I have about a million things to do today, but I can’t go there just yet. No, I have bottled up thoughts and feels about television and movie writing, and I’m afraid I’m going to have to purge them before I can move forward with my day. This is your one and only warning, you folks who eschew the spoilers. I’m about to talk The Force Awakens and X Files and Castle and Return of the Jedi and Mad About You and the Good Lord only knows what else. Turn back now if you haven’t seen the first two especially.
Okay. Now that we’re all here together below the lovely meme, let’s talk about how writers are doing an injustice to relationships. It’s no wonder the divorce rate in our nation is as high as it is because, apparently, writers for television and film don’t believe married couples can be interesting. How are our children supposed to learn?! (I’m only half kidding with this sentiment.) Soap operas run on the premise that married couples can’t be interesting. We all know that. How often have we bemoaned shows going into the crapper after the main characters got together? (Moonlighting, anyone?) Even Mad about You, which quite successfully navigated the lives of a couple already together had this crazy moment at the end of season four where Paul and Jamie kinda sorta cheated on each other? Why do we have to consider cheating as an unavoidable fact of life? Why do we have to break up couples that are already together?
I say it’s lazy writing. It’s not knowing where to go next and manufacturing a reason for conflict rather than digging deeper for organic conflict.
It just so happens that the kids wanted to watch Return of the Jedi not long ago. The love story between Han and Leia is gorgeous and fully realized. There’s a moment when the famous tables are turned and he says, “I love you” only to have her respond, “I know.” Any lingering jealousy toward Luke is erased when Leia tells Han that Luke is her brother. The movie ends with everyone happy. Ewoks are dancing. Jedi ghosts are gazing on in approval. It’s a happy ending–that the writers destroyed with The Force Awakens.
Seriously, if there’s one problem I have with TFA, it’s that Han and Leia are split up, seemingly accepting of the fact, and we don’t even know what happened. It’s not fair. The happy ending promised by Jedi is just. . . . gone. Someone’s reading this now and telling me that it’s reality, and I just need to get over it. Nope. Not gonna do it. Leia and Han could’ve still been together. Wouldn’t it be braver to try to work through the disappointment of having Ben turn into Kylo Ren together?
Instead, we get lazy writing: conflict thrown up on the screen with little explanation and no resolution, possibly done as an intentional–but unfair and unearned–tug of the heart strings.
Once again, we’ll have tension between these two characters. We’ll let the audience assume that at some point they threw up their hands and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” But that reneges on the contract of Jedi. Even worse, TFA doesn’t even get Han and Leia back together. Harsh, Abrams. You have two iconic, well beloved characters, and you kill Han before he even has a chance (so far as the audience knows) to make right the contract that Lucas made with us. I will argue to my dying day that having Han and Leia split up was not necessary for the movie. It was a choice you made to manipulate the audience through manufactured conflict.
Now, we’re going to get to the show that made this rant inevitable: The X Files. I love me some X Files, but I think we can all agree the show has its ups and downs. In fact, I can’t keep up with everything that happened because the shark was jumped, my friends. I will say this, though. Last time I checked in, Mulder and Scully were together. They’d been through hell, but still together. Reboot starts last night, and . . . they’re not together. Of course not. The tension that made the original show great just had to be re-enacted. Fine. Whatever. Carter, you had best fix this before the end of the reboot. I WANT TO BELIEVE. THE TRUTH–AS WELL AS TRUE LOVE–IS OUT THERE.
(As a side note, why in the blue hell was Scully wearing five-inch heels? Part of her appeal as a character was that she actually dressed for her job as an FBI agent. She had pant suits and sensible shoes for when she ran after aliens and random whackjobs. Don’t tell me she wants stilettos after standing on her feet all day in the operating room. I’m not buying it. It’s like that poor woman who had to run from dinosaurs IN HEELS for two hours during Jurassic World. Consider my campaign for sensible shoes begun.)
Now, let’s talk Castle. I haven’t seen an episode of Castle in many moons. Why? Season Six. We start with Beckett doing the FBI thing which killed one of the best parts of the show: the ensemble cast. Then we end on the horrifically botched wedding complete with Castle’s disappearance. Folks, it only goes downhill from there because the reason Castle was abducted? Never satisfactorily explained. I’m going with. . . . lazy writing.
Here’s the deal: one can believe that Han and Leia have their ups and downs as a married couple. One can believe that Mulder and Scully have had trouble. Breaking up Castle and Beckett? On a show that could revolve around a hundred other things? I call shenanigans. They have enough personality differences that they could keep at each other for another two or three seasons. Not only that, but there’s a murder to solve every week and a rotating cast of other people who could have problems. This is why *I* have broken up with Castle.
For a world that denigrates romance novels, there are a whole helluva lot of other writers who could learn something from the craft. If you can’t sustain a storyline without breaking up the couple you worked so hard to get together, then end the series. Or, if you’re truly brave, you’ll write those characters going through what a real relationship/marriage is all about which is tackling the problems of life together. Just because a couple gets married doesn’t mean that it’s all puppies and unicorns and sunshine and roses, but it also doesn’t mean the couple should split up at the first sign of trouble. At least half of all real-life couples come up against obstacles and work through them and come out on the other side stronger in real life, and I’d really like to see more of that in the realm of television and film. Yes, yes, I know that doesn’t always happen in “real life.” I’m talking about fiction. I’m talking about the contract between reader/viewer and the writers.
Writers, don’t be lazy. Execs, quit making shows drag on just because. . . . ratings. Tell your story and make it a good one. If you don’t have anything else to say, then quit the show/series and start a new project. If you’re going to ship a couple, then allow them to sail off into the sunset. If you’re really good at what you do, then maybe you can take us along for the ride, but please, please–I beg of you–quit breaking up characters just to create conflict out of thin air.
That’s lazy a$$ writing.
So I decided to join @SuperWendy in the #TBR Challenge. Basically, she’s going to force me to sift through my massive TBR pile (To Be Read Pile for the uninitiated). I love this idea. Have I told you lately how much I love this idea? So, I say thank you,Wendy, for coming up with it!
Now, down to business. January’s homework–I also love homework–was to read a novella. My first thought was of a novella by Tanya Michaels that had slipped past me. The book is New Year’s Resolution: Romance! and Tanya Michaels’s novella is “Just a Fling.” I’ve read a lot of Tanya Michaels, and this story is quintessentially her and yet quite different also. Think a madcap spy story complete with caftans, creative extermination methods, and fortune cookie collections.
Erin Cross needs to come out of her shell. She makes two New Year’s resolutions: to get on a plane and to have a fling. She hits a snag in Cancun when FBI Agent Campbell Foster mistakes her for an important witness he needs to bring in for protection. Unfortunately, the bad guys think she knows more than she does and set out after her and her unexpected knight in shining armor. Campbell and Erin flee to Atlanta where close quarters do nothing to dampen the attraction between them, but can Erin convince Campbell to forgive himself for his past mistakes so he can take a chance on what they have between them?
It’s just a FUN story that reminds me of Jennifer Crusie’s Agnes and the Hitman, and Campbell has to do some groveling at the end if you like for your heroes to give good grovel. If I had one complaint, it’s that I think it could’ve been fleshed out into a full-length novel. That said, the pacing is tight and the story complete.
Now that I’ve finished the bare minimum of my homework for the month I’m working on the other two stories in the book, “Say Yes” by Christie Ridgway and “No More Bad Girls” by Leslie Kelly. Eventually my thoughts on the book as a whole will end up on Goodreads. (Normally, I’ll post my #TBRChallenge thoughts both here and on Goodreads at the same time)
Next month, my assignment is to catch up on a series in which I’ve fallen behind. Why don’t you join me in the challenge, and I’ll see you on the third Wednesday!
As some of you may have noticed, the Kilpatricks didn’t get their Christmas cards out this year. My bad. Please accept this blog post/Christmas letter instead. On the professional front, I published my first two books this year (Yay!), completed my tenure as Georgia Romance Writers president, attended my first Southern Festival of Books, and spoke at the Decatur Book Festival, the RWA national conference, and Moonlight & Magnolias. With accomplishments like that, one wonders what’s left to do. Make a list maybe?
As for the kiddos, The Hobbit scored high enough on the SAT to attend the Duke TIPs program, and Her Majesty discovered a love of both softball and singing. She even sang a solo at Lessons and Carols. The Mister has a brand spanking new job at Cartoon Network. (Go, Powerpuff Girls!) As a family, we all got to go to England together, a first for everyone but me. A fun time was, of course, had by all. Oh, hey, three of us along with Ryan’s mother all completed the Peachtree Roadrace together, too.
We look forward to 2016 and all that it brings, hoping for health and happiness for us and for all of you. Stay tuned for more in the writing world and possibly comments full of all of the things I forgot to add. (Vitamin D deficiency, yo!)
Other things that happened. . . .
It’s that time once again, that time when I write about books because I want you to give the gift that keeps on giving. Here are a few suggestions from the books I read in 2015 and beyond.
I’m going to start with 2 novellas I read this year–these are e-gifts for your bestest girlfriends, methinks. Amber Belledene has a novella about a seminary student in Brazil that you need to read. It’s called “One Sinful Night in Sao Paulo.” It’s erotica so give it with care. Your Aunt Ruthie may be down with the spice, but I’m just letting you know. Similarly, Jennifer McQuiston’s “Her Highland Fling” is absolutely charming. The heroine has a stutter; the hero has mystical Scottish cows; burly men are tossing logs–what more could you want?
Like a little magic with a Jane Austen sensibility? Then you should try Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey. What a fun read that was. Also in a fantasy vein, I discovered Cyndy Aleo’s serial The Forest’s Son. Warning: that one starts with quite the hook. You’ll want to know what the hero doesn’t want to remember.
Like the 1920s? Go forth and fetch a copy of Deanna Raybourn’s A Spear of Summer Grass. Then you’ll want City of Jasmine and every other thing she’s written, but I have a special place for Delilah’s story. Summer Grass is just so damn lush.
For your southern fiction, I present you with two very different books: Sweetwater Blues takes place mostly in a prison. Only Raymond Atkins could make that work. The Idea of Love is Patti Callahan Henry’s take on a hero and a heroine who are lying to each other but, in doing so, telling the truth. The former is your pragmatic, blue collar take on the South. The latter is a bit more romanticized. Both excellent.
If you like for your stories to chew you up and spit you out, then you need Kristan Higgin’s If You Only Knew. This is for you folks who need a good cathartic weeping from time to time or for you writers to study. Similarly Nicholas Butler’s Shotgun Lovesongs is full of these great characters and phrases for anyone searching for a story with enviable prose.
On the romance front, I read the classic Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Yes, it is worth every bit of hype. Go get it. If you’re a guy and trying to figure out why ladies read romance, pick this one up. Also, I lurved Tanya’s Michaels’ If She Dares, in particular, because she always finds a way to add humor and heart to a sexy read. Forget about the slutty pumpkin–this book will be your new favorite Halloween tradition. Farrah Rochon’s Stay with Me Forever is a great coming home story. I love how she’s crafted her small Lousiana town and have more books from that series on my TBR for 2016. Finally, A Bollywood Affair will sink its teeth in you and not let go–rarely have I ever met a more sympathetic heroine.
For young adult, I’ve been a bit lax, but Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why is easily worth four or five other YAs. I cannot wait for them to bring this to the small screen. It’s a mystery wrapped up in teen angst with a social message–that’s something hard to pull off, but Asher does it.
On the nonfiction side, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks really is a must-read. Not only is it a story that needs to be told, but it’s told beautifully. Sometimes the book reads also like suspense. Intersections by Nicki Salcedo brings fresh perspective to any number of subjects. You can get a preview of her poignant writing each Wednesday at Decaturish. And I finally read Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. Not only am I comforted to know I’m not the only “bad feminist” out there, but there’s a reason she’s known for rhetoric. Beautifully written insightful essays–Gay and Salcedo pair nicely! Oh, and I don’t want you to read Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations because I want to make a movie out of it. Just kidding. Ava is a pistol, and you need to know all about her.
I’m going to end with mysteries. Tess Gerritsen is one of my favorites and her Die Again delivered. This one has a great parallel story set in Africa. But, quite possibly, my favorite book of the year is Deanna Raybourn’s A Curious Beginning. Y’all. If you’re looking for a headstrong heroine who knows her mind and seeks adventure, you must meet Veronica Speedwell. Raybourn even pulls off what others have rarely been able to do: a male sidekick who is still masculine and very much Veronica’s partner. This is lady power, folks. Come for Veronica, stay for Stoker. Learn about taxidermy and knife throwing–you can’t lose.
I love to write this post and yet I always have to leave something out–feel free to peruse my books over at Goodreads. Nothing beats, however, getting a good book on Christmas Day and not being able to put it down. I’m looking at you Tayari Jones–I remember fondly reading Leaving Atlanta in, oh, two days. Here, too, is a link to another post I did on books to read. It includes J.K. O’Hanlon, who has these great books about booze and cocktails. Pair that with a bottle of something-something, and you’ll have a great gift. Check out 3 Ingredient Cocktails and 12 Happy Hours. Those are some oldies but goodies.
P.S. I do know a lot of these authors. I have critiqued with Jennifer McQuiston and Tanya Michaels. I lean heavily on Nicki Salcedo. I went to school with Ray Atkins. I know several other authors peripherally through social media or conferences. That’s my disclaimer, but I stand by their books being just as awesome as those by the folks I don’t know. I had no agenda in writing this post other than to share the wealth of awesome books. Go forth and find something you like to read.
P.P.S. I’m not sure where to put Tiffany Reisz on the gift-giving spectrum, but I think you ought to read her work, too. Well, okay. If truly explicit things aren’t your bag, maybe you should skip her work, but otherwise jump in there. I guess it’s a gift to you from you because goodness knows I can’t quit anything she’s written. Just remember to start with The Siren.
P.P.P.S. This is the part where my husband tells me I should do a better part of promoting myself. I would be honored if you chose The Happy Hour Choir or Bittersweet Creek as a gift for someone. My books are southern fiction tales that have a little grit. Great for book clubs, and I will be happy to make an appearance if we can coordinate schedules. Oh, and if you tell me soon, I can put a personalized book plate in the mail to you if you’d like one of those.
P.P.P.P.S. (I don’t think I have all of these Ps and Ss right. Oh well) Once you finish your Christmas books, please go give the author a gift by leaving an honest review. Amazon doesn’t want me to leave reviews anymore because I’m an author lady. So, if you’re a reader, you can also be a rock star. Leave a review.
*runs around like a chicken with its head cut off*
*remembers she has to do laundry so she has something to wear tomorrow*
Ahem. Tomorrow is the big day for my second book baby. Tomorrow. I am trying to wrap my mind around this concept of tomorrow. Thursday is the official launch party for Bittersweet Creek over at FoxTale Book Shoppe. It’s never to late to sign up. You can even just show up and surprise me if you’d like. I have plenty of glasses, promise.
To celebrate, I’ve got two things planned. First, I shall be putting the finishing touches on my short short prequel to Bittersweet Creek in preparation for sending it out tomorrow. It’s not too late to sign up for my newsletter so you can get a peek. It’s up there in the upper right hand corner. I know you’re joining the choir, but I promise you can do all of your singing in the shower if you want to. I just needed someone to preach too, you know.
Second, I came across some old ARCs of The Happy Hour Choir, so I’ve set up a Rafflecopter to give them away. There’s one ARC of Bittersweet Creek in there, too. Yay! I’m releasing a book, so I’m giving away some.
Well, words to write and people to see and things to do! I’ll catch y’all TOMORROW when The Mister and I go hunting for copies of Bittersweet Creek in the wild.
Here are some linky links:
The sale runs through 11/4, so jump on it while you can. Gift it to a friend. . . . or an enemy! Any which way you go, it’s an exciting day in La Casa Kilpatrick and the perfect excuse to start happy hour early. As always, a star in your crown if you tell a friend or leave a review.
[Update 9/28 5:50]