The show was ruined by Flim Flinear. Okay, that's another lie, and you're probably close to giving up on this blog, so here we go. Yes, we've had to make adjustments. Yes, it's been hard and I've been depressing to be around for awhile. Basically, the Network and I had different ideas about what the tone of the show would be. They bought something somewhat different than what I was selling them, which is not that uncommon in this business. Their desires were not surprising: up the stakes, make the episodes more stand-alone, stop talking about relationships and cut to the chase. Oh, and add a chase. That you can cut to. Nothing I hadn't heard before on my other shows (apparently my learning curve has no bendy part) but frustrating as hell given our circumstances - a pilot shot, scripts written, everybody marching together/gainfully employed... and then a shutdown. Glad I was for the breathing room, but it's hardly auspicious. So back into the writer cave I went, wondering why I put up with this when I can make literally dozens of dollars making internet movies. Why I do put up with this is divided into three parts.
Also, I've been meaning all year to read more short stories. Nice that I'm finally getting around to it.
As always, this is the schedule I'm going to stick to. You all can do whatever your little hearts desire -- but if you want to follow this schedule, grab a copy soon! We're less than a week away from our start day.
And of course, if you blog about it, let me know so that I can link it all up. Oh, and it should be noted that Matthew Baldwin at Defective Yeti, the creator (as far as I know) of NaNoReMo, is gearing up for November as well. So if The Lottery isn't what you're looking for, there'll be another group read over there!
November 3: "The Intoxicated" and "The Daemon Lover" November 4: "Like Mother Used to Make" November 5: "Trial by Combat" November 6: "The Villager" November 7: "My Life with R. H. Macy"
November 10: "The Witch" and "The Renegade" November 11: "After You, My Dear Alphonse" November 12: "Charles" November 13: "Afternoon in Linen" November 14: "Flower Garden"
November 17: "Dorothy and My Grandmother and the Sailors" and "Colloquy" November 18: "Elizabeth" November 19: "A Fine Old Firm" November 20: "The Dummy" November 21: "Seven Types of Ambiguity"
November 24: "Come Dance With Me in Ireland" and "Of Course" November 25: "Pillar of Salt" November 26: "Men with Their Big Shoes" November 27: "The Tooth" November 28: "Got a Letter from Jimmy" and "The Lottery" and "Epilogue"
But as it was pretty darned close, I think we should do Titus Groan next, and maybe The Blue Castle as a Little Big Read sometime soon. AND WE'RE TOTALLY DOING IVANHOE AT SOME POINT BECAUSE IT'S AWESOME!!! Ahem. Moving on...
Schedule coming soon. Very soon, as we'll start reading next week.
Look! She's messing up the poor guy's card catalog! Sad! Oh, now he's going to take of his glasses and shake out his hair and... oh, wait. Not quite. Well, an untucked shirt is similar, I guess.
Also, my darling YAs were in last night for a movie -- before and after the movie, they had an impromptu dance party in the library. And I discovered that there is still much love for this song. I apologize in advance:
Aslaug grew up in almost total isolation. Her mother homeschooled her, taught her languages, science and botany. If the Department of Education hadn't required Aslaug to take standardized tests in other sujects, her mother wouldn't have bothered with other subjects: literature, poetry, social studies, fine arts.
Aslaug doesn't have a father. It isn't just that he isn't around. From Aslaug's court testimony:
--What was your father's name? --I don't have a father. --You don't know who your father is? --I don't have a father, other than the one we share. --You mean God in heaven? --I never said God is in heaven. --But you mean God, am I right? --Yes. --Well, I'm referring to your biological father. You don't know who he is? --I don't have a biological father.
And why would she be testifying in court? Because she's on trial for one count of attempted murder and two counts of murder in the first degree.
Through the transcripts of the trial and Aslaug's first person narration of what came before, we get Aslaug's story. Madapple is a story not just about a murder trial, but also about family, comparative religion and mythology, science and faith, the past and the future. It's beautifully written and the story isn't quite like anything else I've run into in the YA section. It's not an easy-breezy read -- I wouldn't give it to a reluctant reader, for sure -- but teens (and adults) who're interested in exploring the subjects I mentioned shouldn't miss this one. I was very happy to see that the author included a bibliography.
That isn't to say that I didn't have issues with the book. One of the issues is my own -- Madapple is set in Maine, and the towns mentioned aren't actual towns, but they sound like actual towns (Hartswell rather than Harpswell, Bethan rather than Bethel), and I found that oddly distracting. I also thought that the second half of Aslaug's story was pretty over-the-top. Her voice and the writing both continued to be top-notch, but the plotting itself was a little bit too much for me. And I wondered [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER ALERT] why, during her trial, it was questioned whether or not she'd actually had a baby. Wouldn't they have examined her? But it's certainly possible that I missed something there.
It's a strong, thoughtful book, and one that I hope will inspire people to read more -- I know it made me want to at the very least start paying more attention to local flora*, and, if I'm really determined, to start reading more about religion and mythology and science.
While I was reading this book, I told anyone and everyone I came into contact with (whether they wanted to hear it or not) just how crazy it was... because IT WAS CRAZY AND I NEEDED TO TALK ABOUT IT. I told one patron that the first one hundred pages alone would have given the Days of Our Lives writers material for at least two years. While that fact didn't even remotely make him want to read the book, he did agree with me that, yes, the plot of These Old Shades must be bananas. Then he wandered off with his philosophy book*.
On page three, Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon -- known as Satanas to his friends and enemies -- buys a nineteen-year-old peasant boy called Léon who happens to bear a striking resemblance to one of the Duke's greatest enemies. Shortly thereafter, he makes Léon his page and begins flaunting him all over town.
I'm not going to tell you more -- just know that there is baby-swapping and cross-dressing and kidnapping and some very interesting flirtation and then a full-on romance and, throughout it all, a journey towards redemption. While I was somewhat sketched out by the nature/nurture aspect of the story -- that, regardless of upbringing, someone born a peasant will grow up to be a clod and someone of noble blood will grow up to be charming -- it was easy for me to set it aside and enjoy the story.
Léon took the fine lace handkerchief which the Duke held out, wiped his eyes, blew his nose, and gave it back again. The Duke received it gingerly, and eyed the crumpled ball through his quizzing glass.
"Thank you," he said. "You are nothing if not through. I think you had better keep it now."
Léon pocketed it cheerfully.
I found Léon somewhat obnoxious (I lost count of how many times Heyer described him looking through his eyelashes) but still strangely likable, I loved pretty much all of the secondary characters** and I (of course) loved Justin. He was so BAD, he totally reveled in his badness and yet... well, regardless of how you end up feeling about him (and there are some people who dislike this book and Justin very, very much), he's an interesting character. Part of what made the book so enjoyable for me was that the majority of the characters were having FUN. Their adventures brought them joy, even with the grave danger, rather like Vicky Bliss and John Smythe running for their lives -- and laughing.
When I wrote Skellig - set in the streets of Newcastle - my mind was filled with sounds: the creaking of a dilapidated garage, the scuttlings and scratchings inside, a baby's heartbeats, her breath, the songs of blackbirds, the cheeping of chicks, the hooting of owls, the dawn chorus, the voice of a girl quoting William Blake, the sound of the city beyond a small suburban garden. At the centre of it was Skellig himself: his surly almost-animal squeaks and growls becoming more coherent, turning into a confident human voice. And when the book was published and people began to ask questions about it - about the repetition of certain phrases, for instance, or its rhythms, or its composition as a series of scenes, or its use of Blake's poetry, I often found myself referring to music.