strange stories

It’s been a week for strange stories. Robert McKee, screenwriting guru, said that people do bizarre or awful things more often and worse than you can imagine. They also have things happen to them that would challenge the most vivid imagination. Add in accidents, mistakes and catastrophes, and real life usually outdoes fiction. The crash of Continental Flt 3407 took the life of a 9/11 widow. She died in a fiery crash – her late husband died on the 98th floor of the south tower. Would you add such a twist to a fictional story? A woman was allegedly beheaded by her TV exec husband. A chimpanzee tore the face off the friend of its owner. Bizarre twists, tragic stories. McKee was hardly the first to note that life is stranger than fiction.

The chimp story did remind me of elements for the novel I’m working on now. Keeping exotic pets is very dangerous and we have developed a naive hubris about them. They are not just like us. There’s some exotic pet-keeping in my book and I need to address the danger. The book’s tone is darkly comic. If you’re writing something lighter, then you have to pull back in some way from the danger or explicit violence – either not showing it or showing it in an absurd way. However, that doesn’t mean that the danger is not present.

Cinematic

Been catching up on movies this week. A friend is having an Oscar party so I may as well be prepared. Started the week with THE WRESTLER – good film, hard to watch for a few reasons. Yesterday, saw DOUBT and THE READER, both written by playwrights so it was interesting to see them on the same day. You could see the play in DOUBT. Both good, well acted. Today, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (book was better, which is usually the case). Once I catch up, I’m hitting the art museums to hopefully fill up enough to propel me to finish the novel (my 4th!). I have been waking up with ideas, better ways to tie elements together – so grateful when that happens.

Haven’t had the time to finish Carl Hiassen’s novel, LUCKY YOU, but he’s teaching me to push the envelope. He makes unlikely situations believable.

Rec’d chapters back from my mentor with comments. Never fails to amaze me that I can overuse a word in two paragraphs and not see it. For me, editing fiction is much like learning to listen to different instruments in a piece of music. I have to go over it and look at different elements each time.

the tea did it

…kept me up all night, that is. But mystery solved – same reason my shoulder has been going into spasm off and on for a few months. Back on this morning. It’s the caffeine. Now the search begins for an excellent decaffeinated Darjeeling. Art of Tea makes an amazing caramelized pear tea that I have every day. Chado in Pasadena has some very nice teas and I will stop in after the chiropractor unties my shoulder.

It’s been difficult to write lately. Even my walks have been less productive than usual. After Chado, it may be time to stop in at the Norton Simon. Paintings inspire my writing more than anything else.

getting back to the blog

Enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing program at Antioch University, Los Angeles about a year and a half ago. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I love the program which finishes up in June. I finally finished rewriting GROWING CHOCOLATE and entered it in the Amazon/Penguin contest.

I don’t know whether to be optimistic or not. I have learned that what I feel at any given moment about my work has little to do with how it’s received. Emotions give us information, but shouldn’t be an exclusive guide. Anyway, quarterfinals will be announced in March. In the meantime, I’m working on my fourth novel, WRESTLING ALLIGATORS. About halfway through. Back to it.