Monday, March 15, 2010

Writing Goals and General Thoughts

Well, I'm glad to say that things are going a bit better for me this month. As I've already told you, my short story "Marrow" is going to be published, and I've been submitting several of my homeless stories into anthologies that I'm waiting to hear back from. I found out that many of my short stories are a lost cause as they are right now. (Looking at the writing style, I can't even believe I wrote some of them because they're so bad, which is bittersweet because now I know I'm getting better.) Still, I've found a few that are still salvageable and I'd like to get some of those into circulation since it seems a shame for them to sit on my computer unread.

In terms of writing news, I'm most proud of the fact that my Steampunk/Fantasy story, "Everburn" is coming along very well. In the last month I've written about 20,000 words in "Everburn" and I still have a long way to go. For some reason, I've been very inspired to write lately--not that I'm complaining. Working on my short Steampunk story reminded me of the "Everburn" story, and so I switched writing Steampunk by itself for writing Steampunk with more Fantasy elements. So far, I'm enjoying it very much.

This story started out small like my "Eternity Game" short story. I started getting more ideas and expanding it, and now I have enough ideas for the making of another trilogy. I have higher hopes for this series because I know my writing style has improved since the completion of my other novels. Still, I don't plan to give up on my "Eternity Game" series either, since I still think the stories are enjoyable enough to be published.

Going to the book store gave me hope. I started looking at the new best sellers and found them to be wanting. If some of those ridiculous concepts can be published and somehow also managed to become best sellers, then I know my novels, being better, have a very good chance. I know my work isn't stellar. I still have a long way to go in terms of experience and developing my style. And, as I've said before, there's also always something new to learn and improvements to make, but I can tell that some of my ideas are better executed and more interesting than a few of those new novels that are already successful. But, as always, I just need someone to give my work a chance.

Other than that, I'm getting ready to celebrate my twenty-eight birthday party. It should be a fun weekend, but it's hard for me to believe that I'm already almost thirty. Still, thirty won't be a bad age when I get there. I already know I don't miss high school. (Speaking of, my ten year reunion is also this year. Where does the time go?) I miss college sometimes, but I knew I was ready to be out of college when I left. Looking back on it, I should have stayed longer for my Masters degree, but like I said, at the time I had my fill of it. Maybe one day I'll have enough writing behind my name to become a professor at USC and teach a class on "creative writing." I think since I've struggled so much starting out, by that time I should have a lot of good advice to give to aspiring writers.

Sadly, I discovered through reading Stephen King's "Insomnia, this quote from Cemetery Nights, rings very true in my life, "Each thing I do, I rush through, so I can do something else." I really should try to stop occasionally, relax, and enjoy one thing at a time, with the confidence of someone who knows that God is in control. In my head, I know He's in control, but sometimes I just rush though life, then turn around to realize time has already outpaced me. Letting go and relinquishing the illusion of control is one of the things I need to work on most. This week, I'm going to try to do just that by picking up painting again, a hobby that is relaxing, takes time and patience, and exercises creativity. It should actually make me slow down enough to relax. Wish me luck.

Well, I'd better go so I can do some more work around the house and to start on my writing for the day. Like I said, I need to work on my time management so that I can work on that painting.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

I have to start by saying I might be slightly biased in this review, mostly because I absolutely love the story of Alice in Wonderland and Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors. Before even going to the movie I knew the combination of the two was going to be something that was going to please me, or at least be something worth seeing. Since I was so excited about this movie, I was worried that it was going to disappoint me, but I'm glad to say that this movie exceeded my already high expectations. The only disappointment I had came at the end, and it was something I knew was going to happen anyway.

This movie was about Alice as a grown woman living in Victorian England. She doesn't fit in well and is always daydreaming, taking after her Father who took his company to great heights because he believed in the impossible. When she finds out that her life has been planned out in a way that she doesn't desire (she's about to be engaged to a man she doesn't like and is expected to live like a normal Victorian woman), she runs away, following the white rabbit that she's been seeing all day. When she gets back to Wonderland, she can't remember anyone and thinks it's a dream. All of the residents say that she's destined to slay the Jabberwocky, and they despirately need her help because the Red Queen has taken over all of Wonderland and is chopping off heads in her wake. (This story is typical of Tim Burton, showing how a "normal life" can be even worse than the one of extraordinary danger.)

The story was even darker than I expected. There's a particularly disturbing scene where Alice has to cross a moat by using severed heads as stepping stones. And apparently the red Queen has chopped off so many heads that the water on the inside is red with blood and heads look lifelessly up from it like hundreds of lily-pads. (I highly don't recommend letting young children see this movie.) Still, the dark storyline was something that I enjoyed because I thought that there was a parallel to Alice's misery and the state that Wonderland was in. There was great symbolism about Alice losing her "muchness" because she was conforming to society's standards and not being herself (everyone is accusing her of not being the "real" Alice), as well as how running from her problems didn't make them go away. By the end of the movie, Alice has learned she needs to face her problems and that she needs to stop trying to please others and live her own life. There was also a slight insinuation that the Hatter was possibly the right "guy" for Alice, someone half-mad like herself, but she needs to solve her problems and not run away from them, so of course, she can't stay. (Like I said, I was disappointed, but I knew it would happen, still I haven't spoiled the ending because there's a lot more to it.)

The casting was excellent. Everyone portrayed their characters well. I thought it was interesting the way that Depp portrayed the Mad Hatter, using a split personality to portray his madness. When the Hatter was discussing something serious or dark he would lapse into a Scottish accent for a moment and take a much darker tone. The voices for the others were also well placed. I can't think of one character that didn't fit the role.

The effects in this movie were very well done. There were enough digital animation and live action shots to make the characters seem realistic and the setting to be absolutely beautiful. I had a little trouble seeing some of the details of the shots though because the 3D made live action shots blurry. I still want to see the scene where she's falling down the rabbit hole without seeing it in 3D so that I can see the interesting objects that seem to be rushing towards her. Also, I must say, the costumes were exquisite. Everything was a feast for the eyes, and even if you don't like the thought of the story, at least see it for the costuming and effects. I liked how everything was bright colored in Wonderland in contrast to the drab whites of Victorian society.

As I said, overall this movie was a treasure worth seeing again and again. The symbolism was good. The story, while dark, was excellent, and even though some liberties were taken with the original work, the story was close enough that it felt like a continuation of the Alice in Wonderland novels. I did wonder what happened to the red queen though. The queen of Hearts isn't the red queen. I think she was made into the red queen for the sake of simplicity, and I can respect that. Anyway, see it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stephen King's "Insomnia"

Each thing I do, I rush through, so I can do something else. - Stephen Dobyns, Cemetery Nights

That line is used frequently in Stephen King's "Insomnia." It feels like it sets the tone for the entire book, about how the main character's life is ticking away along with the time he has to fulfill his purpose. I find myself thinking of that line alot lately. I do that way too much as well, and it's one of the reasons why this review is so late. I finished Stephen King's "Insomnia" last week, and, as promised, I'm going to go ahead and write my review. I have to say this is one of the best books that I've read in a very long time. This book was very difficult to put down, the plot wasn't predictable at all, and this is one of the few books that actually made me cry during the ending. The only real complaint I have is this book is so interesting that you shouldn't read it until you have a lot of time on your hands. It's six-hundred and sixty-three pages long and it will give you insomnia.

The general plot is that the main character, a seventy year old man named Ralph Roberts, starts having insomnia after the death of his wife. However, at the same time, he starts noticing the small town of Derry, Maine is showing a very sinister and strange side as well. His neighbor Ed Deepneau is losing his mind, beating his wife, and claiming to see dead babies everywhere. A political figure named Susan Day has decided to come and speak in Derry over the abortion issue, since a group called "Daily Bread" is trying to close the woman's clinic "WomanCare." Neighbors are turning against neighbors as their passions over the abortion issue are unleashed. And, the more that Ralph becomes interested in the events that occur, he also starts to see a hidden world of auras, strange bald doctors that visit the homes of the dying, and spirits like the Green Man and the Crimson King. This all culminates in a dramatic climax where Ralph and his girlfriend Lois must race against time to stop Ed Deepneau from doing something very drastic.

The first thing that impressed me about this book was how seamlessly Stephen King intertwined his other works into it. Derry, Maine is the same town used in Stephen King's "IT." There's even a reference made to the beating to death of a homosexual man named Adrian Mellon, which happened in the book "IT" putting the timing of the events in this book into perspective. This is also the first book that I've read, where the Dark Tower is literally shown, surrounded by the field of red roses. There's even a scene at the end where a young boy draws a picture of Roland in front of it. I'm not sure what significance the boy has, but I feel certain he'll come up in another Stephen King story. I'm looking forward to it immensely, but I hope I remember his name when he does come up. (I'm still geeking out over all of that, but I am a bit of a book nerd.)

All of the characters in this novel are very well written, and even one of the "villains" of the story, Ed Deepneau, still manages to somehow be a sympathetic character. The themes explored in this book are also extremely deep. It explores how people's passions can drive them do horrible things, and the paradox of having free will but also being ruled by a higher purpose. I liked the way that the world was filled with layers that rested on top of one another and yet remained unseen, and in these realms the forces of "Purpose" and "Random" were at war with one another, choosing champions from the world of men to fight for those controlling them. There were many appropriate references within the text to books like "Lord of the Rings" and to poetry that drew parallels into the world of Stephen King's "Insomnia." It's as though classic literary works were layered on top of the story, the way the world of the auras existed on the same plane as the normal universe in the novel. I believe this story could be a modern day classic, and it made a strong impression on me.

This book will also make you think. It makes you think about the abortion issue, how people treat one another when they want to prove they're right, and how people tend to disregard the elderly. It also made statements about abuse and what it does to people, and how it can rob people of who they are and change them. It's very rare that a book actually makes me think philosophically as well as entertaining me, so thank you again, Stephen King.

I highly recommend this book. I think it's one of Stephen King's best. The only problem I have now is ever becoming a good enough writer to somehow evoke emotion, insomnia, philosophical thought, and immense entertainment in my own work as well. I have a long way to go, but at least I have role-model. I've got to keep trying and keep working, but sometimes I feel like the rabbit in the song "Time" by Pink Floyd, "Dig that hole, forget the sun, when at last your work gets done, look around it's time to dig another one." Or, more eloquently, "Each thing I do, I rush through, so I can do something else." But, I think I'll get there eventually.