assumption is that a writer couldn't get his or her book published commercially and so in order to see his or her name in print, he or she turned to self-publishing.

Yet, to me, that assumption is like every other stereotype, begun in truth but distorted to the point that no one considers that the target of the stereotype can grow, can evolve. And while stereotypes will always exist, they are not the only way to view a person, place or thing.

I admit, as I did in my earlier post, that I've been rejected quite a few times. Yet, mostly, it's for short stories. I've dabbled with trying to find an agent for my books. I've sent a couple of queries to publishers. But it's like I'm merely sticking my toes in the pool of the publishing industry, I haven't dived in and got completely soaked.

Partially, it's because I'm scared to death. My novels are, to use a bit of a cliche, a bit like my children. I love them. My characters are very real to me and I've discovered that even when I finish a novel, they never quite leave me. Sometimes that's quite nice. Sometimes, it makes me look a little nuts. Either way, I owe it to them to get their story right, to make sure it gets into the world properly. And, as I mentioned, I'm scared to death of putting my work out there, of seeing my work discussed on message boards like's. I'm a lurker on those boards. I love to read the discussions on books I've read, particularly Stephanie Meyer's. But those readers are brutal. I participated in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest last year (and do NOT let me get started on what a debacle that whole thing was). But one thing I did enjoy was the sense of community on those boards from the other contestants. What they said was funny, clever and brutal. But they were right. Same as when I read the comments on "Breaking Dawn", those people can be be harsh but...yet....mostly, they're dead-on.

They scare me because these are the folks who might read my books. But, on the flip side, if they like my work, I'm in. And, for that reason, they're part of the reason I am considering self-publishing. But more on that in a bit...

The publishers are the ones who truly scare me though. Not because they'll make me change my work, edit it beyond recognition but because they're very hung up on money. They have to be. It's why the massive publishing houses have eaten up all the nice little ones that actually gave new writers a chance. Try getting a manuscript to Random House without an agent and see what I mean. Short of an Oprah endorsement, without an agent AND credentials, it's hopeless. It's like being the Little Match Boy or can stare in the windows and see the dream but you're still left out in the cold.

And, once they get hold of your book, there's no guarantee they'll care. Let's take, for example, my current favourite subject for a rant, Ms. Meyer. She was allowed to publish "Breaking Dawn" as she wrote it. ANY publisher, agent or editor who took their time to see beyond their cash cow and realize their was a huge fanbase at stake would have stopped when they got the manuscript. They would have sent it back to her, politely saying, "This isn't going to work. We need you to take a step back from what your personal needs and wants and go back to the story you originally began." They wouldn't have let her publish the badly-written, self-indulgent, character-assasinating book that is now in stores. This is why I actually feel bad for Stephanie and the backlash she's receiving. It is partially her fault but not completely. Someone should have stopped her, someone should have coached her. They didn't.

This is why I'm scared of publishers. There aren't enough of them and the ones that are left are too big and powerful.

My logic for considering self-publishing is inspired by someone I consider to be a fantastic writer, though he doesn't write in novel or short story format. He's primarily a TV writer: Joss Whedon. He's the writer of Buffy, Angel and Firefly. And before you scoff, I challenge you to watch Buffy, particularly episodes like "The Body," "Restless," or "Becoming" and tell me he isn't bloody brilliant. Recently though, Joss wrote "Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog." He did it because he was disillusioned by the TV network that never gave his shows a fair chance and cancelled them because they didn't care enough to keep them alive. They would air his shows, then preempt them for a couple of weeks and start moving the changing the timeslot for the show. It never gave viewers a chance to get invested or to be able to follow them. Then, with little warning, the show would get cancelled because it had no audience. At least, that's what happened with "Firefly". So he made "Dr. Horrible." He wrote the short 45-minute musical in three segments with the help of his family. He cast Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day (all of whom were fantastic) and filmed it on his own, with no studio support. Then he released it on the web.

It was a smash; fans brought down the server immediately with their eagerness to see the show. I think it's still making money on iTunes and is going to be released on DVD soon.

I had the pleasure of getting to see the "Dr. Horrible" panel at Comic-Con this year. Joss was there and, as always, was hilarious and charming. When asked what would happen if his newest show ("Dollhouse") got cancelled, he diplomatically pointed out that he'd found a way to make shows and give them directly to the audience without having to go through the studios and that was, most likely, going to happen more and more.

He inspired me. He made me wonder what would happen if I took one of my books and did the same thing. What if I released it directly to the people who would read it and enjoy it? I have a good friend who is a high school English teacher and she thinks that her students would enjoy a particular book I wrote, one that teenages could relate to and understand. I'm debating using Lulu or another company to try printing my book, to let her distribute it, to start my own 'grassroots' campaign for my book. After all, these are my audience. I'm not worried about making tons of money on my work...I just want people to read it. Would those scary but awesome people on the Amazon message boards receive me gracefully or would they turn on me and attack a work that is near and dear to my heart? Or would my book fall, quietly unobserved into the void of unread books? I don't know but it might be worth finding out.

The downside, is that I'd forever be labeled as an author who had to self-publish, regardless of my reasons. If I ever wanted to get an agent, I'd have that on my head. It's a toss up.

Yet, Joss did it with his show. Granted, the show was brilliant- I mean, what show where the good-guy, superhero can say "The hammer is my penis" with a completely straight face, wouldn't be brilliant? But the fact remains, he cut out the middleman. It worked.

Maybe it would work for me too.

Monday mornings...

So it's Monday morning and it feels like a Monday morning. I always find it strange that Mondays have their own unique feel. Even when a Tuesday is a Monday, it never feels the same, probably because a long weekend manages to wring out the badness of a Monday by the sheer bliss of having an extra day to do whatever you like.

But there's something about Mondays. They loom over us on a Sunday evening, invading those last hours of freedom we have before we're back to the office or back to school. Even if we try to enjoy our Sunday night, there's a strange curfew on our freedom; we know we should go to bed earlier, not have that last glass of wine, not watch that episode of a TV show that we have on DVD that can really wait until the next day but is so tempting. I don't know about you but Sunday nights are the one evening where I stop myself from reading that extra chapter of book or watching that TV show episode because I know that when my alarm goes off on Monday morning, I will regret it. And why start off the week with regret?

It never matters though; the alarm still goes off too soon (when you actually remember to set the alarm: See below). It still is incredibly difficult to unbury yourself from the blankets and actually put your feet on the floor. I like it when there's good stuff on the radio that I can lie in bed and listen to for ten minutes. Unfortunately, here in Ohio, I haven't found a good radio show. I was spoiled by Kevin and Bean in L.A., two snarky, witty, smart men who have the same dry sense of humour as me and who never failed to make me gasp at some of their bluntness and snide remarks. They also often managed to tap into a part of my brain in which I agreed with them. They could be crude but they were usually funny and they played good music. Here, I'm stuck with "Two Angry Guys" from Cincinnati- which sounds mostly like 'One Angry Guy who really just likes the sound of his own voice and is NOT funny nor smart and really needs something other than sports and the election to babble about'. I keep flipping but there's no other channel that plays non-country music. I think Satellite Radio is in my future.

I digress. It's Monday morning...I'm allowed to digress. I'm already on my second cup of coffee.

So, here's my Monday so far....I forgot to set my alarm and though I was awake anyway, I didn't have the luxury of hitting the snooze button which, somehow, always makes me feel slightly better; it's like cheating the day or something, even for just nine more minutes. Then I discovered it had frosted overnight and though it meant the world outside my window was a glittery landscape of white and silver, it also meant my car was iced over. My car hasn't been iced over before. Ever. She's a car from Southern California and I feel a little guilty that she's been ripped from her nice balmy climate to one that can be slightly harsh. However, she's here and I'm here and that's that. I had to scrape. I might have an ice-scraper somewhere; I think I kept it for sentimental reasons when I moved to L.A. Now I need it again and I think it's in one of those boxes that I still haven't unpacked yet- one of those boxes with non-essential stuff in it that will get unpacked when I feel like it. So I used a piece of cardboard. It worked.

I made it to work and it definitely feels like a Monday. People are trickling in, sluggish, exchanging weekend stories when they run across another coworker. The coffee pot is already empty and I really want another cup. I really need my own coffee maker. The coffee in this office is a little vile. I drink it because, face it, when you need coffee, almost any coffee will do. But I quite fancy waking up to the smell of roasting coffee when the weather is cold outside and I know I'm going to have to throw my coat on, start my car, and then go back upstairs to get ready for work.

My coworkers are quietest on Mondays though- they have meetings to go to, projects to get moving because they didn't quite finish on Friday afternoon when the promise of two days of freedom loomed too brightly to finish up tidily. All things can wait until Monday...until Monday comes and you realize that you probably should have done it on Friday or, for the really ambitious, you probably should have done the work over the weekend like you promised yourself you would. I'm guilty. I like weekends...They're to get away from work, not take it with you.

I'm rambling...again. I blame it on the fact that it's a Monday morning. I don't know what the rest of the day holds but I do know that there's one nice thing about Mondays- they lead to Monday evenings...which means I can take a bath, make a nice dinner and watch some so-bad-it's-awesome TV in the form of "Prison Break" and know that there isn't another Monday morning for a week.

I can usually find the bright spot...unless it's hidden under a layer of frost. Then I just have to scrape to find it.

I need more coffee....Happy Monday.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Brains and Rain

I think I feel like being lyrical today. Either that or the stark contrast of my very sort of left-brained job is leaving me empty of spontaneity and creativity. I was supposed to be born in March under a much more 'creative' sign but was born prematurely in January and fell under Capricorn instead. I think this might have made me a bit confused- I'm supposed to be very logical and organized but also love to write and make things up. I even took a quiz here for fun: and discovered that I am 53% right brained and 47% left brained. So thus, I supposedly use both sides of my brain. I just think there might be a big gap in the middle and this is where all useful facts and figures go and are replaced, instead, by a horribly unuseful portion that retains pop culture facts that have little bearing on life whatsoever. Trust me...I can still name all the original members of Def Leppard but ask me who the governer of my new home state, Ohio, is, even though I read it on the State sign every time I leave the state to visit my family in Indiana, and I am completely lost., I started todays blog because I realized how much I miss rain. I've been living in So. Cal. for a little under eight years and it rarely rains there. It does rain sometimes, usually between January and April. Sometimes this rain is so heavy, the streets flood and the freeways become like skating rinks because the nine-months of oil and grime have built up and finally get the chance to rise to the surface of the road. Good news for the cleanliness of the asphalt but not so much for drivers. But it doesn't rain much there. And I have missed rain so much. Don't get me wrong, I like a bit of sun too- I'm no vampire. But I love contrast- sometimes people just need rain. They don't even know it but they do. It's for those days in which you feel all messy inside and out, the days in which you spend twice as long in front of the mirror, everyone tells you that you look good and yet you feel like you're under a cloud. There's an episode of a rather silly, rather awesome episode of the Flumps, a British puppet show from my youth. In the episode, Perkin, the oldest son of the Flumps, feels all day that he's under a rain cloud and is in a foul mood. His little brother, Pootle, tries hard to make the cloud go away, chasing it, tricking it, etc. Yet nothing works until something makes Perkin laugh so hard that the cloud goes away. (side note, saying "Pootle" still makes me laugh like I'm five).

What I'm trying to say is that sometimes, even though it may seem bad, we all need those clouds. We need those clouds to rain because then it makes us appreciate the sun or, in Perkin's case, the chance to laugh. Granted, Perkin laughed at the fact that there was a turnip stuck in his Grandpa's Flumpophone (the Flump version of a French Horn/saxophone combo- I think it was a Flumpophone but it was something like that, anyway) but the thing is, he laughed. It's a simple thing but, because it chased the cloud away, it meant something. It meant something that Pootle wanted to help cheer up Perkin. It mean something that Perkin realized that sometimes, there are clouds that loom over us and seem like they're never going to go away but, when they do, he realized how nice it was for the sun to be shining and the cloud to be gone.

For me, rain is more of a cleansing thing. It washes away the dirt and grime and gives the world a chance to take a deep breath and escape indoors for a while. It gives me an excuse to curl up with a mug of tea and do a jigsaw, or write, or watch an endless marathon of bad t.v. or movies. It gives me a chance to not feel guilty that I can't enjoy the pretty day outside. It lets me recharge and renew something, no matter how small, inside me. I've always found that my writing is better when it rains, particularly when I'm writing a dark, sad or angry scene. Have you ever tried to kill a character you love when it's sunny and beautiful outside? Not easy. For me, it's not possible. It tends to rain when I kill characters. That'll be another blog, some other time. But regardless, if I love a character enough, I can't make the sun shine when he dies. It's not fair. I'm ok killing minor characters on a sunny day, of course but not the ones who are deep inside me, whose voice is really telling the story.

Since I've moved to Ohio, it's rained once. I've been here over three weeks. It wasn't even a good, heavy rain. It was a mist that lasted a couple of hours. It was enough then but now I'm missing it. And though people keep telling me to be careful what I wish for, that rain (and snow) will come soon enough, I can't wait. I can't wait to curl up and hear the rain and wind blow against my windows and doors, wrap myself up in my oversized-cardigan with my hands curled around a cup of steaming tea and know that when the rain is gone and the sun comes back, the edges of the world will look a little crisper and brighter, the air fresh and new again.

It's one of the many reasons I left the washed-out, cement ridden world of L.A. for the quiet peace of the Midwest. Bring on the rain, I say, bring it on!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Random questions...

So, I don't feel like being too deep today. Maybe it's 'cause it's Thursday and my day is about getting my work done so I can go home and watch TV tonight. Maybe it's 'cause I'm tired. Who knows? Anyway, I decided to blog anyway because it's a good habit and that way, I'm at least writing, even if I'm not writing my next story for rejection (and yes, this means I'm not quite over being rejected yet. It usually takes a couple of days. It used to take longer.)

So, I figured I'd just through some questions I have for the world, out there to the Interweb. It's a bit like tossing a penny into a body of water- you know you'll never get what you wish for but just have to.

Which, actually, I'll make my first question.

1. Why do people throw money into random bodies of water? I mean, I get the whole wishing well thing but it's a fountain at the mall- seriously...and at the zoo- I've seen people throw money into the penguin pool. What, you think the penguin looks broke? Penguins don't go shopping. They might eat the money and then choke to death and die. Do you REALLY want that on your head?

2. I saw an Amish lady with a carseat last week. Why? For anyone who doesn't know, the Amish follow a very old-fashioned way of life in which they aren't allowed to use modern conveniences such as cars, electricity and microwave ovens. They have horse and buggies to get around. So, if they can't drive cars, why is the baby in a carseat?

3. Fashion...why? I saw a girl wearing leggings under jeans under a skirt today. What, she couldn't make up her mind what she wanted to wear so she wore all three? Or how about the girls wearing Uggs with a tank top, mini skirts and scarves? I don't get it.

4. Where are Green Day? I love Green Day- they're my favourite band. And now they've dropped off the planet after doing a couple of shows and one album under one of their alter egos, The Foxboro Hottubs. I miss Green Day.

5. Why do I now like Coldplay? I spent years disliking Chris Martin's whiny voice and now I actually get happy if I hear them on the radio. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? (oh, wait, I don't think I want that one answered....)

6. Who can really ride a bike with no handlebars? Is it that the bike is really a unicycle and has no handlebars or do the Flobots really mean they don't hold onto the handlebars when they ride a bike?

7. Why is toast so tasty? And how come people don't like toast? I think I might be a little suspicious of anyone who doesn't like toast. Toast is one of my favourite creations. Ever.

8. Why don't we make the election more like American Idol? Millions of people watch that show. Maybe if Simon Cowell had a go at the candidates, people would actually vote. Hey, you know what'd be good? Having Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsey on a panel- brutal but fun.

9. Why did Borders stop sending me text messages with coupons in them? I miss that. It was the coolest thing to go to Borders and show them the coupon on my phone. Now I actually have to remember to cut out the coupon and take it to the store. All that extra effort...sigh...

10. Why does Olive Garden charge $5.95 for soup, salads and breadsticks at lunch but charges $9.95 for it at dinner time? It's not like 'all you can eat' changes from one time to the next. It's not like they give you anything extra. It's. The. Same. Amount. Of. Food.

Ok, so I'm sure I'll probably do this again. I always have questions. I don't always get answers but, like I said, I thought I'd throw 'em out there never hurts...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rejection is not pretty...

This isn't going to be another post about Breaking Dawn. Sometimes, I just need a pick-me-up and spewing venom about BD is very good for that.

Then again, at the moment, I might need a pick me up. I got rejected again last night. The thing is, it's for a story that I know is good. I don't like to toot my own horn and say I'm a good writer and that everything I write is good. It's not. I've written some real crap in my time. I still write real crap. Quite often, actually. But sometimes, when I write something, it just clicks. I've given it to a few people to read, people who aren't likely to tell me it's good if it sucks and I've had nothing but praise and good feedback on this story.

And yet....rejected again.

It's times like this that I hate being a writer. I've been rejected a lot now. I've heard quite a few stories about famous writers and how many times they were rejected. I know that. I get that. I admire that. But it doesn't take away from the fact that rejection sucks and that, at the moment, I am being rejected. I know that all this rejection will make a success seems sweeter because I had to earn it. I write novels, mostly. I've tried to get a couple of them to agents and publishers but I haven't had any luck. I'm unpublished so far and this makes agents and publishers nervous. I don't think many of them like new writers with no credits, it's too much of a gamble. So I took the short story route. It's not my favourite format because I like to sink my teeth into a story, to let the characters unfold at their own pace- short stories don't allow for that quite so much. But I can and do write short stories and I write them about whatever I want. I tend to like stories that are....stories. I like something to happen, not for it to be a five-page musing about how barren the landscape is. There are a lot of those landscape stories being published by the literary magazines. There are also lots of stories about bad parents, bad events, sad histories. I don't like to write about those. I like to make stuff up. There's nothing I like better than a good piece of fiction. I don't necessary like all of the genres; while I like a bit of Harry Potter or Raymond Feist type fantasy, I get awfully bored with too much spec fiction. I like a bit of well-written Chick-Lit but not the over-sexed, Bridget-Jones imitations that have flooded the market. I like a good vampire story but ever since Joss Whedon gave us "Buffy", everything else tends to pale in comparison.

But when it comes down to it, the writers I love most are the ones who have succeeded against the odds, writers who defy literature and actually entertain me. When i look at my favourites: J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King (especially in his earlier days) and Orson Scott Card, i realize that none of them writes about the landscape or waffles on about the beauty of an endless summer night. Instead, they tell me a story; they don't trip up over word choice and, because of it, I think they're better writers. Neil Gaiman particularly can be very poetic and lyrical but I don't think he actually tries, I think it just happens because of the nature of his storytelling.

And that's the kind of writer I want to be. I want to be the sort of writer who has fans who get irritated if I don't publish a new novel when they expect it. I don't want to win a Pulitzer prize. I just want people to enjoy my stuff.

So maybe I should lay off Breaking Dawn for a while. Because when it comes down to it, Stephanie Meyer is that kind of writer too. She has fans and WOW, does she have fans. I've met them. They terrify me. But at least she has them. And though I don't care for her storytelling nor her writing, I admire that she is where she is and, above all, she gets young people to read.

And she's not getting rejected. I am. And maybe it's wrong of me to pick on her so much when it could all be construed as sour grapes on my part. Maybe I am jealous that she has the success she has because I'm tired of being rejected. I know rejection is part of the uphill climb and that when I'm at the top looking down, it'll all seem so trivial but for now, every step I take is thwarted and I sometimes feel like turning around and going back to the bottom of the hill and finding something easier to do.

But the climb is kind of fun and the obstacles of rejection just make it a little more interesting, I suppose.

If only they didn't sting so much.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Friends Don't Let Friends Read "Breaking Dawn"

So in my introductory blog, I mentioned that I will rant and rave and that I plan on doing it a lot. I think it only fair to begin with ranting about one of the worst books I've ever read in my entire life (and thus most likely spurn the wrath and argument of those that refuse to see the book in its true, non-sparkly light).

That books is Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer, a writer who I absolutely guarantee will probably get more than one blog entry here. Mostly likely, Breaking Dawn will get more than one entry here. I can't help myself. It's too easy.

Let me explain. I started reading the "Twilight" series on the recommendation of a friend who has rather good taste in fiction. Being an (early) thirty-something, I was intrigued at first. Granted, I could see the Anne Rice-isms. I could see that it wasn't exactly Pulitzer Prize quality writing but I was entertained. Though I'm jaded and burned from the men of my past, I could see the draw of Twilight. Who didn't want their own gothic hero when they were sixteen? What girl wasn't Bella Swann, awkward, clumsy and completely unsure of herself when she was sixteen? Though I couldn't get passed the fact that Bella was huge drip with no real personality, I kept reading because I still understood the draw. Then I got to Eclipse and realized that Bella was pathetic and even if I'd been sixteen when I'd read these books, I would still have thought so. She wanted to kill herself because her guy had left. Her life was over. Don't get me wrong... I got her despair, I got her depression. Stephanie Meyer did that part well- I competely understood how Bella felt, not knowing why life had any meaning, not knowing why she should respond to the continuing life around her. It sucks when that happens...but it does. But I HATE that it happened to Bella because of a boy. I hate that, at the age of sixteen, maybe seventeen, this girl felt that she couldn't live without the love of a perfect man.

I kept going. New Moon was silly. It made me laugh and not for the right reasons. Truth is, I can't actually remember what happened though I know it involved Edward, Jacob (Bella's alternate love) and some vampire daftness. It was mostly Bella wanting to give up her life to become a vampire and be with her Edward forever- romantic but kind of dumb when you examine her life in detail (Cliff Note version: Her life wasn't bad. She had too parents who loved her, human boys who (for undefined reasons) were crazy about her and the hope of an educated future).

Then came Breaking Dawn. And it was bad. was horrendous. It was the indulgent whim of a writer whose agent and publishing company who forgot that a book was for the readers and, instead, saw dollar signs instead of the words. This post is getting long- WAY longer than planned- which means I'll have to continue later. However, here's the truncated version of Breaking Dawn.

  • Bella marries Edward. It's perfect.
  • They go to a perfect island that is on loan from Edwards 'mother', Esme. It's perfect .
  • Bella is still human yet she is so beguiling, she talks Edward into jumping her bones. They have sex and though it is supposed to be amazing, perfect and incredible, it is described with all the detail of a Victorian schoolmistress.
  • She gets pregnant despite the fact that vampires supposedly can't procreate. Edward is afraid and wants to get rid of the baby.
  • Bella decides not to discuss this with her husband and, instead, enlists the aid of Edward's 'sister' who, up until this book, has done little but glower at Bella and resent her for being human.
  • The narration suddenly switches to that of a previously secondary character- Jacob- even though, for the first three books, Jacob has been in the shadows. Jacob hates Edward. A lot. He says so. A lot. He loves Bella. He says that a lot too.
  • Bella is perfect during pregnancy even though she suffers greatly. She suffers silently because that is what Bella does. Her unborn child is too strong for her and almost kills her
  • The birth of the child begins with Bella spewing a fountain of blood and thus setting up a grisly scene. The child is fighting her way out. Bella is a weak human. She is dying from the birth but, fortunately, Edward is nearby and eats through Bella's uterus with his teeth to save the child (and yes, you read that correctly). How romantic, eh?
  • Bella MUST become a vampire or she'll die because, uh, the love of her life ate her uterus with his teeth and she's dying. This perfectly eliminates all those pesky "I can't turn you into a vampire because I'll be killing you!" doubts that Edward had until this moment. It's all rather convenient and noble of him to save her life by turning her into a vampire.
  • When she becomes a vampire, Bella suffers in a very noble silence while she feels as though she's burning to death. She's in great pain but our heroine doesn't want to be a bother and so she just lets herself suffer quietly. After a few days, she's fine and ready to be a vampire.
  • Bella becomes absolutely beautiful upon her vampire transformation. This makes up for the fact that she has a half-vampire daughter and her husband ate her uterus. Also, she's a near-perfect "newborn", strong, fast and yet doesn't crave human blood much despite the fact that even the strongest member of the Cullen family had a few years of bloodlust in which he couldn't be around humans. Bella doesn't need no stinking human blood.
  • Bella's husband gives her a perfect cottage in the woods for the happy vampire/half-vampire family to live. The cottage belonged to Esme, the giver of all places perfect. (see: Isle Esme)
  • The family live happily ever after because Bella singlehandedly takes on the evil vampires that threaten her family/friends and destroys them. Because she's perfect. And strong.
  • Oh, and despite the fact that history has no recollection of any vampire/human pairings, there are, apaprently, quite a few half-vampires living in rainforests and quite happily not killing humans. They just didn't reveal themselves until now. They pick the perfect time.
  • Oh, and uh, yeah- so not only does Bella and Edward's child have one of the worst names in the histories of fiction- Renesmee- but, uh, yeah, her 'uncle' Jacob, seventeen years older, is karmically intended to be the love of her life and mate with her forever. Tell me THAT doesn't have creepy "uncle Ernie" overtones.

That's it, in a nutshell. I'll write more later. I haven't even covered the major plot issues I have with Bella's father and his reaction to her becoming a vampire. Oh, and yes, the (over)use of the word "perfect" in my breakdown is intentional.

Breaking Dawn exhausts me. It's a wonderful exercise for us non-published writers in what NOT to do when you get the chance. Then again, it's probably a good exercise in what NOT to do, even if you are a published writer. But here's a tip- if you're gonna try to be romantic, having your beautiful hero tear his wife's uterus with his teeth is not, um, exactly endearing. It's actually rather disgusting and putrid. For the record, pedophilia is also gross, no matter how quickly your child grows up. I don't completely blame Ms. Meyer- I actually blame her publisher and agent just as much. This is a book that should have remained in a drawer for a year, or at least for long enough for Stephanie Meyer to reread the first three books in the series that she'd written, long enough for her to remember the personalities of the characters. Because, in all honesty, Breaking Dawn, in the opinion of Captain Monkeypants, is a disaster. It is a self-indulgent, piece-of-crap effort that wants money but cares little for the truism of the characters. Shame on you, Stephanie Meyer- listen to your characters, let THEM tell their story, don't try to give them the perfect little ending that YOU believe is right. You started their story, you should have let them end it.

But I'm tired...I'll elaborate on that later.

Joining the Masses...

So, after much debate and consideration, I have decided to blog. This is mostly because I've usually got something to say and this way, I don't have to force those that love me to always listen. Particularly when I rant. Or when I rave. Or I just feel like a good old babble. Which is, pretty often. So, without further ado, I present my blog.

You might have questions. I'll attempt to answer them.

Why Captain Monkeypants?

Answer: I like pirates. A lot. Hence the captain. Monkeypants because the monkey is the only animal cracker to have pants as Oz from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" so wisely pointed out and I like that distinction.'s funny. Monkeypants is a funny word.

Who are you?

Uh, I' I can't say I know who I am absolutely because I'm not sure that's 100% possible. Every time I think I know something about myself absolutely, I discover that it's not quite true. Add all those 'not quite trues' up and you get a certain shifting mist that isn't quite reachable. It keeps life interesting.

But I know this. I am a writer. I may be unpublished, as of yet, but to me, writing is rather like eating; I can skip it but then I'll be crabby, unsatiated and unpleasant to be around. I need it to function and it gets me through the rough times. Writing is my comfort and my joy and it makes me who I am.

I like pop culture. I love books. I have a very dry sense of humour and find words that make me laugh, like Pomona and numbnuts for the sheer fun and silliness of saying them. I love my friends and adore my family. I have a thing for sausage dogs (known to many others as dachshunds) and I love to watch it rain. These are the things I know about me. They may change. Life always changes. It's not a bad thing. It just is what it is. I'll probably blog about it when it happens. I might not. I like being free to decide that.

Why should I care?

You don't have to. But I tend to be sort of entertaining, particularly when I rant and rave. I get quite passionate. I might be a good way to pass the time when you're at work and want to read something that isn't work-related.

And if you have more questions, I might answer them later. I might not. I don't actually know what I'm going to do yet but it'll be fun and slightly off-centre, (which is what my high school yearbook claimed were three words to describe me but then, it also said I was "most likely to be the next Stephen King" and I'm still waiting for THAT to happen so....)

Keep reading. I promise to entertain, enlighten and enrage. You won't be disappointed.