Monday, April 30, 2012

Alexis Read a Book

The debut book blog review is up at Witty Title Here! ... A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Witty Title Here" Resurrected

Hey all! A here! I just dropped by to let you know that I'll be starting a book review project with my other blog in conjunction with our Pod, Tumblr, and Instagram. To learn about the project before it begins {which is soon! I just need to take some pictures!} go visit Witty Title Here and read the latest post! 

Guest Pod with Katie Wood Ruffin

Life as a Writer Mom
with K. D. Wood

The Peas asked me to talk a little bit about balancing my life as a writer alongside being a railroad wife and a mom of to two rambunctious boys. Specifically, what do I as a writer on a daily basis to achieve my version of Work/Life Balance? Is there something in particular I do to balance my life as a writer with my life
For me, every day as a writer and mom involves juggling lots of things. The husband, a home, and the tiny people we share it with. At any given moment, all my responsibilities can be flying through the air at me without so much as a heads up.

One of the main ways I balance my writing is sacrifice. Five nights a week, I’m awake pounding out those words while my family sleeps. My doctors hate this by the way. "You need at least eight hours of sleep every night," they preach. Whatever. Give up my love of writing for sleep? No way, sleep is over-rated. Plus, anyone with kids knows those days of sleeping in and Sunday afternoon naps are over until they reach driving age.
Another piece of my day involves lots of delegation. My older kid cleans up his stuff, his room, his bathroom and puts his laundry away. The five-year-old handles simple tasks like playing the matching game while putting the utensils away, putting his toys away or sorting laundry by colors. For a busy mom, this extra time can be invaluable. 

Here’s a little example of a typical day for the Ruffin’s:

6am: The kids get up and get ready for school. While they dress and eat breakfast, we go over tasks for the afternoon. Then, it’s off to school for them.

7-8am  This is my daily planning hour. I sort my morning messages (FB, Twitter, emails) and reply to the most crucial, tagging more involved ones for answering later. My writing shift materials are prepared for the afternoon review. Then, I usually throw a load of laundry in the washer and set the timer for when I get up from my nap.

8-11am: I nap because I’ve been writing while my family is asleep.

12-2pm:  During lunch, I review my messages again, return phone calls that came in while I slept and make replies to tagged messages. This is also when I do most of my domestic tasks (laundry, cleaning, cooking for the evening and the next day etc.). Another big time saver for me is cooking multiple meals. I never cook just one meal. When we have roast, I prepare two. Chili and soups are a double batch too. That way, I have one for now and one to freeze for later. Also, I chop everything the same day I buy them, then, freeze the ingredients in measured amounts for the intended meals. Dedicating a day to preparing meals that can be frozen saves lots of preparation time for a busy writer.
2-6pm: As I wait in the pickup line for my boys, I use all that quiet to prepare for my writing shift. Those last solid silent thirty minutes are all I’ll get before the boys go to bed. If I’m revising a manuscript then I’ll go over what I wrote the night before and make notes on the draft. I find that my writing goes much faster that way. If I’m working on a rough draft I’ll review my notes or the plot line to decide about the evening’s direction. While the boys are preoccupied with homework and chores, I’ll go through my messages again and make the necessary replies. On a good day I can even work in a trip to the gym before dinner. 

6:30-9:30pm: The hubs comes home from work and we veg out together for a few hours. I plug the Blackberry up in another room, turn off the iPad and computer, and spend a few hours with the three people I work so hard for everyday. 

10pm-2am: After the boys are tucked in, another writing shift starts. I sit down to my computer prepared, rested, and ready to propel the story swirling in my head forward.  After a few hours of bleeding all over the keyboard I’m off to bed until the day starts all over again. 

Reading this I wondered to myself, do I really balance all these things well? Considering that I meet my goals on a regular basis, my house is clean, my children are bringing home all A’s and B’s on their report cards and I’m happier than I’ve ever been, I have to say…yeah. I think I am achieving Work/Life Balance in my own way.   
Do I feel like a failure sometimes? Of course. More often than I’d like to admit, in fact. Do I want to throw my hands up when things get hairy? Sometimes. The better question is, do I ever give up? No, never

One of the important things for me is that I constantly look for ways to make my day run smoothly while achieving my goals. What works for me just works but will be different for you and every other writer you know. Work/Life Balance is so incredibly personal on each level. Most of all, for every person out there attempting to reach their goals, get up, dust yourself off and try again when life knocks you back a step, make your days work in the most efficient way for you. You’ll have your own version of balance. 

K. D. is a young adult paranormal romance writer and avid YA reader located in Hernando, MS. Mother of two and founder of the YA Day can learn more about her on her blog

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guest Pod with Kristall Burke: Part Two

Fifteen Tips for Screenwriting
with Kristall Burke

Screenwriting was something that I just ‘fell into’ about seven years ago, but when I look back at it now it seems like a very natural progression for me. I love movies, I love to write, why not write movies? I have written several screenplays, started even more, but only have two that I would let anyone else read. After my initial attempt at screenwriting, I decided to do my research, a little backwards, I know (grin). My first attempt was a mess. There are two books that really helped me on my journey; ‘Screenplay, The Foundations Of Screenwriting’ by Syd Field and ‘Writing Screenplays That Sell’ by Michael Hauge. I recommend both of these books, the copies I have are older, but both authors are highly reputable in the industry. The beauty of screenplays is that all genres’ can be translated into one, the sky is the limit. I have compiled a list of helpful tips for anyone who may be interested in screenwriting. I am by no means an expert, but these are a few of the things I have learned along the way. Happy screenwriting!

  1. Screenplays have a very strict format. There is an industry standard, right down to the font. There are many books and websites that can provide this information and they will all say the same thing (see above titles). I could fill a page on the tabs, indents, capitalization… but I don’t want to bore you (smile).
  2. Each page of a screenplay roughly translates into one minute of screen time.  For an hour and a half movie you would need 90 pages, a two hour movie would be 120 pages. Very few movies reach the two and a half hour mark or 150 pages.
  3. Visit your local bookstore or library and read other screenplays. I believe this helps to show the ‘rhythm’ of a screenplay and can help you find your own ‘rhythm’.
  4. As with other writings, remember the tenth page is important, this is where you hook your audience.
  5. Within the pages of the screenplay try not to add too many (or any) camera directions and director or actor notes. Within the business of filmmaking there are many creative forces that need to stretch their wings!
  6. If one of your scenes runs past the middle of the page and your next scene will be longer than the space you have left, start a new page. It looks nicer and makes it easier to read.
  7. The dialog of a character should not continue to the next page, unless it is a monologue. I do like to add one good monologue per screenplay, but that’s just me.
  8. Every time the story changes location, start a new scene. Some scenes can be “moving” while driving, running, etc. just be descriptive, so the reader is not lost.
  9. Listen to the voices in your head; these are your characters… I never “write” the end of the screenplay until I get there, the characters can sometimes surprise you as they develop. I know this is more of a “crazy lady” general writing tip, but if it works for you…go with it.
  10. Upon completion of your screenplay, choose 2-3 family members or friends to read it, even if they have never read a screenplay before. I find this helpful in my editing process to check for ‘flow’ and continuity which is important.
  11. Write a synopsis of 50 words or more and a logline (One sentence that entices the reader or movie goers). These two items can be on the same page and will accompany your screenplay.
  12. Print the screenplay, title page and synopsis on three hole paper. Include a cardstock cover with the title and author. Add a cardstock back and bind together with brads. Some places will accept two hole punched paper. This is just another industry standard, the cover will help protect the pages and keep everything together. It feels good in your hands at this point (smile).
  13. In the lower right hand corner of the title page and synopsis type your name, address, phone number, email and website (if you have one). This will be how ‘they’ will contact you.
  14. Copyright your work! The Library of Congress has made it really easy to file online now.
  15. Once you have the copyright, let people read it. Enter a film festival; there are plenty to choose from. The judges are typically producers and may be able to help you get your foot in the door.

Be creative, enjoy what you write and others will too. Thank you.

Friday, April 20, 2012

What I Miss Most

One of the things I miss most about being in a university setting is the accessibility to like minded people. It's really an amazing experience and, in a way, intellectually utopic. It's been almost three years since I graduated with my BA and I miss school. Not because I particularly miss writing papers (or the hour long one-way drive) but because I miss the hallway and coffee shop conversations with my classmates and professors. I miss my peers. I miss having access to all those writers and readers I engaged with daily. 

Developing Pea Swag--Bookmarks Anyone?
I think that's why I like the idea of the blog. But also why I failed at it several times when I'd tried to do one on my own. I like to talk about writing and reading more than anything. And a blog is a venue in which I'm able to engage in that dialog frequently from my home. Without the blog I have to rely on infrequent and quite expensive writers conferences. But I get bored with just my own thoughts and debates. Of course I have my Peas. That's not always enough. And it's not that my Peas aren't terrific smart ladies. But having access to intellectual and cognitive diversity is a wondrous thing. Which is why I've made a push to pull other voices into our blog. Not just so you, our imaginary readers, don't get bored with us. But, because I, your M Pea in the pod, am already bored with myself.

Along with the launch of my three part blog project with friend and award-winning screenwriter Kristall Burke, I plan to engage with others in interviews and blog prompts, as I can, to keep myself (and hopefully you) entertained. We, of course, have the occasional visit from Honorary Pea J.G. Walker but I hope to introduce you to many more of the writers and readers in a Pea's life. We hope to have Kristall come back, also tap into conversations with other writers we know, and introduce you to the many wonderful readers in our lives. 

Which brings me to a series I will launch week after next and the upcoming Friday blog post next week. I have a few writer blogs in the works and several posts that will involve a twelve (or more) question interview with several readers from many walks of life.

So stay tuned on Fridays for the next few weeks and we will see how this goes. I hope you enjoy the peek into other's thoughts and ideas as much as I do. Until then…

Peas to you

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Daddy's Girl Weekend 2012

That's right! This past weekend was the Carolyn Haines Annual Daddy's Girls' Weekend Writer and Reader mean...Conference. This year the gathering was at the Malaga Inn in historic Mobile, AL. A beautiful venue shared with a lot of wonderful people. And the Peas were in attendance.

On the roster was, of course, our own Carolyn and the wonderful Sarah Bewley--cohorts in crime. In addition, Urban Fantasy Author Anton Strout, Penguin Group Editor Michelle Vega, Agent Marian Young, Tyrus Editor and Publisher Ben Leroy, and authors T.R. Pearson, Dean James, Will Irby, as well as, some other Urban Fantasy author named Jeannie Holmes (wink) and many, many others.

As usual, it was great fun and Big Daddy was in the house. Dean James graciously passed the baton to John Hafner as this year's Big Daddy and I'm quite sure Anton Strout was scandalized by a lap-dancing belly dancer. There are no rules of engagement when it comes to Big Daddy or winning prizes from them for the outrageous Jitty costumes people wore. Yep... that's how Carolyn rolls. Aren't you upset you missed it? I'm so glad I didn't!

The laughs and stories were many. For accounts and photographic proof of all the shenanigans check out the D. g. Weekend Facebook Page and Katie Wood Ruffin's Blog post. And I'm sure You Tube videos will surface whether people want them to or not.

In short, there were some great workshops and panels on process, screenwriting, and the industry. What's more--there were even better conversations to be had in the courtyard as we caught up with old friends and made new connections. Until next year! We can't wait.

Peas Out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

YA Day

SM Anthony, me, and Katie
I'm a little behind the eight ball. It's been a few of weekends since the Biloxi, MS Books-A-Million YA Day I participated in with Katie Wood Ruffin. But I wanted to share a brief update of the event with you. I guess, in a way, it was my first public appearance.

The event was a fabulous experience and a fair success. Katie and I hung out in the bookstore from noon until four in the afternoon  handing out goodie bags with bookmarks, candy, and suggested reading lists drafted by each of us. We met some wonderful and excited readers and had a great time talking about our favorite books to anyone who would listen. The staff was amazing and lots of fun. I like to think I made some new friends in them as well as learned some tips to overcome my shyness.

We had awesome swag from the likes of Brodi Ashton, Kami Garcia, Jeri Smith-Ready, Sophie Littlefield, and Bekka Black (and a few more I'm sure I'm forgetting--but Katie can set me straight if I've missed anyone). Sophie and Bekka were gracious enough to send along signed copies of their books, making the door prizes that much more awesome, desirable, and exciting. We had some grateful and enthused young winners. I even included some Ninja Pea bookmarks into the swag bags which got a lot of oohs and ahhs. In all, we made contact and handed out one-hundred bags. (One-hundred readers and families that now know who our favorite authors and books are--a wondrous thing). We talked to so many preteens and teens who were readers. It's hard to believe statistics that claim young people don't read when you chat with so many who do. 

The best part was talking with so many young at heart readers like myself. Moms, college students, teachers, and even a thirty-something man and his wife who were huge Cassandra Clare fans. It's fantastic to know that YA books touch and are loved by so many others in the same way that they inform and engage me. It goes to show that it is a market that resonants with many -- one I love to write, read, and discuss.

And, of course, both of my peas dropped by the support me (and the bookstore) which I'm so grateful for. It was terrific fun and I enjoyed the experience. Many thanks to Katie for inviting me to join her in our YA Day adventure. And  a special shout out to the staff at the Biloxi guys were awesome!

Peas Out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Guest Pod with Kristall Burke: Part One (Interview)

One of the coolest things about all of these social networking sites (that are now a part of our daily lives) is reconnection. Twenty years ago, if you neglected to ask for (or lost) someone’s snail mail address or phone number, it would be pure serendipity for two childhood classmates to find one another in adulthood. All you’d have left is a yearbook photo, a few handwritten scribbles, and a slippery memory. That was certainly the result of my life growing up an Air Force brat. With people coming in and out of my life at the start and stop of every school year, no traditional childhood hometown, and a family that moved every two to three years, it was so easy to lose touch. And to keep in touch over an ocean...well…a preteen would have to be pretty committed to penning a letter on paper and sticking a stamp on it, then waiting the two weeks to sometimes one month turnaround journey of an overseas letter. All of this was dependent on whether you’d even thought to ask for an address during the chaos of moving in the first place or weren’t too busy in your new school trying to make an all-new set of friends. So it’s amazing to think that people from our past can return to us with the click of a button. What’s even more amazing is to learn that one of those people from your childhood now shares the same passion that you do as an adult.

That’s how I found Kristall (Yoder) Burke. We were middle school classmates in Ramstein, Germany two decades ago. And with a click of a button, and 120-character (or less) wall post, I found her and found that she’d also grown up to become a writer.

M: Wow, Kristall. I think it was 1990 that last time we saw each other. My family had returned stateside in August of that year--I think we must have parted ways at the end of the school year. Strange to think we were both middle school military brats in Germany during the years right after the Berlin wall came down. Did you know then that you wanted to be a writer?

Kristall: It is amazing how quickly the years escape us, and baffles me the history we actually lived at such an impressionable age. No, I did not know I wanted to be a writer back then. I still thought I would be a Doctor without Borders one day and spent many hours writing about that dream. (laughs) My mom will tell you I have always been a writer.

M: (laughs) For myself, I knew I loved writing as early as middle school but it wasn’t until my second try at college in my late twenties that the idea fully formed and I took it seriously. Can you tell me, in short strokes (I know it’s a big question) what your path to writerdom looked like over the last twenty years?

Kristall: I also found my love of writing at a young age. Journaling always help me process the many moves and losses of military life. I have only actually begun to think of myself as a writer within the last six years or so. Growing up I always loved movies, partially because the Movie Theater or Kino was one of the only things to do as a military brat. I started taking theater classes as a way to help me overcome my shyness and fell in love with the craft. When my husband and I first moved to Austin, TX from Colorado Springs, CO, I jumped at the opportunity to try my hand at film acting. Austin has long been filmmaker friendly. Over the course of five or six years I was a working actor, trying to make a name for myself. It is a tough business. Sometime around 2005 a lot of our work was being outsourced into Louisiana due to a recent tax incentive for the film industry. A great acting coach/teacher, Mona Lee, suggested we take this time to write a screenplay and cast ourselves in it. It felt very natural to me and I was hooked. That screenplay, ‘Split’, was well received amongst my peers and I was encouraged to enter it into a film festival. I choose WorldFest Houston and won a Silver Remi Award in 2006. I was shocked.

M: Congratulations on the Remi! I know you recently submitted a screenplay. Where to and what is it about?

Kristall: My most recent screenplay is titled, ‘The Spectacular Spectacles’, I decided to submit it to the same film festival, WorldFest Houston. It is the third oldest film festival in this country and jumpstarted the careers of many great filmmakers. This screenplay is an action based family film. My main character, Spencer Murphy, is an awkward and shy boy, who is tasked with a class project on his family history and must speak publicly on it. The year is 1980; his family has been dry land farming for several generations and is in jeopardy of losing their farm. Spencer is left to do his report while in the care of his Grandmother for the weekend. Rifling through his Grand Dad’s old trunks, for research, he comes upon a very old pair of glasses or spectacles. The spectacles become a vehicle into his family’s actual past, while shedding light on the future.

M: Sounds like a fantastic fresh story. Best of luck! It’s interesting to me how writers come to the form of storytelling that they do. For me, I knew I wanted to write books -- in part -- because I read books. My assumption is you hope to find a film audience one day in the same way I hope to find an audience of readers. What draws you to storytelling through the medium of film? And do you think you’d ever (or have you ever) delved into writing a novel?

Kristall: Thank you! I also, love a good book, but I am a very visual person. I enjoy imagining what the characters in a book would really look like, and yes, I usually cast them from a pool of actors or actresses. Film for me is beautiful, and allows you to escape into a different world when you only have two hours to spare. Life gets busy. I have recently thought about writing a novel. My latest screenplay, ‘The Spectacular Spectacles’ is a bit on the historical fiction side and geared toward preteen boys. I have a young son and we spend time reading together every night. It has become apparent to me that there is a small supply of novels for this age group.

M: As an actor and screenwriter you’ve experienced the process of filmmaking from a couple different angles. Screenplays and how those screenplays turn into films are a bit of an enigma to me. Can you walk me through what it takes to get a screenplay made into a film?

Kristall: (laugh) I wish I knew. The technical side of it, from what I have seen, they take a screenplay and divide it up into locations. The next step is to separate it into ‘sides’ or daily shots, meaning whatever they plan to film day by day. Most importantly though is a great story, knowing the right people, being in the right place at the right time. Of the few screenwriters I have met, this is what they tell me. Film Festivals are supposed to be a great outlet; most of the judges are typically producers.

M: That’s certainly more than I know about the process. (smile) It’s fascinating. I know as an aspiring novelist there’s a certain amount of keeping-my-finger-on-the-pulse-of-the-market that I do. I can’t allow myself to get bogged down by it, but at the same time I can’t exactly ignore market labels and demands when I’m trying to find an agent and publisher to sell my book. I’m very aware of what authors and which kinds of books sell. And I’m often tasked with trying to figure out where my story fits into all those labels. When you’re writing a screenplay, how in tune are you to the film industry’s cycles and labels? And subsequently, how much of it do you try to tune out?

Kristall:  I try not to think about it too much. I just try to enjoy the work; mine and that which is released by others. I guess my thought is that from page to screen takes at least six months, if you’re lucky, and to keep it fresh, original and write what you know. The more authentic it is, the more believable it is, and therefore, the more people will relate to my story. Of course there are several industry key elements I always keep in mind. First and foremost is the tenth page or ten-minute mark. You have to have something big or exciting happen around page ten or you lose your audience. This is a fun game to play when you are watching any movie, see how you feel ten minutes in of the next film you watch. (grin)

M: I will have to try that. It’s sort of like setting up the inciting event in the first ten pages of a novel. I guess story telling at its base is similar no matter the medium. This is a great segue to talking about craft. Explain a little how the structure of a screenplay is set up. What are some of the crucial elements a of a screenplay that a screenwriter just can’t leave out?

Kristall: I agree, story telling does follow a pattern throughout the different mediums. The format of a screenplay is very rigid. The industry has very specific “rules” on how they must be laid out. The font of every screenplay is Courier New 12pt. The beginning always starts with a FADE IN: and ends with a FADE OUT:, the individual scenes open with INT. (interior) or EXT. (exterior) followed by the place, time, and then the set up. The rest comes down to dialog and tab placement….okay boring…again I am a visual person; it made more sense to me when I actually looked at and read a screenplay.

M: I haven’t read a lot of screenplays (actually, I don’t think I’ve read any.) How does reading a screenplay differ from reading anything else?

Kristall: Reading a screenplay can be confusing at first, with all the abbreviations, but the beauty of this format is that it makes them really easy to read. Everything you need to know about the story, the characters and its ‘flow’ is all laid out for you. That doesn’t mean that the story itself won’t surprise you. I think the medium is just meant to be very concise.

M: I’ve read two books that I know were written by screenwriters. (I may have read others and didn’t know it). Those two novels were, The Princess Bride by William Goldman and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I noticed both of those books were amazingly structured and incredibly paced. How important is pacing in a screenplay versus a novel? And from a crafting standpoint, how do you make sure that pacing transfers from the page to the screen?

Kristall: Structure and pacing are very important when writing a screenplay. Unlike a novel you really only have 90-120 pages to work with. Each page constitutes to about a minute of screen time, so ninety pages is an hour and a half movie. Making sure the pacing transfers from the page to the screen falls on the director, not an easy job, but a beautiful thing to watch unfold.

M: I know dialog can be a big tool in a writer’s tool belt where pacing is concerned. How do you go about dialog as a screenwriter? Is it a different process than when you sit down to write a novel or short story? 

Kristall: I feel that the dialog as a screenwriter is a slightly different process then when you write a novel or short story. It is still dialog, yet, these words are meant to be spoken by an actor, someone who will breathe life into the character on the silver screen. The dialog itself must carry some emotion that the actor can feed off of and run with. There are no actor notes (or very few) within a screenplay. The scene setup and the dialog itself is all they have to go on. A screenplay is really just the ‘bones’ of the final intended product.

M: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received concerning your writing endeavors? How has it molded you as a writer?

Kristall: Write what you know; your feelings, your dreams, your passions, your history…all of my characters, all of them, have a little piece of me within them. It makes any story, any genre, any style…real and believable.

M: What’s on the horizon for you as a writer? What’s next for Kristall Burke?

Kristall: I am just going to continue to write. I am currently working on a piece for a screenplay contest, this is a first for me, but I like the challenge and it came at the right time. I had just recently finished the screenplay, ‘Spectacular Spectacles’ and had not started a new one, yet.

M: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all of my rambling questions. It’s great to be back in touch. We’ve got two more posts planned with you over the next two weeks that we’re really excited about. And even after those, we hope you’ll drop by the Pod from time to time and keep us posted on your endeavors and your thoughts on the craft. Best of luck and happy writing!

Kristall: Thank you Michelle and all the Ninja Peas! This has been a lot of fun and I am going to miss the ‘excuse’ for us to email each other on a regular basis. I am truly flattered that you asked me to guest blog and interview for you, and would be happy to drop by any time! I think the Pod is a wonderful read and source of information for writers of all walks of life. Thank you for having me. (hugs and kisses)

As you should have gleaned from this imaginary readers -- Kristall is joining us for a three part series. Next week? Fifteen tips that every aspiring screenwriter should know. Until attention to minute ten of the next movie you watch!

Pea Out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Hunger Games: Book vs Film (addendum)

Apologies readers. I’ve finally kicked that bout of zombie plague and am finally catching up on my blog responsibilities. Thanks to J and A for holding down the fort. I’m grateful to have blog partners that are so flexible.  Pea Love

So here it is…my long awaited and mildly anticipated Hunger Games movie review.
(I’ll try to be concise and not to create any spoilers for anyone biding their time and waiting for the DVD.) 
May the odds be ever in your favor…

First I’d like to say, after two viewings, I loved the film. I felt the screenwriters (which included Suzanne Collins), the director, and the studios did the important things in this story right. With every film there are inconsistencies from book to screen. I understand that as a reader and movie viewer. Some things just can’t transfer in the same meaningful way from the novel page to the film. But I think the filmmakers and writers picked and chose the scenes with care. And with a two hour and twenty-two minute running time, they created amazingly fast-paced and well plotted cinema that held true to the important themes and plot points in the book.

I said after two viewings. Let me explain. 

I was so anxious about the transfer from book to screen (from the casting choices to the book to screen interpretations) that I don’t think I took a real breath the whole film. I’ve sat through horror movies with much less tension and angst than I had during this first viewing. Also, it had been quite some time since I read the books (having read it twice the first year and not since). So I found there were some things I’d forgotten.

For context, I first read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games during its book release week in 2008 (yep… four years ago). So when I say I’ve been on this bandwagon from the starting gate I mean it. And have been talking about this story to friends, neighbors, and anyone who would listen to me ever since.  So, in my mind, there were a few things the movie people had to get right. 

One of those things was Rue. She was the catalyst for the whole climax of the book that jettisons the reader into books two and three. And I think, in the film, her part was treated with extreme sensitivity. Also, the way in which the film portrayed the cause and effect of the events surrounding Rue resonated with me, and many people I’ve talked to who have viewed the film and read the books.

Another thing they had to get right for me was Haymitch. I was really skeptical about Woody Harrelson winning this part. But as A said in her review, that collar. From the moment he stepped onscreen I was pleased with his take on Haymitch. I think the scenes in which we see his disdain for the games while he watches the capital children playing with the sword, and the scene in which he becomes active chatting up sponsors in the Capital after Katniss gets hurt, were incredible glimpses into the turmoil and complexity of Haymitch.

Also Cinna. A small part Mr. Lenny Kravitz had to play in this film but he was instantly likable. The few scenes they chose to put him in I think carried the weight of the very important role Cinna has in Katniss’s Tribute life.

Finally the casting of Josh Hutcherson as Peeta was remarkable. The look on his face when he first enters the movie and his name is called as a Tribute. Sublime. He’s quite an exceptional young actor. And dare I say, as a reader who was completely Team Gayle until the end of the series, I might be Team Peeta throughout the films.

That’s not to say those are the only points of the movie I thought they did well.

I have to give Jennifer Lawrence props. She swung it out of the park in so many ways. My favorite? Her scene with Cinna as the tube opens. The utter fear and horror she conveyed I felt in the soles of my feet. What an incredible young actress. 

And of course Stanely Tucci as Ceasar, Wes Bentley as Seneca, and Donald Sutherland as President Snow. They are impeccable actors who I felt really conveyed the intricacies of the Capital’s politics in a way that held true to the books.

Are there things the filmmakers could have done better? Maybe. But I’m not ready to pass judgment on that yet. This is a story that relies on another two books worth of character development and backstory to see the scope of Suzanne Collins’ vision. I’ll wait and see what happens with Catching Fire and Mockingjay. But I will say, I have really high hopes for this franchise. The filmmakers set the bar pretty high and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they will hurdle it over the next two years. 

I loved the film as an early fan of the books. And I think if readers can take pause and not scrutinize the little things but hold true to the important themes and conflicts in the story that drove it—they will be happy with it. Even a person who hasn’t read the books will be entertained. It’s a fast-paced story that has a lot of depth and is relevant to the pitfalls of society and the human condition. But real fans might want to see it twice—it made all the difference for me. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Game Pod: Creation -- Story Dice

The Peas are offering up some unique (and overdue!) flash fiction. We're literally rolling the dice this week to find inspiration for our stories. M gave her lucky plot dice a shake and this is a picture of what we were given: 

Flash Fiction Inspiration

Each Pea was responsible for interrupting the images as she saw fit. Yeah, this is going to be interesting...

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

Ozon watched as his brother plucked a handful of glittering dust from his pouch. The task was simple. Enter the bedroom. Assess its occupants. Carry out their assigned tasks. It had been the same routine for centuries, ever since the Rift forced his kind to work in pairs.

Ohon’s ethereal powder drifted to the Sleeper’s head and disappeared. The Sleeper smiled.

Jealousy spiked in Ozon’s heart. “There’s no justice in this world.”

“Come now, brother,” his twin chided as he recorded the reaction in the Book of Dreams. “You mustn’t say such things.”

“It’s true.” Ozon pulled open his own black leather pouch and dipped his fingers into the inky darkness within.

“Are you still questioning our assignments?”

Ozon smeared a bit of oily residue on the female Sleeper’s forehead. She flinched at his touch. “Always.”

Ohon shook his head as he handed Ozon’s the Book. “You don’t give yourself enough credit, brother. You see our gifts as a burden. They aren’t.”

“No, they’re a curse.” Ozon tucked the Book inside his robes.

The twins sauntered from the bedroom, gliding silently down the hallway. “We’re Sandmen, brother. We reveal all that is locked away and hidden. None have power to rival ours.”

“And yet we’re incapable of acting alone.”

Ohon laughed. “Are you tired of me?”

Ozon remained silent.

“There are reasons why Sandmen are paired. If one of us had command of both Desire and Fear...” Ohon shuddered. “No, it’s best to keep the powers separate.”

“Of course you’d say that, brother. You only deal with pleasantries. I’m the monstrous shadow, the one they label Nightmare.”

Ohon sighed and paused, forcing Ozon to wait. “If one Sandman had the ability to grant both, Sleepers would fall to him like sheep before the butcher. It would be the end of all Sandmen.”

“Not the end. A restoration.”

“Are suggesting we return to an autonomous state? Have you forgotten the horrors of the Rift?”


Ohon chuckled and brushed past Ozon. “Glad to see you’re finally developing a sense of humor.”

Anger swelled as Ozon slammed his twin against the wall. Before Ohon could cried out, he smeared a handful of Fear along Ohon’s forehead.

Convulsions wracked the Sandman’s body. Soundless screamed contoured his face.

Ozon ripped away his brother’s pouch. The weight of Desire thrilled him. The warmth of the dust within warmed the leather and his cold skin.

As Ohon crumpled to the floor, Ozon smiled for the first time in his existence. “Sweet dreams, brother.”

(Weighing in at 423 words, J goes over word count for the first time!)

No one ever tells you to watch out for your shadow. 

Why should they? It's your constant companion. Trustworthy. Reliable. There with you through everything, even when you can't see it. So what happens when it peels itself from the ground, grows claws and horns, and starts hissing its fork-tongued whispers in your ear?

No one ever tells you to watch out for your shadow because no one has ever had one possessed. Until now.  

My name is Finnigan Swiftfoot, and I have a demon tethered to my skin. 

In fact, it's sitting beside me right now, watching me write this to you in a letter I will never send.

Having a demon shadow is not painful. Not physically, anyway. I suppose you could call me lucky. After all, my shadow is the one possessed. I'm just fine... Aside from the way it follows me around, lurking, stalking, murmuring a list of all my fears over and over so I'll never forget them. 

It's a real joy, my shadow.

I've tried to force it away. I've planted myself directly in the sun, where only happiness could possibly survive -- where darkness withers under my feet -- and allowed myself to believe this is all some dream. But time, like the sun across the sky, passes. And soon my shadow drags itself up and faces me, and the truth is painfully clear. I will never be free of it. Not until I find the key to unlocking the shackles that bind us. 

I can look down even now and see the keyhole tattoo on my wrist where the shackles appeared, only that first few days after it happened. Sometimes I can forget. Even when it sits beside me, staring at me, muttering. I can forget.

But not at night. When I sleep, my shadow cloaks itself in darkness, slithers into my bed, and worms its way into my dreams. My nightmares.

I haven't slept well in months. 

I look out the window of my sixteenth train car since I reached this side of the world. The sheep grazing in the passing fields entice me. I almost want to count them. I wonder if it would help to keep the demon at bay. Maybe an hour of untainted sleep...

I look beside me. My shadow is curled on the red upholstery of the bench seat, darkening it to the shade of blood. Its eyes never leave me.

So loyal, my shadow.

I finger the edges of the ancient book in my lap, wishing I could read the language. I'm pretty sure it contains the answer I'm looking for. If not, I've got no other options but to flay myself alive, and even that's not a guarantee. 

"What did I do to deserve you?" I ask. The scales of paranormal justice have so clearly been tipped in my favor...

My shadow flashes me a razor-sharp grin. "I'll never tell," it answers in a sing-song voice that has yet to stop being creepy, even after all this time. 

"Super helpful answer. Thanks," I say, turning back to the fields flashing by the window. 

(At 520 words, A is unsurprisingly over the limit)

Donavon Dinkle stuck the worthless finance book in his back pocket and stared at the scrawny mud caked sheep.

He hadn’t slept for days worrying over the question posed in the letter.

Would you rather pay me the six thousand pounds or forfeit the property?

“Neither.” He heaved the pitiful animal onto the scale. Not quite six stones. “The price of the meat on your bones ain’t worth the effort.”

The sheep baaed then blinked dully at him.

“How am I to get this demon off my back,” he said, dragging the animal off the scale. He sighed, looked down at the sheep, and patted its head. “I have to get the money somehow. They’ll take the farm.”

The sheep lifted its chin to him as if to say, It’ll be all right, Mr. D. 

He tossed the worthless ledger onto the scale and walked out of the barn as the creature trailed behind him.

The farm was rundown and hadn’t turned a profit in some time. But he couldn’t bear to part with it. It’d been in the family for ages. Losing it would be the end of his world.

A low whistle sounded from above. The sheep startled and skittered off with a bleet. He scanned the sky and saw a dark moving object growing larger. Taking a few steps backward, he stumbled and watched as the object streaked toward the earth. It crashed into his barn with a boom

“Bloody hell!” he said, picking himself out of the mud. 

He carefully approached the smoking rubble pile in front of him and climbed over the barn’s shattered walls to get a closer look.

Settled in the splintered crater of wood laid the mangled remains of one of those keyhole satellites he'd read about in the paper. It bore an American flag.

Donavon turned and found the sheep looking rather pleased with itself and standing not but a stone’s throw away.

He smiled and said to the animal, “I reckon those Yanks’ll be wanting to keep this quiet.”

The sheep bleeted happily then scampered out to the field just as a caravan of unmarked vehicles raced along the road toward the farm. 

(Words totaling in at 363. M scores pea points with the lowest word count for this round.) 

Thanks for reading. Next up, the missing Hunger Games edits, a recap of my YA Day, and who knows what for next week. You'll just have to wait and see.

Peas out.