Friday, March 31, 2006

The Importance of Endings

If you've read many of my comments about books you know that endings are a sore point with me. So many times I really enjoy a book, only to have the ending ruin the experience.

You hear a lot about how important beginnings are, you really need to grab your audience, if you're writing a script the first ten pages better be perfect and exciting, etc. But what about the ending? You can't neglect that.

I wrote this little thing about endings as a kind of writing challenge, that's why the kind of odd format. It was supposed to include x numbers of words that start with b and 100 words. I ended up with 14 b words and 109 words in total.

On Writing the Whole Thing

Beginnings are critical. They bedazzle or bemuse or bore. Their impact belongs to you, you shape it and it's your responsibility. Bewitch your audience and they keep reading or watching or listening. Bore and they're bopping on to something else. Middles are crucial. They inform, beguile, amuse or drag. They also belong to you. But endings, ah endings make or break you. A bad ending ruins all your hard work and leaves your audience bewildered and frustrated. Bait your hook, catch them with your opening, reel them in through your middle and bring them into the boat, happy to be caught with your ending.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ha Ha Ha Ha, Curse You, Science Ninja Team!

Cullen is watching some crazy Anime and it keeps getting cheesier and cheesier. I'm VERY concerned about the possibility of the Science Ninja Team being wiped out, along with the monster robotic turtle. The suspense is almost too much for me.

I finished my column. It's about April Fools Day. It has some suggestions and some things you don't want to do. The week is almost over, I made it through despite this horrid virus.

I guess the only other news is that I was saddened to hear of David Stemple's death.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Not food poisoning after all

Chris took me to the ER last night and it turned out I have a virus that I have nicknamed the laying on the bathroom floor virus. Everyone I've talked to that had it ended up on their bathroom floor, pressing their faces against the cool tile, hoping it would help with their fever, intermixed with bouts of intense gastrointestinal distress. The lady who drew my blood said she threw up more than 100 times. That sound ridiculous but I did too, if you figure 24 hours and throwing up every five minutes, you get crazy numbers.

They also all, every last one, thought they were going to die. I tremble to imagine if this thing infected everyone at once. It lasts up to about five days and leaves you weak for a weak or so after. Nobody would be able to go to work. It's insane.

I'm feeling better today, I've only thrown up three times. What a waste of a beautiful weekend though.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Unbelievably sick

I either have food poisoning, bonebreak fever or meningitis. Or something different.

Symptoms - vomiting every five to fifteen minutes

Can't keep water down

Threw up anti-vomiting meds


Fever (101.5)

Headache (not nearly as bad as when I was hopsitalized for meningitis)

Roof of mouth bleeding from dehydration

Heart palpations

Wishing I would just die and feel better.

Pains in all joints


And so on

PS - you know you're sick when you're crying for your mommy and she's been dead for eleven years.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

1100 words!

I meant to write about V for Vendetta, the Libertine, Human Croquet, Hissy Fit and Life of Pi for my column this week. Somehow I ended up writing 1100 words about V and Pi instead. However did that happen?

KS is home from the hospital but we don't know why her lungs were bleeding. We're all grateful that she's home and feeling better but deeply worried about a recurrence. Thank you for your prayers and good thoughts.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

V for Vendetta, the Libertine

Sunday Chris and I went to see two films, V for Vendetta and the Libertine. Wow, they were both terrific, in very different ways. I'll be talking about V in my column this weekend, not so much Libertine.

I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't what we saw. I think I remembered we'd seen a preview and it was Johnny Depp in a period piece and looked interesting so we gave it a shot. It was utterly bawdy and the language would get you banned from the Vine in about three minutes flat. Like some other British films I've seen, everyone called each other a cunt or used the word pretty frequently.

It's about John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester and how he sort of ruined his life and never really lived up to his promise. He was brilliant and hilariously funny but you get the idea he hated himself and he certainly did his best to get into, and stay in, trouble.

The film starts off with this great monologue about how everyone wants to fuck him and don't worry, he's up for it, whether you're a man or a woman, but at the same time you're really better off fantasizing about him because you're not going to like him. It's very telling and sets the tone for the film.

And in completely unrelated news someone very dear to us is extraordinarily ill. She started coughing up blood and is in the hospital now while they try to figure out why her lungs are bleeding. Hopefully they are also doing something about the clots in her bronchial tubes. If you are a praying person please include her in your prayers. Her initials are KS and she's a wonderful, talented, bright woman, only 18 years old. Thank you.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A Shark Ate My Dog Toby

I had this dream this morning in which a large part of my family (I have nine brothers and sisters) gathered for some sort of reunion. They were all out in front of this house asking me to take pictures of them but I was really grouchy because my vision was going very quickly. I don't know whether the sun was setting or I was just going blind but everything was brown and very hard to make out and I certainly couldn't see a thing through the camera. To make matters worse my hearing had also been affected so everything sounded like it was underwater.

I was sitting on the front porch, being grouchy and thinking "why me?" thoughts when this really terrific dog came up and told me his name was Toby and he wanted to live with me and he would help me see and hear. I was all for it and things got better until we went for a walk at which point he ran off with two other dogs and jumped into this water, it was kind of like one of those culverts you see where the water is really brackish and hard to see through and connects to more water, in this case to some kind of water processing plant where the water was this vivid, algae laden green.

Toby and the two other dogs were barking and snarling and leaping at something in the water, attacking it and I was yelling for him to come back when this ginormous shark opened up its mouth and ate all three of them. It was grey and fucking huge. It was much longer than a city bus and it was quite terrifying and really how did it fit and why was it there?

My brothers and sisters were scattered all over the treatment, leaning out over the water, pointing at things and I started yelling to them that there was a shark and they thought I was mad. Every time I saw its grey body slicing through the green water I would yell and point but I was the only one who could see it. It seemed so queer that the one with the worst vision could see the shark. One of my sisters said she would be find out if there was one and she climbed down into the water!!

As soon as she did I saw the shark coming back again, rolling onto its back, opening its mouth, which was as big as a cave, and I screamed at her to roll onto her back and kick at it but then this boy jumped into the water and got between the two of them and the shark went after him instead, grabbing his feet and pulling him under and that's when I woke up, with my heart pounding and a terrible headache.

I knew I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep so I picked up this book that Kim suggested I read called Life of Pi and saw it had a cover with a man or a boy in a small boat with a large tiger, at sea, surrounded by sharks and turtles. Hmmm....

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Book About Brain Surgery

I read this book called I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse, or something like that. Maybe the title is a little different, who knows. I suppose if I weren't such a lazy sod I'd get up and find out the precise title but I am so I won't.

It's about a humorist and cartoonist who has been having seizures for a few years and most ignoring them. Then she has one that her girlfriend sees and goes to see the doctor who tells her she has a mass in her parietal region and she needs to have it taken out.

She's told that she might lose the right side of her body but nobody tells her she won't be able to read, write or talk afterwards. Of course I could have if she'd asked me because that's exactly what happened to a friend of mine who had large mass in the base of her brain.

The book is about her recovery and her fears, will she be the person she used to be, if she isn't will she be able to tolerate being the person she has become, stuff like that. It was described as wildly funny but I thought it was terribly sad. Oh sure it made me laugh a few times but maybe if I didn't have the same symptoms she struggles with, if I weren't living the life she fears (what if I can't ride my bike? she wonders.) if I didn't know exactly what she means I might find it funnier.

At one point she says she couldn't bear to go through the surgery again. Well there is someone in my PTC support group who is about to undergo her 26th shunt surgery since the end of 2004. With my own particular disorder repeated surgeries are pretty normal.

But all that aside it's an interesting book and if you want to know what it's like to be gifted with smarts, humor, and talent and worry about losing it all you should pick it up.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Interesting Fact of the Week

My column this week is focusing on Iceland. Years ago I did a staged version of some of Neil's stories from Smoke and Mirrors. The actor who played Galaad was from Iceland and he told me that Iceland has the best museum of phallology anywhere. It's yet another reason to visit, but one I left out of my column.

He was loads of fun, that actor. The show was a mixed bag, I didn't get along with a couple of people but I got on exceedingly well with the rest. Good times.

Monday, March 13, 2006

OOBs for everyone?

Tomorrow I'm going for my rescheduled MRI/MRV. As I've already established I fear the MRI machine. I think the perfect solution for visits like this, trips to the dentist, boring conferences, etc. is an out of body experience.

Just think, while your body is being subjected to all kinds of indignities you could be summiting Everest without oxygen, exploring the oceans depths or even just watching a rerun of Friends. Okay, that's actually worse than being trapped in a claustrophobia inducing nuclear imaging machine but you get the picture.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

How the hell are we supposed to make ends meet?

I'm trying to find a place to live. Our lease is up in June and our landlord wants to sell the condo we rent. Maybe he'll offer it to us for a price we can afford but based on history (we've had to move five times in the last six years because our landlords keep selling out from under us) he won't. I can sort of qualify for a mortgage through a program for low to moderate income families but I couldn't afford more than 140,000 or so.

What can you find for that in our area? Um, nothing. The condos we live in are crap, two bedroom, one bath - upstairs no less - terrible windows that don't shut so I had to block up the windows with a pair of velvet pants during the very cold winter days. But still these places are going from 200 - 268k. The cheapest one has orange walls in one of the bedrooms.

To make matters worse BGE has said that they are raising our rates by 72 percent. Or maybe it was 78. Either way we can barely afford our bill as it is. I just paid phone, electric, cable, car insurance and it was 1100 dollars, quite a bit more than I'm comfortable paying.

So what the hell, are we supposed to move to India or something? I'm so depressed and worried about this I can't even tell you.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

You have to be careful when writing about a disability you don't have

I'm reading Graham Masterson's Unspeakable. I think the title is going to turn out to be a play on words because the heroine is deaf. She had some kind of fever as a child and hasn't heard a thing since.

Well almost hasn't heard a thing. An excerpt from page 72 of the paperback version, the chapter called "Mickey Slim" Comes to Dinner.

She climbed the stairs, and as she put her key in the lock she heard laughter from inside her apartment -- Daisy's and Mickey's laughter -- and the television playing.

Masterson has been very careful in other scenes and the deafness is a major plot point but still little things like this sneak in because the author is so used to hearing himself. I guess his editor and proofreader didn't catch it either. Or we're going to find out she stopped off on the way home for a surprise surgery that fixed everything.

I don't think that's likely. My reminder to you is that you really have to put yourself in your protagonist's body. If he can't smell he can't save himself from being burnt up because he smells gasoline.

Pay careful attention to this kind of thing on your last polish because otherwise someone like me is going to be pulled out of a perfectly good story and once the reader is pulled out they may never go back in again.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Worrying about stupid stuff

Tomorrow morning I get an MRI and an MRV to see if I have any blood clots in my brain. If I do they could be clogging up the drainage and that is why I still have this PTC even after two years of taking Diamox. It would also explain why my optic nerves are swollen again.

The dumb thing is I am terrified of getting the scan done. I'm so nervous that I can't feel my fingers.

What is there to be frightened of? Even if I have a ginormous clot right spang in the middle of my brain finding about about isn't the same as getting it, if it's there it's there where I know it's there or not.

I guess it all comes to the fact that Danny died during a CT scan when he vomited and choked to death. I guess I'm afraid the same thing will happen to me. I do throw up all the time and MRIs are awful tight spaces. When you get your knee scanned you can kind of not be in the machine so much but when it's your brain you haven't got much of a choice.

I don't know why I can't just take loads of valium tomorrow morning. It used to be quite fashionable. Sigh.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

WTF, are morons trying to destroy the internet as we know it?

I've bitched before about AOL and Yahoo and their greedy whoreson ways and how they are going to start charging to deliver email, even though AOL already charges its recipients and Yahoo has ads out the ass.

They've been leading up to this for months if you ask me. I get a report of how many of our opt-in only newsletter subscribers actually got their mail and for months Yahoo and AOL have had percentages of successful deliveries ranging as low as 0% and hovering around 40-60%.

Boingboing posts today about a reaction to a huge petition signed by millions of people, including me. I fucking hate AOL. I cannot use strong enough words to say how much I despise them.

Also in today's postings there is this, some assclown assemblyman in New Jersey wants to make every interactive site collect certain personal information about the posters and be liable for lawsuits for defamation etc. Not only that but the site would have to turn over all information when demanded, without due process of law.

3. An operator of an interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish and maintain reasonable procedures to enable any person to request and obtain disclosure of the legal name and address of an information content provider who posts false or defamatory information about the person on a public forum website.

So you know, someone posts at the Grapevine and says watch out for Horrible Mortgage Company, they stole some money from a client and I've turned them over to the police and Horrible Mortgage Company can demand the name and address of the person who posted and they will get it. Then they firebomb the guy and that's that.

Or hey, how about my PTC support group? People post personal information about their illnesses and treatment, knowing that they are anonymous. Now anyone could find out who they are, insurance companies, employers, weirdos who like to torture sick people, whoever.

It's a terrifyingly awful idea and makes my head want to explode. And yes, I am extra grouchy. I've had a terrible headache and been throwing up all afternoon. I blame Intuit and their crappy tax software. They used to be decent but lately they've been so moneygrubbing they've pretty much ruined the tax freedom project that they brag about so much. It's about 200 times harder to use than last year. I'm finding a new company for next year.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Splendid by Julia Quinn

If you like historical romances with more than a dash of fun and flair you should check out Julia Quinn's first novel, Splendid. She wrote it something like 13 books ago and she says its not as smooth as her later books but it is still a good read.

Like a lot of romances (and my friendships) the hero and the heroine spend a great deal of time engaging in persiflage. He's British aristocracy and she's American and not interested in settling down. He's dead set against marriage because he's got more money than god and has been chased by all the greedy, marriage minded mammas for a decade and he's jolly well sick of it.

It's funny and warm and yeah, sexy. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Phone is Back On

A nice fellow from the phone company came and fixed it. Someone had broken into the phone box down the street and broke the wire. Crazy, cause you know, we live in a safe neighborhood, except for burning bodies, school shootings, stabbings and whatnot.