Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blogging as Abigail today...

Abigail has a bone to pick about fat women in the media. Since I just finished writing her November release, which features a big, beautiful heroine, I felt my rant was better suited for her blog.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thinking about Cyrus...

If I have learned one important lesson from this whole JLA vs. LKH blog dust up gossip fest (that still continues... Dear Author featured it in their link round up today), it's that people friggin love Cyrus.

I'm still not sure why.

Don't get me wrong, there are tons of "bad boys" that I love. I've even blogged about them before. But I don't really understand what's so appealing about Cyrus. Maybe because I've spent so much time writing him. And maybe because I had to call upon all my selfish, negative personality traits to cobble him together. Cyrus is the kind of person I would be if I had just a little bit less conscience. You know, minus the statutory rape and child murder.

But I must be crazy, because I miss the bastard. I would absolutely like to write him again. And from the messages I've gotten from some of you, I think you'd like me to write him again, as well. Unfortunately, I can't just write him, because he doesn't belong to me anymore, and the people he does belong to don't feel there would be a readership for him. So, I'm starting a grassroots thing right now.

If you love Cyrus, if you want to read about him again, leave a comment here to that effect. Have your friends who don't read my blog but like Cyrus come do it, as well. I want to see if I'm right, that there are people out there who would send my publisher some dollars for another few hundred pages of Cyrus.

I've already found out how powerful word of mouth can be when I open my mouth wide enough. Let's see if the same goes for Cyrus. Leave your comments. Honk if you love Cyrus. And if there are no honks, then I can put him to his final rest on my "to do" list.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Battle Royale: Armintrout vs. Twain

I received a tip from an anonymous commenter that my Laurel K. Hamilton blog was burning up the intertubes over at an forum, so I stopped in to check it out. Somewhere in the discussion, famous author feuds were mentioned. Including Mark Twain and James Fenimore Cooper. To which an astute commenter mentioned that I am, in fact, no Mark Twain.

You won't hear any argument here. Mark Twain is probably the greatest American author of all time (okay, third greatest, after Herman Melville and Nora Roberts). But I am pretty sure I can take Mark Twain in a fight. You know, if the alien race he returned to upon his "death" when he hitched a ride on Haley's Comet hasn't created some devastating combat technology or done away with violence all together. But let's see what happens if we put me up against Mark Twain in a Battle Royale.

Now, if you're unfamiliar with how these little throw-downs go on my blog, you can check out Jen vs. The Hoff and Daleks vs. The Borg. That should make the rules pretty clear.

Dust off your old timey mustache, Twain, it's show time.

Me vs. Mark Twain: The Battle For Endor

  • Name
    Me: Jennifer Armintrout Difficult to pronounce and google.
    Mark Twain: Mark Twain Pleasant, ethnically neutral, not at all scary and German.
    Advantage: Twain

  • Body of work
    Me: Four novels about vampires fucking, three faery books everyone hated.
    Mark Twain: You have to use the scroll bar on his wikipedia bibliography.
    Advantage: Twain

  • Racial slurs?
    Me: No, those don't really go over well.
    Mark Twain: His name was what Jim? Dude, not cool.
    Advantage: Armintrout

  • Hair Height

    Advantage: I got this, dude.

  • Presidential connections
    Me: Had my Obama lawn sign stolen twice; hold out hope of one day boning President Clinton.
    Mark Twain: William Howard Taft released a statement upon Twain's death.
    Advantage: Twain

Okay, so I didn't beat him. But he is an alien, and I do have bigger hair. Only time will tell, friends. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Phone Book: A Tale of Terror

I hate phone books. Once upon a time, they had a useful place in life. If you needed to know a phone number or look for a business, the phone book was your go-to guy. You probably had a few different phone books, all of varying usefulness. I lived out in the country, so we had our little local phone book that was about as thick as a people magazine, but if you wanted to go to a movie in town, you got out the Kalamazoo phone book, which was substantially larger.

Then, a strange thing happened. That thing was the internet. Now, if I want to go to the movies, I get on my computer and in less than a minute I can know what the times are at every movie theatre in Kalamazoo. But still, the phone books come.

I don't know when my friendship with and reliance upon the phone book soured. Probably when I realized I was getting four or five of them a year. And they were heavy. And also, I didn't use them.

At first, I diligently kept them. But I never used them, and more kept coming. And coming. And then, something strange happened.

When we moved into our new house, we got a phone book within days. It was hanging from our mailbox like a little "Welcome Home" present. So, I left it out there. "Maybe whoever left it will get the hint. They won't want to waste the phone book." It stayed out there, hanging from my mailbox like a rotting head on a pike during Tudor times. But instead of sending the message, "Please don't fuck the queen," it apparently sent the message, "Bring me more phone books." Because that's just what happened. In a few weeks, our rain-swollen phone book and dirty, torn bag had been replaced by a brand new phone book wrapped in shiny plastic. I still wouldn't allow it into the house. My neglect of the phone book and its subsequent replacement became a sick pattern. It was as though the phone book deliverer was saying, "Here, have a second and third and fourth chance to make things right."

One day, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Taking a sharpie marker, I sat in the driveway and wrote a perfectly lovely note on the plastic bag holding the phone book. Something like, "Thank you, but I don't use the phone book." There may or may not have been expletives in it. The next day, the phone book was gone. It seemed like my troubles were over.

A few days later, someone knocked on the door. I figured she was a Jehovah's Witness, because we have a lot of those who come around. But she didn't look like my normal crew of spiritual visitors. And she wasn't holding a bible. She was holding a phone book. With a smile that reminded me quite a bit of Tom Cruise pretending to be normal and friendly on a talk show, she thrust the phone book at me. "I noticed that yours was ruined by the rain."

"Are you the phone book person?" I asked, my hands behind my back. "I don't want any trouble. I just don't want a phone book."

She bent down and placed the phone book in the center of my welcome mat. "I'll just leave this here for you."

For the rest of the day, I avoided going outside. I was sure I would find phone books in my driveway, perhaps arranged in a circle around a honey dew melon with a knife sticking out of it with a little note that said "beware." A friend stopped by to visit. "Hey, this was on your step," he said, and for a minute I thought he might hold up a severed head. It was the phone book. Somehow, that was worse. I grabbed it out of his hand and threw it out the door.

Time has passed. My husband burns the phone books when they come. And they keep coming, like some zombie plague. My son started school, and he's made a lot of friends. Like the family up the road. Now that he's old enough to cross our little low-traffic street, I let him visit on his own. Yesterday he returned home with an orange plastic bag and handed it to me. "What's this?" I asked, reaching inside.

It was a phone book.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Oh no! Abuela es muerte! We need to go into the underworld to save her! Can you say Underworld? SAY UNDERWORLD!"

"Who do we ask for help when we don't know which way to go? The map! Say map! LOUDER!"

"When there's a place you gotta go, I'm the one you need to know, I'm the map. If there's a place you gotta get, I can get you there I bet, I'm the map! What's my name? Say it again!

Dora and Boots need to rescue Abuela from the underworld. She'll need to go across the river Styx..."

"...past Cerberus the three-headed guard dog..."

"...and into the mouth of Hades!"

"Tell Dora: Styx, Guard Dog, Mouth of Hades! Styx, Guard Dog, Mouth of Hades! Styx, Guard Dog, Mouth of Hades!"

"Come on, vamanos! Everybody let's go! Come on, let's get to it, I know that we can do it!"

"We need to pay the boatman to cross the river Styx. I think I have something in my backpack that will help. Can you say backpack? Say it LOUDER!"

"Backpack Backpack! Backpack Backpack! Yay! Dora needs something to pay the boatman, so she can cross the river Styx! Can you see something she can use to pay the boatman?"

"Yum yum yum yum yum! Delicioso!"

"We made it all the way to Hades! Now, we just have to lead Abuela out! You have to look straight ahead and not look back! Can you look straight ahead and not look back?"

"Oh no, it's that sneaky fox, Swiper! To keep Swiper from looking back and thus condemning Abuela to the City of the Damned for all eternity, say 'Swiper, no looking back!' Swiper, no looking back! Swiper, no looking back! Swiper no--"

"Awwww man!"



Thursday, August 12, 2010

Barfing On My Keyboard

I've written before about the tendency of authors to always "play nice" and never say anything negative about another author. Not one who is more famous than you, because you could hurt your career. Not one who is less famous than you, because you'll look threatened, and god knows no one wants to look threatened. And no one can say anything about someone who is just as well known as they are, because writers tend to be a self-conscious bunch and we always think everyone is doing ten times better than we are (although, in my case, that's pretty much true right now).

However, I think those rules are bullshit. If I didn't name names, what would be the point of calling another out on their jackassery?

So, once again, I'm calling out Laurell K. Hamilton.

You may be saying to yourself, "Jen, what are you doing? Why do you bother reading about her if she drives you so incredibly insane?" Well, I'll tell you: I don't know. Maybe it's masochism. Maybe it's schadenfreude. Maybe I'm just mean and bored. Actually, it's probably that last one. But when I see shit like her recent blogpost, "Bleeding On My Keyboard", which openly insults other writers in the genre, I can't be quiet. And I shouldn't be. If the person who considers herself the creator of the vampire novel can't say anything nice, well, neither can I, and I'm comfortable with that.

"Bleeding On My Keyboard" begins innocently enough with Laurell lamenting how difficult it's been for her to work on her latest manuscript. Fair enough, I've been there. I can get on board with feeling like your own writing is trying to straight up murder you. In fact, I would wager that pretty much every writer has felt that way now and again.

Laurell disagrees with me:
Some very successful writers don’t seem to feel that emotional connection to their work, or at least not to the degree I do. I used to envy them until I realized the price of that cool distance. They write like they feel with less depth, less of themselves on the page. It is a safer way to write, less frightening, less hurtful, less pain for the writer, but the writing shows that.

This is where it all starts to go a little wrong. As a writer, I resent the implication that unless "I’ve screamed at my computer, cursed other characters, fought and lost to them," I haven't managed to make a connection to my work. I love my job. I wouldn't love it if it constantly frightened and hurt me, and I don't think it needs to.

Laurell continues:
I can read most other writers and tell you within a few pages which of them “feels” strongly when they write and which do not. Now, some can fake it better than others, but in the end it is a fake. They don’t believe in their own work, their own world, their own characters. They know that the skin of let’s pretend is there, always, they never let themselves sink past a certain point, or perhaps their world, their muse, their imagination is more shallow than mine. Maybe there are no painful depths to explore and they just spend their careers wading through the shallows because no matter how wide the water looks, it’s just a wading pool with no unexpected holes to swallow the writer up, and drown them in the dark water of their own minds.

Now, wait just a fucking minute. First of all, "the skin of let's pretend" should be there. It has nothing to do with anyone being less tortured than her. It has nothing to do with the depths of anyone's imagination. It's always there because it's fiction. No matter how real the characters might be in her mind, they're always just pretend. It doesn't matter if she's the darkest, most tortured soul ever to write, if she's writing fiction, it is always pretend.

Which brings me to point #2. For an author who strenuously objects (or at least makes a big show of objecting) to being asked if aspects of her writing are influenced by her real life, it takes some major balls to assume that she can know anything about another author's life from "a few pages". How arrogant does someone have to be to claim that they can tell whether or not an author has "painful depths" from a few pages of fiction? It's insulting to authors who do have "painful depths" but keep them private or don't wish to express them in their work.

Laurell continues:
The way I write is not for everyone, God knows, but for me it’s the only way I know. It’s the way I’ve always written.

So, you heard it, kiddies. The way she writes is not for everyone, but if you don't write exactly the way she does, you're shallow and have no imagination

I, for one, am going to continue being shallow and without imagination. Not because of the dark holes that can swallow me up, but because I write fucking vampire books. They're supposed to be fun and entertaining and disposable. The day I forget that is the day I become an arrogant, insulting person who takes to their blog to lament the pain I feel from being the only author who really writes.